July and August Resolutions

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I totally skipped May/June resolutions.  Busy months.  Yikes.  Let’s just go straight to July/August.

My July/August goal is to work on my book proposal.  But I have A1c Champions training and health coaching and some other diabetes advocacy related endeavors.  So instead I’m changing my goal to something I’m needing right now and that’s to exercise more.  I gain weight if I don’t do a lot of cardio (just the way I’m built I suppose) so though I have a lot of muscle tone, I need to jiggle off some fat before my frustration about said fat gets the best of me.  I plan on getting to the gym 3 times a week to do just cardio. Hold me to it.

Ana’s goal is to research graduate schools and programs.  This year she commences her senior year studying studio art and teaching and she has chosen to continue education.  Annie, consider this your reminder.  Hehe.

Anyway, if you’re new to my goal accomplishment system it’s called the 6 change method by Leo Babauta.  He is the widely popular blogger behind zenhabits.net.  Basically, you pick one change you want to make and focus on it for two consecutive months-plenty of time to make it a habit.

This method worked great for me last year and I’m excited to do it this year.  The blog adds a bit of accountability for me, too.  That, and I share it with my husband so he can help remind me of my goals.

Do you have a way of forming habits or making changes or accomplishing goals?  Share!

Lessons from the Storm

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As you all are probably aware, much of the US is enduring a record breaking heat wave.  And last week, nine states got hit with a major storm called a derecho.  The worst of it dropped on Ohio and Virginia.  I live in a valley in Virginia where the mountains normally shield us from harsh storms but my city was among the worst hit.

Friday night my husband and kids and I were out on the balcony enjoying the cool night breeze.  Suddenly the lights flickered and a gust of wind came along that nearly blew over my little Henri.  Toys scattered everywhere, my nightgown flew up, Aurora lost her bubble wand.  We all got inside and listened to the wind howl and swirl around us.  The lights went out for good and I sat down and kicked myself for letting the house become a mess.  How was I going to run the dishwasher, do laundry, and vacuum, now?  Darn procrastination!

Soon we realized how bad the storm was and how millions of people were without power.  Then I realized that the fridge was going to get warm and I had my insulin in there.  We went days without power-something I’ve never experienced and certainly not during a heat wave.  The inside of the apartment reached 95 degrees and so we stocked the freezer with ice and packed not just my insulin inside but my strips and medications, too.  It was a balancing act to make sure things were cool but not too cold.  In the end all of my stuff ended up fine but I’m super grateful for some of the lessons I got from this experience:

-Sleeping on the balcony with Alex and the kids is not that bad.  We were under the stars, doing something utterly new, young enough to handle the wooden planks against our backs, and nothing poisonous or disease carrying bit us.  Ironically, I did get a bunch of bed bug bites, but I was the only one.  I guess they went for the sweetest one (um, thanks diabetes).

-I learned that when the kids threw all three flashlights in the toilet last year, it caused them all to rust and be useless when we needed them the most.  So no more children playing with the flashlights or other emergency supplies!

-I was having a mini meltdown just before the storm hit.  I felt like I had too much to do and not enough time to do it.  Then the power went out and I was forcefully removed from many of my tasks on the internet.  I let out a sigh of relief and decided I’d attempt to go with the flow and focus on what was important.

-I drove around my city without stopping at any stoplights because they were all out, saw trees down in every direction, and heard an eerie silence.  It was rather freeing and calming.  It was also a break from the norm-something that always wakes me up and makes me feel alive.  What about you?

-I ate a third or a fourth of what I normally eat for days because of enduring high heat that I’m not used to enduring.  I wasn’t hungry.  I realized I still have some anxious eating to tackle.  Maybe this happens to others?  We’re so comfortable in our climate controlled environments that we aren’t connected to what the body needs.  I focused on staying hydrated and ate foods that digest quickly and felt great.

-I heard about people dying from the heat, kids who were crushed by trees, a couple who was electrocuted, etc.  All I could do was feel really lucky.

-It was a humbling experience to sleep outside, on the floor of my sister’s apartment, and on my niece’s bed.  Just as it was humbling to walk around with my air dried unkempt hair and sweaty clothes.  Next time I see someone who looks a mess I’ll think about what struggle they might be up against.

-My kids had the best time of their lives because we were around so much family.  They didn’t miss what I missed.  They know the best thing in life is other people.  I needed that reminder.

I really hope you all had a Happy 4th of July!

We all do have a lot to be grateful for, even if our country isn’t perfect.

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Diabetes isn’t a Drama Queen

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The other night, I realized my kids had ate my glucose tablets so I reached under my bed for the emergency bag of gummy candies I have stashed there.  I frantically tore the bag open and started stuffing my mouth in frustration.  Alex studied me for a moment and said, “Are you ok?”

