If this is your first time visiting, welcome. If you are returning again, welcome back. While this blog was originally not going to be about me or my life, it seems to be morphing to include more of myself and experiences. I will still strive to add a different perspective to the news and events around the world that impact everyone's life,however, I will focus more attention on issues that relate more tangibly to our personal lives. We all live in a world that is increasingly interconnected yet it seems a lot of people are turning inwards, shying away from human interaction. Lets step away from ourselves and see what we can do to make a difference. There are ads on this page and 65 cents of every dollar earned will be donated towards helping the homeless. If you like what you are reading, please share it with your friends.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Worst People Ever

Everyone bears a cross, some weight of the world that they have to deal with, issues that they would rather pass to others or get rid of completely.  Often times, in our interactions with others, we don't see these crosses, these burdens that they suffer and struggle with.   People have a tendency to put their best face forward so others don't see their struggles.  They mask their pain in public and deal with the torment in the comfort of their homes.   In our everyday lives, how many times have we judged others because we think they are scatterbrained, flighty, "not with it", or maybe we think they are depressed, self-centered, or shy.  There are often times hidden struggles that influence the way people portray themselves in public.  Not everything is always as it seems.  In my work as a contractor, I sometimes spend a good amount of time around people in their homes, seeing that other side, being a silent witness to the struggles that they deal with.  I sometimes make silent assumptions about peoples motives, thinking one thing even though I know it may not be true.  I don't know the specific assumption that I made, but there is a lot more behind my current customer's actions and life than I could have ever imagined.  And this is how I discovered the worst people ever.  It wasn't her specifically telling me her struggles.  Instead, I overheard phone conversations that she has had while I am working there.  I don't eavesdrop.  I just happen to be working near her room when she is on the phone.  There is no where left for me to work in her house and while my intention is not to listen to her conversation, sometimes it can't be helped. 

So what is this cross that my customer is bearing?  From what I gather, my customer, divorced and living alone, has a daughter who lives in a group home and attends a school that teaches life skills.  I am guessing that her daughter is dealing with some type of mental health issue, perhaps autism or something similar.  I have never seen her daughter, but have heard her talk about her on the phone and have seen pictures of her when she was younger.   Sometime over the past year, her daughter has suffered abuse at the hands of her caregivers, the one's who care for her at the home, not the school.  She suffered both physical and mental abuse, including strangling and beating.  I don't know what type of psychological abuse she suffered, but I can imagine its not good.  There could be more, but I have not heard it.  Arrests have been made, lawsuits have been filed, and the process is still on going. There are debates about putting video cameras to help watch her daughter and the other kids at the house.  It all sounds like a giant nightmare being waged over the phone by a parent who wasn't able to be present to protect her daughter.  I would be enraged if this happened to one of my children and despite what this customer of mine is going through, she is able to maintain a relative calm demeanor on the phone.  If I hadn't over heard her talking about this issue, I would have had no inclination that anything was wrong with her daughter.  She manages to put on this smile every day, appear to be happy, and go about her life.  Yet, knowing what she must be dealing with inside is heartbreaking.  Having children of my own, there is a deep gut wrenching feeling that occurs whenever something happens to one of them.  The desire to protect and assist, to heal and to care for our children, is inherent in parenthood.  When the ability to do that is taken away through a mental health issue where external help outside the family is needed, it digs out the very fiber of what it means to be a parent.

Who are these people who prey upon those less fortunate, who feel that they can exert their power over them to whatever degree they see fit?  It is something that I can not comprehend and probably will never be able to.  We occasionally hear about similar cases on the news, but often times the abuse has to be more aggravated, more despicable, more horrendous for it to make the news.  How many other cases like this float beneath the radar because it either only happened once or is deemed not news worthy enough?  The cases that involve the mentally challenged either with autism, Down syndrome, or some other mental health issue are even harder to identify as often times the victims don't know how to speak up for themselves or are unable to do so.  The people who commit these heinous crimes, in my mind, are on par with the Bashar al Assad's, the Kim Jong Un's, and anyone else who is in a position of power and exerts that power over those less fortunate either for their own personal satisfaction or some other twisted reason.   The cross that my customer is bearing right now is not an easy one to bear as a parent.   It makes me feel fortunate that I don't have to deal with what she is dealing with.  It is also a reminder that everyone is dealing with something, either small or large, in their personal lives.  We may not know what it is people are dealing with it, but it never hurts to throw an extra dose of kindness into our interactions with others.  A simple smile, a kind word, or a gentle touch is sometimes all that people need to be lifted up a bit out of their problems.  So smile today, or maybe even ask someone, seriously, how they are doing.  

Monday, April 17, 2017

No, It's Not Being Over Protective

I was at a birthday party for a friend's wife this past Friday.  It was a small gathering of adults at their house, most of them with kids in tow.  These friends of ours have a son who is in our son's kindergarten class.  These two kindergarteners are quickly becoming good friends and being that we live right around the corner from them, it is working out quite nicely.  There is a big difference, however, in how we choose to raise our children (both them and us have daughters about the same age as well).  They, along with many of our other friends, have chosen to introduce technology to their kids including TV, video games, iPads, and iPhones.  Nothing wrong with that on my end.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I don't judge anyone for the way they choose to raise their children.   Another difference in the way we raise our children is when we introduce organized sports to our children.  Their son has been playing baseball for a couple of years now whereas ours just plays with a plastic bat and ball in our backyard.  I have nothing against sports either, but at least for our son, he can wait out one more year before getting involved in a sports team.   We at our house believe in letting our son be a kid, without worry about commitment at this point, and just having the time to play outside doing what he wants.  For those that don't understand why we raise our children the way we are, it is interesting to see the questions that we get.  Our friend's wife, who the birthday party was for, at one point was talking to me about our sons.  We were talking about how they were becoming good friends and bantering back and forth.  At one point, she verified that we don't do video games or TV at our house.  I affirmed that.  Then she asked if I knew that I wouldn't be able to keep him sheltered from all of it.  

I could see where she was coming from with the question, but it was an angle I hadn't thought about.  From an outside perspective, it can seem like we our sheltering our kids and being over protective of them.  The only thing I feel we are protecting them against is perhaps growing up too quickly at such a young age.  I have nothing against TV and video games.  I actually loved playing video games for a long time, and I enjoyed watching TV when we had one up in our house.  Yet, the content that comes through video games and the TV is not what I want our son exposed to on a regular basis.  I want him to be an actual child, with childhood concerns about when he has to come inside for dinner and whether or not he can go play in the rain.  I don't him plastered to a TV discussing video game strategy with is friends while the sun is shining outside.  I tried explaining all this in much fewer words by simply saying, "I know I can't keep him away from that stuff forever, and that is not my intention.  I know he will play video games and watch TV, just not in our house right now."  She suggested at that point that maybe her son could be the one to introduce video games and all that "stuff" to our son.  I agreed.  If our son wants to go to his friends house and play video games instead of playing outside, then so be it, however, it just won't be an everyday thing and it will not change how we operate at our house.  I just found it funny how she suggested that her son can be the one to introduce this stuff.  It's like its some taboo way of living that we embrace, the dark side of keeping technology from our kids.  I actually think it will be benefit our kids more later on as they can develop their creativity and personality without over handed influence of our culture that sometimes tends to get a little heavy through video games and TV.  It is all an experiment of sorts, every parents slightly different way of raising their kids that will only bear fruit as time passes.  

Over protective?  OK, in regards to technology, perhaps.  Yet, if the parents who would say that we are overprotective in general saw the opportunities we gave our kids to explore, learn, and fail, they might think otherwise.  On the flip side of "protecting" them from technology, we allow our kids the freedom in our house to explore, to help cook, to get what they need when they need it.  We are attempting to raise independent little humans.  Our son, at 5, while not an expert with a steak knife, can use one when he wishes, as long as he is careful.  We are also showing our daughter how to use one so that in another year or so, she can get her own steak knife and cut her own food for meals.  Similarly, they are allowed to climb on stools to get what they need, allowed to climb ladders outside, to vacuum around the house, to hold the small jackhammer I own, to help cut the grass, to dig in the dirt, to attempt to pick up every worm and "save" it, to climb rocks and trees, to roam the woods behind our house, to go fishing with sticks in our lawn.  We allow them a very generous amount of free reign in our house, provided that they do things safely.  That is our one requirement.  If they aren't being safe, we show them how to be safe and let them go again and learn.  They will fall, they will cut themselves, they will learn the hard way sometimes.  Our job is to keep them as safe as possible while giving them the opportunity to learn.  I wonder how many of the parents who would say we are protective with exposure to technology allow their children the freedom that we allow ours.  It would interesting to see.  But for now, we carry on our lifestyle, they carry on theirs, and as they intersect, we shall see how things progress.  

