A Date Day Gone Awry or The One About the Table

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I’ve come to really appreciate and rejoice in days that unfold in unexpected ways.  They feel like sweet reminders of what I’ve gained by learning to let go of control and live in the moment.  Yesterday was just that kind of day…

Dennis and I had our first “Date Day” since early in the year.  Busy season tends to put a hold on these fun days where we both take time off from work, take the kids to school (free babysitting!), and go out to enjoy time together.  Our only real plan for the day was having breakfast and coffee at our favorite place in downtown’s East Village – Café Chloe.  Oh my goodness, how I love this place!  The food and coffee are always amazing and the French atmosphere is such a joy.

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We had the idea to go hit at batting cages later in the day, since we’re playing in a coaches softball game next weekend at the RPLL Closing Ceremonies.  We’re both pretty rusty so we need some practice!  But, we also wanted to relax and let the day unfold naturally.  After breakfast, we decided to stroll through downtown and explore a bit.  We lived walking distance from downtown for three years when we were first married, and then just up the way in Hillcrest for another five years.  While downtown feels very familiar and like a walk down memory lane for our relationship, it’s always changing.  Old places are shut down and new restaurants and shops opening.  Dennis still comes downtown daily for work, but it’s a rare trip for me these days as my suburban life has evolved!

I’ve recently had an itch to redecorate and add more Mexican style to our home.  So, I suggested we visit Cost Plus, which has been a frequent stop on our downtown visits over the years.  The downtown location is in a huge old warehouse and really eclectic.  As we approached the store we saw the ominous, “Store Closing – Everything Must Go!” signs.  We were sad but also recognized the chance for some good deals!  The store didn’t open for a few minutes so we decided to walk back to get our car and move it closer.  If we got anything significant from the store, we didn’t want to haul it back the 12 blocks we’d just walked.

We spent a long time slowly perusing the store.  So fun!  When I came across the Madera console table, I instantly recognized it was exactly what I’d been looking for!  We have a bare wall that’s needed a console table, but I wanted to get one that was just right.  Now that I’m trying to evolve the living room to a more rustic, Mexican style this table was PERFECT!  It had a scratch that gave it character and an opportunity for me to ask for a larger discount.  The manager agreed and gave me a measuring stick so we could decide whether the table would fit in our small sedan.   It wasn’t happening.  I was so disappointed.  But, we agreed that it didn’t make sense to spend our entire Date Day driving back to get the other car, when it may not fit anyway.

I distracted myself with more shopping and found some fun things for our bathroom, then we headed out of downtown.  The phone rang and I just missed answering it, but I recognized the phone number – it was Donna, the school nurse.  Sure enough, Teo was in her office, he’d thrown up after lunch.  “We’re on our way,” I told Donna.  Our kids have an uncanny ability to become ill while we’re on a Date Day.  Once, Sienna was complaining of several afflictions while we were in the middle of the bay celebrating our tenth wedding anniversary.  We didn’t come back that time.  But, we agreed that Teo probably wouldn’t or couldn’t make himself vomit just to spend the day with us.

012.JPGOnce we’d picked up Teo and gotten home, we figured why not at least measure the other car to see if the table would fit.  Nope, not happening.  Then, I remembered our dear friends Natalie and Mahmoud’s repeated offers to borrow their pick-up truck if we ever needed one.  Teo seemed to have recovered, so I made a quick call to Natalie and soon the three of us were headed back downtown in Mahmoud’s truck.  I kept marveling at Dennis’s ability to drive a stick shift!  He did great and had fun driving a truck, which I know means he’ll grow ever more insistent that we need a truck!

So, now we have the table and it fits just right!  I loved how the yesterday unfolded.  Had Teo not been sick, we wouldn’t have come home and then considered the option of borrowing the truck.  But, since we had to drive all the way home anyway, that possibility presented itself and it all worked out.

We never made it to the batting cages. Guess we’ll have to play this weekend so we don’t embarrass ourselves at the game next week!

Diabetes Blog Week – Day 5

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It has felt reflective and familiar to write about diabetes this week.  Although I don’t ever get a break from living with diabetes, I’ve taken a pretty long break from regularly writing about it!  For several years I wrote about diabetes for HealthCentral and chronicled both of my pregnancies.  It was my first experience with blogging and very rewarding!

