Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Diabetes And School: I Managed To Work In The Paula Deen Joke

Theo and I worked on our little scene we'll perform for his third grade class at the start of school (as explained here), to educate them on his type 1 diabetes. It's going pretty well so far. Here's the beginning.

Hi Theo.
Hi Mom.
Let’s talk about diabetes.
You ate too many cookies, and that’s how you got diabetes, right?
You played tag with some diabetic kid and you caught it from him, right?
You were a bad boy, and the Easter Bunny put diabetes in your basket?
Then how did you get it?
I got struck by lightning.
Those little bugs on my eyelashes squirted out diabetes juice.
I ate one of Paula Deen’s burgers on a Krispy Kreme donut bun.
Well, I can believe that one.

(to be continued)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Diabetes and School: The Part-Time Job

The other day I bumped into a teacher from Theo's school, one I don't know very well but whose face is familiar. As we tried to determine who each other was, she says, "You're a sub, right? I see you a lot in school."

No, not a sub: a mom in an unpaid, voluntary but not volunteer part-time position. I didn't sign up for this, but I'll gladly do what it takes.

Especially during these elementary school years, and especially since we're not yet on the pump, diabetes in school requires a lot of my time and presence. I don't volunteer as much as I used to simply because I'm already there so much; however, I try to double up the time when possible, such as helping out with a classroom party while I'm there to give a shot, or chaperoning a field trip I need to go on anyway.

It's nice to have the extra time with my second-born. And he still wants me there, which is all the better.

With two school years and a camp week behind me, I'm not as stressed about the daily charts I need to churn up a week hence. They're still labor-intensive and can't be replicated directly from the previous year, and yet part of me knows everything will be okay.

If it's not, they'll call me, and I'll change the charts. A work-in-progress.

(I should admit that though the stress level has gone down, I continue to stand amazed at all the steps diabetes adds to our lives. Here's a new one: when I go to the pharmacy to pick up the prescription for test strips, I have to turn in two weeks worth of our logkeeping. So I have to remember the binder, pull out pages, have them make photocopies. Love it.)

Part of the prep I'm looking forward to is the meeting with Theo's class. Every year, I get 15 minutes of fame in front of children who say things like, "I had diabetes once," and straighten them out.

The first year, Theo and I read from the book they hand out at diagnosis. The illustrations are awful and the information somewhat outdated, however, so we wrote and drew our own slightly sarcastic book to read the following year.

This year, as the class is moving on from picture books somewhat, we're going to create a dialogue to perform in front of them. It, too, will have funny bits, just as soon as I get around to writing it. Maybe a joke or two about Paula Deen's burger recipe that calls for a glazed donut for a bun. Really play to that third grade foodie contingent.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Life of Pi/Amy

The film version of Life of Pi comes out on my birthday this year, so I thought I'd read the novel again. But just when I sat down with my tea and the book, it hit me: I should be doing about a hundred other things. A hundred. Or at least a couple dozen. Oh, the projects on my desk.

A guy at my gym likes to tell me that a portion of his family's budget has been set aside for him to train with me. "If you'd just go and take the test already," he says. I tell him I have too many interests to settle down into personal training.

"What are you up to now--caribou hunting in the sub-Saharan desert?" he asked. (Later he acknowledged not being quite sure where caribou are found.)

Sure, why not. After I get through the current list. It's good to write out your interests and involvements, if a bit anxiety-inducing. Here goes mine:

--writing a book.
--writing a play for former prisoners to perform this fall.
--starting and leading an exercise program at a homeless shelter.
--writing for a college magazine.
--working part-time at the Y.
--keeping up with my fitness goals.
--running a household.

Lots of primary activity didn't make the list, like parenting, wifery and diabetes management. And see how housework appears only at the bottom? That's a big problem of mine: thinking laundry is something in the way of all the other projects. It doesn't contribute to my sense of accomplishment for the day, when it should--it's one of my main jobs.

Otherwise, I've found a peace about pursuing different interests, none of them exhaustively. It keeps me interested and (I hope) interesting. But it wouldn't hurt to make some extra cash off of some of these pursuits, which is where the PT certification would come in handy.