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Diabetes, The Flip Side

When most people think about diabetes, they think of Type 2 diabetes, where the individual through healthy eating, can both prevent the onset of and reverse the effects of the diabetes.  With Type 2, it is essential for most people to limit the amount of carbohydrates they are ingesting, watch their sugar intake, and strive not to over eat on a regular basis.  Type 2 is most times associated with people who are overweight and are usually older.  This happens when they go through life eating whatever they want and then as they get older, their bodies can't process all the food they ingest as efficiently as it once could.  Their indulgence when they were younger has caused their body to limit the amount of insulin it produces and if it gets extreme enough, forces them to supplement their own naturally produced insulin with the synthetic type that all diabetics receive.  Type 2 diabetes is growing increasingly common and when most people think about diabetes, they think of Type 2.  And while Type 2 and Type 1 diabetes are related in the sense that they deal with a person's ability to produce insulin, the similarities quickly dissolve once you start to look more closely at the two.  When we tell most people that our son has diabetes, they instinctively think of Type 2 and limiting carbs, watching your weight and the amount of food you ingest and have a hard time understanding Type 1 in the sense of eating and what a body needs.  

So with Type 1, carbohydrates are a necessity.  There is a limit on how much someone with Type 1 can have as if they have too much, their blood sugar does spike.  However, unlike Type 2 where carbohydrates are limited extensively, at least for us with our son, it is extremely hard to get him to eat enough carbohydrates.  For some people with Type 1 who don't eat healthy, there is a greater balancing act with eating enough vs. too much.  For us, however, we struggle to get our son to eat enough carbohydrates throughout the day.  He loves proteins like cheeses and meats and for us to get our son to eat enough "healthy" carbohydrates, we really need to struggle.  We need to supplement what he eats with fruits and breads, and even then, it is sometimes not enough.  Sure, we could give him animal and graham crackers non stop, but that's not how we eat and we don't want to just pump him full of carbohydrates that don't also carry some other benefit.  We instead seek to have our son easy the healthier carbs that can be found in fruits and juices.  That is where the struggle comes in.  While he loves fruit, he needs to eat a lot more fruit to make up the amount of carbs his body needs versus the quicker carbs of crackers and breads.  And on top of that, he is only five, so the room that he does have for food is limited by his size.  So we count the carbs in everything we eat and do math every day to make sure he is eating enough and of the right kind of food.  I think it is more of an adjustment for us at this point than it is for him.  We have always eaten healthy in our family so for him, the adjustments seem to be easier than it is for us when we are preparing meals.  Needless to say, we will most likely not be going out to eat anytime soon as the headache that would ensue over calculating the carbs in a meal prepared by a restaraunt would not be worth it.  So next time you hear of someone with Type 1 diabetes, you will know of the different struggles they go through versus someone with Type 2 diabetes.  I know this has been riveting information for a Saturday morning read, but if you have made it this far, your almost done and can get on with your day.  Happy Saturday!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Daughter on a Mission

Sometimes my wife and I look at each other after seeing our daughter zip through the room on one of her "missions" and agree that if she had been the first one born, she might have been an only child.  While our children may share the same parents and have certain things in common such as a love of building with blocks, reading books, doing puzzles, and playing outside; there are some big differences in their personalities.  Our son tends to be a little more laid back whereas our daughter is a high energy, on the run type of little girl.  Almost everywhere she goes, she has to go there running.  Even if it is just to the other side of the room to get a toy, she has to run there, get the toy, and run back.  Sometimes it even means running to get a stool so she can turn on a light and then running back with the stool in tow, bouncing on the floor behind her.  While both of our children are becoming independent little children, our daughter seems to kick it up a notch higher than her brother ever did.  They both will do everything in their power to complete a task by themselves, but her perseverance is a touch higher than her brothers and her determination more resolute.  This is all well and good at this age and to be honest, it will serve her very well as she grows older, but accompanying this determination and perseverance is a high degree of stubbornness.  In her efforts to do things on her own, she also must ensure that things are done her way and her way only.  If she doesn't like her parents' criticism of the way she is doing things, even if it means she could hurt herself in the process, she resorts to two options; ignoring her parents as if we didnt' exist or crumpling to the floor, curling in the fetal position, and burying her head in her hands.  It's as if she is trying to make everything around her go away and if she stays that way long enough, she feels it just might work.

Unfortunately, I can relate to that stubbornness.  As a child, I had a tendency to want to do things my way.  Hell, who am I kidding, I still have a tendency to do things my way and in our daughter, I can see myself.  I am still a stubborn man, drawing heavily on Polish and Ukrainian roots to feed that stubbornness, and will need to seriously alter how I approach our daughter as she gets older and approaches her teenage years.  Most of the time, I love the fact that our daughter is stubborn and head strong.  I can foresee many benefits in the years to come as it pertains to her life and her dealing with it.  She won't get pushed around by others or forced to do things she doesn't want to.  I feel that peer pressure will have less effect on her than it would if she wasn't as stubborn.  I also think that once she figures out what she wants to do, she will go and get it done.  However, along with every yin comes a yang, and I can also foresee potential issues she might run in to.  One issue is school.  Seeing as she likes to do things her way, she is going to need to get the right teachers as she progresses through school, teacher's who can work with her and accept her brazen stubbornness and outgoing personality.  She will need teachers who don't mind being peppered incessantly with questions about each and every little thing.  She will also need to learn how to let others be themselves and not always  try to get them to do her bidding.  Yet, she is only 3 and many things can change between now and her teenage years.  I know one of the things that will have to change is the way I deal with her.  Because she is so similar to me, we have a tendency to throw down and have a battle of the wills from time to time.  I will need to learn a whole lot more patience as she grows older.  Despite her stubbornness, I love everything about her and wouldn't change her a bit, I just need to work on myself a bit so that I don't throw her out of the house when she is 15.

With our daughter, her mouth usually doesn't stop working.  If she has no one to talk to, she is perfectly content having a conversation with herself.  A little while ago, I was watching both kids at home while my wife was out doing something.  (Another thing about our daughter is she loves to clean, this is important for the following story).  I had our daughter go into the bathroom to wash her hands.  About 10 minutes later, the water was still running and she wasn't out yet.  So I crept over to the bathroom and just barely peeked my head around the door to see what she was doing.  Lo and behold, she was standing on the little stairs that I made so both her and her brother could reach the bathroom sink and she was scrubbing the countertop around the sink with a sponge.  While doing this, she was having a conversation with herself about what she was doing.  It was all quiet and just loud enough so she could hear her own voice, but it went something like this, "Have to scrub the counter, oh, missed a spot over here, its nice and wet, need more water on the sponge, ooo, the water is so cold, so cold, chilly, ok, scrub a little more, still missed a spot over here, cleaning, looking good."  At that point, she looked over and saw me watching her and a goofy grin swept over her face.  She just doesn't stop talking and I absolutely love it, most of the time.  The only times I don't are when I man trying to read her a book and every other word out my mouth brings a question out of hers.  I even ask her to let me finish at least the page and I will answer all the questions she has.  This lasts for about one sentence before she voices another question.  Patience, patience, patience is key.  Luckily I have some time to work on that.  

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Bed Time Stressor

Our son's blood sugar is tested multiple times throughout the day now to see how he is doing and so we can coordinate with the doctors and adjust his insulin as necessary.  His numbers are not quite stable yet and the balancing act of adjusting his insulin doses appropriately continues.   As a result of constantly adjusting his doses, sometimes his blood sugar dips a little low and we have to compensate by getting some carbs into our son.  (The carbs are what his body needs for the insulin, crazy).  During the day if he goes a little low, there is always someone around to look for the signs and remedy the situation with a juice box or small snack.  At night, however, the stress begins.  For about the past week, his blood sugar numbers before I head off to bed have been low.  For my wife and I, this gets to be a little concerning as we don't know if it will dip even lower over night.  Those nights when it has dipped low, I have had to wake our son up to give him some juice to bump his numbers up.  Trying to wake him up a few hours after he has gone to bed is next to impossible.  It usually takes almost 5 minutes every time till I can get him coherent enough to drink a cup of juice.  I feel bad that I have to wake him up like that, but its better than the potential alternative.  I think that the worst part is not knowing what his body is going to do.  Will the fast acting insulin wear off in time so his numbers go up?  Will the long lasting insulin kick in too much?  Should we wake up in the middle of the night to make sure he is ok?  Most of the time, I will just stay up later to make sure his numbers are up and not wake up in the middle of the night to check again.  Those days are mostly over.  Now, it just takes my anticipated bed time and pushes it back 30-45 minutes.  Just another adjustment we need to make.  Once his insulin doses are regulated, however, this too shall pass.  At this point, our son is dealing with it extremely well and it seems as if most of the stress now falls on us as parents.  But isn't that how parenting is, constant worry about children and their well being?  This just adds an extra layer of worry on top of everything else.  Still, wouldn't trade it for anything.  

