Tuesday 2015 Diabetes Blog Week What I Keep Private

Click for the Keep it to Yourself – Tuesday 5/12 Link List.
Many of us share lots of aspects of our diabetes lives online for the world to see.  What are some of the aspects of diabetes that you choose to keep private from the internet?  Or from your family and friends?  Why is it important to keep it to yourself?  (This is not an attempt to get you out of your comfort zone.  There is no need to elaborate or tell personal stories related to these aspects.  Simply let us know what kinds of stories we will never hear you tell, and why you won’t tell them.) (Thank you Scott E of Rolling in the D for this topic.)

 

What do I keep private from the internet?  If you have known me a while you will know I don’t do private.  I try to not filter myself in order to appear “better”.  Oftentimes some of my posts are controversial.  But there are some things I will not share.  Not because I don’t want to but because I am extremely sensitive and I fear a simplistic understanding of what I write (not from most just a few)

I typically choose all my words carefully and deliberately.  But I’ve allowed myself to be shoved off my blog more than once because of criticism, hate mail, and heady assumptions.  I admit that any broad misunderstandings are my fault.  In those cases I didn’t write clearly enough.  Every so often though, I think I’m being clear, I test my blog out to a few people and ask them to tell me what I’m saying, the feedback says I’m clear,  I will publish officially, and then I will get a few responses that crush me.  When that happens, it seems like some readers are looking at things in a black and white fashion, skipping over some very important words I include, and instead of seeking clarification, they go off the rails at me.

Recently, I spoke to someone who I would regard as a nuanced thinker.  I shared what I haven’t shared before.  That will come out later for me to talk about but in the meantime I’d say that I feel sharing is highly influential and important in our community.  What some of you have shared in the past has been very freeing for me.  Being able to relate, to know I’m not alone, to feel I’m not a freak, etc.  One way we can encourage more of this honesty and openness is to read with the same honesty and openness and respond in kind.  We want to support and seek clarification, not jump to conclusions and crucify.  I’ve seen a lot of bloggers get tackled over a thought they had, a reasonable human thought.  And that doesn’t help us.  So keep sharing friends.  I will keep reading with my heart on my sleeve, understanding that you and I are no different and that you have every right to entertain certain thoughts and feelings. I try to remember too, that you are at liberty to change your mind anytime, just like me.

Monday 2015 Diabetes Blog Week Post I CAN

Click for the I Can – Monday 5/11 Link List.
In the UK, there was a diabetes blog theme of “I can…”  that participants found wonderfully empowering.  So lets kick things off this year by looking at the positive side of our lives with diabetes.  What have you or your loved one accomplished, despite having diabetes, that you weren’t sure you could?  Or what have you done that you’ve been particularly proud of?  Or what good thing has diabetes brought into your life?  (Thank you to the anonymous person who submitted this topic suggestion.)

 

Happy to be back after two years…

 

When I was 10 years old, I felt a very strong sensation bubbling up inside of me that I can now identify as drive and motivation.  For what?  I wasn’t sure.  I just felt a seriously strong longing to do something important, something that would help people.  This intensified when my sister was diagnosed with type 1 that year.  The most memorable dream of my entire life was right after her diagnosis.  I wrote it down.  Basically I was in the Amazon rain forest, just south of where I was born, looking for a cure for cancer (interesting that cancer be the disease I was curing in my dream-I think this had to do with all the talk of curing cancer from some unknown plant in the jungle at that time).  Anyway, my memory of this dream is freakishly long and detailed.  When I woke up I thought it was a sign I was going to at least work in some way or other to help others.

Then I was diagnosed with type 1 (the same year).  I felt ok for the first 6 months.  I was driven to succeed.  Then reality set it.  Diabetes was a bitch.  And I was stuck with it until someone lived my dream (in my child’s mind) and cured it?  Oh no no no this was not ok.  I got negative about it pretty quickly.  I felt my personality changing.  With every passing year I was further and further from myself.  I couldn’t help anyone-I couldn’t help me.