Maybe by the time Life of Pi is out, when I'm older and wiser, I'll have this figured out. Or, at the very least, a new and different list.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

My Day On The River And At The Cage Fight

Friday was a day of two wildly different firsts.

In the morning: a two-hour kayak trip, alone, on the Rogue River in Rockford, Michigan. A pair of chain-smoking women in their fifties strapped the kayak behind an old mini school bus, whose NO TOBACCO USE OF ANY KIND sticker had the NO ripped off, and said, "Sign this paper that says we gave you all the proper safety equipment." They helped me into the river and pushed me off. "Don't get hurt."

It was lovely. Turtles and ducks were in abundance, and I met up with turkeys, two swans, a white egret and one curious deer. About an hour and a half in I realized the ladies had told me to always keep right and that I had an hour left after the fourth bridge, but not where they'd pick me up. I blew the nature moment by retrieving the cell and calling my husband to check the website for my final destination. Sure enough, I was almost there.

Ah, nature.

That night, I headed out to meet up with very different wildlife.

My first time at a pro boxing event. With cage fighting, too.

The fighting sports are violent. I knew that. A matchup of evenly-skilled players, however, makes for good, tough sport that's exciting to watch. That's what I paid my money to see. Instead, I got this guy in his swimming trunks.

He's up against a two-time winner of the Golden Gloves Nationals, who was an Olympic trial hopeful. The belly you can see; let me also point out the man had zero muscle tone in his arms. After he was finished, I heard one of his friends say, gleefully, "At least you got $500!"


You don't believe it 'til you see it, this paying people off the streets to get a win for new pro fighters.

When the fighters entered the ring, the people standing behind me and my friend would decide who was the boxer and who came off the street. My litmus test was this: if your shoulder blades wing out, you don't box.

Boxers need to be in tip top shape, disciplined in their training, lifestyle and nutrition. One particular young man stood out for his lack of health; he looked strung out, just out of the bar, which he might have been. And yet there was a disturbing smile he held on to even while being hit, his black mouthguard accenting the blood in his teeth.

Maybe he was thinking of the money.

As I walked around, the picture became more clear. I passed by a young man from the first cage fight, who was skilled when he had his opponent on the ground but too small to handle the fists and kicks coming at his face while standing. He took too many. His opponent lifted him upside down and dropped him on his neck.

And here he was, with his friends. They were lower middle class at best, and my guess is that the $500 made in such a short period of time was quite a waterfall.

The non-boxers all came out swinging; from there, the techniques varied. Some got cocky, taunting in place to conserve energy. Some swung wildly. The opponent of a guy in my gym kept falling to one knee and grimacing dramatically. Soon, though, the lack of conditioning and skill would end the match and bring on the paycheck.

The audience generally didn't seem to mind.

"Ready to see someone get knocked the hell out?" the announcer asked, to applause.

The calculation of unskilled opponent equals win was not without its risks for the actual boxer. The street fighters were unpredictable, beyond their lack of boxing knowledge. Even if a dangerous hit was caught and penalized, the deed was done.

Among the crowd were more than a few men with battered faces. A fair number were grotesquely obese. Many of the white people were low income. Most of the women were scantily dressed, and not just the ring girls. Boxers' families were there, down to the small children.

I stood next to a guy from my gym who is planning to go pro in a year and said, "Take up accounting."

Last thing I heard that night was "At least you got $500!", ending a day that had started very differently. Nature and human nature: I was quite surprised by both.

photos from and

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Intent To Push The Car

"Fear comes from uncertainty. When we are absolutely certain, whether of our worth or our worthlessness, we are almost impervious to fear." --Bruce Lee

It never occurred to me that I wouldn't be able to push a car.

Even while driving to find an empty lot, my children asking why and who's pushing what, I didn't question the act much, except once to wonder if it all might be over in a matter of moments, me unable to push the car, everybody getting back in.

Of course I could push the car, farther when the 172 pounds of my children finally got out, farther still when they helped. We all took turns, and doggone if it wasn't fun. Conveniently, a cemetery was located behind the lot, and we jogged there after to look for frogs in their pond.

Science backs the idea that intent in exercise might be just as effective as accomplishment, i.e., I tried to push the car, and that is enough. Indeed, when the whole family was in it, I worked awfully hard to move it a foot or two, only gaining a couple inches past the natural give of the wheels. But that counts for something, as do all those times I tried to bench 130 pounds and failed (minus the once I didn't).

