life

Diabetes and Me

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Word cloud concept illustration of diabetes condition

 

I just returned from the doctor. There is good news and there is bad. The good news is that the new doctor was personable, asked lots of questions, talked to me instead of a computer, and gave me a good sense of well being. The bad news is that my A1C reading was 9.1.

I have an autoimmune disorder that acts like Lupus without the rash. Most days I feel like crap. On the outside I look great and full on energy, but on the inside I fight to function. I’ve had this disease for many years and I don’t run to the doctor every time I feel sick. But a few years ago I was scheduled to fly to Portland to see my grandchildren and I felt awful. Too sick to get on a plane. So I called my doctor and made an appointment. Eight hours later I had a diagnosis. Diabetes Type II. Yeah, happy birthday to me.

That was four years ago and it’s been a daily battle. The first two years I was able to keep my A1C numbers in the 6.1 range with diet, exercise, and oral medications. Then the numbers started climbing and no matter what I did I couldn’t bring them down to a healthy level. So I wasn’t surprised when my new doctor told me my A1C was high. What surprised me was that it had jumped two whole points in six months in spite of a low carb diet and exercise.

People with diabetes have bodies that don’t use insulin properly. Over time their pancreases can’t make enough insulin to keep their blood glucose at normal levels. Their pancreases may even stop working.

According to a recent report, there are about 27 million people in the U.S. with Type II diabetes. Another 86 million have prediabetes, which means their blood glucose is not normal, but not high enough to be diabetes yet.

So why am I telling you this? To bore you? To make you sad? To scare you?

To warn you. To encourage you to pay more attention to your health so you won’t end up like me, pricking your finger twice a day, counting carbs, and wishing you didn’t have to watch every thing you put in your mouth.

Signs Symptoms Type 2 Diabetes that Commonly Happen

I was naïve. I knew lots of people with diabetes. I knew so many I began to believe diabetes was innocuous. People didn’t die from diabetes. Well, yes, they DO die from organ failure and heart disease, all a result of diabetes. Television commercials lead you to believe living with diabetes is no big deal. You can go to picnics. You can eat hot dogs and corn on the cob. You can smile and dance and have fun.

The reality is living with diabetes is HUGE. It’s hard work. Even with diet and exercise most days it feels like I’m are playing Russian roulette. I’m afraid to test my blood sugar because I don’t want to see the high numbers. It scares me and makes me depressed.

Be smarter than me. Any type of diabetes is a big thing. If your doctor says you are prediabetic, pay attention. Stop eating flour, sugar, and high carb foods immediately. Begin an exercise program and stick to it. Keep your blood glucose numbers between 80 and 100. That way you can truly be happy and healthy and smile and dance and have fun.

 

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My life in seven years.

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#14. Your life in 7 years.

What’s that you ask? My life in seven years? Hmm. What will my life look like or what will have transpired between 2015 and 2022?

The first thing that comes to mind. Will I still be walking Earth when I turn seventy-two? What’s that you say? I have a fifty-fifty chance? Hmm.

My mother passed at age 63 of causes unknown but suspected relating to high blood pressure and hypertension. She died sometime in the night and from the drugs found on the kitchen counter, the coroner suspects she may have had some pain that sent her in search of her meds. A heart attack, maybe. No autopsy, so we’ll never know. The last year of her life wasn’t so great, being married to an alcoholic who broke her arm the day before Thanksgiving. Still, she loved him in that way women do when they settle. I suppose she was as happy in her relationship as she allowed herself to be. I suppose she was content to spend hours on the sofa crocheting while she watched TV.

My father died at age 78 from complications related to kidney failure. The last week of his life was filled with excruciating pain and I remember him popping pain killers like M & Ms. They didn’t help and there’s no doubt that his passing gave him nothing but relief.

Which brings me back to the question and me sitting here talking with you. Where will I be, what will I be doing the next seven years?