In my early 20’s, after depressing times due to friends dying and other losses and major fear over my physical and mental health, I began to turn around.  I tried to come back to myself.  That really was the way I thought of it.  I would remember how I was a positive kid, with a ton of spirit and wonder, and with a yearning to act on the compassion I felt for others.

So to wrap this up what I’m saying is that I can be ME despite my diabetes and because my journey has been as I described, that feels rather victorious.  I know diabetes can pull us away from all the good parts of ourselves with constant stress and suffering.  This is something I will constantly continue to struggle with.  But, I feel very much myself these days and for that I’m quite grateful.

When a Five Year Old Says “I Hate Diabetes”

“I hate diabetes” escaped the lips of my five year old son who doesn’t have that kind of language habit, yet, and who doesn’t really know the meaning of the word “hate”.  Hearing him say those three words set off a chain reaction of memories that started almost 21 years ago to the day when my youngest sister was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age three.  I remember having trouble going to sleep that night after my dad wearily explained that she had in incurable illness that would involve needles and bleeding (and so much more).  Before I fell asleep I remember whispering out loud, “I hate diabetes.”  Later that same year I wrote in my diary those very words with so much pressure from my pen the words permanently embedded into the next few pages.  Never one to pass up an opportunity for clarity, I dotted my exclamation points with my own 11 year old blood.

Since that year I have probably uttered “I hate diabetes” more than a million times-an estimate I don’t think is exaggerated.  I haven’t said or thought it much in the last few years because I want my mind filled with positive thoughts and my children to start life with a mental blank slate.  I want them to figure out how they feel about things versus feeling what I feel and thus carrying around a detrimental amount of my baggage.  It has served me well to remove those three words from my vocabulary.  I am much more equipped, emotionally speaking, to take care of myself.  And I do take care of myself.

Today, I was informing my children that tomorrow I will go to the eye doctor for a short visit.  My daughter said, “Ok, mom” while my son, seemingly alarmed, said, “Why? What’s wrong?”  I sat down and looked him in the eyes, which were staring at me intensely, “Well, nothing is wrong, but because I have diabetes I should go to the doctor each year to have a check-up”.

“But why does your diabetes mean you need a check up?” he continued.

“Because diabetes can hurt the body’s cells over time and our eyes are particularly sensitive.” I calmly explained.

My daughter jumped in saying, “So diabetes can hurt your eyes and other parts of your body because our whole body is a bunch of cells, right?”

“Yes.  And I’ve had diabetes for 20 years so it’s a good idea for me to be extra careful and see doctors every year to make sure my body is working like it should.”

My daughter smiled, gave me a thumbs up, and said confidently, “Sounds good, mom!”

My admittedly skeptical son looked down and said, “Well I hate it.”  He looked up at me with his brown eyes and in the most deliberate manor said, “I hate diabetes.”

I was stunned.

For a second I thought about saying something soothing and typical of a parent.  But all that came out was, “I do, too.”

And that was it.  He went back to eating his dinner.  I began my memory roller coaster and wondered how my child could know enough to say he hated something that he has always seen me have. Did I appear weak or sick to him?  Did I give him cause for worry? What gave it away?  Was he just putting the logic of my explanation together?

So many questions flooded me until I was tired of thinking.  All I’m sure of is I will do whatever it takes to make sure my diabetes doesn’t affect them more than it has to.  When it slows me down, makes me feel incompetent and a complete fool for having had children, I need to make sure I kick those thoughts to the curb.  So that my kids don’t catch those thoughts.  So that I don’t become those thoughts.  Because when a five year old says “I hate diabetes” one sits up and pays attention.  I don’t want my children tethered to my worries.  Or can this legitimately be their worry, too?  I’d rather it not be.  Especially not at five.  And not while I’m alright and it’s technically jumping the gun.

That’s what I will tell him tonight before he and his sister go to sleep.  That I’m alright and there is no need to worry.  I will make it a point to hear my own words.