That's nice to know. What I know for sure is that a few minutes of this activity was intense enough to fry my shoulders and back and almost make me throw up.

The act would have completed my week's worth of strange physical ailments brought on by even stranger activity. On Monday, I took my kids to something called a "jumping pillow." Picture a bouncy house without the roof and walls; now picture a sizzling egg in a pan. See, the sun had heated up the pillow, which then burned our toes. So not only did our calves ache from all the jumping, we couldn't walk for the blisters on our feet. I have one that's about an inch and a half and maroon red. To boot, walking funny for a few days does nothing for old knees, let me tell you.

A few days later, I wanted some weights for shadowboxing, so I grabbed the small ones designed to wrap around ankles. In my concentration, I did not notice that on each return of the fist to the face, the velcro scratched my cheeks, over and over again.

Finally, yesterday: all was well until I decided to hold a handstand pose, aided by Greg. Apparently I held it long enough to break a few blood vessels, as next time I looked in the mirror, there were red lines and splotches under both eyes. Pretty.

The effects of pushing a car remain to be seen. But this idea of the importance of intent is staying with me; effort is rewarded! After the jumping/burning pillow disaster, I had lamented to my kids that I had driven them there because I knew how much they enjoyed it the first time we tried it (in fall, with socks on). I wanted the time to be special; I wanted to make their day.

Somehow, despite the fact that Simon and I were in real pain (Theo was okay; I gave him my socks right away, as a diabetic's skin and feet need special care), the intent was enough. "I tried, I really did," I kept saying, and the kids were mature enough to understand. It even became a joke, us hobbling around in our bandages and aloe vera.

I've written before that boxing has taught me great humility, and though there was a time when intent would not satisfy me, now it does. I can live without reward and resolution, for the most part. I can thrive in process, mostly.

Because until we're in that cemetery near the pond, intent is what moves us, inch by inch, to where we need to be.

Friday, August 10, 2012

If It Feels Good, Do It

My couple year bench-pressing career began with a need; having experienced the dumbbell chest press, I simply needed to do it again. I think I may have actually purchased a gym membership just to again experience that sensation, a very tactile desire I had to fulfill.

I thought of this the other day when out on a kayak, which is the new object of my tactile desires. A friend asked if I really did just wake up one day and decide I needed to steer a kayak, and my answer was pretty much a yes. Though I had done it once before, many years back, there was a day recently when I knew I needed to kayak, and soon. Since then I've headed out on my own a few times, and I can say that being alone on the water is now one of my favorite places to be. As a side note, it's helping rehab my long-running tennis elbow. It's excellent exercise, and soothing to the soul.

And then there was the day, a couple months back, when the idea occurred to me that I should run up a hill. Not much more to it than that; it sounded like a good idea. The family and I went in search of a hill, ran up it a few times, and that was that. Once again, great exercise, and a lot of fun for all.

What's next? I need to push a car. Why? I read it somewhere--"try pushing a car as far as you can"--and I knew I had to try. If the rain lets up this weekend, the family and I will go in search of an empty lot, put that thing in neutral, and see where it takes us next.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Diabetes and Camp: The Counselor Letter

I'm putting in the hours this week to ensure some free time the next. The kids are going to camp! The YMCA I work for has a camp, and this camp, we learned, accommodates kids with diabetes. We are so grateful.

Many notes and charts will be drawn up for the nurse and health officer, but I was also asked to write a general letter to his counselor, who will accompany him throughout each day 'til he returns at suppertime. I provide it here as a blueprint for others; feel free to adapt it for sitters, schools or anyone who needs a general rundown of what diabetes management looks like.

Dear Camp Staff,

When our family attended the camp open house this spring, we never expected that our son would be able to attend. We figured we’d check the place out and call it a day, assuming that Theo’s medical needs are too much to accommodate.

We can’t tell you how wonderful it is to know that Theo can go to camp, and how reassuring it is to know you have careful structures in place to manage diabetes. We’ve heard so many good things from other parents in the same boat!

That said, we can’t help but worry when sending our son away from us. So here are a few really basic pointers about Theo and his diabetes to help all of us next week.

