Forgiveness and Pasta

As some of you may remember, I’ve been actively fighting Type II Diabetes now since December 5. So, I’ve got three months of practice. Usually I make pretty smart choices and my blood sugar readings are steady and controlled.

But this week at ALDI I spied something different and had an impulse to try it: egg noodles. I wanted them because of the shape: rotini, my favorite. By my logic, it was fine since eggs are allowed and don’t spike me. I cooked a small portion at home this weekend. Just to be safe, I tested two hours later: my sugar had soared to 194!!

I was furious with myself and very disappointed. Surely I’m past rookie mistakes like this?! I posted in my Type II Diabetes support group on facebook– venting and chastising myself.

And the support of our community was awesome. “You’re not dumb by far,” they told me. “You tested out a theory and theory proved to be flawed.” They told me examples of themselves making the same mistakes.

Of course I had a few people tell me that I “need” to count carbs or try to mansplain to me how to eat as a Diabetic. But I’m not new and have been managing this with success. My daily FBS (fasting blood sugar) morning readings are generally in the ’80s, which is excellent.

So what did I do with the leftovers? Throw the uncooked pasta and the left-overs as well in the trash. No chance of relapse there.

Though I do admit, when I ate them, I felt too full. I’m used to eating only pasta made of vegetable proteins now. And I like it.

I’ve been careful to keep a positive relationship with food since diagnosed– I don’t want to end up obsessed with tracking calories or carbs. When I met with my dietitian about a month after diagnosis, she told me about carb counting as per ADA guidelines, of course. But when I told her I didn’t want to be that strict and jeopardize my relationship with food, she respected that boundary. She said as long as I’m diligent about following other basic rules, I would be successful. I also had a month’s worth of a daily food journal to show her and my daily FBS was well-controlled– without counting carbs.

To my understanding, if you’re a Type I Diabetic, you have to be much more fastidious about your meal planning and THAT is when you need to monitor carbs because it directly impacts your insulin levels. But if you’re Type II it’s not as a severe and you can be safe and healthy by monitoring your food intake alone.

I’m learning more all the time.

From now on, I’ll leave egg noodles behind!

 

 

Strawberries Without Sugar

Type II Diabetes has forced me to appreciate simplicity in my food choices.

I remember being a small kid and dumping literally spoonfuls of sugar into my Rice Krispies cereal at breakfast, then scooping it up from a layer at the bottom of the bowl. I remember cutting up strawberries and then dipping them heavy into the sugar bowl. Coating my orange slices in it. I even baked them for Thanksgiving a few years ago! “Naranja y azucar,” remains one of the only Spanish phrases I remember.

Now I get excited about a sale on strawberries grocery shopping on Saturday night, because I use them for my oatmeal. I’ve also cut up half an apple and included Swerve brown sugar replacement.  But once I tried strawberries, I was hooked.

I preferred that easy preparation. No substitute sweeteners needed. Apples are more tart.  But strawberries are decadent as is, plus they’er so bright and pretty. It’s rich enough that I don’t need anything extra.

They can be expensive. But we all make small allowances. As recently as six months ago, if I had a little extra cash I’d prefer to buy something: new clothes, make-up. Go out to eat. Now whatever I have I’m eager to invest in food or something I can use to cook.

And that’s what adulthood is: learning to recognize the beauty in front of you, in the details you never considered prior. Adapting to a more practical life style– in your budget!

And although this is considered “burying the lede,” I got some TREMENDOUS news today! I had a blood test done to check the levels on my anti-rejection liver medication. And though I must wait another month to get my A1C checked, because you need three months of data for that, today I found out my most recent Fasting Blood Sugar level.

In a little over two months, it has dropped from a dangerous 655 to 135!!!!

HALLELUJER, as Madea would say! The nurse was pretty nonchalant — “It’s still elevated.”

But I know how hard I’ve worked. How I’ve quit fast food and soda and over hauled my whole way of eating. How water is all I primarily drink now. I am absolutely *thrilled with these results!!

It gives me some reassurance that, YES, I’m doing this right. I’ll keep on this path.

I’ll continue to enjoy my strawberries without sugar.

Cooking Beans

Tonight I cooked beans for the first time– black beans. It taught me patience.

It took about two hours, between soaking them and then boiling after. But since I knew from the instructions on the bag, I was able to wait. I had one rice cake with peanut butter, but didn’t snack otherwise. Another version of me might have just given up and made something faster, since I didn’t fully examine those instructions in the store when choosing to buy them. I just knew that the black beans were protein and the corn tortillas would be safe and not spike my sugar.

