Thank you, Diabetes

Dear Diabetes,

I am sure you get tons of hate mail, and as someone well acquainted with you, I think such correspondence is warranted. I do not know anyone who is happy to live with you, and the knowledge of your long-term effects makes me weepy every time I take my son to an appointment to learn how to deal with you. But I am practicing gratitude, so in that spirit, today, the second anniversary of my son’s diagnosis, I write you a letter of appreciation.

You became a part of my life before my story even began when you plagued my father on April 1, 1965. What a sense of humor you have!

You proved no one is immune to you by picking on someone with no family history when you made my dad a type 1 diabetic, a man whose life was already complicated enough given that his family had no money, and his dad was an alcoholic.

What a blessing in disguise you were, though, because you enabled him to escape a life of poverty. The hospital stays and doctors’ visits made my dad interested in the medical field, and living with you qualified him for a college scholarship that paid for an education to pursue that career interest. And I know people don’t consciously choose alcoholism, but you make drinking alcohol so hard and dangerous that you kept my father from that addiction. Thank you.

You wreak so much havoc on a body that my dad didn’t think he could physically handle the grueling schedule of an MD, so he became a dentist. Thank you for steering him to a profession with more family-friendly hours. He took advantage of that by participating in as many of my sister’s and my activities as he could. Those years of insulin injections made him particularly good at giving Novacain shots, so I also thank you on behalf of his patients.

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My dad loved dentistry and often commented that he would work until he died. We were worried whether you would allow that to happen, though, given how, over time, you attack people’s eyesight and limbs. Let’s be clear: I will never be okay that my dad didn’t see 60. But I thank you for sparing him a slow decline and for taking him suddenly in his sleep.

This sudden death ignited a passion in me to raise awareness about you. All along, I was an activist waiting for a cause, so I thank you for recruiting me. My dad’s death rekindled my love of athletics as I prepared to participate in the American Diabetes Association’s Tour de Cure and, later, run marathons for diabetes fundraising. His death made me start a scholarship fund to benefit other kids who live with you.

We do have a score to settle, though. See, you made it more personal when you added my Owen to that list of other kids who live with you. That wasn’t fair. In fact, after taking my father, it was downright dirty.

But don’t think you have shaken my grateful spirit; if anything, you’ve strengthened it.

I had two healthy babies after two uncomplicated, full-term pregnancies. Aside from consistent ear infections that antibiotics quickly nixed, they had no health woes. Meanwhile, friends around me were dealing with their kids’ colic, reflux, and asthma. I sympathized and admired them, believing I could not handle being the mom of a sick child, especially since I am the only one in my family who missed the medical gene.

Thank you for proving me wrong. Sure, the first couple tiIMG_20131210_130108_253mes I gave Owen an injection, I had to sit on the floor because I thought I would pass out, but I did it. Along with my husband’s help, I have seamlessly incorporated you into our daily life with the ease I used to marvel at in my friends. Mustering through the occasional sleepless nights when dealing with low blood sugars, fighting insurance companies for the supplies and coverage we need, giving care instructions to others who will be with Owen when we cannot – and then trusting them to do as we directed – shows me I am stronger than I gave myself credit for. Thank you.

Thank you for confirming my faith in my intuition. Those frequent ear infections? I distinguished those from other minor ailments every time, as I did the bouts of strep throat. And I recognized Owen’s symptoms as diabetes. I am not happy I was right, but thank you for building my confidence in my mother’s intuition.

You also reconfirmed my faith in humanity. Owen’s diagnosis with you brought out the best in people. My coworkers, family, and friends rallied to support us with diabetic cookbooks, gift cards to restaurants that publish their carb counts, and advice on medical professionals. Various extended family members attended a camp about you to learn how to care for Owen. Last year, to acknowledge Owen’s one-year “diaversary,” people carved time out of their crazy December calendars to play games at a diabetes-themed party we hosted. Thank you for giving us a reason to pause and gather.

Your meddling with my family has proven helpful in my job, too. As a teacher and school administrator, I work with parents regularly. Children with chronic medical issues bring unique needs to school, and I see their parents breathe a sigh of relief when I can honestly tell them that I understand. I related to the mom of the diabetic student who was failing his classes, and I shared her wrath when some of his teachers did not believe that you are a legitimate disease with invisible consequences like depression and poor concentration. Thank you for making me more compassionate. Thank you for making me better at what I do.

Speaking of teaching, thank you for empowering me to educate people about you. I can’t afford to have someone tell my son he brought you on himself, that he will outgrow you, that he can’t eat certain food, that insulin is optional, or that high or low blood sugars aren’t that big of a deal. I also need them to know that he does not get a vacation from you. He thinks about you every day, all day long, and the fact that most don’t have that worry is a privilege they take for granted (myself included). Thank you for the opportunity to inform.

Thank you for showing me how kindhearted and connected my daughter is to her brother. When Avery found out Owen has you, she threw up, literally sick with conce1410140440rn for him. You are Owen’s Achilles Heel, and he takes great pains to keep you private. Kids can be mean. Avery knows this, and she has his back when they are in social situations together. Throughout all their sibling bickering, not once has she ever used you as a cheap shot against Owen. Thank you for letting me see what a caring young lady she is.

