Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Coming and Going

Did I tell you about the time I played a Seal CD on the way to the library?

Halfway in, the eighth grade mixed metaphors irritated me so much that I packed the thing up, went into the library, and donated it. ("Oh, that's a good one," said a white-haired librarian with purple glasses.)

And how about another library visit the week of Theo's diagnosis? Have I told you about that?

I'm standing near the public computers with my kids when I see a large, pasty white man viewing pornography. Let's rewind this scene a few seconds back: There's Amy looking utterly wiped out. She can't stand up without nausea. Mostly this is due to the exhaustion of a first week lived with Type 1 diabetes, but Amy is also allergic to the dust at the library. Any visit--diagnosis notwithstanding--brings on a complete lethargy around minute 30.

So there I am, weak as anything, when I catch sight of this guy. A rage starts bubbling somewhere deep within, and I go over and yell at him. Then I report him, and sit back down trembling with plans on what I'm going to do next if he (a) comes near me, or (b) dares to visit that website again in my presence.

And the potatoes. Did I tell you about the potatoes?

I'm buying potatoes at the farmer's market. The farmer tells me why these potatoes here are preferable to those other potatoes over there. It's all I can do to keep myself from weeping at her feet.

A woman whose daughter was diagnosed with diabetes earlier this year told me this is normal.

"That grief is going to keep coming and going," she had said.

Yes, but at the darndest times and in very odd ways. Now, I must admit here I'm a little hot-tempered to begin with, and might just have gotten rid of Seal or attacked that guy in the library whether or not I was in a particular stage of grief. Okay, yes, I would have done those things. Can't blame diabetes for Amy's default anger issues.

But potatoes? Come on.

This rollercoaster of emotions is not entirely new to me, but I'd like to go back to having no good reason to ride it.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


So I'm looking at the photos from the last competition and I'm thinking a couple of things.

One, I need to find a more modest sport. I mean, hello, there were like 40 people not very far from the end of this bench. In a semi-circle.

And two, I should tuck in those elbows and point my feet forward, and theoretically increase my leverage. At this meet, I made a conscious effort to tuck in my shoulder blades and butt, and this mostly worked. But then I read one of the many important e-mails I receive on a daily basis, named something like "Eight Biggest Bench Blunders," which probably came in shortly after another highly urgent e-mail entitled "Three Steps to Complexion Perfection: Buy Two Get One Free Skin Care" or, possibly, "Your bowling coupons are ready."

The e-mails made me take a second look at the photos. Yep, flared elbows. Ooh, and complexion issues. Resolved: Go bowling and forget about it.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Presentation

When the PowerPoint announces Long Term Complications, Common Long Term Problems,

asks What Risk Factors For Blocked Arteries Can I Control?; How Might Diabetes Affect My Eyes?; What Can I Do To Prevent Vision Loss?; and How Can I Prevent Kidney Damage?

explores Effects of Neuropathy; Sexual Dysfunction; Dental Problems; Skin Problems; Genital Area Infections; Concerns for the Feet

and wonders How Can I Delay Complications From Diabetes? you see your son's body as a target. You had posed him for a picture to keep track of his shots--an X on his belly, his arm, the other arm, the rear and the thighs--and when the marks cover him, you print off the next copy and there he stands again, unaware there's another round.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Lorax Speaks For the Trees, Amy Speaks For the Musclemen

The Grand Rapids Press no longer posts their letters to the editor on the website, so you'll have to trust me when I tell you this letter of mine appeared in the August 5, 2010 print edition:

Kevin McDonough is right to take a wary stance while reviewing reality shows ("Will viewers bask in Tony Robbins' 'Breakthrough'?" July 27). However, his implication that "bulging neck muscles" render Tony Robbins' advice incompetent is silly and unfair.

As a competitive weightlifter with intellectual leanings, I consider the development of the physical body a pursuit that is both complementary and equally valid to a life of the mind.

Besides, the upper body bulk McDonough refers to is most likely the trapezius muscles--located in the neck, yes, but mostly visible to Robbins' audience from their developed positions in his back.

Perhaps only someone with bulging neck--and back--muscles would be smart enough to know that.

Monday, August 16, 2010


KRAFT Macaroni & Cheese Toy Story shapes, serving size 2.5oz (about 1/2 box), total carbohydrate 48g. Peanut butter and jelly: two slices of bread, 23g; two tablespoons of peanut butter, 7g, so 3.5; jelly is...jeez. 13g per tbsp. Ask Theo if he'd like cherry tomatoes or carrots. Tomatoes. One medium tomato is 7g, so a small handful of cherry tomatoes you'll call 2g.

That's 65.5 divided by 20...wait; you've forgotten to include dessert. Give Theo the choice of cookies or a fruit roll-up. Instruct him to choose the fruit roll-up he wants and bring it to you so you can read the label. When he says he'd now rather have cookies, check the bag: Four mini cookies for 21g. 65.5 plus 21 is 86.5. 86.5 divided by 20, your insulin to carb ratio, equals 4.325 units of insulin for your food dose. Drain the noodles for the mac and cheese, throw in the butter and ask Theo to wash his hands. Wash your own hands, too, and check the page to see where you've poked him last. Right index finger this time, Theo, you say, and move away from the food to prick his finger.

