Friday, May 31, 2013

She smiles.

This is a picture of a woman who has been through hell this school year.

She began the year with letters to the teachers…”My child has Type 1 Diabetes.”  “My child’s father that has stage 4 cancer.”

Two weeks after the school year began her husband, the father of her four children, died.

This is a picture of a woman who just dropped off the kids for their last day of school and as hard as she tries not to think about this past year, it is pushing its way to the front of her mind.  Wrangling it’s way past all the suppressed feelings of anger, exhaustion and sadness.

People are congratulating her, “Congratulations, M is graduating from High School tomorrow!”

And she furrows her brows and says, “I haven’t thought about it.”

Because she tries SO SO hard not to.  Because she knows when she really takes it in,  when she really lets it sink into her soul what that all means…him leaving…his victories…his adulthood…she scarce can take it in. 

She is going to lose it.  That serene face up there?  She will lose it.

But that woman is super good at hiding all the fear.  All the emotions are kept in a box in her heart until inevitably, they will break through, unable to be contained.

Children growing.  Milestones being reached.  SO many things to be proud of…

And her husband is not here to celebrate with her.  It brings so many conflicted emotions…all she can do is smile pleasantly.

And hope that she will make it through one more day, without him.

She has chosen to be happy…and she is really trying to honor that decision.

Sure, the tears find their way to the surface all the time, (still, ALL the time,) but she knows how she faces the future is a choice.  Her choice.

And right now she chooses not to think about it.  She chooses to live only for today.  A day that in three hours will mark the end of this completely mind boggling year.

They have survived.  Somehow the last nine months happened, and she kept walking.  She kept moving.  The family kept progressing.  Which progression, she knows, has been a gift.

So that woman who has been through hell will smile today, and count the many blessings in her life.  Four of which are attending their last day of 3rd, 5th, 9th and 12th grade.

She’s got this.

Until the cap and gown are put on.  Then she’ll let herself lose it for a bit…crying and smiling her way through the pain, happiness, sorrow and confusion.

She knows Ryan wants her to smile. 

And more than anything, she still wants to make him happy.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

I left them.

It’s a right of passage for any kid.  But for a kid with Diabetes, having your parent leave you alone is a huge milestone.

This week the boys’ schedules are off the charts.  Tons of crazy going on the last week of school, and as such we have three different pick up times from school.  Since the littles got off an hour before the bigs, I brought them home to do some dinner prep before returning across town to do the second round of pick ups.

“Let’s go guys.”

“Nah.  We’ll stay here mom.”

I stop in my tracks and look back at my 11 and 9 year olds.

“You’ll be okay by yourselves?”

“Absolutely.”  B says with his brown eyes shining back at me.  He said it sincerely, not trying to convince me, but rather just stating it as a matter of fact.

“OK,” I say hesitantly.  “You have my cell phone number if you need me, or if something comes up.”

“OK.  See ya.”  He says casually.

As I was making my way to the High School I thought about the big step it was to leave my two littles, (my two littles who both have diabetes no less,) at home alone.  Sure only for 30 minutes.  But still…a lot can happen in 30 minutes.  Especially since Murphy’s Law is like my 5th child.  I tried to shake the negativity in laws live just a few blocks away from us.  All will be well.

Then it occurred to me, if Ryan were here, they wouldn’t be left alone.  In fact I’m pretty sure it was only within the last year we left any of our kids home alone.  My two little guys are going to grow up faster than the two older boys.  This is probably the natural order of things anyway…but sobering nonetheless.

I’m a big fan of keeping kids, kids, for as long as humanly possible.  Growing up is hard.  Just ask Peter Pan.

Was me leaving these boys any different than me taking a nap on the couch?  Hardly.  They take care of themselves like little pros these days.  They check if they suspect a low, and they treat if they are.  They dose if they are high.  I’m nothing more than a message board to leave word of what they have done.

Sure, I count carbs.  But during the daytime hours, that is all I do that they do not…and to make matters worse/better…the two boys that don’t count carbs are starting to take the wheel on that.  They’re pretty brilliant at it too.

So I left them.

And when I drove into the garage B flew out of the house and knocked on my car window.

“Hey.  Do you want to know what happened while you were gone?”

My stomach did a little figurative bit of throwing up and then I asked, “What happened?”

“I cleaned the bedrooms and the bathroom.  I vacuumed.  I cleaned the kitchen and put away the groceries.  Wanna come see?”

And so it goes.  Children grow.  Hard things become softer. 

And it becomes OK to let them fly.  Even if just for 30 minutes.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Many leaves. One tree.