I ate them with a little hummus spread first and a little bit of cheese. Not many beans fit, since the tortillas are small. I had two. They were good. Not amazing, but something I could eat regularly if maybe I got some limes and avocado to augment the experiment.

A small lesson. But an important one.

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!

 

 

 

 

 

Where the Bananas Run: A 5k and a Banana Split!

 

Banana Runner

Today started off early and awesome and continued that way as I participated in the most fun race I think I’ve ever done. It was small, close, and a later start at 10 a.m. We ran through a local trail in a forest preserve, The Hammel Woods.

I woke up at 7:15 a.m. naturally and was immediately AWAKE. An hour before my alarm. I got right up and showered, then made myself an omelet with basil and mozz cheese. I had plenty of time to digest so I wasn’t too full– just energized. I relaxed then did my make-up and got ready. I pulled up just in time to start!! The event is The Banana Sprint 5k, hosted by DNA Athletics, a local running store.

Seeing all these people in their bright yellow banana costumes just made me so happy! I felt like the Bee Girl in “No Rain,” who finally finds her tribe– the Bee People in the field.  For $25 we got a bib and a decent full banana costume. Shirts were extra– I didn’t buy. Especially since everyone wore theirs differently. Some had pinned up the “tail” to free up their legs, since otherwise it dangled in front. A group of women were wearing yellow tutus around theirs, others were actually wearing a running belt around the middle! The kids had tiny banana outfits, too. A couple of families had kids on bikes or tricycles. Adorable.

Someone recognized me right away from a party I’d been to last summer, someone in a run club we both belong to. We took a selfie before the gun went off, making sure the top part of our costumes — the “banana hoodie”– was up around our faces and visible.

We started out running together but I ran out of steam and she went on, then I got my own pace going. I was slow as ever but probably happier than I’ve been in the majority of my races because it was just such a wonderful way to spend my Sunday morning. As long as races like this exist, the world isn’t so bad.

My costume was even funnier because I’m so short– 4’11”. Everyone’s fit differently according to their height. Mine went to my feet but somehow never tripped me.

It was cool this morning– 50’s– but in that full-body costume I was sweating! I took full advantage of the water stop. This race was well-organized and a beautiful path, a lot of it shaded by trees. It was an out and back course with a little side detour after the 2 mile mark. I started seeing people returning, and several had given up and taken off their costumes completely.

They may have been faster, but I’m proud I lasted the whole 3.1 miles IN full costume! Soon into the race, my cell beeped and it was an text from my bestie in Texas, alerting me that labor had begun for her second child. “Thundercats go,” she said, referencing the “Juno” quote that we both loved as a now shorthand for signaling labor. They chose to be surprised about the sex– I was so excited! She’s still working hard now, or at least I haven’t gotten an update saying she’s had the baby yet.

I texted her back some encouragement and love and let her know what I was doing– we had talked about the race before. She said if she were still living here she’d be meeting me at the finish line in a gorilla suit! ❤  I miss Leslie so much.

Today I realized something: I don’t honestly care about my pace much. Although racing and running CAN be social, for me it’s usually solitary. I didn’t have time to put on my Nike Run app, which sucks because I love seeing the maps after my runs and this would have been a good windy one. But in a way, it was liberating. I just let it go. Although I still plan to get more serious about a routine and of course, improving my pace and distance, I just enjoy it for its own sake. I LIKE being alone and enjoying the quiet, the heat, the breeze, the cold, whatever conditions are at that time. Early morning, afternoon, evening. Whatever.

I like seeing other runners and we pass each other. I loved knowing I gave them a laugh, seeing their dogs.

After, it was the best part: THE BANANA SPLIT BAR! That was really what sealed the deal on this race for me, when I saw it pop up on Facebook. Under a pavilion there were all the ingredients and more than I anticipated.  Three different types of ice cream; I chose vanilla-strawberry swirl and chocolate scoops. I chose caramel syrup, my first time. Caramel chips, nuts, m&m’s. Two maraschino cherries. No whip cream.

No guilt, just glee.

Banana Splits

 

I kept my costume on and have never enjoyed a banana split so much in my life. I think it was probably only my second. Or my first? It’s not something I usually order. I may have shared someone else’s once. I earned it today!

And the pictures I got were so much fun. The ones posted by the race organizer were so happy and bright– and I’m in one of them, at very start of the race. Beaming and waving.

Another benefit: I don’t need to buy a Halloween costume this year! I’ve had plenty of years with sexy costumes and money spent building detailed, creative costumes involving wigs, accessories and props. Not this year.