 

Marijuana For Diabetes

I’m probably being naïve to think this topic isn’t too controversial to post.  But, I don’t shy from ideas and discussions and information so…  I’ve been learning about our “failed drug war” and also about how some people use medical marijuana and the benefits they say they experience.  I’m not someone looking for any type of drug at the moment but I’ll be honest, I sometimes think about what the future with diabetes has to bring and I wonder if I will desperately want that option at some point.

This worry may not make sense to some but personally, I’ve had type 1 diabetes for 20 years.  I’m 31 and know I likely have many more years of diabetes ahead of me.  I know that every year brings the possibility of diabetes complications closer to reality and so I ask myself, “how will I cope?”  One of the most common complications of diabetes is nerve damage, which may bring nerve pain among a plethora of other possibilities.  I’ve dealt with random pains most of my life (not going to list them for you) and am already acutely aware of the way chronic pain works it’s way into every facet of life, from the obvious to the mundane and least expected.

To suffer more pain and not have many options for managing it sounds daunting.  I’m on this topic of thought tonight because two weeks ago I had a cavity filled.  The dentist said, “You have a huge cavity! So this is going to hurt and if it hurts after a few days you will probably need a root canal.”  Well, I’ve been in some decent pain since that day and today I broke down in tears because the constant, between a level 1-10 I’d say 4 pain I’m having is wearing me out.  Life doesn’t stop when someone is in pain.  I mean if most of us have an accident or a temporary illness we get to rest and then move on as strong as ever.  But when pain lasts and lasts, when people can no longer carry you or cook for you or take care of the kids for you, how do you do all that yourself?  I’m only at a pain level of about 4 and I’m wishing someone would give me a sleeping pill so I can have a break.  To be honest, some magnets for pain are taking the edge off for me.  And I’m super grateful and obviously open to solutions like that.

I call this pain a 4 because I think I know a 10.  I once spent a few hours screaming non stop from kidney stone pain (after a laser blasting of a large stone which caused many small stones to parade down my urethra) which was so bad I would have nearly taken a gun to my head had that option been available.  I know, I know, “Sysy, how can you say such things?!”  Pain can take over.

You must be asking yourself, “Ugh, why haven’t you gone in for that root canal?”  Well, because I can’t afford it.  But since I have health insurance I can’t go to the local free clinics, either.  I have private dental insurance and it costs an arm and a leg.  My son is going to the dentist tomorrow and it will cost $500.  He comes before me so I will bargain and strategize until I can manage to go in and hand over the dough.  Don’t worry about me, Friday is nigh!

Back to diabetes.  You can see what has taken me down this trail of thought.  Previous life experience, current pain that is making my jaw, ear, and neck hurt and my vision blurry in one eye.  (Gosh, I hope that’s normal)  If diabetes causes me some kind of chronic pain in the future…will I be able to handle it?  I’m very sensitive to pain.  I once went to a salon to get a Brazilian wax and passed out like a fool.  I may not want prescription medications with dangerous side effects and astronomical costs.  In fact, I know I don’t want that option.  My organs need to be protected.  They’ve been stressed out since I was 11.  Is there anything else?  I hear there is.  I think I hope it may be available if I need support one day.  And this doesn’t even begin to address all the people who could use some help RIGHT NOW.  Do they, do you, want this option?  I’m all about healthy lifestyle choices to manage conditions but what if I need more?

Growing up, the boy I was in love with, joked with me often saying, “Marriage-you-wanna?” (Get it? “Marij-uana?”)  And like a good girl I always said “no”.  I’d like to revise my answer to:  “maybe one day?”

 

Diabetes In the Wintertime

Winter is a particularly challenging time for many people.  That would include people like myself, who might also have diabetes to perpetually deal with.  So while I may gain the obligatory 5 holiday pounds, take Vitamin D supplements, and read a lot of books (like many do during this time) it also means my diabetes management is strained.  My workouts have continued-I do kettle bell swinging and yoga instead of going outside for walks or runs.  I have been sipping a lot of herbal tea and soups to keep warm and hydrated.  But little things like checking my blood sugar feel like more of an inconvenience.  I’m cold, in cuddle mode with this blanket, and have to squeeze my finger extra hard to get a decent drop of blood out.