Monday, April 10, 2017

Our Old School Life

Before I get into today's post, I heard from a few people that the video links weren't working.  If they didn't work for you, my apologies.  I'm not a computer guy, but I will see if can figure out how to get them to work in the future.  Moving on.  As my wife was pregnant with our son, we did a lot of reading about raising children, technology, and how the two correlate.  At the end of all our reading, both opinion and fact based, we decided that it would be in our children's best interest if we did not allow the use of technology till they were older.  This includes TV, iPhones, iPads, and computers.  This isn't to say that they don't know what these things are, but their use by our children in our house is practically non-existent.  I say practically only because we do show them pictures on our phones for a few minutes here and there and our son has watched a few movies at his grandparents house. Outside of these few instances, its as if they don't exist.  They are not used as babysitters or devices of distraction, and for our son in kindergarten, he only uses an iPad in his school.  The main purpose of our keeping technology out of children's lives until they are older (trust me, I know they will have to use computers and phones at some point) was to foster creativity, encourage them to figure out how to entertain themselves, and teach them how to be bored and work through their boredom.  We also want them to experience the world through their own eyes, not through a filter of a phone or computer.  We want them to learn how to talk to others, have a conversation, watch the world go by while driving, and to notice the little things that too often get missed when we are glued to a screen.  To be honest, at first I had trepidation.  None of our friends have gone to the extent that we have with limiting technology in their children's lives.  Some limit use of devices, but I can't think of one that has kept the devices out of their children's hands till they were older.  I am not judging them here.  They made their decisions about how to live and raise their children and I will not be the one to judge.  I am here merely to talk about how this has benefited our family.  To do that, I offer up the example of yesterday, a beautiful spring Sunday.  

From the time we got home from running errand after church yesterday morning, about 1030, till dinner time around 6, there was very little time spent indoors.  My wife and I had our plans to work in the yard, clear space to put our greenhouse in a more permanent location and build some new garden beds outside our vegetable garden.  But there was nothing planned for our children.  They had free reign to do as they wished.  They were all over the place.  They would go from helping me dig dirt and move it with the tractor, to playing on their play set and in their sandbox, to roaming through the woods, pretending to cook on our stone grill, to carrying their sun umbrellas around.  They would announce the presence of our resident red tail hawk as it would fly overhead, would scramble to move every worm they found in the process of digging to our vegetable garden, would ponder the shape of clouds drifting past and what they looked like, and would collect acorns and pine branches for the stew they were making.  They did these and plenty of other things throughout the day.  There was no desire on their part to be inside at all.  After dinner, our son wanted to go back outside to play some more, but seeing the look on both his and his daughter's face, the look of content exhaustion, we suggested they build with legos or read instead.  So they did.  They started with legos for a while, and when our son discovered that I had brought "The Cat in the Hat" downstairs, he got excited.  We suggested that he read it to his sister and they both thought it was a fantastic idea.  (Our son, at 5 and almost through kindergarten, has become quite the proficient reader and true book worm when not playing outside or with his toys). So the two of them curled up in a chair in our living room and he proceeded to read to his sister.  I must say, listening from the kitchen, he is even getting the inflection down quite well.  About a quarter after 7, we came in from the kitchen and our daughter almost immediately asked, "mom, can you take me to bed, I'm tired".  And with that, we started getting them up to bed and situated for the night.  That was their day without technology.  Playing outside in the dirt, sand, and sun and reading in the evening.  I wouldn't trade that for anything.  

I couldn't imagine now having allowed our children the ability to entertain themselves with electronic devices such as iPhones or iPads.  They are developing a creativity that is amazing and becoming quite adept at thinking outside the box.  Our son even made it into a quite selective art show that is put on by the orange school system.  The art teachers choose about 80-90 works of art from grades K-6 and have a annual art show.  As a frame of reference, his kindergarten (a unique setup where the kindergarteners are in their own building) has 8 classrooms of 17 children in each one.  On top of that, there are 3 elementary schools in our town with grades 1-6.  The works of are were chosen from all 4 schools.  It was pretty amazing as only a small group of kindergarteners art was chosen.  But not even counting that, the lack of technology has given our children the ability to become close friends and figure out how to entertain themselves.  They don't "need" a device to occupy their time.  If they want to read, they read, if they want to build, they build, if they want to work on art, they do that.  Sure they have their little squabbles, but for the most part, they are becoming good friends and quite capable of playing with each other.  I know technology will make its way into their hands.  In this interconnected world, it will be of the utmost importance in their lives.  However, at their young age, we feel it has no place.  The more they can learn now to live without it, the more we hope they can carry that with them as they move forward in their lives and recognize that they don't "need" to fill their lives with technology later on.  If we can instill in them a desire to stop and smell the flowers, to notice the small things in nature, then perhaps they will be better adjusted as they make their way through adolescence and into adulthood.  So far, I feel like we are on the right track.  Time will tell.  

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Adventures of Super Dog

Through the chaos of life, sometimes we need some entertainment.  Here I present to you another two videos of our nutcase "super dog" Aspen.  If only I had his limitless energy and and lifestyle of eating, chasing things, and sleeping.  Enjoy!

Friday, April 7, 2017

Appreciating the Simple Things

If you are reading this blog, there is a very good chance you have a computer or some device that allows you to access the internet.  I know, statement of the obvious there, but follow along if you will.   There is also a pretty good chance that you live a decent life; you can put food on the table, have electricity, and probably even running water.  I could be wrong with some of these, but my point is that most of the people reading this don't have to worry in excess about the basic necessities that we look for when living our lives.  Many of these things we don't even think about and instead some of us might even complain that we don't have more.  Especially in the U.S., there is a constant drive to have or get more.  One car is not enough for a family, we need at least two or more to be "comfortable".  That 42" flat screen TV doesn't quite look right on that enormous wall in a person's house, so they go out and buy a 52".  The point is, often times we gloss over the essentials in our lives without taking the time to appreciate them.  We don't understand what it is like to live without knowing if the electricity will be working when we get out of bed or if water will come out of the faucet when we go to wash our face.  For us, it is a luxury to have constant, un-interrupted electricity and clean water coming out of the tap (unless you live in Flint, MI).  Yet, for a good portion of the world population, these simple things are a luxury.  

A little over a month ago now, we bought a new refrigerator to replace two old ones that we had that were sucking electricity like water down a drain.  When they delivered and installed it, I was the one who made it home to open the house and clear stuff out of their way.  As with anyone who comes to work at our house, I ended up talking to the delivery guys as I had nothing better to do.  Plus, I like finding out about people, hearing their stories, and getting a different perspective on life.  We talked about our kids and the joys they bring.  At one point, the gentleman putting the doors on our fridge asked about the rain barrels we have set up to collect rain water around our house.  His question was if we use that water for drinking?  Having a well with a plentiful amount of water on demand, I said, "no, we use those to water our vegetable garden."  I thought the question odd at first, but he elaborated without a probing question from me.  It turns out that where he is from in Jamaica, they use those to collect water for drinking and everyday use as they don't know when the water will be running or not and don't know whether it will be clean enough to drink.  He also mentioned as an addendum that the same goes for electricity down there.  It is intermittent and no guarantee.  This made me pause and search for a response that would be appropriate.  I think I actually stumbled over my words.  It was just one of those things that I never thought about and just took for granted.  I think I said that I couldn't imagine what it would be like not knowing if electricity or water would be running.  The conversation moved on from there and it turns out he has been here for 12 years, his anniversary with his wife was that day and he was excited to be finishing early so he could get home to her.  While the fundamentals of how we grew up were radically different, the daily emotions and interactions with people are universal.  We all have loved ones we care about and yearn to get home to and we all want the best for our families.  

That conversation made me look at things a little bit differently.  If I hadn't taken the time to sit down on a stool and engage the delivery guys in conversation, I would not have heard their perspective on life or what their struggles were.  I would not have seen what it is I take for granted every day.  It was a humbling experience and one that I will likely not forget.  Even a month later, it still resonates with me that for him, living without a guarantee of running water or electricity was just life.  It was what he was used to until he moved to the United States.  There was no basis for comparison until he moved here.  For him, I am sure that not a day goes by where he doesn't think about what a luxury it is now to have running water and constant electricity.  For many of us, it is a given that it will be there unless some freak accident like a storm happens to knock it out.  At least for myself, I will try not to take for granted the little things and instead try to appreciate them more.  Also, I will engage anyone in conversation so that I can gain a better perspective on life.  We may all live with different struggles, but at our core, we are all human and deal with the same daily, human struggles.  

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Apple : Tree

(I started writing this on Tuesday, but that day our daughter woke up super early and yesterday, it was my son's turn, so two days in the making, I finally finish). I'm going to take a step away from talking about diabetes today.  It will be a recurring theme as it has become part of our life now, but there is plenty else to talk about in my life that doesn't relate to diabetes.  I'm sure most parents can relate to what I will talk about today, the similarity of children to their parents, not only in looks, but also in mannerisms, emotional reactions, and demeanor.  I find that the current age of my children happens to capture this quite clearly as they are, at 3&5, learning who they are and continuing the development of their own unique personality.  Yet, despite my son and daughter developing their own unique personalities, there are still a lot of similarities to my wife and I that make us chuckle and sometimes cringe when we see them exhibit them.  Our son, in many ways, takes after his mother while our daughter takes after me.  This isn't a comment on their looks at all as depending on which parent our kids are around, people think they look like that parent.  Rather, it is their emotional state and quirky persona that at times mimics that of my wife and I.  My wife and I like to point out these little similarities when they pop up to each other with a simple phrase, "apple, tree".  At least that is the one I use for my wife and son, when it comes to our daughter and myself, we switch it a bit and say, "pear, tree".  Usually we utter these little phrases when our kids are acting out a bit in a way that seems all to familiar or that has undertones of a either my wife or I when we are frustrated or angry.