I feel like I could write a book about that one thought.  When I heard it for the first time while watching Epic yesterday my cheeks immediately flushed and I got that humming in my chest that tells me, “That means something to you.  That is important.  That is truth.”

And now that it is a part of me, I can’t help but feel it kinda sums up my (and if I may be so bold, our) entire existence, really.

We are pieces of a greater whole, and part of a unique ecosystem that isn’t accidentally happening in front of us.  “Meant to be” isn’t a superfluous phrase. 

We are meant to connect, because we are more than a community, we are a family…every one of us.  We are responsible for one another, and should take care to remember our humanity should run deeper than our humanness.  The spiritual organisms in all of us need to be fed, and acknowledged.

If we open up to the fact that this is all greater than the sum of its parts, we might realize that we have been ignoring an entire part of ourselves that is very real…and very important.  The more we accept our spirituality, the more it will come to the surface.  And if we find a way to focus on that part of us more often, I think our potential is unlimited. 

But here’s the problem, for me anyway.  Although I find that it is fairly simple to get into the state of mind that there is greater purpose, that there is a better perspective, it is just as simple, or even simpler to lose those feelings and get lost in the frustration, or chaos that is the on the surface of our daily walk.

Said simply, it takes work to see the bright side of things.  Effort is required every single day to see things more globally…and to take it a step further…more eternally.  If we don’t work on it every single day, then the perspective is swooshed away.

That is what I’ve come to believe anyway.  When I open myself up, even a little bit it seems…Ryan is closer to me, and things become easier. 

When I believe I am alone.  I am alone.

It’s all up to me.  I need to put in the effort to open myself up to the greater purpose in all of this.  And although my efforts need be only minimal…they do require my persistence, and my determination to make this family state of mind a habit, rather than an anomaly.

Many leaves.  One tree.

We are part of something bigger.  I really believe it.

Whether you believe the tree is an eternal family, the Earth, or a community…it means you are part of something. 

And that something means something.  (Super awesome sentence, I know.)

If I’m successful in switching the trajectory of my thinking…will I be able to change the trajectory of my life to a more positive one?  If positive, inclusive and familial thinking brings positive change…maybe.

Maybe if I believe there is more, more will come.

I definitely believe it is worth the try.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Moldy Cupcake Awards: Artificial Sweetener Alarmist Crap, by WHO-TV Channel 13

Copyright © 2010 Julie Kin
/ Gleeful Things. All Rights Reserved.
Welcome to another edition of the Moldy Cupcake Awards.
The award we give out for excellence in communicating nonsense, lies, misinformation, and outright uninformed, alarmist drivel, about diabetes and related health informationfor the purposes of garnering ratings, by the mass media, and others.

This installment's winner is: WHO-TV Channel 13 News, Des Moines Iowa!

I'm not much of a TV viewer, these days, but I must confess: I had a little accident this week -- I accidentally spilled water on my laptop, so I had to spend a good day without the internet. What was left, but the TV? (Yes, I know... reading, walking, exercising, crafts, etc. lol) Anyway... after a year or so of not watching any TV, I was quickly reminded why I had given it up: gullibility, stupidity, emotional appeals, and alarmism for the sake of ratings. They sure know how to hook us in. 

So, here I was, taking a dose of mental junk food, when I saw a commercial for the local news regarding artificial sweeteners. In it, the anchors sounded the alarms of doubt... "are artificial sweeteners and low calorie foods safe for you, or are they just a sweet deception?"

Oh, there was no way I was going to miss that... and they did not disappoint -- by which I mean, they completely disappointed me, as I expected. I am always amused by how the media portray their stories on artificial sweeteners, and other controversial subjects. They violate every law of sound journalism: 
  •  You first portray anecdotal evidence, by someone that has really no proof of their claim, just a gut feeling;
  • Then you speak to expert sounding non-experts;
  • And finally, you have them make lofty claims, with absolutely NO scientific evidence or basis...
And there you go! A recipe for just about every "investigative" segment on the news, today. 

This 'investigative report' is no different. They start out with the story of Renee Chiaramonte, a woman who is a registered nurse, at one of our local hospitals. That, by default, would give people the idea that Renee has some 'authority' on what she says, because she's a nurse. In my experience as a diabetes advocate, assuming one has sound medical knowledge or health expertise by virtue of being a nurse, simply couldn't be farther from the truth. 

But I digress... We're left to ponder on the life of Renee, who was not feeling healthy, and felt like this was
likely due to poor diet; artificial sweetener abuse, to be exact. She claims she was consuming up to 500 artificial sweetener packets a month (besides countless diet sodas) and that she experienced weight gain, joint pain, and a torn tendon in her knee. These are some pretty hefty claims to make of artificial sweeteners. 