Today’s prompt is: Lets wrap up the week by sharing a little more about ourselves, beyond the chronic illness we or our loved ones live with.  Share an interest, hobby, passion, something that is YOU.  If you want to explore how it relates to or helps with diabetes you can.   Or let it be a part of you that is completely separate from diabetes, because there is more to life than just diabetes!

The thing that’s most important to me is my faith in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Embracing my own sinfulness and need for a savior has helped me to mindfully surrender to God’s perfect will, more often.  A few years ago, I realized that diabetes was one of the only things that I didn’t take to God in prayer.  I’d pray for my loved ones, for peace, for wisdom and insight, for guidance, for the healing of others, and so many other things.  But, praying for help managing my blood sugar?  Nope, never.  It was like this little segment of my life that I was supposed to control on my own.

Control is something I struggle with and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the hallmark of this disease I have is “good control”.   Being able to plan ahead, take note of variables, and make decisions on food and insulin all come together to help me keep my blood sugar under control.  When I’m feeling the need for a sense of “control” in my life, I tend to turn away from God.  I stop surrendering and start relying on myself.  I will plan incessantly and start to feel like my own efforts are keeping everything manageable.

When I first realized this disconnect and tried praying about my diet choices and diabetes management, it felt like such a relief!  Letting go of this need for perfection and having “it all figured out” in other areas of my life then flowed to diabetes as I began asking for guidance in managing my blood sugar.

Diabetes Blog Week – Day 4

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Oops, I’m a little behind in getting this post written!  But, better late than never…

Today let’s revisit a prompt from 2014 – May is Mental Health Month so now seems like a great time to explore the emotional side of living with, or caring for someone with, diabetes. What things can make dealing with diabetes an emotional issue for you and / or your loved one, and how do you cope?

When I think of the emotional toll that diabetes takes on me, the simplest example pops into mind.  For me, each and every blood glucose test (of which I average about 10 per day) provides an emotional response of some sort.  If my blood sugar is “good” – meaning in range between 80 mg/dl and 160 mg/dl, then I’m pleased.  If it’s “really good” – somewhere between 90 mg/dl and 130 mg/dl, I’ll feel a bit of pride and satisfaction, as in “I’ve got this!”

On the other hand, high blood sugars get me down.  They make me feel defeated and slightly guilty for not having either made different food choices, calculated a more accurate bolus, or generally not managing my blood sugar “correctly.”  When I experience a string of high blood sugar, the emotional response is more pronounced.  I’ve often had the experience of noticing I’m feeling down, and when I check in on my emotions to wonder why, I’ll recall “Oh, that’s right, my blood sugars have been running high.”

For the most part, I haven’t ever rebelled against this disease or wondered “why me?”  I took up the perspective my parents instilled, that this disease would make me strong and capable.  I’ve had my periods of burnout, of course, but on the whole I’ve taken blood sugar management as a goal to achieve.  Also, I figure the food restrictions I’ve embraced are just what all healthy diets should consist of, so I don’t feel unduly deprived.  When I was pregnant and on a very strict diet, I loved it!  Something about the control and achieving those “good” blood sugars on my logs felt like getting little gold stars all the time.

I think it’s funny – having diabetes itself isn’t what gets me down, but having a blood sugar of 225 mg/dl can put me in a funk for a couple hours.

 

Diabetes Blog Week – Day 3

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Another day of diabetes discussion!  The prompt for today is: Having diabetes often makes a visit to the doctor a dreaded experience, as there is invariably bad news of one kind or another.  And sometimes the way the doctor talks to you can leave you feeling like you’re at fault.  Or maybe you have a fantastic healthcare team, but have experienced blame and judgment from someone else in your life – friend, loved one, complete stranger.  Think about a particularly bad instance, how that person talked to you, the words they used and the conversation you had.  Now, the game part.  Let’s turn this around.  If you could turn that person into a puppet, what would you have them say that would leave you feeling empowered and good about yourself?   Let’s help teach people how to support us, rather than blame us!