I find that these similarities, while humorous when they are occurring, can also act as a kind of mirror for my wife and I as parents.  This mirror, at least for myself, is an opportunity to reflect for a minute or two on myself and how I act and carry myself.  As I am sure all parents know, children pick up on everything that their parents say and do and will mimic and repeat them as they are developing their own unique personality.  So when I see something in our children that I am all too familiar with as it emanated from my to begin with and was then picked up by our children, I try to take a second and see if it is something that is beneficial or detrimental.  Often times, I find it to be either beneficial or somewhere in the neutral territory in between.  Both of our children's innate stubbornness is something that regardless of how hard my wife and I try, will never be altered.  My wife and I are both stubborn by nature and changing that in our children would be impossible.  Plus, I don't think stubbornness is necessarily a bad thing, it is more of how we use and exhibit that stubbornness in everyday life.  The back end is something that we can work with them on.  The mirror of our children is an invaluable "tool" if we use it correctly.  It is an early chance to alter how we as parents do things  in order to establish a solid framework for our children later on.  The emotional breakdowns, if we are attune to it, can be made easier based on how we react to them and the experiences we have dealing with them.  Our own emotional breakdowns can serve as tools for us to teach our children how to better deal with circumstances that are beyond their control.  The same goes for angry outbursts that they have as children because something doesn't go their way.  I know with our daughter, there is much I can relate to with her angry outbursts as I used to have them as well (and might on a very rare occasion have now).  It is all about using our experience to help our children through their own experiences.

The apple really never does fall too far from the tree, at least in our family.  Parenting is an experience that is both enlightening and frightening at the same time.  We get to see miniatures of ourselves, the good, the bad, and on a rare occasion, the ugly.  All in all, at least in our household, most of it is good.  Every day we make the effort to spend time with our children in the afternoon so that they have us as guides to navigate them through this thing we call life.  Money is not nearly important to us as time with our children.  We can't be good parents if we don't spend the time with our children to learn who they are and how we can help them.  And by spending the time with them, we can use them as mirrors of ourselves, see how we need to change our own behavior in relation to them, and move forward hopefully in a more positive and meaningful way.  

Monday, April 3, 2017

The Blood Sugar Lows

Well, two weeks in to our new way of life with diabetes and our son, and the lows have begun to rear their ugly heads.  Now that the hardened shell of glucose is being broken down around his cells, our son is starting to get into a more normal, safe range with his blood sugar levels.  With that comes the very real potential of going too low.  It has happened a few times since Friday and it is a new type of reaction in our son that we need to be cognizant of.  If his blood sugar dips below 70, he starts to get shaky, tired, and withdrawn.  He can go from running around, perfectly fine, to curled up on a chair, sucking his thumb and not talking.  So far, we have caught it in time and after some juice and or crackers, his blood sugar jumps back up and he is back to normal.  All this means is that we have to be more aware of our son and how he is acting, especially now that we are just starting to figure out the levels of insulin that will maintain him throughout the day and night.  They will be altered periodically going forward, but at this point it's trying to figure out the magic numbers that will keep his blood sugar between 70 and 180.  The only time it worries us a bit is if he has a low as he is going to bed.  Then we need to check him a few extra times to make sure that he isn't getting too low.  Definitely a new life we are living, but all in all, everyone is adjusting very well, including his sister who wants to be there every time her older brother checks his blood sugar.  And on the flip side, our son will actually wait for his sister and explain the whole process as he checks his own blood sugar.  That in and of itself amazes me.  The fact that our son, at 5, and within two weeks of being diagnosed with diabetes has taken it upon himself to check his own blood sugar and report his numbers to my wife and I.  I am not just talking about pricking his own finger either, he has been putting the test strip into the meter, pricking his own finger, pinching it to get a little blood out, and then getting that little drop of blood right where it needs to be on the meter.  I love that we have brought him up to be self sufficient so far.  

All of this, plus watching our son change over the past few weeks makes my wife and I wonder exactly how long our son has been dealing with the effects of a pancreas that is slowly shutting down its production of insulin.  Type 1 diabetes has been in his body since he was born.  Whatever genetic fluke he received, has been with him his entire life.   This means that his pancreas could have been slowly shutting down for months if not years.  How long has our son been experiencing the effects of a blood sugar low and not known what it was?  We don't know.  We could try and pick different instances where we thought it might have begun, but up until a few weeks ago, the process was so slow that it was impossible to notice it.  Then one day, things went haywire and his pancreas shut down insulin production.  It's crazy to me how these things happen sometimes.  Yet, just a little bump on the roller coaster of life.  Despite the fact that we have a different way to live now, in a way I am glad that our son's diabetes reared its ugly head.  The changes in our son have been incredibly positive and I wouldn't trade it now for anything (expect perfect health for our son, but he is damn close).  He has become more talkative like his sister, more cooperative, more courteous, and as long as he isn't experiencing lows, a new found energy.  He is in general more cognizant of his own surroundings and the feelings of others (unless he is fulfilling his elder brother responsibility of harassing his sister).  This is our new son and despite the struggles this will present along the way, I wouldn't change it now.  We are all moving forward, one day at a time, and its not so bad overall.  

Saturday, April 1, 2017

A Quick Little Diversion

Saturday morning, scattered sleep, drinking coffee, enjoy quick little diversion.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Staying Positive with Diabetes

Receiving the news that our son has Type 1 diabetes was just the latest in a string of potentially depressing news so far this year.   Looking at my year so far, I can envision many people who would have a totally different outlook and feeling on how its gone so far.  Someone else in my situation might look at things differently and say, "Damn, my year has sucked so far."  But the events I've gone through so far have been mostly brief events, blips on a radar of an otherwise joy filled year.  I can dwell on the few depressing moments, the ones that take me deep inside, that force me to re-examine my outlook on life, and let them simmer and foment feelings of despair, anger, and depression, or I can instead deal with them, accept the feelings they bring, and use those to build a better base upon which to deal with future events.  Those events have past, I've moved on, and while they all touched me in a different way, they all had the cumulative effect of forcing me to re-commit myself to living in the present.  In a way, I feel, it is almost as if those events, strung together in a relatively short period of time, have been preparing me to deal with anything that comes my way now, including my son having diabetes.  There has been sadness this year, but there has also been incredible joy so far.  If I had dwelt on the depressing aspects of everything that has happened, I would have missed those moments of laughter and joy with my children.  I could not be present with them if I let my mind dwell and despair over events that are past.  Children have an excellent way of dragging you back to the present as for them, that's all there is.  Their main concern is with what's happening right now, not what has past or what will happen, but what is in front of them this moment.  The more I can let them help me be present, the more I can in turn help them realize the benefits of remaining in the present as they grow older and the past and the future make themselves felt.  

So what happened this year so far?  In terms of those potentially depressing moments (which some of them were), let me elaborate.  On the cusp of the new year, I attended a funeral with my wife of a beautiful woman who fought breast cancer, won the first fight, but then succumbed when cancer came raging back.  She had just recently retired.  When I was working for her, her outlook on life was amazing despite the pain and suffering she herself was going through.  Then, a few months later, our cat Spice died.  My wife had this little runt of a cat before she met me.  She was 15 years old when she passed, had a hell of a spirit for a cat, a dealt with two large dogs on a daily basis, constantly setting them in their place.  (Just a cat, but still sad).  Then within a week, my grandmother, Baba, passed away at the ripe old age of 96.  She was a feisty woman and despite the sadness of losing her, there was a lot that I learned through the whole process of grieving and letting someone go, that it all balanced out.  We can't keep our loved ones around forever, but we do have those memories of them to remind us of how wonderful life is.  A few weeks after that, a former colleague of my wife and mother of one of my friend's from high school passed away.  She as well beat breast cancer previously and had some form of cancer come raging back and take her life away.  Two days after that wake, we brought our son to the hospital where he was diagnosed with diabetes.   This will not pass as the funerals and wakes passed, but it will require the same outlook on life of dealing with it one day at a time and remaining in the present.  So with all this that has happened, it has still been a great year.  Could things always be better?  Of course they could be, but we don't know when or if or how that would happen, so our best bet is to deal with life as it comes.  