Turning sixty-five was no big deal for me emotionally. In my head I’m still forty. But in the United States sixty-five means Medicare and at my age that’s a milestone because, unlike some of my friends who have aged well, I have struggled with an autoimmune disease and Ménière’s for more than twenty years. I know the meaning of a good day; I don’t have them often. With any chronic illness there are days when you would just rather stay in bed buried deep under the blankets because sleep provides the only comfort, until it doesn’t. What’s that you ask? What’s all this mopey talk about death, pain, and dying? Let me explain.

Time has always been a huge issue with me. Never enough time to read, to work on projects, to take that special vacation, to enjoy my surroundings. Three years ago one of my writing buddies succumbed to cancer. She was writing her memoir and excited about sharing it with the world. By exploring her past she was changing. Acknowledging the wrongs she endured opened her up. She was happier, more friendly, more excited about facing tomorrow. When she passed, still hoping to finish that memoir that explained what it felt like to be the younger sister to a mentally ‘retarded’ brother—her word, not mine—it broke my heart, and I will always remember her as someone who left this earth too soon with work undone. But I suppose that applies to most of us.

What’s that you say? I’m rambling and avoiding the question? Hmm. Perhaps, but I don’t think so. A college professor once posed the question, “Would you like to know when you are going to die?” I was taking a literature in the Bible class. He was staunch Catholic. A few students said, yes, they wanted to know so they could prepare. Others like me had no desire to know.

Here’s the thing. I just made a major life-changing move. Nothing about it was easy even though in my heart I had already left my current home with visions of how wonderful my new home and surroundings would be. Major life-altering realities tornadoed around me, not the least of which were leaving behind specialists who had cared for my husband and me most of our adult lives.

But life is fluid. It ebbs and flows, and when it doesn’t you begin to die. Like my mother. Like my father. Like my writing buddy who was just learning to love herself. Life is not stagnate. You keep moving or you start to decay.

So, you say. Get to the point.

My life in seven years. Yes, I can give you a bucket list.

  1. See New York, Times Square, and the Statue of Liberty.
  2. Publish three more novels.
  3. Take a European vacation with my husband, my son and his wife.

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I know how to make lists. I used to do it all the time. In five years I want to be retired. In ten years I want to visit Spain. But I don’t really expect my life to look like that. With any luck it will look like my life today. Ticking away too fast. Reminding me to declutter. Reminding me to let go of things that don’t really matter. Pushing me to follow a new path and challenging me to enjoy the journey.

But here’s the truth. At this moment, with my dogs cuddled at my side and a pen in my hand, I can think of nothing else I need or want. I can think of nowhere else I’d rather be, not even seven years from now.

 

Balancing life

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Those who know me know that I don’t write in July and August. Because, for me, writing requires that I set myself apart, enter a dreamlike world that creates a positive place where words and ideas flow. This is a selfish place and doesn’t accommodate “What’s for dinner?” or “Where are my shoes?” Some writers can write even when distracted, and I envy them, but when I sit down to write, I lose track of time. I forget to eat. I don’t like interruptions. And in July and August when my grandsons visit, I want to bake cookies, go swimming, and play.
This leads me to the topic of this post, balancing life and setting priorities. Today I’m sitting in my son’s living room in Hillsboro, Oregon, hanging with my grandsons while my son and daughter-in-law spend some much needed time alone. In a couple of days I will be back home, and back at my keyboard. As I check email and plan my September schedule, I am overwhelmed. One friend has uploaded a book to Smashwords, and is already selling copies. Another has sent a manuscript to her list of dream agents. Another is blogging about her latest release. Another is designing a trailer for her new book. When I look at everything my peers are doing, I feel inadequate, like a slack, because the only writing I have done in two months is write a blog.
If it sounds like I’m whining, I want you to know that I’m not. I’m just stating the facts. July and August belong to my family, and I have learned to schedule my writing time accordingly. Along with this, I’ve learned to use my time wisely, to be present in the moment so I don’t look back and say, “I wish I had . . ..”
Laurie Halse Anderson, the successful author of Speak, Prom, and Wintergirls touches on this topic in her own blog today. Laurie’s blog is thought-provoking not only for writers, but for everyone. Basically, it boils down to deciding what’s important, and then making time for it.
If you struggle with finding time to do something you love, hop over to Laurie’s blog (http://tinyurl.com/36eqzvk) for some wonderful suggestions to make that happen.

