Test the Rainbow: Managing Type 2 Diabetes and Becoming Healthy at 39

My Godmother calls me Sugar. On December 5, I was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes.

And for the past month, I’ve been learning some hard lessons. I’m unsure of how long I was actively Diabetic until then– but it’s probably been at least a year or two. The symptoms are so mild they wouldn’t alert you unless you know to look specifically. I never feared this happening to me– despite that my Dad has it and so did all of his four brothers. Sure, I’d gained some weight– but it was nothing extreme. It was gradual and I’m 39– it’s normal.

Because I have a transplanted liver, I need routine lab tests every three months to check on their basic functions and my levels for the anti-rejection meds I need to survive. It was by chance on this unrelated test that my liver team called me and told me to head directly to the ER– my sugar was 655!! Terrified, I quickly packed a bag and obeyed. Luckily a couple hours later it was down to 349 and then 240. Thankfully I didn’t need to be admitted or put on insulin. I was NOT Type I, the more severe form. The ER doctor put me on a high dose of Metformin and set me up with a new Primary Care Physician (PCP) who would help manage my Diabetes– the appointment was in 4.5 days. I was discharged. It was very odd because he was really punitive with me when he explained my situation and threatened to put me on insulin “If you don’t behave!” No one talked to me about what to eat or avoid. No one even gave me a script for a test kit and strips or showed me how to assemble and work them. Not even a paper handout.

The next morning I woke up with a weird pain in my abdomen and a tingling sensation in my fingers– which can be a sign of a Diabetic crisis. I went straight back to the ER.  I was fine, my sugar was down to 136 already! This time I did get the needed prescriptions and a few pages of handouts and a doctor took time to answer my questions and reassure me a bit.

I realized that truly, I was on my own. It felt so unfair and overwhelming– but I took it in stride. I didn’t even cry! I just accepted this as my new reality and vowed to galvanize myself toward being as faithful and strict as I could. I had already given up alcohol six years ago– I knew how to be disciplined and unwavering. I also read that Type II is reversible and that was my goal. Now, I accept that may not be possible– this may be permanent.  But oddly, there a lot of positives about it! I had been feeling like absolute trash for months– subsisting on fast food, pop, grilled cheeses and pb &j, and mostly dairy. Not balanced. Eating as much as I wanted, sometimes even past feeling full. There was no structure to my eating, no limits to what I allowed myself to consume every day. I simply indulged.

Probably the smartest pro-active thing I did to take control was join a Diabetes II support group on social media. I post mostly every day and I’ve been able to ask questions and get answers from peers who are in my exact same health situation. We also post our FBS levels with no judgement and talk about food products and meals that spike our sugars and how to eat healthier and smarter.

Now, good ol’ FEAR motivates me. I know how serious (and expensive!) Type I becomes. I have no intention of ever letting my Diabetes get to a level where I rely on insulin or have problems with my eyesight, feet, or circulation. I’ve been losing weight steadily and THAT is motivating!! Prior, there were so many choices I had no idea how to choose responsibly. Now I’ve seen a certified Dietitian and she talked to me about counting carbs, of course. But I told her that’s not for me and I want to continue on what I’m doing and she was supportive. She said my weight loss and FBS levels are on track and that I’m already doing everything right. That was a terrific validation. I had to wait nearly a month to see her, so I had to get it figured out on my own and I met that challenge.

Today, I feel so much better! I prepare the majority of my own meals and even cook for others a bit now. My recipes are simple but they are working. I stick to water, unsweetened ice tea or smoothies. A tiny bit of milk sometimes. It’s almost a relief just knowing there are certain foods and drinks I must avoid for my health. I’m on a healthy eating streak and have not once slipped and had any pop or fast food since December 4th. I’m not going to jeopardize that progress!! I’ve read everything I could find, including books from the library educating me about my illness and Diabetes cookbooks. I even bought one for myself for Christmas, “The Diabetes Cookbook,” published by the American Diabetes Association.