I’ve been doing alright, I think.  My routine psychologically matches my home-a cozy 900 sq ft cabin surrounded by cool, peaceful, swaying pines and grey branches.  I get up, do some yoga stretches, make coffee or tea, and make the kids and I breakfast.  Then we read, play, experiment, play some more, and whenever they are occupied without me, I read what I want.  It feels very cozy and small and slow.  I have to trick myself not to feel unimportant.  Though I know the goal isn’t to feel important, either.  So I just try to be.  Be ok with the weather, be ok with me. I’s easier said than done.  We’ve been trained to be as productive as possible.  It’s definitely busier in the Spring.  I get on an efficient diabetes management routine and am carried through the day by the light, warmth, and growth all around me.

Right now I take it easy.  I think about what habits I have and decide which I’d like to change.  And as a friend recently reminded me, I can use the Wintertime as a space for reflection and pause, knowing it will soon lead to those sunny, life affirming days that happen to be more my style.  Not to pick on any of you crazy winter lovers…but, you’re a little nuts.  ;)

I’m Baaaack!

After this post, I’m going to jump back in like a year didn’t just go by without me blogging.  But first, I want to say Hi! and I missed you.  Those who emailed out of concern-thank you.  That meant so much.  The blog looks very different because a hacker broke my old blog theme.  But there is less pink so that may be a relief.

Lately, I’ve been spending my days reading a ton, unschooling (yes, unschooling) my twin 5 year olds, travelling the country talking to people with diabetes through the A1C Champions program, doing freelance writing, and oh yes, managing my diabetes.  In the past year I also have spent much of that time without a computer so I missed a lot.  I’m chest deep in uncharted territory and also struggling with the same ole same ole that is diabetes.  In the time we haven’t seen each other, I had a dog for about 7 months.  A rough collie named Bruce.  I don’t want to go into why I don’t have him anymore (nothing dramatic) but will say that knowing him and experiencing so much of each day alongside him has been life changing.  Who knew?  If you’re a dog person, you’re probably saying “Duh!” “Dogs are amazing!”  I get it now.  I do.  And although he is many miles away, he is still with me each day.

So.  Let’s talk diabetes.  I could use some help getting caught up with big causes that need support.  Shoot me a comment with initiatives you think are worthwhile for people with diabetes?

As for me, my diabetes is pretty good.  I’ve slacked off in some ways and tightened my discipline in other ways.  I hope those of you who used to come here are doing well, I truly do.  I am still a health coach and do it mostly for people with diabetes.  I do this over the phone or even over email for those who want a discount (email is a savings).  Interested in some kind of health/nutrition/exercise/diabetes related guidance and coaching?  Email me at Sysymorales@gmail.com.  My coaching style is to meet you directly where you are in your journey.  It’s about helping you, specifically, to go where you want to go.  It’s not about trying to push you towards a goal that doesn’t feel true to where you are now.  Baby steps.  Knowledge is power.  Compassion and self-love for ourselves and others.  That’s my jam.

Posting schedule will average one per week.  See you, soon.

Sysy

Note to Self: Try New Things

We moved recently and bought a small house on a small triangular shaped property with dozens of trees on it.  Most of the trees are pines and other evergreens, which are my favorite.  The unique shape of the property captivated us and we’ve been dreaming up cool garden ideas.  Even before we moved we saw a lot of work in the yard.  There are several different types of vines growing wild, choking off trees, and beginning to threaten others.  While envisioning the future, I imagined myself making Alex a sandwich while he worked hard to clear the vines and clean up the yard. 

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That’s part of the back yard, a wild and wonderful mess.