Diabetes is somewhat unique in that a tremendous amount of care is solely in the hands of the patient.  We make so many decisions each day that impact the quality of our blood sugar management.  As important as the medical advice we receive is, in the end, it’s up to the PWD to implement the advice in their daily choices.  Guilt and shame are part and parcel of living life with diabetes.

Happily, I haven’t had many “diabetes police” type folks in my life.  Nobody has questioned or challenged my food choices or other decisions with any regularity.  But, one specific instance jumped out at me when I read this prompt…

After having a very healthy and happy pregnancy with Sienna, I felt less stress with my second high risk pregnancy.  I was surprised when Mateo had to be admitted to the NICU with low blood sugar shortly after his birth.  At 9 pounds, 1 ounce, he was automatically dubbed a “big baby” too.  When we went to see him in the NICU, I heard the first of the many mentions of Mateo being a “diabetic baby.”  He didn’t have diabetes, of course, they meant that his mother was diabetic and therefore whatever conditions he was suffering were because of his mother’s disease.  Or, what I heard and felt deep in my heart was: “His mother’s poor blood sugar management while pregnant caused whatever is wrong with him now.”  The guilt was severe.

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The thing is, my control was very good throughout the pregnancy.  But, I was a few years older and a bit more relaxed than the first time around, plus the fact that Teo was induced a few days later than Sienna (they were both due on January 8th!) all meant that he was bigger and his blood sugar low upon birth.  He ended up being in the NICU for a full week while they ran tests because his oxygen level had gone down a couple times while he was being monitored.  By down, I mean it dropped to 87 to 89% range, while they wanted to see him consistently in the 90s.  They were concerned that his lungs or heart were underdeveloped, because of “maternal diabetes”.  In the end, he was completely fine and I had to challenge the doctor to give me a diagnosis and state that I would sign him out against medical device, if necessary.

The following week, at his pediatricians’ office, I talked to a doctor about our experience.  He noted that Teo likely suffered from “the diabetic baby stigma.”  Ah, that made so much sense.  They were sure that something more serious was wrong because he was a “diabetic baby” and acted accordingly.

If I could rewrite the script for the doctors and nurses in the NICU that week, I’d have them say: “We’re going to run some tests to make sure Mateo’s heart and lungs are fully developed and strong because his oxygen level has gone down a couple of times.  This can be an issue when a baby’s mother had pre-existing diabetes.  We know you took great care of yourself throughout your pregnancy and we don’t want you to feel badly.  These things happen sometimes and we’re going to take all precautions to make sure your son is healthy and whole before you go home.  What do you think?”

That message would have made all the difference during those challenging first days.  I’m grateful for the amazing medical care we enjoyed and know the doctors and nurses were well intended.  They didn’t realize that, to a mother with diabetes, overhearing  references to their son as a “diabetic baby” would cut so deep.

 

Diabetes Blog Week – Day 2

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Back with Day #2 of Diabetes Blog Week!

Today’s prompt is: Insulin and other diabetes medications and supplies can be costly. Here in the US, insurance status and age (as in Medicare eligibility) can impact both the cost and coverage.  So today, let’s discuss how cost impacts our diabetes care.  Do you have advice to share?  For those outside the US, is cost a concern?  Are there other factors such as accessibility or education that cause barriers to your diabetes care?

My experience with the high cost of diabetes management has been relatively painless, but certainly not pain-free.  I say that because I know there are families that regularly have to make the choice between food and insulin.  There are people in this country who die from diabetes complications because they don’t have access to affordable insulin.  In the most prosperous country in the world, that is shameful.

From an economic standpoint, I understand that the innovations and high quality healthcare we enjoy in the United States is due, in part, to the profit motive for pharmaceutical companies. Medicine is a business, for better or for worse.  But, the current system is deeply flawed and it’s my prayer that it is improved during my lifetime.

I have been very fortunate to always have a stash of insulin in the butter compartment of my fridge.  Access to insulin, medications, blood glucose testing supplies, and continuous glucose monitoring systems (when I’ve used them) has not been a significant issue.  However, I’ve had some struggles along the way.