I don’t want to speak for Owen because I think it is disingenuous for me to thank you for the gifts you’ve given him, especially when I am not sure what those are just two years in. Will you influence him to pursue medicine like his grandfather? Will he hate you so much that you drive him to discover a cure? Maybe one day he will write you his own thank you letter.

But I hope you’re not around to receive it.

With gratitude,

Kirstin

 

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Letting Go of What No Longer Serves Me: The Closet Reckoning, Part 1

Few experiences make you realize you have way more than you need than packing up a house you’ve lived in for 12 years. I don’t remember the final box count, but it was much higher than it should have been, and that was with multiple donations to the Vietnam Veterans that were large enough to make neighbors think we were having a yard sale.

I knew we were boxing up items that should have been trashed or donated, but when you have two full-time working parents and kids with evening and weekend activities, you don’t have much time to assess each item’s worthiness of a spot on the moving van. We moved rather quickly from, “Should we keep this? Will we need it in the new house?” to “Just throw it in the frigging box and we’ll deal with it later!”

As much as it drains you, moving rejuvenates you as you get to start fresh. It was in this spirit that I read Marie Kondo’s The Lift-51H8x07Fd7L._SX351_BO1,204,203,200_
Changing Art of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing
, a book I fortuitously saw on a friend’s facebook page as I was making arrangements to fly to our new house and meet the movers to start unpacking. 

Kondo’s book echoes my life mantra: Let go of anything that no longer serves you. I highly recommend this book because it is a quick, easy read that will give you the shot in the arm you need if you’re at all curious about where to start reducing and why it’s important. Much of what she writes was not new to me, but the way she presents it inspired me to take stock of my stuff, and the order and method she suggests for doing so was helpful.

First: tackle your clothes. I use this verb on purpose because – I’m not gonna lie – I approached this process like a dirty barroom brawl – hardly the peaceful, zen-like activity Kondo proposes, but viewing my clothes as my opponent worked for my competitive spirit. If there could only be one winner, it sure as hell wasn’t gonna be a pair of corduroy pants or – GASP – my much-loved Tieks collection.

It was going to be me. I would own my stuff.

Each item would need to convince me of its rightful place on a hanger in my closet. And I would not fall for that, “Oh, but your father gave me to you as a Christmas gift in 2007 – don’t you remember?” crap.

Nope.

There was no room for sentimentality in my dresser drawers any more, nor did I have space for items that fit my former self (even if that former self was 10 pounds lighter and a size smaller, and even if I hope that former self’s physique decides to visit again soon…ANY DAY now would be fine, really).

Because you know what wasn’t serving me any more? A closet and drawers overflowing with clothes and the feeling that I had nothing to wear. The feeling I got when a pile of pants taunted me because I cannot comfortably wear them. Wearing the same go-to outfits over and over again because they took the guesswork out of getting ready in the morning (does it fit? does it match?). Clothes I had treated like a security blanket and kept for far too long simply because I’d had them for so long.

None of that was serving me, so I had to let it go.

So, I knew I was going to do this closet clean-out crusade, and I knew I was going to win, but Marie Kondo’s book wasn’t quite enough to galvanize me. I turned to Google and Pinterest and read more about the idea of a “capsule wardrobe” – a collection of clothing staples you wear for a season. I stumbled upon Project 333, which piqued my interest because of my family’s penchant for the number “33” (a longer story than I have the word count for right now).

Project 333 takes the idea of a capsule wardrobe and breaks it into steps, and the end result is 33 items that you will wear for a three-month season. I bought a mini-course from Project 333, which gave me resources, pep talks, and handouts, which I supplemented with a free wardrobe planner from Unfancy’s blog.

I tell you all this so that you can replicate my planning process if you wish to take on this task. Stay tuned for how it turned out.

(Spoiler alert: I do, in fact, win.)

 

 

 

Five-Minute Friday: Season

At the moment, the word “season” does not invoke thoughts of Christmas or fall or winter or scenery. It invokes stress over clothing.

I started my adulthood – and first “big girl” job – in southern California, where there really isn’t such a thing as 4 seasons. I am going to blame my general inability to dress myself on this time in California. I did not learn to differentiate between what was “fall wear” versus “winter wear” and the idea that it was a fashion no-no to wear strappy sandals after a certain calendar date – or – gasp – the color white – just didn’t catch on for me.

Currently, I am trying to embrace a more minimalist lifestyle, and one of the concepts within this umbrella is that of the “capsule wardrobe.” The idea is simple: you will dress “better” (I think that means more coordinated and look more “put together”) with fewer items that can all mix and match, thus eliminating not knowing what to wear because your closet is overflowing with pieces you bought but have never worn, the presence of which is giving you choice paralysis. Some proponents of this concept say you need only 33 items in your closet (exclusive of certain things such as pajamas, underwear, loungewear, etc.). This idea appeals to me because I know I have more than I need since I only wear a fr20151129_151357action of what I own.

Last week I started with taking everything out of my closet and my drawers and sorting them into three piles: Love, Like, and Lose. I have made progress, but not nearly enough to truly say I have a capsule wardrobe. This weekend’s task, though, is to finish the job and create my “winter capsule” for December 6 – March 6. Wish me luck.