But it doesn't stop there... How dare these companies try to sell you artificial sweetener?!

They want to build a case of blame against artificial sweetener companies, so they interview a Marketing Professor at one of the local universities. "Oh, no, companies make you crave the sweet stuff by giving the boxes pretty colors, and putting them on the most accessible shelves! How dare they!" Yeah -- it's called being a company with a product, which you want to sell. Should they package it in corrugated boxes, written over with Sharpie marker? Please.

Then, for the clincher: A "medical" expert's opinion. Now, is this expert a registered dietitian? Is she an M.D.? Is she, perhaps, a food scientist? Maybe even a scientist with the FDA, or the Department of Health?  I would've even accepted a researching chemist. 

No... that would be too ideal. The woman in question, is "Dr." Ann Buenger -- a chiropractor. 

Listen here, fools at WHO-TV News Channel 13... 

A chiropractor is not a medical expert. In fact, they are not really doctors of anything, but of pseudo-scientific claims, and most of their claims and services are WOO. How dare you ask this woman's mere unscientific opinion on this subject (of which she is NOT an expert, by any means)? Let's limit her to such things as back adjustments, for crying out loud.

So, instead of interviewing an actual expert, they interview Mrs. Buenger (I refuse to call such a person a doctor) and she makes even more preposterous claims: 
  • Artificial sweeteners are stored in your fat;
  • They are all a "chemical," thus they are toxic to the body;
  • "Experts" say artificial sweeteners can trigger weight gain, migraines, depression, and cancer;
  • Consuming artificial sweeteners is like directly injecting them in your veins; and
  • 75% of your neurons have to die before all your symptoms of artificial sweetener consumption come out.
  • "Adverse symptoms" can last for several years.
I really miss the days when journalists were actual journalists, and did investigative work. NO ONE in their right mind would want to quote such a non-expert on such a subject. I wonder if all the other real experts simply told them there was nothing to discuss? No controversy? They had nothing to work with, and were grasping at straws. 

I sure would love to know to which so called studies and experts this woman was referring. Since she doesn't say, and even a cursory search on google doesn't yield any credible links (medicine journals, with findings, for one), I am left with assuming 99% of her claims came right out of her ass. 

You see, artificial sweeteners are not stored in fat; they do NOT affect your neurons in such a way that most of them have to die off, somehow, before you can feel better, nor do they trigger any of the symptoms mentioned above. And if something is toxic to us, just by virtue of it being a chemical, well lady... throw away ALL your medications, and you'd better hope you don't get any major illnesses. 

Aspartame, for example, has no more likelihood to induce headache in people who consume it, than a placebo; further studies of the association between aspartame and cancer found this association to be exclusive to rodent physiology, and not supported in humans; and any idiot who has any knowledge of the body's digestive process knows that drinking something is NOT the same as injecting it in one's veins... otherwise we'd drink insulin. DUH. 

Now there is some truth as to the likelihood of weight gain and usage of artificial sweeteners, but it is not due to artificial sweetener 'storage' in adipose tissues. 

You see... the desire to eat is driven by the same reward-circuitry we have in our brains for other pleasurable activities, such as sex, and drugs (hot damn!) When we consume sweet foods in particular, they reward our pleasure senses, but they also trigger satiety mechanisms which tell our bodies we have had enough. Since artificial sweeteners do not possess any caloric content, they thus trigger those 'hedonistic' pleasure neuronal signals, but do not seem to trigger satiety signals. The hypothesis is that a person can end up over-craving, and overeating, or looking for more food, because they didn't feel 'satisfied.' Also, if one abuses sweet foods, one trains one's palate to prefer such sweet foods, over other foods, even craving them. The studies for these behaviors are not, by any means, definitive; they are often large population studies, from the 1980s, over a 7-8 year period. Food attitudes, and diet notions can change a lot in such a period... especially in the 80s, when people would often eat a slice a cake with a diet Coke, and think they were doing well; or consume honey, in place of sugar, and think they were cutting out problems. 

This does not, by any means, mean that consumption of artificial sweeteners immediately leads to weight gain, on its own. It does not. If one is aware of one's eating, has a well balanced diet, and consumes enough water through the day, there really should be no problems. One of the prime examples of how artificial sweeteners do not lead to weight gain are the foolish anchors of this story, themselves, which at the end of the story (while not shown on this clip) were freaking out about all the foods they had consumed through the day, or earlier in the week -- while being the picture of fitness. 