For example, during graduate school, I exhausted my annual student health plan benefit in five months!  For the balance of the year, while working toward a Masters in History and working part time, I had to put the cost of insulin and testing supplies on a credit card.  Dennis and I were dating at that time.  When we were engaged and planning our wedding, I joked with him: “… I’m not marrying you for medical insurance coverage, I promise!”

Dennis works for a national law firm and they offer employees tremendous health insurance for them and their dependents.  Several years ago, when a lot of the insurance plans were still new to me, I talked to a colleague who worked in the insurance industry.  As I described our plan, I asked her: “It’s an EPO and as far as I can tell, there’s no downside.  We have the choices of a PPO and the low prices of an HMO.  What am I missing?”  She replied, “Nothing!  They are the best.”  From then on, I counted our health insurance among our blessings, and never took it for granted.

The thing about having a chronic (and potentially expensive!) disease is that it always has to factor into your planning and decisions.  Several months ago, Dennis and I were talking about the future and considering the option of him changing jobs or even working part time so he could be with the kids after school.  When we crunched the numbers we realized that the cost of medical insurance would become a significant issue.  Since we’ve been married, I’ve joked that Dennis can never retire because I need his amazing insurance.  I didn’t realize how true that was until I pondered life without it.

When I look to the future, I’m motivated to control my diabetes through diet and exercise as much as possible.  Obviously I’ll always need insulin, but eating low carb allows my insulin needs to be low, blood sugars stable, and my overall health improved.  Knowing that, for me, insulin and access to technology will likely be more expensive in the future, I want my dependence on those tools to be minimized.

One day we won’t have the amazing medical insurance that I’ve enjoyed for the past 13 years.  That day when my butter compartment is less full of insulin and my stash of blood glucose testing strips is less plentiful is likely coming.  In the meantime, I’ll keep praying that the healthcare system in America will figure itself out before that day arrives.

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If you’re wondering how you can be educated on this issue or advocate for those who desperately need access to insulin, check out Kerri’s great post at Six Until Me on Day 2 of Diabetes Blog Week!

Diabetes Blog Week – Day 1

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This year I’m participating for the first time in Diabetes Blog Week!  For the past seven years, I’ve followed along and read posts by other PWD (people with diabetes) around the DOC (diabetes online community), but didn’t share my own thoughts during this special week.  Although Be Still and Know isn’t a diabetes blog per se, it’s written by a person living with T1D (type 1 diabetes) for almost 24 years now, so I decided to join the conversation!

Today’s prompt is: Diabetes can sometimes seem to play by a rulebook that makes no sense, tossing out unexpected challenges at random.  What are your best tips for being prepared when the unexpected happens?  Or, take this topic another way and tell us about some good things diabetes has brought into your, or your loved one’s, life that you never could have expected?

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To be honest, my diabetes is fairly predictable on a daily basis.  Between eating a low carb, paleo diet, having low insulin needs, taking the new medication Invokana, and having well ingrained habits, my blog sugars are pretty stable.  But, just a couple weeks ago, I had one of those days that didn’t go as planned…

For the past several weeks, I’ve been following a more restrictive diet “reset” based on the Fed and Fit plan.  It’s like a Whole30, where you basically just eat meat, eggs, vegetables, low sugar fruits, and nuts.  No grains, dairy, alcohol, legumes, sugary fruits, etc.  My insulin needs are at an all time low and my blood sugar control has been awesome!

So, on a Saturday morning, I got up early to get my log run in and had a blood sugar of 115 mg/dl.  I’d recently restarted the Invokana medication after a brief (and awful!) break for a couple weeks.  Recalling a morning run a few days earlier, I duplicated the bolus for half a Larabar before heading out on the run.  After two miles, I was dragging.  At three miles, I was really dragging, so I decided to test my blood and was shocked to see 54 mg/dl!

As I gobbled down a couple dates, I thought to myself: “What happened?”  On the run earlier in the week, I’d removed my pump for the 5 mile run with my friend, therefore I wasn’t getting any basal insulin during that 45 minutes.  Since I’d hoped to run 11-12 miles on this day, I kept my pump on.  I also didn’t think to decrease my basal rate to 50% until I was two miles into the run.  Thinking back, this amount of insulin I gave myself was consistent with other long runs, but now that I was eating such a low carb diet, my overall insulin needs were just less.