Looking for Ghosts at Stricker Ranch

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I have been blessed with a son who takes time from his crazy schedule to make sure my grandsons spend a good part of July with me every year. This isn’t easy because he has to load his three sons into a car and drive 8 1/2 hours to make this happen. Each year we do something fun and memorable. One year we went to Lagoon Amusement Park in Utah. Another year we painted birdhouses and made stepping-stones for the garden. This year, grandson Dante is big into ghost hunting so we took a trip out to the historic Rock Creek Station and Stricker homesite south of Hansen, Idaho. Besides a “haunted” house, there is an interpretive center at the site, and the Friends of Stricker, Inc. are restoring the old store, which is one of the oldest buildings in southern Idaho.
Stricker Ranch is a great place to learn about the Oregon Trail. Dante thinks it’s a great place to look for ghosts. Here he is his with his brother Dmitri hunting ghosts in a cellar once used to store food and supplies, as a jail, and reportedly for protection from Indians.

Ten Rules for Writing

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It’s cold in Idaho. I’m in my office wrapped in a blanket, trying to type with gloves on. Yes, my furnace works. Yes, I have heat. But the cold has crawled through the windows into my bones, and short of soaking in the hot tub all day, I can’t get warm. Instead of sitting at my desk, I want to snuggle on the sofa with a cup of hot tea and a good book. But I’m a writer, so rather than give in to my whims, I’m here struggling to make sense out of words.

It may look easy, but writing is hard work. On gray days like this it’s tough to stay motivated, and it isn’t surprising that right now circulating on many writer’s loops is this article “Ten Rules for Writing”. It’s probably circulating now because February is so dismal. Just yesterday a friend said the only good thing about February is that it connects January and March. But I digress. Combine dismal and hard work and it’s easy to see why so many people go south for the winter. Or so many writers stop working.

For me, this article hit the loops at just the right time. Writing is solitary work. Often there is no feedback, nothing to judge if all the time spent at the computer is fruitful. Many times I find myself wondering if I have picked the right profession; if maybe I shouldn’t be doing something else.

Therefore, it’s encouraging to know that even successful writers struggle with self-doubt, and the advice given in “Ten Rules for Writing” is uplifting on this dreary day. I particularly like Margaret Atwood’s comment, “You most likely need a thesaurus, a rudimentary grammar book, and a grip on reality. This latter means: there’s no free lunch. Writing is work. It’s also gambling. You don’t get a pension plan. Other people can help you a bit, but ­essentially you’re on your own. ­Nobody is making you do this: you chose it, so don’t whine.”

I love Idaho. I choose to live here. I love writing, even on dark gloomy days. So maybe it’s time to quit whining, and get back to work.

(you can read the second part of the article here)

When it looks like I’m doing nothing

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Kennedy after trip to the dollar store.

Just because I haven’t posted a blog since May, it may look like I’m doing nothing. But the truth is that I’ve been busy with summer, gardens, grandsons, and laying out a book for The Other Bunch.

The garden is producing generously every day with more broccoli and cabbage than I can eat. The grandsons spent the month of July with us swimming, riding ATVs, and looking for ghosts. It was an honor to watch Kennedy at age 5 jump off the diving board during swim lessons. Dante, who turns 8 next week, adopted our orphaned cat Lucy Smith and hunted up grasshoppers and caterpillars for his bug box, while big brother Dmitri helped make banana bars, birthday cake ice cream, and Twinkie cupcakes. All boys are now back in Hillsboro with their parents who are glad to have them home and underfoot again. And yes, I miss them, but now that the house is empty, I’ve been busy laying out our new book, “Voices from the Snake River Plain”. This is a collection of essays, short stories, and poems written by Dixie Thomas Reale, Patricia Santos Marcantonio, and me. With any luck and a lot of patience, the book will be available soon.  Just so you know, when it looks like I’m doing nothing, I’m busy living life and enjoying every minute of it.