Interestingly enough, just to show HOW psychological this woman's perceived malaise was, from her artificial sweeteners, she claims she now consumes Stevia (by way of Truvia), which is "the only healthy alternative, right now." They assume this because Stevia is naturally derived... but in fact, Stevia is no different in way of 'anecdotal' symptoms expressed by consumers -- as well as, also, not having caloric content. If it's sweet, and it has no caloric content, it should behave in the same way as the other sweeteners when it comes to partial activation of food reward pathways. 

One is left to ponder upon the other ways in which this woman was possibly not taking care of herself: not enough sleep, poor diet (hence a lack of vitamins), and dehydration. If she has any history of carpal tunnel, lack of enough Vitamin B-6 and Vitamin B-12 can seriously affect her joint health. It could have also been the result of poor hydration, if she was simply not having enough water (just chugging diet sodas), and was retaining a massive amount of water weight from dehydration (a safety mechanism), as well as causing her joint pain, and even muscle cramps, and torn tendons, in the presence of high activity (such as a 12 hour work day). These are all well known side effects of dehydration.  

This was, simply, an inexcusable piece of irresponsible journalism, WHO-TV. A lot of people greatly depend on artificial sweeteners -- many with various illnesses they need to manage, such as diabetes. We live with enough guilt, as it is, without uneducated lay people giving us crap over a 'piece' they saw on your channel. When you create such poorly researched segments, what you do is push people into the arms of conspiracy theorists, scammers, and quacks, claiming they have the latest and best in 'natural' medicine, or a quick fix for their problems. Not to mention, WHO-TV, that you slander an industry. Sweeteners are used in all kinds of things, from toothpaste, to Lean Pockets. 

This woman was simply living a poor lifestyle, and instead of taking responsibility, decided to blame the artificial sweeteners. And instead of researching, you went with questionable sources. The worst part is that you brought NO balance to your piece, only adding a lame 'Editor's Note' at the end of your hard-to-find written piece, with 'differing opinions.' WHO-TV, these aren't simply 'opinions.' You can have your own opinions, but you can't have your own FACTS, and then call those opinions. SHAME ON YOU! 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

D Blog Week, Day 7: My boys' thoughts

The final prompt this week: Back by popular demand, let's revisit this prompt from last year! Tell us what your fantasy diabetes device would be? Think of your dream blood glucose checker, delivery system for insulin or other meds, magic carb counter, etc etc etc. The sky is the limit – what would you love to see?

My brain is shot.  It’s late Sunday night and my creativity is in the toilet…but I didn’t want to leave my last day of D Blog Week hanging.  So I grabbed the D Blog Week wild card and asked the boys what was the best “diabetes invention” they could think of.  They didn’t even need time to think about it.  Below are their immediate responses. 

L, age 9:  “The best diabetes invention would be a cure.  Diabetes is a lot of work.  Work.  Work. Work.  Day and night.  I never get time to stop working.  It never ends.  I mean, you’ll never know what it’s like.  (Me:  Don’t you think I have a little idea of what you go through?)  Maybe a little, but until you have shots, and constant pricks, you won’t ever really know.  Just people who have diabetes know what it’s like.  Until you have black dots all over your fingertips, you won’t know.  Until you have shots in your belly and your butt, all the time?  You won’t know for real.  Sure you have a little idea.  But sometimes I just want a break.  Like.  One day off, not to have to think about diabetes.  It’s just so much WORK!”

Whoa.  I wasn’t expecting the lecture.  But A-flippen-men, little dude.

B, age 11:  “I would invent a pump that would be a mixture of a monitor and a pump.  It would check my sugar and give me insulin without me doing anything.  I would be okay with set changes every three days if it did all that for me.  And it wouldn’t take years to change it.  They would improve the new pump/monitor every week.  Every week it would work better…awesomer.” 

I’ve never spoke to him about the artificial pancreas.  I think he’s spot on.  Although I doubt the updates will be so forthcoming, I do appreciate the idea of constant improvement.

J, age 15:  “Other than a real cure…A pump that tests your sugar for you, and gives you insulin for you.  Corrects you automatically.  It’s implanted, so there are no pump changes.  It does it all.”

After these responses I felt obligated to show them some YouTube videos about the artificial pancreas.  I said I know someone’s daughter who will be trying it out at the end of summer, and then I told them it definitely won’t be soon…but someday this may be their reality. 

Their response?  J: “How much?”  B: “Can we bribe someone to let us try it?”  L: “Mom, you’re famous on Facebook or something…someone’s gotta let us try it.” 

And now their wait begins.  Which makes the wait for me, all the more harder.

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