There is the very real potential with diabetes that our son's blood sugar will go too low, he could become unconscious or suffer a seizure, however, it remains just that, a potential event, not one cemented in reality yet.  If and when it happens, we will deal with it and obviously we will do everything in our power to prevent that from happening.  I could dwell on the potential downfalls of diabetes, but instead, I look at our son and love the renewed exuberance he has for life, the renewed conversations that he has with us, and his desire to go outside, play and be himself.  He isn't letting diabetes get to him, he is dealing with just as we are.  In fact, at the age of 5, he is getting to the point now where he wants to test his own blood sugar, prick his own finger, put his own test strip into the meter, and test himself.  It's become a part of his life.  He knows there are adjustments, but we don't dwell on those, we just deal with life as it comes.  All this leads me to question how other people deal with issues like this, not because I'm trying to compare our life to theirs and see who is dealing with it better, but more because over the past week, we have received numerous offers to talk to someone who is dealing with it or has had a family member deal with it.  The offer is made so that we have someone to talk to in case we need help dealing with it or have questions.  I appreciate those offers, but I don't know that I will take anyone up on them right now.  I see how it changes things, and so far our family is dealing quite well with those changes.  There is no anxiety on my part, no added stress, just a general concern for my son's well being.  But that is always there, I am just more attentive to his demeanor and activity level due to his diagnosis.  Suffice it to say that there is a lot that goes into remaining positive, and I will elaborate more in the coming days, but for now, I have the rest of today ahead of me and my body is currently craving more caffeine.  

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Pediatrics at Yale New Haven Hospital

We are lucky to live 10-15 minutes from perhaps the best hospital in Connecticut and one of the better ones in our Northeast Region.  The knowledge that is contained within the walls of that hospital is immense and regardless of where we lived in Connecticut, I feel like we would have been sent to that hospital regardless.  After all, our room mate after leaving the PICU was a 7 yr old boy and his mom from New Canaan, 45 minutes away.  The staff at the hospital, especially the nurses, make you feel like you are important and that they are there to help you with whatever you need. They are especially patient with the children and accommodating to the needs of everyone within reason.  I'm sure that on some level they planned it so that when we did move down to the "floor" as they call it, we were placed with a room mate who was also recently diagnosed with diabetes.  There was the possibility of a bond to be built between the two young patients based on their condition and the parents who were caring for them.  And it did help, we would encourage each other when it came time to test blood sugar or administer insulin shots.  At the end of at least our mutual hospital stays, my wife and the other boy's mom exchanged numbers (both of them being health nuts to a certain extent) and have already been in contact about a few different things related to diabetes and managing it in young children.  The experience was a great one, even if I just got to spend nights there waking up every 3 hours to test blood sugar.  Yet, there is a part of me that wished I spent at least one day there, if only to see how lucky we are with a diagnoses of diabetes compared to some of the other patients in that ward. 

My wife was the one who spent the days with our son at the hospital, a lot of it in the large play room they have for all the children, regardless of age.  Having spend nights there, my exposure to the other patients was limited, although I did see some of them walking around periodically.  My wife got to see them even more and got to hear at least a few of their stories.  It is heart breaking, not only to see them there, some of them teenagers who don't know when they will be able to go home, and see the looks of dejection, hopelessness, and dismay at their condition.  One girl, a teenager, walked around with a mask on her face because she only had between 40 and 50 white blood cells total in her body.  She wasn't going to be able to leave until they somehow got her body to produce more and get the number up at least over a 100.  Her numbers had been up and down and she felt almost hopeless.  There was another young person in a wheel chair with patchy hair, probably a teenager but looked decades older who I'm guessing was dealing with cancer or some other serious disease.  There was another teenager, gaunt and hallow, who needed help walking anywhere.  And there was a patient I never saw, but got to see everyone who entered their room don masks, gloves, and gowns to keep whatever they were carrying away from them.  I couldn't even imagine being in their shoes, not knowing when I would get to leave, being a teenager stuck in a hospital ward when all my friends were going about their daily lives.  That is just the tip of the ice berg.  There is another section in pediatrics that we were not allowed to go into, either because it was the area where they deal with psychological issues or the serious cases reside that are either highly communicable or highly susceptible to infection.  So yes, I consider my son extremely lucky when put into context and my heart goes out to all those other children, ranging from babies to teenagers, who have no end in sight to their ailments.  

As for me, I got that one full night sleep this week.  Last night I woke up again at 230 to test our son's blood sugar.  I didn't technically need to, but with his blood sugar starting to drop and the insulin remaining the same, for my wife's peace of mind, I got up to test his blood sugar.  It's amazing how important continuous sleep is to the human body.  Without it, a distinct fog starts to creep in.  For me, its a perpetual fog right now, but that's ok, I only paint walls.  Back to life and reality now, more coffee, then breakfast, then another day of work.  

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Insulin Roulette

Well, I thought I was going to start getting more sleep.  And I did, for one night.  After calling in our son's blood sugar numbers yesterday for the previous day, we discovered that we will be playing a version of Russian Roulette, called instead by myself, insulin roulette.  The exciting news is that our son's blood sugar only went above 400 one time yesterday.  That means the hardened shell that the glucose in his blood had formed around his cells is starting to break down and allow the insulin to actually penetrate and start working more effectively.  On the other hand, they are hesitant to just start dropping the doses of insulin (which even they admit are really high) because they don't want to to deprive his body of the insulin if those doses are what he needs for a few more days.  With that said, they also cautioned us that his blood sugar could drop too quickly and he could experience a low.  So what to do?  Test his blood sugar extra times over night as we have been just to make sure he isn't going below a certain threshold, in our son's case, 100.  So we play this game of how much insulin our son actually needs during our process of returning his body back to a more normal state.  Nerve racking?  Umm, yes.  If our son does experience a low, which we were advised will probably happen within a few months, we need to be on top of it.  Side effects of a low are a possible seizure and unconsciousness.  In either case, we have the equivalent of an epi-pen, just super loaded with glucose instead to jump start his body.  I hope we never have to use it, but there is a distinct possibility we might.  We were told even last night to have supplies on hand should our son's blood sugar dip too low.  The emergency supplies we have consists not only of the epi-pen like device called glucagon, but also sugar tablets, juice boxes, and little packs of applesauce, all sources of carbs which can relatively quickly raise his blood sugar to a safe level if need be.  But, with all that said, his blood sugar stayed in the 200 range all last night and early this morning so for now, no lows for us.  And this afternoon's call with our son's blood sugar numbers will determine the amount of sleep I get tonight.  

Funny thing is, after a week of interrupted sleep, my body got used to the schedule rather quickly and I woke up more tired after a full night's sleep Monday night than I did this morning after a night of interrupted sleep.  Go figure.  However, all's well that ends well I suppose, its just a matter of getting through everything in between.  Outside of my lack of sleep and our little game of insulin roulette, I must say that with diabetes now diagnosed in our son and management of it taking effect, it is like we have a whole new child on our hands, which makes me wonder exactly how long he had been dealing with a lack of insulin in his body.  I wonder if it was a slow onset where the insulin slowly got shut down or it just took a while for his body to react to a lack of insulin.  The reason I say this is because our son now is much more cooperative around the house.  While he doens't listen all the time as no child does, he helps out more, is more cognizant of what he is doing in general, and can focus a little better than previously.  I don't know how this is all happening, but I will take a slightly more cooperative child and one that will actually talk to you when things happen between him and his sister and discuss the incident and the remedy that needs to take place.  Which brings me to his sister.  

She being two years younger has suffered no ill effects of our son being the complete center of attention for a week.  She did yearn to have her whole family home with her by the end of it all, but by now, that is all in the past and she is fully on board with diabetes and everything it entails.  The two of them run around the house with Rufus the diabetic teddy bear (he even has spots felt spots for injections and a fake needle for them to play with) testing his blood sugar and giving him doses of insulin.  She is luckily a resilient, head strong, stubborn, beautiful, and independent little girl who adapts quickly and gets along really well with her brother.  Watching the two of the play makes it seem as if last week never happened.  The routine we are slipping into with blood sugar testing and insulin injections is accepted by all the in the house and has proved to not be a deterrent for anything right now.  I think the biggest reason things returned so quickly to normal is that our son, once home, did not get extra special treatment.  He returned to being one of two children in the house with rules that needed following.  With his sister seeing this, I think it helped to ensure that neither felt slighted and that both felt like they were loved just as before.  To be honest, our son does receive slightly more attention only because we need to test his blood sugar and give him injections, but outside of that, the house rules remain as they were.  Well, I guess today will be another caffeine fueled day, the best discovery known to man in my mind, and I will play my own little game of sleep roulette; will my sleep be consistent or interrupted? 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Diabetes A Full Week In

It's been just over one full week since we found out our son has diabetes and what a whirlwind it has been.  It feels like we have had a month worth of activity crammed in to a quarter of the time.  Yesterday we went for our first follow up appointment since leaving the hospital.  We had one of the first appointments at 8 in the morning and I fully expected to be there for a while as with any doctor's office.  However, being one of the pediatric out-patient facilities for Yale, we were actually whisked in within about 5 minutes of arriving.  We had to go through all the routine vitals checks, and within a few minutes after that, we had the nurse and dietician come to talk to us.  When we first met them, I could feel a distinct uncertainty in their demeanor towards us, a hesitation as to what kind of parent and patient team we would be.  Would we be the one's freaking out that they would have to talk down off the ledge or would we be the one's who weren't taking it seriously and they would have to lecture us on the seriousness of the entire situation and the life changes that would have to be made.  To their surprise, which quickly became apparent, we were actually on top of everything.  I had taken pictures his chart of blood sugar readings and his carbohydrate loads through the recent days.  Everything was where it needed to be for just getting out of the hospital.  Even with the dietician, we were already well on our way to providing our son what he needed and rather than lectures or discourses, we had a good conversation about foods and how with our healthy eating we were already on track to providing our son the proper diet.  By the end, we had stopped talking about diabetes and the dietician and nurse were actually taking down the name of the farm that we get our cow and pig from because they like the idea of local, grass fed, humanely treated meat.  I almost laughed, but didn't.  By the time they were walking out, they were impressed with where our family was already at in terms of adjusting our lifestyle and said that if only the majority of other parents were more like us, their job would be a whole lot easier.  I guess we are doing something right!