I’ve set up my testing supplies right next to my medications, on top of my microwave. My lancets (needles) come in a bright, multi-colored variety pack of 100. A rainbow! Looking at it makes me happy. I got smart for once with design and put them in a miniature Mason jar I’d gotten on Thanksgiving from a take-home dessert in a jar. It looks cheerful and pretty and you’d never guess what it is! Behind that is another, slightly bigger, glass jar– which holds my testing strips, test machine and the lancet holder.

I get out of bed faster now because I need to test my Fasting Blood Sugar (FBS) and am excited to do it! My numbers are always good– on the low end and technically not even in the Diabetic range consistently. Knowing I have that validation of my commitment and the progress I’ve made with eating healthy for the first time in my life makes me eager to get up and go get it done! Then I write that number in my food journal and eat breakfast, every day. My Dad has also told me repeatedly how proud he is of how well I’m managing and keeping my FBS low and consistent.

There is so much to learn! That’s why I’m sharing my story. Maybe I can help someone be less scared, or more pro-active–  to prevent themselves from moving beyond Pre-Diabetes into an official diagnosis. There are a lot of feelings to manage surrounding this as well, and I want an outlet.

I take a positive attitude about it as well and when I tell people, I just say that I’ve started eating healthier. I don’t necessarily mention the diagnosis at all– because I don’t want their sympathy. I’m genuinely happy for all the changes I’ve made and I’m committed. I truly DO feel better. I’m “outing” myself about it now only because I feel in control and comfortable. Incredible how much only one month can have transformed my life! Every day I’m learning lessons not just about nutrition, but myself.

Christmas in Kansas 2019…. Finally, Home

November 2018, I moved from Illinois to my hometown of Wichita, Kansas. So this is my second actual Christmas here as a Kansas resident— but my first as a Wichitan!

And the first where I truly feel settled in my life here, and have my own place. Prior, I stayed with my parents at my cousin Jerry’s home in Derby. We all did for about six weeks, since they were looking for a home and then waiting for it to close. We were all living out of just a few clothes and basic possessions we’d brought for immediate use while we waited to move into their home. After they moved out and into their home, I stayed with them for awhile and then got my own apartment June 30.

So this is my first Christmas in my own home…. and it definitely feels special.

This year my gift to them was inviting them over for Christmas Day dinner. I’ve been a late bloomer when domesticity is concerned– learning slowly over the years. I’ve never been one to host parties or even just have friends over often. Just a few, my A-List. Part of it was that my apartments were just not that impressive. It was usually a mess.

I had A LOT of belongings I needed to sort through– and I’m still working on it. The move was great in forcing all three of us to really evaluate what has true meaning to us and what we don’t need or could replace upon moving. All of my major decisions have been made but I still need to go through some papers and pictures. I do it a little at a time, it can get overwhelming, all those memories and decisions on what to throw out. I’ve made it easier by dividing family pictures and giving them to my cousins, aunts, and etc. And they’ve all been amused and grateful.

Now I finally have enough sorted that I have the space I needed and wanted to feel comfortable inviting company over. It’s not all cluttered with boxes. I have my furniture set up for the optimal way in my little place. I still need to hang up some pictures, but I will get to that next.

I was nervous about having over Diane, my step-mother. She has an impeccable home, and is naturally very organized and an admitted “neatnik”–  her standards are high! My Dad has been dropping by because I knew he wouldn’t judge me in the process. But I wanted her to approve so much. I wanted to wait until I considered it ready. Finally, it is.

I cannot express how comforting it was to finally welcome them as guests, in my little home. Knowing everything was organized, uncluttered, wiped down and freshly cleaned.  I had a simple Christmas Eve dinner menu planned: omelettes, sweet potato home fries, and fruit with yogurt for dessert. I brought out my beautiful red “Christmas” goblets for them and they enjoyed those, too. We ate on my regular plates because I only have one set that I use every day. I’m keeping things simple and slowly upgrading my home and items over time.

I was confident.

And they were happy.

They enjoyed my little tour and relaxed as I cooked dinner. I had the sweet potatoes in the oven and cooked our omelettes as they waited– it only took about 20 minutes. All the times Diane has served us dinners. All the times my Dad took us both to dinner, and the times he and I eat together and still do.