Once we moved in I realized that Alex was at work from sun-up to sun-down and the clearing of the property needed to be done and waiting until warm weather would mean watching out for snakes and dealing with pests (and I’m not confident in my ability to do either).  I thought to myself, “I’m going to absolutely hate this, I’m not the gardening type”.  But I went out there and starting pulling up vines, some half an inch thick, others thin and twirled around tree limbs and branches.  They have formed a massive thicket and run up and down many of our trees.  I used to think this look was desperately charming but I started to look up the vines to identify them.  One in particular is a terrible invasive type which takes down trees (oh no, the house!) and covers up plants (how rude!).  It grows really fast and we just so happen to have it all over the property.  I worked for 4 hours one day only to clear about a puny three ft radius of land.  Then I went inside, washed my dirt covered hands and that’s when it hit me.  This was the most fun I’d had in a really long time.  I felt so healthy!  My allergies weren’t acting up because it was late fall.  I felt peaceful and energetic.  All from pulling up vines, uncovering trees and plants, and finding artifacts left behind in the ground such as Twizzler wrappers and lots of old socks (I have questions for the man that used to live here). 

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Doesn’t look like much, but these mounds are massive in person and reflect only a tiny amount of cleared land.

Since then I’ve spent several more afternoons doing the same, enjoying myself so much I only stop when it’s too dark to see and my kids remind me it’s time to do my motherly job and feed them (think of all I’ll be able to accomplish when they can feed themselves!)  Each time I feel a sense of euphoria.  I did recently pull or rip a pelvic floor muscle doing this which makes sense considering I jumped into a new physical activity without any caution and without working myself up to the task.  But, I’m healing and learning not to over strain.  And I’m still loving it.  And I’ve become a nerd to my husband who just shakes his head back and forth as I call myself the “tree whisperer”.  I struggle a lot of with anxiety and depression, something I’ve blogged much about, and this activity is like strong medication for me.  I don’t quite know what it is.  Maybe it’s being out in this time of year with the smell of pine,  the crisp fresh air, birds, squirrels, and deer all around, and no pollen to make me sneeze.  All I know is I’m just going to keep it up.  It’s built in exercise, too so my blood sugars love it.

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See how much there is?  I can’t even find my husband when he’s out there.

I was so sure I would hate doing something I turned out to totally love doing!  So, this is a serious note to self: try new things!  Who knows where it will lead.  And if you have any tips for dealing with invasive vines, I’m all ears.

Traveling with Diabetes

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I’ve travelled several times each month this year and it’s given me some lessons:

I’ve learned that I get motion sickness on planes and cannot travel without taking Dramamine.  I tried to forego it once and that one time we just so happened to have a bumpy ride.  It is not fun to worry about dropping blood sugars while throwing up and being jostled about in the tiny plane lavatory. 

Taking all the airport stairs and skipping the moving sidewalks (is that what they’re called?) is a good way to combat all the sitting involved in travel.

Staff on planes are always happy.  I still haven’t met one that isn’t, which is freaky, but if I’m feeling low, so far they are quick to grab juice if I need it and want to conserve my glucose tablet stash for later.

The food situation when in an airport is mighty tricky.  Temptation abounds and yet the easiest way I’ve found to travel is to keep it real low carb because if things get hectic, and lately in airports, they always seem to, low carb often saves me amidst skipped blood sugar checks.

Given how close one’s next seat neighbor is in coach, I find it remarkable how injecting insulin in front of that neighbor has never been an awkward experience.  In fact, it’s a great conversation starter and I’ve literally written down each starting line for your own amusement:

“Wow, those needles are tiny, I’m so glad for you.”

“So you have diabetes, huh?”

“OMG, do you need sugar?”

“Ok, what do I do if you pass out on this flight?”

“Wow, in and out, just like that, eh?  It takes me longer to sneeze.”

“How long have you had it?”

And my personal favorite:  “Does it hurt? I’m sorry, of course it hurts, what was I thinking? That was such a stupid thing to say, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to say that, I just figured that it hurts but maybe it doesn’t or maybe you’re used to it, is that it, are you used to it? Wait…I take that back, I get migraines and I seriously doubt I’ll ever get used to them.  Just forget I said that, ok?”  5 seconds later:  “So, where ya headed?”

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What Diabetes Technology Can’t Replace

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If successful diabetes management is based upon a multitude of decisions we make during the day, why is technology often regarded as the number one asset in our diabetes management arsenal?