Perhaps the best news of all came near the end.  I could stop testing our son's blood sugar overnight and could actually sleep through the night for the first time in over a week.  I was elated to say the least.  I am used to occasionally surviving on a only a few hours of sleep, but that is only one night at a time, not a whole week's worth of relatively sleepless nights.  After dealing with that little sleep for a week, it makes me realize that I could never be in the military and deal with even less sleep during training.  I would be that guy who would completely ignore authority, sneak out of formation, and go take a nap in dark corner some where.  Lucky for me, I knew those cards were never in my hand.  I thought that perhaps I would feel well rested after a full night's sleep last night, however, I underestimated the toll that sleeplessness took on me, and I think I woke up more tired than normal.  There is of course the fact that I caught a cold while in the hospital and my body was probably starting get used to the interrupted sleep rhythm.  My hope now is not to return to normal immediately, but maybe within a week I could start sleeping a little better and actually feel rested.  It also doesn't help that I am on my feet all day working, but alas, at least I don't have to deal with a lot of people like my wife does as a high school teacher.  

While the full night sleep on my part was the best news for me, there is good news on all fronts from yesterday.  Our son went back to school yesterday, a late start since we had the doctor's appointment, and despite the fact that he didn't want to, he made it through the whole day and actually let the school nurse take his blood sugar without having to talk to me.  The nurse did call to let me know he had done it all by himself and I couldn't be more proud of him.  He came a long way in just a week.  Less than 5 days ago, he would still fight the blood sugar testing on his finger whereas now whenever asked he walks over and hands us his finger for testing.  We are also making great strides with the insulin shots.  It took us using an ice pack to numb his arm, but with my wife in school last night, I was able to have our son sit on my lap, nervous but not struggling, and let me give him his two shots without a peep of complaint.  His arm was numb enough where he flinched before the needle went in and actually questioned whether I had given him the shot or not.  These are big strides we are making here and the stress it takes off my wife and I is immense.  The worst thing was holding him down to administer shots while he was literally kicking and screaming.  The three of us would have tear filled eyes and have to go sobbing our separate ways to recover.  Last good piece of news, his blood sugar is starting to normalize and last night we actually had two readings in a row that were between 140 and 150.  We are getting there, one day at a time.  

Monday, March 27, 2017

Seeking Normalcy

Nothing will be normal as we were used to for the first 5 and a half years of our sons life.  While he will return to acting normal as he mostly has already, there is a new normalcy that we will all have to live now.  That new normal includes daily blood sugar testing and daily insulin doses.  The blood sugar testing, the activity we revisit most often on a daily basis, has become routine and hassle free. All we have to do is let him know its time and he comes over, offers up a finger of his choice, and we are done in less than 10 seconds.  The other part, twice daily insulin doses, has been a struggle.  Up until yesterday night, my wife and I have had to resort to holding our struggling, screaming son tight while we do our best to inject him as painlessly as possible.  I know our son can do this as there were a few times in the hospital where he didn't struggle and didn't complain about it at all.  However, at home, its been a 20 minute ordeal every time complete with delay tactics on his part and tears of pain and anguish on ours.  Pain and anguish from the fact that we actually have to restrain our son while he emits blood curdling screams in an attempt to not get the insulin.  There are no other alternatives yet.  If he doesn't get his insulin, he has to go back to the hospital.  Yet, last night, for the first time, we came up with a new trick that actually worked and prevented us from holding him as tight and for his part, was painless.  The trick?  It wasn't buzzy the bee, a little vibrating device that is held on his arm to distract him from the prick of the needle.  Rather, it was holding an ice pack on his arm to numb the spot where the needle would go in.  Much to his surprise, he felt nothing.  Before he knew it, we were done and he actually questioned whether or not we had injected him.  So for now, at least, we have a solution.  But that is merely the tip of the iceberg in what will have to change for him, but as have to constantly tell both ourselves and him, we have to take everything one day at a time.  

Our new normal in terms of lifestyle will take a bit of getting used to, but it won't be that hard in a month or two.  He has actually been great with it and with it only being a week so far, we are well on our way to establishing a new routine.  The new normalcy we are still seeking in terms of our son, however, is a return to a stable, safe, blood sugar level.  Over the past week, there has only been two instances where his blood sugar dipped down below 200, edging closer to the range of 70-160 that he will eventually reside in, hopefully without incident, for the good remainder of his life.  Currently, we are excited when we can keep his blood sugar between 300-400.  For those of you with any knowledge of blood sugar, that is an extremely high number for almost anybody.  Yet, that is that average for our son at this point, a game of Russian roulette we are playing with the doctors and his insulin doses.  What is the magic potion that will get his blood sugar down and keep it down accompanied by a given amount of carbs dispersed throughout the day.  For now, it is up and down.  A few dips into the 200 range, multiple spikes into the 500 and 600 range.  And yet, there is no cause for concern yet.  They are slowly going lower, and hopefully within another week, we will not have to see spikes above 300 anymore.  For us the bigger issues is the ketones in his blood.  When he went into the emergency room last Monday, he not only had high blood sugar, but he was also dealing with ketone acidosis (or something like that) where his blood was actually turning acidic in its effort to rid his small body of all the extra blood sugar.  That is the main area where he could run into trouble right now.  The high blood sugars are not a big deal as we are giving him the insulin to help break them down.  Luckily, his ketone levels have been low throughout the past week and we have no major cause for concern.  Lets hope it stays that way.  We are seeking that new, low (but not too low) normal blood sugar level accompanied by an absence, or at least as close to an absence as we can possibly reach with his ketone levels.  Now to dispel some myths.

I could probably write a whole new post about this, but I figure I will just address it now.  My wife and I have both been the recipients of questions on how our son could be diabetic when we look so thin and healthy.  Well, our son has Type 1 diabetes, the one that about 4% of the population is born with, that relatively little is known about, and does not "turn on" based on diet or lifestyle.  In our son's case, they suspect it was the flu that he had about a month prior that actually kicked the diabetes into high gear.  They think that as his immune system was attacking the virus, it also began attacking what it saw as a discrepancy either in his pancreas or region close by that caused his body to stop making insulin.  It is not like Type II diabetes that is completely dependent on lifestyle and is preventable if a person has the will to do so.  With Type 1 diabetes, he actually needs to eat a certain amount of carbs to provide his body with the proper type of energy, it just can't be too much or too little.  That is where we need to be more cognizant.  However, over the past few days, we have figured out that what he has been eating on a daily basis for almost his whole life, gets him within the range he needs to be.  So our healthy eating will actually make things easier for all of us.  There isn't too much we have to cut out yet, we just have to make sure he doesn't get too many carbs throughout the day, which so far, is relatively easy.  So there is the myth dispelled.  There was no way of preventing this, and no way of knowing that he would actually get it.  We just have to live with it now.  Our exhaustion as parents will subside (maybe more for me than for my wife), but it will subside.  The biggest thing we will have to be on the lookout for is when his blood sugar dips too low.  Luckily, we don't have to worry about that right now as we are still trying to get his blood sugar down.  One day at a time.  