Diane is one of those people who’s always moving around. Even in their home, there are only two stools at the kitchen island table. She doesn’t sit down and eat with us, she stands on the other side. She’s always had this anxious energy. She asked if I wanted her to help dry dishes tonight after dinner, and I told her to relax. And she actually stayed seated– which she never does. When we go to other people’s homes for parties and as guests for meals, she’s always the first one up to clean the dishes.

It felt important to me that she was relaxed enough to just allow me to do this for them. Acts of service is definitely a love language for them both. Tonight, I got to speak it. And they spoke mine– Words of Affirmation.

And it was really beautiful. Even though the sweet potatoes were a little dry because I didn’t use enough olive oil, both cleaned their plates and were happy to have them! I even forgot to put on the cinnamon– the best part. Next time, I’ll know! My Dad will eat about anything (We jokingly say, “Give it to Mikey!” if one of us can’t finish our food.) But Diane is a little pickier with food and generally doesn’t have much appetite. She did tonight, however.

“You’re a good cook,” she said. My Dad’s smile confirmed it.

The three of us had a wonderful, calm, Christmas Day dinner. We took pictures. Diane wore a blue “Meowy Christmas” sweater– and brought me a bag of sugar-free chocolates! It also means a lot to me because she and I have butted heads a lot, especially since moving. Tonight was my olive branch.

Theirs was accepting my invitation and giving me a beautiful Christmas card.

I’m realizing that the relationship I always wanted with Diane is happening– because I’m learning to relax about *myself. At times I was so insecure, I was afraid to be closer to her because I assumed she would judge me harshly– which she has in the past. But we’ve turned a corner. We’re both more accepting of each other. There’s grace there.  She’s 78 and beautiful, everyone comments on it. She has wonderful style and a fun personality.

And I’m learning to be like her, in the right ways.

It’s manifested in the way that I unplug the coffee maker when not using it. Doing the dishes as I use them, carefully washing them. Wiping down my counters with cleaner and the satisfaction I have in the way it smells when it’s freshly clean. The pride I now take in cultivating and keeping up my own home, just as she has showed me all along.

Before they left, we all crammed in for a selfie, and it was cute! I walked them to their car. I gave them both a hug.

Christmas is about Jesus and the Holy family. Today, I felt the love within my family.

And now I will open my home to more visitors. I’m excited to see what 2020 brings!

Merry Christmas to you, dear readers. Rest well and conquer the day tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 

The Gift of Adoration: A New Peace

I haven’t slept in two days, so it’s time to blog! I’m up anyway.

Last night I attended my second deliberate Adoration in probably at least 10 years. It was never a part of my life growing up, even though I was very close to my aunt who was a nun. She never was pushy about our faith, and that gave me the freedom to come to it on my own. I appreciated that about her.

Since December I’ve been part of a large group of young Catholics in Wichita, and it’s been life-changing. I’ve grown deeper into my faith than I ever would have expected, because my friends are serious Catholics. And a lot of the activities we do are based around Catholicism and enjoying the fruits of it together as a group. None of us are married or have children yet– it’s awesome. We are able to just relax and really have fun together.

Last night I only went for about 30 minutes. But it was just right. It was in a smaller chapel, with lots of candles lit. I wasn’t dressed up– I was just me. I felt comfortable. I had brought along a book for reflection, my Bible, and a journal I haven’t written in since 2015. It has The Blessed Mother on the cover in the style of a stained glass window and it was meant to be a prayer journal. I found it at home and brought it along. I had a plan.

I wasn’t emotional this time, just very calm. And I didn’t put any expectations on myself to stay the whole hour– I just left when I felt ready. I drove home feeling cleansed.

The first time I had gone, maybe a month ago, it was a completely different experience.

I had just bought a book at a Catholic gift store specifically to help you pray, called, “God, I have Issues: 50 Ways to Pray No Matter How You Feel,” by Mark E. Thibodeaux, S.J..  It has an index of different feelings that might be challenging and I knew it would really help me. I was feeling stuck and helpless. Whenever I feel that way, I tend to look inward and pray about it. Finding this book felt like a clue, a way that God was reaching out to guide me through this confusion.