It can’t possibly be.  Take some important daily decisions that all impact diabetes:

-what to eat

-when to eat

-how much to eat

-how much insulin to give

-when to give insulin

-when to exercise

-what type of exercise to do

-how much to exercise

-when to test blood sugar

-how often to test blood sugar

And on and on!

Now basic technology like a meter is huge.  But, only if we choose to use it.  And a pump, for many of us, makes it easier to eat and deliver insulin as needed and to do a wide variety of exercises, as long as we choose to use it properly.  A CGM gives us information about trends and helps us catch highs and lows before they get too high or low.  Not to mention it can help save our lives by alerting us to dramatic blood sugar levels. 

So technology is awesome!

That’s indisputable.

It would seem that those using all of this technology would always have better diabetes management than those who only use a meter and syringes, right?  And yet, in my personal experience, I’ve met many people who use a meter and syringes and do very well and people who use all the technology available and don’t do very well. 

There are other important variables that always need to be considered.  So when a person is struggling with their diabetes management, often times more questions need to be asked than what is often asked.  Most likely, a person who can do well with a pump, can do well without one.  And CGM’s are most dramatically beneficial to those who can’t feel their lows or have young children with diabetes. 

My cautioning is really about avoiding the conclusion that, “If I had a pump, my diabetes would be controlled” or “I probably just need a CGM to have controlled blood sugars” without considering other factors. This isn’t to say these tools won’t dramatically help one’s management.  There is no guarantee and the decisions a person takes throughout the day is a better indicator of how a person will do with diabetes technology.

So if you’re struggling with your diabetes management, assess the root of your individual struggle.  Some people’s issues are best addressed with technology, but many issues are addressed outside of technology and skipping this facet of diabetes management can prove extremely frustrating and detrimental. 

I know because I’ve been there, done that.  Address your personal needs and let your blood sugars be your guide.  What technology can’t begin to replace is you and your knowledgeable decisions, which require knowledge about your diabetes.  Make sure your bases are covered before relying on gadgets.

Minimalism in Diabetes and Life

Thank you for all the emails of concern over my blogging break this summer and fall.  It was very nice to be missed.  I’m happy to be back.

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Over 6 years ago, when I ended my 7 year run with a Minimed insulin pump and switched to “the poor man’s” vial and syringes, I discovered something interesting about myself.  I functioned better when I practiced minimalism.  Not having so many balls in the air at once just feels easier.  I don’t even replace my syringes or lancets but once every week and several months, respectively.  I’ve never had an infection or any other problem as a result-at least not one I’m aware of.  And this makes me feel a bit more streamlined in my diabetes management.  I’m not saying I recommend being lazy about changing needles but practicing overall minimalism in my diabetes management works for me at the present time. 

In the past, all my constant logging, pumping, and the checks and balances that goes along with that overwhelmed me into not doing anything well.  Whereas now, I do the few essential things as well as possible, with A1c results I’m happy about.  It may be my personality type or my lifelong struggle with anxiety but either way it’s true for me and we all need to work with what is true for each of us.

I’ve been travelling a lot lately and I’ve been amazed at how I can go days with just a small carry on bag and my purse and not even need all that I packed.  And that includes carrying all my back up diabetes supplies which take up a good bit of room. The experience has taken away this fear I’ve always had where I ask my anxiety ridden self, “but what if I need it?!”  Now I just think of how much nicer it is to get around the airport with a small bag and how quick and easy packing is.  I’m less likely to forget something crucial, as well.

True and lasting change takes time and my moving towards minimalism has been a slow and deep process.  For the first time I’m truly aware of how ridiculous our consumer culture is.  I hate what we’re doing to the environment and ourselves.  I notice my sense of calm when I go somewhere that is totally uncluttered.  I can think and focus better in that environment.  I also have learned that more stuff does in no way translate to more happiness.  Though I can admit that being above the poverty level and therefore having sufficient safety and health affirming opportunities is important and absolutely impacts happiness levels.  But if we only refer to extras, I just spent the summer in a huge house at a lake paying zero in rent and I felt depressed the whole time. 