Through a mouthful of sticky, fruit shaped, red 40 dyed High Fructose Corn Syrup poison I muttered, “I hate these lows, the ones that shoot down quickly.”  Then as beads of sweat came down my forehead and my heart raced I said, “It literally feels like death is coming to get me.”

Alex looked at me sympathetically and said frankly, “Well, that’s pretty much what’s happening, isn’t it?”

I’m usually a tad dramatic but this time and many other times, diabetes rises to the occasion.

Diabetes isn’t a drama queen.  And we’re not drama queens or kings for living with it.

This stuff is for real.

Summertime River Adventures

Ana and I (Sysy) have been without power since the mad derecho storm surprised us Friday evening.  Don’t worry, our other sister Sara is keeping us and our insulin at her home.  Anyway, Ana and I are at the library trying to stay cool and…letting the show continue.  Here is a blog Ana wrote from her river adventure last week.  (She was unaware the real summertime adventure was yet to come!) *****

 

"You can't tell but my blood sugar is high"

I know a lot of outdoorsy people, and I can’t say I’m one of them. I mean, I like being outside, but if you asked me to go camping I would be (extremely) reluctant. I don’t blame my diabetes for that—at least not entirely. I try to not let it be reason for not doing something that I actually want to do (like tubing down a river!), which is why I just try to figure out what I need to do and bring with me on outdoor adventures so that I’m prepared for low or high blood sugar levels. And yeah, it’s a little inconvenient to have to carry extra things and worry about the temperature, but it’s way better than the alternative (the alternative being either doing something less exciting or ending up in a hospital…).

So yes, as you can see, I went tubing down a river for the first time this summer! I went with my boyfriend and several friends to the New River Junction in Blacksburg, VA. There were 13 of us total—11 on tubes and 2 in open kayaks. My boyfriend was in one of the kayaks and he had a cooler with my insulin, meter, drinks, and snacks tied to the back of it. I wore water shoes to protect my feet since the whole bottom of the river was just rocks.

Only one person carried their phone with them, so I frequently asked what time it was. We skipped lunch and got in the water at around 1pm, so I told my boyfriend I had to give my Lantus injection in 3 hours. We spent about 2 hours tied together in our tubes just floating down the river—occasionally hitting our rear ends on rocks, but other than that it was pretty peaceful We also went down a small section of rapids, which was probably my favorite part (and I was almost too scared to do it!).

They had buses that would drive you back up to where you get in, so we got on the bus while the 2 kayakers paddled back to meet us. When we got back to the other end, I asked what time it was—it was 3:40. Then I looked for my boyfriend who had my insulin and I could hardly see him because he was so far away. I panicked a little and told the others that I needed my insulin so we got back in the water and they yelled a few times, “Ramonnn!! Ana needs her insulinnn!!” Fortunately he heard so he paddled over to us pretty quickly. Still on my float, I gave my injection, checked my blood sugar, and gave an injection of Novolog because I was really high. I had hardly eaten all day, so I’m guessing the high blood sugar level was a result of the heat, my stress, and also the lack of insulin earlier (I gave less in case I had to swim). Once we got out of the river again, I drank lots of water. It took a while for my blood sugar to come down, so I didn’t eat much for dinner.

In the end, I realized I could have been a bit more prepared, but I didn’t know what to expect so it was hard to plan. Next time I’ll check more frequently and maybe invest in a waterproof watch? I’ll also keep a bottle of water with me (my float has cupholders!). Anyway, from a not-so-outdoorsy person to you, don’t let diabetes keep you from doing what you want! Just do your best in preparing for any adventure you may have (not just outdoors) by anticipating possible situations. Have a wonderful adventure-filled summer!

 

Healthy Lifestyle Habits and Their Impact on Diabetes Management

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From watching message boards and facebook, I’ve come to understand that more people than I imagined don’t believe that healthy lifestyle habits can improve their diabetes management or are an essential part of their management.  They believe that adhering to the strict rules of carb counting and insulin dosing is all they need to do.  And when their diabetes management isn’t where they’d like, they blame diabetes.  And yeah, yeah diabetes is ultimately the cause of all our blood sugar woes.  But focusing on that is NOT going to ever help.

So I’d like to offer some opinions on lifestyle habits and how they impact diabetes management.

First, I’ll say that my diabetes management was extremely challenged while I ate a typical American diet.  I have never had an issue with carb counting or portion sizing.  My challenge was facing the ups and downs that broke the rules about insulin and carbs.  When I changed my diet to omit most processed foods, most of the time, I realized my blood sugars didn’t swing up and down nearly as much.

Same happened when I began to exercise daily.  Easier diabetes management.  Insulin is much more powerful when we exercise regularly.  When I don’t, I cannot maintain tight control.