When I brought the book and my Bible that first Adoration, it gave me a structured way to both pray and to read Scripture. There is a Scripture quote, a reflection, and then multiple other Scriptural verses to connect more deeply with the message. Then quotes of regular people on the same topic. It’s amazing. I would recommend this book to anyone.

This focused prayer unlocked powerful feelings in me and I found myself sobbing. For most of the time I was there, honestly. And it was so healing.

I realized that Adoration is entirely different from Mass, in a beautiful way. There is no routine or expectation for how you spend your time there. I don’t need to listen to anything being read, keep up with the responses, look up songs, sing, stand, kneel, sit, get up to receive Holy Communion. I don’t need to Confess anything to a priest. I don’t need to move or interact with anyone nearby. It’s entirely my choice. I could simply sit there and be if what I needed.  But it was still communal– I knew my friends were around me, sharing the moment.

It was cathartic in a way that I’ve never even experienced in Confession.

And most exciting, I made it the entire hour! I never felt bored, or pressured.

I remembered my previous experience, 10 years ago. I hadn’t expected to go to Adoration, I had shown up to a meeting of single Catholic adults but sadly it was not as dynamic or organized. I was annoyed. I was bored.

I think I had left after 10 minutes.

It was good to know I have developed a deeper connection since then.

These events are held once a month, and I want to go more often.

 

Ani DiFranco in Kansas: I Think That I’m Happy, I Think That I’m Blessed

When Ani DiFranco laughs, you hear each “ha, ha, ha!” syllable.

It’s a lusty, full-throated cackle. The sound of a broad who lets it all out. And she’s wearing a plain gray tank and brown pants– maybe even cargo pants.  She doesn’t roam the stage much this time– she inhabits maybe a four foot area. But she jumps, she squats, she makes eye contact and connects with her band.

Tonight was my second time seeing her LIVE, my first time in Kansas. Second consecutive summer. Three months ago, I went for it and bought a ticket solo– second row. I’ve been counting down ever since!!

Live music is my home. I just moved to Kansas in November, eight months ago. And I gotta be honest, right now I’m missing all the amazing artists that come to Chicago — especially in the summer. But tonight I realized that I’m gonna continue to love living here. Because right here in Wichita, there is an incredible music venue, Wave. It’s in Old Town. Bands can play inside or outside.

It wasn’t packed. But that was the beauty of it. There was plenty of space to dance, to lounge, to chill and enjoy her show from one of the tables farther back. Staff was not strict about expecting people to stay in their seats– people surged to the stage. I got right up front and center, even better than last year! Being 4’11” sure is phenomenal sometimes.

In Chicago, it would be crammed. Also, another Wichita perk: parking was FREE, directly across the street and I was out of the lot within minutes. Wichita seems to be one of the best-kept secrets of the Midwest, as far as culture. It’s actually a pretty sophisticated city, with cutting edge restaurants, bars, music venues and many other attractions. All of it is within a 25 minute drive from my current home in Derby.

I wandered a bit, and then asked a table where they had procured their food: nachos. They were all really welcoming (three of them) and invited me to sit with them. Two women and a man, all excited to be there and obvious liberals like me. They were laughing, dancing, rocking out to their favorite songs.

I adore living here in Sedgwick County, but it is MIGHTY RED here. I respect the differences of my friends and family and do not push to convince them differently. But I do need to meet more people who share my political ideology. Coming from such a Blue state as Illinois, the culture shock is pretty harsh. I was aware, and I made that choice because I wanted to live near my family after spending the majority of my life a 13-hour car ride away. We could only visit every few years, for a few days or a few hours at a time.

Today was a perfect day. I was on the go the entire time, since Mass this morning.

Today I visited a kick-off party for a local Democrat candidate for Mayor of Wichita. And THAT’s the same day Ani is here, in this exact city!! She would be so excited for me.

Sadly I’ve tried and there does not seem to be any activity here for national candidates for President in the General Election 2020. But I can volunteer for local Democrats. And I’ve met some wonderful, #woke, damn smart friends working on campaigns. Working phone banks and canvassing is also a great way to get to know your community. So today I stopped in long enough to give my name, e-mail and phone number, along with my availability, to the volunteer at this candidate’s table.