219: a little high. 219 minus your four-hour correction target of...150 is 69. 69 divided by the insulin sensitivity factor of 100 is .69. .69 plus the 4.325 food dose is 5.015. That's 5 units of insulin for lunch. Prep injection pen. Test by shooting out two units into the trash. Check the paper to see where his last shot was given, and give him the choice of belly or arms. Arms have been getting bruised; encourage belly. Hand him a half wet, half dry paper towel to wash off his belly.

Inject insulin into your child's belly. Hope the full dose is covered; the pen is running low. You don't know how to change an insulin cartridge yet, so you just don't know what will happen when it runs out.

Get the mac and cheese to the table. Make sure other foods on the list get in front of Theo. Try to give equal attention to your other child. Make mental note to do a control test on the meter--the step you keep ignoring--while making a lunch for yourself. Wonder if Theo's temperment will always alter like this, or will he act more like himself once his blood glucose numbers are regulated. Fight off melancholy.

Write blog post. Review lunch calculations and see that you had halved the carbs listed as one serving size of mac and cheese. Realize in a panic your son has eaten 24g of carbs not covered by insulin. Run out and tell him to do laps around the house. Return to finish blog post.

Send people here when they ask what it's like to have a child with juvenile diabetes. Because this is what it's like.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Battle On The Beach

I don't know that it was a battle, really, except that the past week had been really difficult; I hadn't benched heavy for four months; this competition required a nap at the chest--excuse me, a pause--instead of touch and go; 2am blood sugar checks have been keeping us up at night; my back was killing me.

Yet the battle was a fun challenge. The ADFPF (American Drug-Free Powerlifting Federation) proved to be rule-ridden yet good-natured, and you can't help but be happy on a Lake Michigan beach. Here's my final successful lift of 110 pounds (50 kilos) at the Battle on the Beach.


Today is my son's tenth birthday, ten years since I became a mom,

and I decided to spend it this way:

It was totally worth joining the ADFPF (American Drug-Free Powerlifting Federation)

...if only for this shirt.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Yes, We Can

Wednesday morning, I opened my eyes to the day and thought, I can't do this.

Right about that same time, Theo was running up the steps to our bedroom, back down again, and out of the house. He was running from Greg, who was holding a needle.

Greg would need to go back to work; Theo would need at least three more shots.

I.can't.do.this. Except: I had to.

I'd run out of reasons--and breath--trying to convince my six-year-old son of the utter necessity of the shot before him and all those to follow, every day for the rest of his life. Greg and I told him the truth, said in different ways and with varying degrees of emotion. By Wednesday morning, when Theo asked again, Why, why, why, Greg blurted out, Because if you don't get shots you'll die.

As I said, we'd exhausted the rationale. There was nothing left but more honesty. I brought him to eye level.

Theo, I said, I need you to know that I can't face another day of fighting you over these shots you know you need. Mama is feeling sick. Mama is not strong enough to battle you anymore. Please, please, if for no other reason, be strong for me.

He did it.

We haven't had a problem since. Not that a switch was suddenly flipped, but rather, my little boy drew up strength and chose to face down his ever-present fears. Every shot since then, he chooses a spot on his body, gathers himself for a moment, and tells us when he's ready.

This has been a week of accepting limitations, being strong, and persevering in the shadow of fear. So today, I registered for that next bench press competition.

Because I can do this.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Life Changes In An Instant

"Drinking and peeing, drinking and peeing," I said to our friend Carol. Theo had forced the halting of our caravan destined for the beach in order to make a restroom stop, and something told me to make small talk about it.

"You might want to get that checked out," she said. "Could be diabetes." Our yearly checkup was scheduled for the end of the month, so I figured I'd just bring it up then. But Carol's words stuck with me the next day, and I called the pediatrician. They fit Theo in immediately.

High blood sugar. Numbers like we only see in diabetes patients. The endocrinologist downtown is expecting you shortly.

Monday, 3:09pm: life as we knew it. 3:10: everything changed.

Theo has juvenile diabetes. Type 1 is not like type 2, which makes the headlines because the average American diet can bring it on. Type 1 isn't caused by diet and can't be controlled by diet; Theo's body simply will never produce insulin on its own. The boy whose greatest fear is getting shots now needs at least 8 pokes a day for the rest of his life.

Needles and numbers now comprise a significant part of our day. Did you know that a tiny twist pretzel has .7916666 carb grams? It shocks me that my child's health comes down to such major math. And when you're so drained that you're picking up the phone to calculate the carbs, and the stockpot lid to close up your teapot, it's frightening to know that you're the one responsible for this math.

We're grateful we caught this early (thanks, Carol). Many people land in the ER before they recognize their symptoms as something worth getting checked out.

And we're grateful for the progress made today. Today, Theo willingly stood for 3 of his 4 shots. We went to the library as usual. Read books and made jokes about them. A bit of normalcy is returning, but just as we settle into it, we're reminded that normal now has a new definition.

Monday, August 2, 2010

When Poodles Cry

The Burnside Writers Collective has published an essay of mine that had its beginnings right here. Read When Poodles Cry and take a gander about while you're there.