These discoveries were so huge for me that I can’t imagine someone not knowing the potential of healthy lifestyle habits on their diabetes.

No matter who you are, the positive impact you stand to gain from changing things about how you eat and move during the day is huge!  I can eat carefully and exercise daily and use 12 units of my long acting insulin a day.  If I eat like I see most people eating and if I don’t exercise regularly, I literally need 25-30 units of my long acting a day.  That’s a HUGE difference.  That difference impacts weight gain, hormone balances in the body, moods, metabolism, thyroid function, cholesterol, and more.  That’s why I take it seriously.

Now, I didn’t make these changes overnight and don’t expect others to either.  But it helped me to be slowly convinced that trying to make small, gradual changes over time were totally worthwhile.  And that’s what I’m trying to do in this post for anyone who isn’t convinced.  I benefited from reading stuff like this long ago and I hope somehow this helps someone else.

I write it over and over again because I believe it through personal experience.  And yes, we all have unique experiences but I’m not saying eat what I eat or exercise how I exercise.  Those details are up to you.  However, if what you’re doing isn’t working, try something else.  And just because it worked for you once doesn’t mean it works for you.  Something has to work consistently in order to “work”.

If you love and respect yourself, and I hope you do, you owe it to yourself to adopt the habits that will nourish your body and mind for the long term, rather than going for instant gratification.

While My Husband Loudly Snores

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It’s 1:30 am and I’m waiting for my blood sugar to come down.  To spend my time constructively I’ve just composed a cover of that Beatles song…

 

I look at the time

Hear the clock tick and tocking

while my husband loudly snores

I wait for my blood

to stop being so sweet now

while my husband loudly snores

I don’t know whyyy, he snores so loudly

How can he breathe?

I don’t know howww, to make him stop it

I think I’m going to scream

I look at his mouth

watch his chest rise and falling

while my husband loudly snores

my blood sugar’s there

where I want it to be now

but still my husband loudly snores…

aaaauuugghhhh

aaaaauuuuggghhhhh

aaaaauuuugggghhhhh!!!!!

A1c Champions Training Progress

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Psyching myself out of my nerves before speaking on a panel in D.C.

 

So I’ve been in training for the A1c Champions Program.  It’s really a wonderful program which happens to be sponsored by Sanofi US.

I have had to confront my fear of public speaking head on.  It has not been easy.  It has not been without pain.  But, I’m not quitting and that fact alone makes me feel really fulfilled.  You see, my social anxiety issues go back to my preschool and kindergarten age.  When I was 5 in kindergarten, I remember wanting so badly to tell my nice teacher that I thought she was great and that I appreciated her (she was sensitive and understanding of my ways unlike many teachers to follow).  Alas, I could do no such thing.

A few years later I fell in love with gymnastics.  I really felt like it was something I could be good at.  And I’m petite and small boned and I get really muscular, I would have been able to do well, I think.  But they announced we’d have to do a routine in front of all the parents and I remember crying outside the door to the place, while my dad (or mom?) tried to convince me to not be afraid, to just go on and do it.  I did not go in.  I quit forever.  I did as much as I could at home for years, even putting on dance/gymnastic shows for my parents just for the joy of it but I always regretted quitting.

Just after that I took piano lessons, which I really enjoyed.  My instructor said I was a natural.  I did two recitals that I thought would stop my heart and then, knowing there would be more to come, I decided to quit.  I told my parents I was just choosing soccer over piano.  The truth was that on a soccer team there were a lot of us to watch versus having all the focus be on me.

There have been many more examples like this in my life.  In fact every time I had to present something in class I usually delayed the grief by claiming high or low blood sugar to which the teacher would say, “Oh sweetie, ok, why don’t you present tomorrow?”  “Ugh.  Tomorrow.”  I couldn’t win.

So learning to give an hour long program where I’m doing almost all the talking is really challenging for me.  I have a flight/fight instinct kicking in.  I’m fighting the urge to come up with some pathetic excuse as to why I can’t continue.  But you know what?  I’m not going to quit.  For all those out there with diabetes, for all the times I let my own self down, I’m going to do this.

Are you doing something that scares you?  Share in comments.  If not, find something to do that scares you!  ;)

Human Bicycle

Get ready to laugh. Photo Courtesy of Nuttakit

My friend and fellow PWD, Emily shared this on facebook yesterday and I swear this put me in a good mood for the rest of the day.  Laughter is really great medicine so enjoy!

 

 

Have a great weekend!

Three

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My kid’s turned three the other day.  We spent the day watching 9 little kids play together in celebration.  They all dealt with obstacles as those obstacles presented themselves (how do I reach that blackberry on the blackberry tree?)  They helped each other.  They weren’t afraid to tell the truth.  Or to cry.  Or laugh.  And when they fell down they just jumped back up and continued on their way.