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Drained but Persisting

Let me be perfectly honest, life ain't easy. Yet, I don't feel like I should be complaining about it.  Every time I think I have a right to complain or bitch about something, I think of all the people out there who have it much worse than I do.  People who are struggling to put food on the table, people who don't have family to support them, people who are the victims of violence and hatred, people who are dealt setback after setback and still get up.  I just have different struggles right now, which at times seem enormous and insurmountable, but deep inside I know everything will be ok.  It's interesting how a lack of sleep and emotional fortitude can chip away at the foundation of who you are, seeking to undermine your very stability.  I feel that way at times right now.  Every time I fell sound asleep last night I was woken up by my alarm to go test my son's blood sugar.  I would have it no other way, but damn, this shit ain't easy.  That lack of sleep also has a tendency to erode confidence and persistence, the very thing I need right now.  However, I keep on going back to what we are telling our son in his struggle to understand his new condition and the life change it means for him.  At 5 years old, he is asking if this is forever, will he need his shots forever, he doesn't want them anymore, he doesn't want to go back to school.  There is also a flip side to him which is his return to his normal, jovial, comedic self which pulls up those around him.  In those hard times with the questions and looming shots of insulin, we tell him we are taking it one day at a time, one shot at a time and that the past and future don't matter.  The only thing that matters is the present and getting through the moment right now without worrying about the next time.  I think back to almost a month ago now when I buried my Baba with my family and the eulogy I gave which exhorted the idea of living in the present, not dwelling in the past or the future which does not exist except within our minds.  I have to keep on telling myself that right now because the moment I forget about the present, the demons of insecurity come flooding back.  And here I thought I was partially immune to that.  Guess not.  This is not just a curveball for our son, but for our family, and while I know we will get through it, it will take some time to get adjusted to the newness of it, the stark reality of counting every single carb that our son ingests, and ensuring that a strict schedule is kept so that he remains healthy.  And yet, not all is dismal and depressing, for depressed I am not, just tired and cranky.  I am grateful for so many things and for situations that allow me to be present for my family.  Luckily, I work for myself and can adjust my schedule as need be.  That alone isn't easy and if I worked for someone else or a large corporation I feel might bring even more stress upon me.  I do, however, feel bad for my customers who have to, in part, deal with my situation as I can't devote a full normal workday to their project.  That being said, my customers are generally understanding and flexible.  Me being me, I want to do what's right for everyone and find that there is less and less time to do all the things I need to do.  Balance will come, its just elusive right now.  I am also grateful for my family who has been supportive of us and been there to help as we need right now.  So for all the struggles there currently are, there are positives around every corner.  With a tired body and mind, those positives just aren't always perfectly clear and present, sometimes elusive and shadowy.  Life goes on, today is Saturday and this shall be my focus.  

Friday, March 24, 2017

Exhaustion Ensues

It has only been four full days since we brought our son to the hospital where he was diagnosed with diabetes.  It's only been four full days since we were thrown a slow curve-ball and now have to reconfigure out hitting posture.  And yet, it feels like four full weeks already.  I think I speak for every parent who has a child recently diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder, cancer, or some other life altering condition when I say that there is so much more that comes with the diagnosis than originally thought.  I will say again that I feel blessed it is only diabetes and not something more life threatening and debilitating.  Yet, this is the beginning of a new journey for my family and I, and so far, it has been exhausting.  I have had minimal time with my wife as she took the days to spend with our son in the hospital and I took nights.  Yet, every time we do actually get to talk, we make sure we utilize that time to its fullest and try and get at least a small amount of personal time with each other.  Those nights, though, I tell you, were hard, and now, are getting harder.  What started with 3 nights on a "not so luxurious" hospital couch/bed, has morphed into largely sleep deprived nights.  From the get go, our son wanted me to be the one to test his blood sugar through the night instead of a strange nurse.  So I obliged.  Every three hours; 9, 12, and 3 AM I have been up to test his blood sugar.  And for the foreseeable future until we figure out exactly what his little body needs, I will be getting up at those times and testing him.  So while I got to sleep in our comfortable bed last night, the sleep that I did get was constantly interrupted.  While I would like to have it another way, I would trade it with no one just to be able to help our son out.  If this is what he needs from me, then this is what I will do.  I may just be overly empty of energy and emotional capability right now, but that is exactly why God made coffee, for those parents on sleepless nights who need to be there for their child no matter what.

The interrupted sleep isn't the worst part right now, though.  It just makes the rest of the job harder.  The worst part, which I pray will get easier sooner rather than later are the insulin shots that our son needs to receive twice a day; before breakfast and before dinner.  He has fought every single one (unless he has been sleeping), and while he admits they barely hurt at all, every time has brought delay tactics on his part and except for a few times, a spirited fight to the point where we need to hold  him down in order to administer the shots.   The blood curdling scream that comes out of him cuts through every fiber of my body like nails through a helium balloon, deflating my spirit and making me wish I could take his place.  But I can't.  Every single time, after the shots are over, I hold him tight and make sure he knows I hate to do this.  So far, he has bounced right back after the shots and returns back to normal, but despite the calm I strive to bring over myself before each encounter with the needles, it hasn't yet helped.  Despite the long conversations we have with him about why we need to do this and why this is now a part of his life, his 5 year old brain can't quite grasp the seriousness of it.  Understanding and acceptance I know will come, but it sure isn't easy right now.  At least he is getting good at letting us test his blood sugar most of the time.  And the shots won't have to be forever we tell him as they now have insulin pumps that can be used instead of the needles.  But for now, and until we get this down and he becomes accepting of it and grows a bit older, the needles are the only way.  

And then there is is boisterous sister.  The dynamics of having all of us back in the house yesterday after 3 days of mayhem were a struggle.  Our daughter has no concept of why this is all happening right now and merely wants the attention of her mommy and daddy.  I have no problem splitting my attention between the two of them, but at least right now, their desire to be the only recipient of our attention is a struggle.  This to, will get better, especially now that we are all home and inching back to a more normal life.  However, things will inevitably be different.  How can they not?  It is just now a matter of paying even closer attention to the needs of both of them and ensuring that our daughter feels she is not being pushed aside.  So far so good, and we plan on making it stay that way.  I think I have used up my limited amount of brain power this morning as words and thoughts are beginning to elude me, to sink back to the nether reaches of my consciousness.  A gentle fog is inching its way in, pushing me back towards sleep, but at this point, coffee is what will get me through.  It may not get rid of the fog today, but at least it can eat away at the edges and perhaps create the illusion in my mind of being fully awake and functioning.  We shall see, we shall see. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Heading into Day 4

This week has felt like one of the longest weeks ever. The sun is just rising on a crisp, clear, Thursday morning and it feels more like next Thursday already. It's been a whirlwind of a week and sanity is beginning to elude me.  For three nights in a row, sleep has been either elusive or intermittently interrupted to take blood sugars readings from my son, the occasional overnight insulin injection, or simply not being able to sleep due to a wildly thrown off schedule and largely inadequate sleep arrangements.  But, as I have held in front of me all week and continue to hold onto as a bastion of hope is that things could always be worse.  I could be here with my dying son instead of my son who we now need to work with to ensure a vibrant, mostly normal life.  I could also be in this situation with my son at a younger age, unable to understand the full ramifications of all that is going on around him and in him.  And yet, even at 5 years old, the complete understanding has not yet taken hold and I'm sure it will take a while for it to fully sink in.  But I start as the week is almost at an end and we are the verge of going home today and beginning the process of learning from home.  

It started over a week ago with the symptoms that my son exhibited.  There was a slow decrease in energy, an excessive intake of water to the tune of 20 ounces an hour accompanied by frequent trips to use the bathroom, and leg pain.  It all came to a head a week ago when my wife called the doctor and asked what we should do.  Upon hearing the symptoms, our doctor said we needed to get blood work done first thing Friday morning.  Our doctor didn't get the results back until early Monday morning at which point she called my wife at work and told her she needed to pull our son from school and get him the ER immediately.  As it would turn out over the course of that Monday, 4 days which feels more like 4 weeks at this point, our son has Type I diabetes.  Believe it or not, it was a relief to hear that.  It is a manageable condition, albeit a lifelong one, but much better than the alternative outcomes of the symptoms he was exhibiting.  Those much more disastrous alternatives ranged from bone cancer to leukemia to anemia.  I will take Type 1 Diabetes over any of those, any day.   That is the primary reason I have been able to hold such a positive outlook through all of this.  This is merely a gently, slow curve ball that life has thrown our way.  Even better is the fact that our currently lifestyle already consists of healthy eating, very little sugar, and a desire to do what's best for our family.  

Yet, for the foreseeable future, I will be sleep deprived.  Our son's blood sugar, while getting more normal is still all over the place and I will need to be up every three hours over night for the next week and a half to figure out his system and what we will need to do.  Luckily for me, I can fall asleep within minutes most of the time and functioning at work necessitates only holding a brush and taping knife, and not much interaction with people.  So luckily, I can let my brain merely cope with getting me through the day and not focus on having high level conversations with people.  I'm sure I will have more to write, and there is plenty more that I want to say, but my son just woke up in his hospital bed and its on to another day.  We are all well, though, breathing and getting back to normal, and are looking forward to heading home today.  

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Oral History

Something happens when family gathers together.  It is something that is magical and draws family closer together, uniting them in a shared bond.  It is the act of telling stories, of remembering events that have transpired and sharing them with each other.  These stories act both as a glue to re-enforce family bonds and as a reminder to how we all made it to where we are today.  The unique stories that happen to each individual are compounded by the other stories shared by other family members.  We all have a unique set of stories that are sacred to us and involve certain members of our extended family, but once the stories start to coalesce, they begin to create a deeper oral history that ties together all the tangential experiences that we have had separately.  To me, the most powerful time that I have experienced oral history being created is at the funeral of a loved one.  During that time, we begin by coming together to remember the life of a loved one that as passed.  The stories begin about that person, how they shaped our own individual lives, and we begin to realize what an integral part they played in a family reaching the point it is at today.  In almost every scenario, once a family members stories a taken separately and shared together, we begin to see the common thread that unites us all.  But it doesn't end there.  There is a natural progression that happens as those stories are told, we begin to move from the past to the present and we begin to share more in depth with each other the events that are currently shaping our own lives.  We begin to share the intimate details of our children, our loved ones, our careers, and our homes.  And when those stories come forth, they as well harken back to the threads that were cemented in the past by our deceased loved one.  