I felt good. And then I went to a family birthday party, and then Ani.

I think Wave is going to become one of my favorite places in the ICT.

I also realized tonight that I have BECOME one of the Ani fans I was admiring last summer, at my first show. I took a ton of pictures and a few videos. Sadly my phone died right before the song I wanted so much to hear: “Play God.” Followed by all my other favorite songs: “Shameless,” “32 Flavors,” and “WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON?”

I stayed till just after 10 and then left. The event flyer said it would go till 11:30 p.m. tonight but it seemed the set was over and most people were leaving. Either way, I left at the perfect time. I also got to hear “Dilate,” “Napoleon,” and “Swan Dive.”

Which side am I on?

The #BlueWave side.

The #WOKE side.

 

 

The Swans are Fake

One of the two swans floating in the our subdivision’s pond was dead.

I was about to shed my jacket and jump in to save it. Even if it meant being late for work.

But something was off. It was capsized completely on the left side– It also looked too streamlined to be a live waterfowl. There were no feathers on the bottom– it looked flat. I saw no feet, no tail.

And finally, I realized it was plastic.

I still made it to work early.

 

 

Wimpy Palms and Tradition

Ever since I can remember, my father and I have braided palms together on Palm Sunday. I have written about this previously, but each year is special for different reasons.

Now my father is aging and the most obvious aspect of that is neuropathy in his hands. He struggles to write legibly and my step-mother and I help him when needed for correspondence and etc. The way he eats has also changed. His hands don’t shake, but he’s lost the grip that he once had and now it’s a more deliberate process. He holds onto his utensils differently, but still makes it work.

He and Diane went to Mass last night he and brought some good palms home. The long, green, thick kind. But it was a bit late and so we decided to braid them today. I went to Mass this morning but the ones I got weren’t good for braiding. They were short, cut off at an angle. No base to work with. Then today I had to study and do some things first, so it took awhile before we could do this together.

I saw him tonight sitting with the palms, struggling to fold them the way he’s always shown me. Not complaining, just quietly persevering. The palms were partially curled up and dried, so not as bendable and sturdy. More yellow and crinkly than green.

My father’s sheer determination and doggedness has gotten him through life. I am happy to say that I am mostly the same way. I’ll figure things out, even if it takes me longer or I need to find a different way that makes sense for me.

Tonight I offered to help him finish the braid. “The palms are wimpy,” I said, commenting on how they had changed from last night.

“MY palms are wimpy,” he said. We laughed, but I reassured him that his own hands are still strong. He still gets done what needs doing. He doesn’t just give up on things if he’s frustrated.

But I’m glad to share this with him. We only made one this year. It’s small. I asked him to take a picture with it and he was happy to do that. I feel very blessed, indeed.

Lent 2019: Giving UP and Taking ON

I started this blog on for Lent 2011. Here I am, eight years later!!

For lunch I was finishing up my Super Burger at Taco Shop before I realized — d’oh!

At least I fasted for dinner.

This year I’m giving up anxiety and taking on blogging daily, 40 days.

I want to be in control, like most of us. I really struggle with letting God drive in my life.

And as I’m noticing, God really DOES know what He’s doing. So maybe it’s time to relax. I’m making a conscious choice to trust people more. To make decisions based more on instinct and feeling, rather than just analyzing it all first.

I haven’t wanted to blog much since I moved because it was too vulnerable. I wanted to be “established” first. Well, I’m half-way there.

Today I started my new job as a medical receptionist! I now live in Derby and work in Wichita. Phase two will be finding and moving into an apartment in town.

Now I feel more secure. So I’m going to challenge myself to blog every day.  And not only on the “good” days.

As I drove to my new job I found a new, shorter route. After, I found a parish just down the street and attended Mass to receive my ashes. I felt so calm and happy.  I went to a pizza joint and then a religious book store. Then home.

I have much to learn at this new gig and I know I will. It feels like such a wonderful fit.

Thank you, Father, for all the blessings you’ve bestowed already.