For $25 I’ve got what I need. I’m going to a Pirates and Ninjas Housewarming party in a few weeks. I’m going to be a banana. And if I’m feeling sassy, I’ll just put on some black leggings and my black lace-up boots and I’ll be the Sexiest Banana Ever. Halloween 2018!

 

 

It’s Never Too Late to Mend: The Old Joliet Prison Break-In! What a Night!

I’m home and glowing with affection for Joliet, my hometown of the last 30 years. People here really are decent, friendly and hard-working folks.

I knew this would be the event of the summer and so I had to score myself a ticket soon after hearing about it. And my, did it deliver! It was bigger than the Taste of Joliet, with a 21 and only crowd and fantastic music all night. There were 3,000 tickets available and I’d say they probably sold out from the looks of it!

I arrived about 6:15 and already the designated parking lots were full except for the last one. I didn’t have plans to meet anyone specific, so just meandered around and looked for anyone I might know and checked in on fb. A few people commented and I found one of them! At first I felt kind of lame because everyone had brought lawn chairs and that had never occurred to me. But it ended up being a good thing because it forced me to do a lot of walking. I saw down to eat my pizza and once more to rest a bit. But mostly I just people watched and surveyed all that was going on.

So many people were dressed to theme, some in full-on convict black and white stripe costumes, complete with hats! Others were in suits, fedoras and sunglasses a la The Blues Brothers- another J-town legacy incorporated into the evening. As most know, the first scene features Elwood picking up Joliet Jake from this very prison, in an old police car he got for a deal.

A lot of people had on black t-shirts with Blue Brothers faces and quotes or they were wearing something black and white striped, or just the black fedoras and glasses. They were being sold as a $5 combo at a merch tent, along with event t-shirts, sewing kits, etc. I’m glad I got the hat and glasses! Later they came in handy.

There were food trucks and tons of props serving as photo ops: an old J-town cop car and a white board painted with black stripes and height markers for patrons to take “mug shots.” In the right corner, there was another cop car– this one a prop for the headlining and closing act, The Blooze Brothers. A kind woman I talked to took a shot of me leaning against it and in exchange I got one of her and her boyfriend over by it.

I saw my friend Hallie in line for a tour and she invited me to cut in with her friends and tag along, so I did! The tiny, broken down cells were very sobering. But probably my favorite part of the evening was visiting the tent for the Old Joliet Prison Burnt District Artists. I’ve been seeing posts from them on facebook as they helped clean up and also found raw materials they could incorporate into their artwork. A lot of cool things are happening in Joliet right now, a lot of new business and breweries are opening up. There’s some intense Joliet pride and I’m proud to see it manifested artistically. That’s where I found the young and hip people. I really liked a piece by Ruben Calderon of Art of Breath Galleria (facebook) — it featured a male prisoner in what seems to be prayer, with a guardian angel visible behind him. The cell bars are in the background, along with a phrase, “It’s Never Too Late To Mend,” written on the cell wall to his right. If I had the cash I would have made an offer.

I met some really nice people just ambling around. One woman offered me a chair at her table to eat, and another told me how much she and her boyfriend love live music and had the best anecdote ever. Her boyfriend had actually BEEN a prisoner here at The Joliet Prison more than 20 years ago, and came back tonight a free man to this event. She said he had told her he’d grown as a person and learned a lot while doing his time. He was glad to come back and reflect on it because it was no longer a painful memory to him.

Then when The Blooze Brothers took the stage, I ran up and spied a friend front and center! We just kinda jammed out together, he was more quiet; bopping his head but clearly really in the moment. I was more wild, dancing around and joking with the woman on my right. We were both being totally silly.

I got one of three free CD’s they passed out because I put on my fedora and black sunglasses and was dancing like crazy– it pays off to be festive! Can’t wait to re-live tonight and play the whole CD when I’m driving around next.

I thought it was beautiful that the band did a tribute to Aretha Franklin’s recent passing. The lead female singer was Shelia Pepple, as far as I can tell from the liner notes from their CD. She sang “Respect,” “Natural Woman,” and a few others I didn’t know with some impressive pipes!

And as for Elwood (Chuck Little) and Joliet Jake (Jeff Sismelich)– they KILLED IT!! They really had the dancing cold, and Elwood wailed on his harmonica. They did “Soul Man,” “Rawhide,” and “Jailhouse Rock!” I left before the end of the set, but didn’t see “Sweet Home Chicago,” it was probably the last song.

I danced my tail off, re-connected with old friends, took some fun pictures and left feeling very glad to be a Jolietian.

In this historic prison, I was freed.