As those who are reading this are probably aware, I just went through a funeral and small family gathering this past weekend as we buried my Baba, my grandmother.  There was one story in particular that was shared over the weekend by my cousin that sort of struck all of us.  It is a story that you might hear in a novel or war movie, but it is one that happened to my family years ago during World War II.  My Baba and my aunt were living in Austria at the time, waiting in a long line to buy bread at a store.  While in that line, my aunt, a child of 3 or 4, saw a doll in the window across the street from where they were standing in line.  She began pestering my grandmother about that doll saying she really needed it.  Baba attempted to put the issue to rest, trying ever different angle to either make her forget about the doll or convince her that they couldn't by it because they really needed to get the bread instead.  Both my aunt and Baba being stubborn and bullheaded, neither relented about their separate issue; bread or doll, bread or doll.  After what I can imagine was probably about ten minutes, my aunt pestered Baba enough that she relented, got out of the line that they had been standing in for a long time, and took her across the street to get the doll.  This was no small admittance on my Baba's part.  It would mean getting in the back of the line and waiting even longer to get the bread they had been waiting for.  As they were in the store buying the doll, a bomb was dropped, it landed across the street from them where they had been standing in line, and left a crater in the ground.  If it hadn't been for that doll perched just right in a shop window, I would not be here today, my parents wouldn't be here, my cousin and his family wouldn't be here.  To put it simply, our family line would have ended back in the 1940's in war torn Austria.  It struck home for me as to how lucky I am that may aunt was as stubborn and unrelenting as she was.  

While not every family history has this type of story in it, every family has stories that illustrate how their own families got to where they are today.  Every family history is peppered with little idiosyncrasies, stories of a decision made at a fork in the road, of a loved one who survived an ordeal and persevered in the face of adversity.  The act of storytelling is an act of remembering and I feel it is vitally important to cement in our minds our own unique history so that we can share it with future generations.  As I was standing with my cousin on the sidewalk outside the church after funeral, we were talking about how lucky we are that Baba kept on getting up when life knocked her down and provided us with the opportunity to live such excellent lives in the United States.  She moved from the Ukraine to Austria to Chile to the States, each move fraught with unknowns.  Yet she did it.  Then we were joking about our lives and the impact we had on our future generations.  What "great" decisions did we make in our own lives that would shape our children and our grandchildren's lives.  The fact is, we will probably never know.  And our children and grandchildren will never know unless we share with them our own stories, the little nuances of our lives, the decisions we made.  It will be up to them to piece together their own narrative history of how they got to where they are.  But one thing is for sure, every decision we make now will have a lasting impact in one way or another on future generations.  We don't know what impact it will be, but we must remember and more importantly remember to share. 

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Eulogy for Baba

Life is a study of opposites and human yearning to find a balance between them, to find that solid middle road and never fall off of it.  Yet that road is slippery, too narrow, too hard to navigate without  God’s love  to show us the way.  From the joys of holding a newborn baby or dancing your heart out till the last note fades away at a family wedding, to the sadness of whispering “I love you” one last time into your dying grandmother’s ear, we have all experienced, in one way or another, the polar opposites that life hands us and asks us to make sense of, to live in, and to take away something from each experience upon which we can build a better life for us and those around us.  In many instances, especially those in which life turns on a dime, we need the help of God.  Baba was no stranger to God.  She held him close throughout her life, and while she wasn’t perfect, as none of us are, she used her faith as the bedrock upon which to continue living through every hardship she encountered.  So who was Baba?

Baba was a woman who was born half a world away in a time without TV’s or cars under the auspices of a controlling communist government.  She was no stranger to hardship.  At the age of 24, with her parents and a 2 year old daughter, my aunt, she fled her childhood home to escape the oppression that World War 2 would come to embody.  She was a refugee, a single mom whose first husband (according to her) was blown up on a train.  She settled in Austria and lived there for about 6 years before leaving again in search of a better life, this time, as an immigrant.  She traveled with her family to Chile where she settled in Santiago, set up a business as a seamstress and embroiderer, met my grandfather, and gave birth to my mom.  Life went on, settling into a rhythm that no one hoped would be disrupted.  But that was not to be.  In 1964, a socialist government was on the verge of  taking over and having witnessed first hand the hardships that were imposed upon them under a similar government, she once again packed up and left with her now larger family.  However, she left her parents behind.  She settled with her family in Bridgeport, Connecticut hoping this would be her last drastic move.  Yet tragedy, for whatever reason, continued to follow her and my grandfather died suddenly less than a decade  later.  She persisted, never giving in or giving up.  Did she struggle?  Absolutely.  Who wouldn’t struggle having been through what she did.  Yet her trials were not over.  In the late 1980’s, she met another wonderful man, married, and moved to North Carolina.   A few years later, he came down with cancer and also died.  She survived three husbands and that was enough for her.  She then moved to Florida where she bounced around a bit.  She hoped that tragedy had moved on from her.  Once again, this was not to be.  Ten years ago, her first daughter Dina, my aunt, passed away.

This was Baba’s life of hardships.  I see no reason why she should have made it through so much without one thing driving her on, her faith in God.  How she cultivated that faith in a country that prohibited religion, I can not fathom.  I can only surmise that it started when she was a young girl in her family’s garden.  Throughout all the hardships she endured, there were certain things she persistently retreated to when life played hardball, her love of family and dancing, her flowers, and her opera.  She saw God’s perfection in the flowers of her family’s garden that bloomed year after year and her love of opera managed to sustain her.  Both the flowers and the opera allowed her to be in the present, to live in the moment, and not worry about the past or the future.  In essence, it allowed to her to be still and to be loved.  It gave her respite in the storm of her life, respite from worry for her family, and it gave her the strength she needed to get up every time life knocked her down and carry on.  This doesn’t mean she was perfect by any means, her heart had been hurt many times over, probably many more times than most of us will ever have to endure, but she carried on.  Because of the many pains and hardships she endured, she developed thorns around her heart, thorns that she viewed as a protective shield to try and prevent her from being hurt even more.  Because of these thorns around her heart, she frequently became a thorn in the side of many people,  needling and pricking many whom she encountered, including the young police officer in Florida whom she chastised for pulling her over one time.  (By the end of that encounter, he ended up letting her go with a warning.) Yet, for all the thorns she grew, it wasn’t due to a lack of love, rather, it was only an  effort on her part to protect against more pain and suffering; an effort to protect her own heart.  She loved her family through her brokenness to the fullest extent that she could.  One has to merely look at the many pictures of her to  see the joy and love emanating from her gentle face.

But Baba, like life itself, was a study in opposites.  For every jab of a thorn she made, whether family member, friend, or stranger; there was a rose petal held delicately behind it, yearning to be noticed, to be loved, to be caressed by a gentle hand.  She was that last flower on the rose bush when all the others had faded and fallen, nestled in the middle, surrounded by a protective shield of thorns that very few people could reach; but almost all, if they spent the time sitting and watching, could tease out the beautiful contours of every petal undulating out from a perfect center.  Many of those she knew yearned to reach that inner sanctum, to hold that flower, learn its intricacies, and be able to love it more.  But for most of us, we could only watch the flower and receive its love, unable to love fully in return.  The love that she gave comforted many a family member and friend.  Her laughter at the joys of life and the smile that grew from the depths of her soul spread to those around her.  I firmly believe that without her faith in God, a faith sustained through God’s touch in nature, and the music which created a harmony on the strings of her soul, we would not have been able to witness such a beautiful woman persist in life, get up continuously, and carry on.  She taught many through her actions how to find peace in life and to live in the present.  To see the smile that erupted on her face when a child was in her presence was to see the love of God shining through her.  To watch her tend her garden was to see a woman at peace.  Those are the lessons she shared with those around her, to those who sat and watched the beautiful rose that she was.  And while we shed tears now over losing a loved one, I think we can all find comfort in the fact that the thorns she grew around her are now being removed by God, one by one, allowing her undying love to continue its presence within us.

If Baba could teach us one last thing, I think it would be this; to take time every day to stop and smell the flowers.  Let us not mourn too long for Baba for her hardships are now over and God is tending the garden of her soul.  Instead, let us carry with us her spirit and love of life.  She wanted those around her to be perfect and while none of us ever will be, if we allow God’s love to work through us, we may just be able to inch our way a little closer, allowing ourselves to love those around us more deeply, to fill in those gaps that Baba never could.  Let us learn from Baba and not put thorns around our own hearts, but instead allow God to start removing them now.  Let us dance to the music of life as Baba danced and reveled in the music she loved.  Let us tend to our gardens, and let the flowers of life fill our every vacancy.  Let us not take one moment for granted and live every moment in the present.  I think Baba would want this for all of us, or as she was more apt to say, “This is what you should do, now go and do it.”