I was able to eek out a 7 mile run that morning, but the low really threw a wrench into my plans!  In the whole scheme of things, this isn’t a very severe limitation on someone’s life, I realize.  But, it’s annoying.  It’s also a reminder that, no matter how dialed in you try to be, blood sugar management is a constantly moving target and diabetes plays by it’s own rulebook and doesn’t share the notes!

Lessons in Coaching T-Ball

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Funny,  I just realized that I haven’t written about this yet and it’s been a big focus this spring – I’m managing a T-Ball team!   Mateo’s team, you probably already figured.  Back in January a flurry of emails went around between moms of several kindergarten boys at Teo’s school, asking who would be interested in coaching the T-Ball team.  When no dads stepped up, another mom and I did!  It’s T-Ball, how hard could it be?!

In our neighborhood, T-Ball is part of the local Little League and it’s fairly intense.  Dennis and I attended a half day coaching training and then there was a legit draft.  I went in with a list of 11 boys from our school, all ready to pick my team, only to discover that they were all considered “6 year olds” by Little League age cutoffs!  Turned out, I couldn’t pick all of them since every team had to have at least 3 “5 year olds”.

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Our team is called The Friar Force, which I’m proud to say was my idea!  Teo and many of his buddies are really into Star Wars right now, so that was the inspiration.  There’s another team called “The Padres Strike Back” – every team in the league is Padres themed because they sponsored us.  The uniforms are pretty awesome!

Practices were the hardest part.  Getting 12 boys between 4 and 6 years old to pay attention and follow directions for an hour was tough!  But, I got to practice my assertiveness skills on the little guys.  They learned quickly enough that when Coach Kelsey says no, that means no.  I was relieved when the practices ended and we transitioned to two games per week.  It’s nice to have the structure of a game to keep everyone engaged.

Early on this season, I was helping one of our players practice hitting the ball.  When he made really good contact on one swing, I looked him in the eye and said, “Good job!  How did that feel?”  He replied, “Great!”  For some reason, that moment stuck with me.  I recognized how important it was to get the boys to enjoy the feel of the game.  There’s pressure already for the kids to play to their parents expectations.  I can see it.  Parents are excited for their sons to “be good” at sports and encourage them with praise when they achieve something.  This moment helped me formulate my own coaching philosophy.  I want the boys to learn skills, but more importantly to love the game.  They’ll love it if it feels good.  They’ll love baseball long term if they feel a connection to it.  By asking them “How did that feel?” I hope they’ll connect on a deeper level and own their actions on the field.

Another lesson all the coaches and parents had to learn was lowering our expectations of what we’d be able to get boys this age to do.  Catching a ball requires a high level of hand-eye coordination, that simply hasn’t developed yet.  On the other hand, hitting, throwing, and fielding are coming along great!  We’ve seen huge improvements in the boys over the past couple months.  The growth aspect is so fun and rewarding!

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My favorite is when the boys call me “Coach Kelsey”.  Six of the players on the team are in Teo’s actual kindergarten classroom.  At Family Lunch Day last week, I sat with 5 of that gang and was so tickled to chat with them.  “Coach Kelsey, did you know my birthday is in August?”  “Coach Kelsey, I have a swimming pool!”  Getting to know the boys has been a true joy.

Going into coaching this little team, I kept reminding myself “Don’t let perfection be the enemy of the good.”  I wasn’t out to be the best T-Ball coach ever.  It was busy season at my office and I had other commitments that were important to me.  I wanted to put my heart into it, but not stress myself out over every drill, practice, parent email, or logistical issue.  It was supposed to be fun and I’m happy to report that it has been a blast!

I played softball for nine years and spent a lot of time playing sports in our front yard as a kid.  Being out in the field with the boys (the coaches are active the entire game in T-Ball!), I feel like a kid again.  Cheering on the players, chatting in the outfield (which can be so boring!), and (my favorite!) running up to give high-fives to a player when they get an out, it’s just pure fun.