My favorite thing since childhood has been the computer.  I don’t know how many kids had a computer at home in 1993 but I did.  I saw the potential of this great mysterious box and as they took off better and better every minute, I became only more grateful that I had been born at a time when the world was at our fingertips.  Not to mention accessing information that was more real time than a book was super exciting.  Like most people, I love learning and the age of the internet has been my greatest ally, especially as a drop out college student married to a drop out college student.  We haven’t been hindered by our drop out status in terms of knowledge (unless you beg to differ) and that’s a righteous equalizing factor.  (Though in job searching we all know a degree still outweighs so many other valuable assets and qualities but that is a discussion for another day).

Part of what being globally connected has done for me is give me a very real view of how others think and live.  And it’s been impossible for me to ignore the fact that we have enough resources for all humans to have all they need.  We just don’t have enough for all of our wants.  Suddenly I feel greedy and I welcome that feeling because I don’t want to be talked about by my great grandchildren as the stubborn old woman that was gratuitously a part of a careless, destructive, insensitive, and idiotic generation that put greed before humanity.  I want them to know I was doing my tiny part to mitigate damage in my own home, community, and country.  I want them to know that I didn’t carry the attitude of a victim, of someone who says, “well, what do ya do” or “if you can’t beat em’, join em’”.  Bull.  Bull!  I want my grandchildren and great grandchildren to know that I felt guilty about how I was living and motivated and inspired by others to act and make any change I could to make something, anything, better. 

And that leads me to where I feel I’m now more quickly headed.  The movement of minimalism is becoming more popular.  Now there are those who criticize minimalists for being trendy.  But I’m glad it’s catching on and truthfully, it’s being criticized because every time someone talks about it we are basically causing others to self reflect and to feel that we are rejecting much of society.  It’s not like my life’s goal was to reject much of society.  It’s actually in my nature to agree with you as much as possible.  But self reflection and awareness has put me here.

Anyway, what’s great is that there is no right way to practice minimalism  The key is to be aware, to be conscious of how we live and to make changes where we can.  To reject it is fine.  But there are consequences.  That’s just a fact.  I no longer feel comfortable living the way most do in the US.  That doesn’t mean I judge you for not feeling the same way.  It just means that we should all be discussing this and supporting each other.  In other words, I tell you about my minimalism journey and stop right there and you tell me about all your shopping trips and stop right there.  I don’t tell you you’re doing something wrong and you certainly don’t tell me I’m nuts for trying to live with a lot less.  This has been a very recent change for me and even now I still waste paper towels like nobody’s business so I don’t have room to judge.  I do like talking about it because that’s how I got introduced-by others talking about it with me or writing about their experiences with it.  I am so thankful for their time and willingness to share how and why they do what they do.

So what is my family doing now?

Well, first of all, I’ve been getting rid of a lot of material goods this year.  It stung for a second and then I forgot I ever owned any of it. 

I also grabbed a few items by the dumpster and refurbished them with my husband.  He fixed them up and I painted them-which turned out to be some of the best meaningful fun I’ve had all year. 

Our cheap dining room table set broke years ago and we couldn’t afford to replace it so Alex (my husband) made a farmhouse style table with simple benches and together we stained it teak and Caribbean blue.  The entire project cost less than $100 and we are so proud of our table.  Our children loved witnessing planks of wood turn into something so useful. 

I’ve been scanning and backing up documents in order to free ourselves of paper weight. 

We sold our second car super cheap in an act of charity and just go everywhere together.  This works well for us because Alex drives a company truck to and from work.

My brother in law gave us his TV but we still don’t pay for cable TV, instead we use Netflix or Hulu to watch TV using the WII my husband received as a gift.  It’s cheaper and we spend a lot less time in front of the TV.

We just bought a 900 square ft house with no basement or functional attic.  My son and daughter will share a bedroom, which is going against the norm unless you go to other parts of the world where entire families eat, sleep, and entertain in one room.  We hope to have a smaller footprint that way and to be forced into not buying so much stuff because, “where on earth would we be able to put it?” 