If we manage our diabetes in the same spirit with which a child lives, I think we can do pretty well.

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The kids planted a tree with dad for their birthday.

A word on my children in case they read this one day.  Aurora is a sensitive and cheerful child.  She likes to act.  In fact, the world is her stage, almost all the time.  She can play alone for hours.  She loves to dance and sing and is very enthusiastic and kind towards others.  She is a bit of a drama queen like me, which entertains me to no end.  She loves being outdoors and discovered that she loves being barefoot outside.  So much so that I now struggle to get her to wear shoes.  Oh, and she’s very stubborn.  But I’m kind of glad about that.  Her favorite food is anything starchy or sweet (ugh).

Henri is really extroverted and friendly.  He is excitable and high energy.  When he stops moving he falls asleep.  He loves to inspect everything new that presents itself, whether that be a bug, a piece of technology, a toy, or a blade of grass.  He can be a handful but I have discovered that if he’s had his fill of social endeavor, he’s calm and happy.  If not, well, look out, that’s all I gotta say.  With all his moving about he is a surprisingly good cuddle bug and is very affectionate and loving.  He is also very decisive and bossy.  He’ll only eat chicken if there are bones attached.

The Girl’s Guide to Diabetes also turns Three!

I had began blogging with one goal in mind: to tell others that going from lowest of low to happy and healthy was possible because that’s my story.  But this blogging thing has turned into a vehicle for being a diabetes advocate and for discovering opportunities for talking to more people about our diabetes than I ever imagined.  My favorite thing is teamwork and camaraderie and working on making a real difference.  Blogging has opened up a world where these things are all possible-much more so than if I had just done what I set out to do initially.

So here’s to going with the flow and letting hard work and one’s heart lead the way.  Fulfillment doesn’t escape us that way.  I foresee blogging forever so watch out!

XOXO

ps:  If you want to guest post, I don’t care who you are, you’re welcome to (provided you’re real).  Contact me at sysy@thegirlsguidetodiabetes.com

On Meter Accuracy and What to Do in the Meantime…

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While I do give my time and energy when it comes to petitioning for better meter accuracy, I also have adopted a few personal safeguards.  These safeguards are like self imposed regulations that I don’t know how to live without.  I used to live without them but there were a lot of close calls.  And sometimes I forego them and scary things happen.

Meters being a good bit off (up to 20% off is it?) is an important issue to tackle, indeed.  But since it’s the reality of our current situation, we might ask ourselves in case we haven’t already, “What can I do about it?”  I’ll share what I do in case in inspires anyone to answer this question for themselves:

It’s been my experience that the further away from 100 my blood sugar is, the less accurate my meter may be.  Well how about that?  My meter and I mutually agree as to what my “target” is.  Just kidding.  Sort of…

Since low blood sugar comes with clearer symptoms for me and is an immediate emergency situation, I don’t question my meter when it says I’m low.  Though, if I don’t feel low at all, I will try jump in jacks and if I have energy for those I will retest because something strange is going on.  Perhaps leftover fruit juice on my fingertips from the apple I had earlier.

When my blood sugar is within my target range I relax, cheer, do a dance, etc.  But I try to have faith in my meter and assume it’s right on.

When my blood sugar is over 250, I retest.  It hurts me to retest because strips are like gold but I do it because this could happen:

Years ago, I tested 350-something.  When my blood sugar is that high, it’s hard for me to bring down so I usually push it down with a larger than usual bit of insulin.  Well, I gave insulin and then stopped.  I thought about how I didn’t feel 350 high.  So I tested again and saw I was 260.  I tested yet again and was 249.  “OK” I thought, “Now I’ve got a heck of a lot of insulin coming my way”.  Sure enough in 40 minutes I was 98 and dropping fast and still had over an hour of active insulin coming.  Nowadays the times that has happened have been handled differently.  I start to eat after 15 minutes to deflect the steep drop.

But better yet, it really doesn’t happen too often because I test twice.  If the second test is really far off from the first, I test a third time and go with the majority rule.  I would never ever test, see a high number, give insulin, and go to sleep.  Our meters are not built to support that level of responsibility.  Not with our lives.  That is a shame, yes, but that’s where our brain comes in handy.  What can we do to help ourselves against this?

Something a lot of my friends do is to eat low or moderate carb.  They have many reasons for eating low or lowish carb but one of the reasons for many of them is that this way, there is usually not a lot of insulin circulating at any given time.  And the food they eat is going to minimize the likelihood for being high enough to see super large discrepancies in their test results.  This works well for me.  In particular, what works well for me is to be careful with processed food.  I find that avoiding it makes my blood sugars more stable and my life easier because I don’t have super high highs.  And then my meter isn’t as big an issue for me as it could be.

But they should totally work on meter accuracy.  Or at the very least give everyone more strip allowance.

Please.

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