People with type 1 diabetes don’t make their own insulin, or enough of it, to help their bodies use food for energy. Theo needs a shot of insulin for anything he eats that is more than 5 carbs. We count all the carbs in Theo’s meal before he eats, and then do some heavy math to determine the dose of the shot. There is lots more to it, but it’s important to know that unless his blood sugar is low, he can’t eat without a shot. And he has to eat everything that’s been accounted for; no sharing! Other than needing a shot, there are no restrictions on Theo’s eating beyond what’s healthy for anyone.

Eating too many sweets does not cause Type 1 diabetes. It’s not contagious. And unlike type 2 diabetes, which makes the news a lot, it’s not curable. Yet.

Diabetes must be managed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Blood sugar levels can drop or spike without warning, and low blood sugar levels can be life threatening. Food, exercise, and insulin all are factors in the management of diabetes; because camp is new to Theo, we will have to watch him carefully to see how his blood sugar reacts to all the fun activities and the different meal times.

Theo usually can feel a low blood sugar. At those times, he can check himself with the meter and supplies, and you can reference the chart and call us. He should not be left alone when he’s feeling low. An adult should accompany him until the low is remedied by a fast-acting sugar.

Though it’s never happened before, there’s a chance he could pass out before recognizing a low. Because of this, never assume that Theo is just slouching in a corner because he’s tired from play. Please check on him.

Any cuts must be cared for immediately, as diabetics have a greater chance of infection.

We will send all supplies in a cooler, as the sun and heat can ruin the medications. Please be sure to keep the supplies in the cooler and out of the sun. If the cooler doesn’t seem to be keeping things cool enough, let us know right away.

Call Amy or Greg any time, but especially if he has low blood sugar or vomits even just once.

Big brother is attending camp the same week, too, and he’s very familiar with procedures and very helpful. Feel free to ask his assistance. Theo, too, is quite open about all this and happy to talk about it. Sometimes it makes him sad, especially when he has to miss out on food or opportunities, but he’s a good-spirited kid.

Thanks again for everything. We appreciate you very much.

Greg and Amy Scheer

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Life After 40: Don't Listen To The Naked Ladies

Naked ladies sat to my right and left, nodding sagely.

"Yep," said the one, drying her arm down its length, and sliding back up and under its dangling folds. "That's about when it happened to me, too: 41."

"Me, too," said another, lying down on the sauna's bench, a breast falling to either side. "It was downhill from there."

"You bloat and it stays."

After swimming class, I had posed the question of why I had been gaining weight for no particular reason, and this led to a torrent of yays and amens. Nearly every older woman there could identify, and offered her own version of the story, which, though individual, always ended in resignation and an expanded waistline.

I left there that day thinking life was over after 40, at least in terms of the body's proportions and aesthetics. But a few days later I found a book on Ayurveda, got cooking, and my weight slowly found its way back to normal.

This is not me recommending Ayurveda; I didn't follow the system religiously, but instead took the basic principles into my lifestyle to good effect.

This is me saying stop giving in and giving up. The aging process demands a certain number of concessions, for sure, but there's always higher ground for climbing. In terms of fitness, I've adapted my routine significantly--lessened, even--and yet I'm looking and functioning as well as I ever have. Probably because it's exactly what I need to do now; had I kept stressing my body more than it could take, though the workload is greater, the results wouldn't be as great.

Don't give in to the paunch. Or anything else, for that matter; you're not dead yet, so keep going. I love the Buddhist saying that everyone should help people, and that if they are unable to do that, they should make sure to do no harm. To me, this means you're always capable of something--causing good or causing harm. So make the right choice, because there's always one in front of you.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Diabetes Anniversary #2

730 days with diabetes
3016 shots given, more or less
about 131,400 carbs counted
maybe 3172 pricks to the finger
countless nighttime checks
occasional tears
endless math

We have this terrible tradition of eating junk food on the anniversaries. The day he was diagnosed, we had been headed to our favorite pizza joint. Pizza is one of the hardest foods for diabetics to handle, but it had been such a difficult and long day that the doctor said to just go. Since then, we do--sometimes pizza, and today, those massive hot pretzels at the mall that are a couple hundred carbs each. More or less.