Alex and I have never had credit cards. And when there is extra money, we’ve paid off tuition, medical debt, whatever we can, instead of taking a vacation. We haven’t had a vacation since our honeymoon 5 years ago but there is definitely less stress in paying things off when possible.  When people say “you can afford that” we say, “no we can’t”  And it’s a dignified, “no, really, we can’t and don’t want to be burdened with debt, be irresponsible with money, or give in to the seductive pleasure of mindless shopping and imaginary needs.”  And I am just like anyone else.  I get cheered up by buying things.  I love clothes.  I love books.  I love STUFF.  I have fooled myself into believing I can heal my anxiety with a shopping trip.  But, what I’ve learned is it’s a temporary fix.  And then I’m back to where I started, only, with less money.

We try to eat very simple whole foods with few ingredients just to make preparation and clean up that much easier.  We are slowly getting rid of kitchen supplies.  It’s a little scary but eventually we want to just have a bowl, spoon, fork, and mug for each of us and just wash after every use.  No more piles of dishes!  I know that sounds crazy but if you come over I will have delectable finger foods for you, great wine that we’ll drink out of, I dunno, something, and fun conversation-all to distract you from our primitive approach.  I’m trying to make my new mantra, “people, not things”.

We plan on growing some of our own food.  There will be a major learning curve but, we are committed to giving it a good shot. 

We plan on homeschooling the kids which will help us with having a more pleasant schedule and less hectic times throughout the day.  Less stress is always a plus.  Additionally, it has been brought to my attention that right now, the greatest indicator of a child’s outcome in school is their family income and not their performance or work ethic or testing ability.  I’m not playing that game.  If we can manage and meet everyone’s needs then we’ll do it, if not, then we’ll try something else.

I have been slowly getting rid of clothes.  I noticed a while back that my husband is always better dressed than me and I think it’s because he sticks with a simple routine:  button up shirt or polo, khakis or jeans, leather shoes-and done.  He gets colors that he likes and he gets high quality so he can use his clothes for years.  So I’m trying to simplify my dressing by getting rid of everything that isn’t awesome on me (because, really, why do I want to wear anything that looks less than awesome on me?)  As a result, I’ve gotten rid of 75% of my closet!  But, it feels great and laundry is sooo much easier!  I’ve heard of people who own two pairs of pants and two t-shirts and that’s all they wear and it sounds amazing but I’m definitely not there,  yet. 

I’ve discovered the magic of Goodwill.  It’s hit and miss and I’ve learned you have to be picky, but people have been amazed by what I get from there which cost next to nothing.  The key is to make sure it serves a strong purpose and doesn’t add to clutter, something I should write on my hand before my trips there. 

Well that’s it, I think.  Again, these aren’t things anyone else should do, this is just what we feel we can do and we have a long way to go but it’s a process.  We’re just going to do what feels right. 

A part of me does feel like I’m making a statement with my minimalist diabetes management approach.  I want to be an example to those with limited resources and say, “you can do it with the basics, and do it well.”  A lack of money absolutely harms health but just enough money is another story.  I have just enough money for the basics which does include sufficient test strips for each day-excellent blood sugar control is not up for discussion.  I don’t need a pump or continuous glucose monitor, though it’s relative isn’t it?  If I die tomorrow of a middle of the night low blood sugar everyone will say I did need it.  But, if I die tomorrow in a car accident, you could say that I needed perhaps a different car or that I needed to have taken a better route or skipped a dumb errand.  If I die from a stroke, you could say I needed to have changed some part of my lifestyle or taken some type of medication.  The point is with so many variables each day affecting our well being it’s just not cut and dry.  I feel that my very simple approach forces me to maintain an important discipline that extends into all parts of my life.  That discipline is ultimately responsible for my diabetes management and how well it goes.  And that’s what I really wanted to share today Smile

Do you practice any kind of minimalism?  If so, I’m interested in learning more, please share in comments.

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