I want a meter, just like my glucose meter, only one that checks for gumption. Yes, gumption: if you don't know or don't like the word, you can use "pluck" or even "courage". But "pluck" in this sense is pretty passe, maybe even archaic. "Courage" is accurate, but seems to fit more in the context of military personnel, police, fire fighters, and junior high school teachers.
"Gumption" is simply the ability to face up to what one has to do in everyday life. And tonight, my levels are pretty low.
My gumption meter would look a lot like my glucose meter, and would work pretty much the same way. If the target range was the same for my blood glucose, a check tonight might read "43 mg/ml. Check for depression." Then, I might go to my bathroom to take a second test to get a reading as to where a more fundamental reading of my current mood stood.
Tonight, I think I'm basically okay. I'm in a situation that has me outside of my comfort zone, trying to fix a situation that I brought on myself, and needing to call on good friends (bless 'em!) to help me out of it. I've been unable to sleep on a regular schedule for a few weeks: that doesn't help. Anxiety, stress, guilt, fatigue: a perfect scenario for low gumption.
For tonight, I'm going to go care for my neighbor's pooch, and try to go to bed. Tomorrow, the plan to get me out of my situation moves into action: mostly what I need is a little luck, and I'll be past it by the end of the week. My friends are gracious and genuinely willing to help.
A little sleep, a little friendship, a little resolution. I think my gumption meter will be showing target readings really soon.
Cooking with fresh chile peppers is an easy way to add heat - but not necessarily too much heat - to your food. I'm a long, LONG way from an expert on this, but maybe what I do know can help you get started.
I was scared off of using chiles for a long time, because chiles to me meant jalapenos, and I don't like jalapenos. I eventually learned that different chiles carry different flavors as well as different heat levels, and that I just don't happen to care for jalapenos.
One other note: I am not a fan of really spicy foods. I do not use hot sauces with names like "Instant Death". I use chiles in moderation. In short: respect the chile, but do not fear the chile.
Here are some tips from what I've learned:
* I AM NOT KIDDING: when using anything stronger than a bell pepper, WEAR GLOVES. If you don't, you will eventually get a little of the oil that makes a chile hot into your eye, and you will be VERY UNHAPPY. I have done this twice, because I am a moron.
* Generally speaking, the smaller the chile is, the hotter it is. The varieties usually available here, from mildest to hottest (and from largest to smallest) are poblanos, Anaheims (also, I think, called New Mexico), jalapenos, serranos, and habaneros. Habaneros dang well mean business. (You may find "Scotch bonnets" in your stores: I've seen different stories on whether or not these are the same as habaneros.) The stores here also often carry the skinny little dried peppers you may have seen in Chinese food: these also mean business.
* Speaking of dried peppers, although I'm mostly talking here about fresh varieties, it's useful to know that the dried form of a chile often has a different name. Thus, a chipotle is a dried, smoked jalapeno.
* Most of the heat in a chile is in the seeds and the light-colored membranes inside the pepper. Removing some or all of these gives you a lot of control over the heat of a final product.
* I've seen soups prepared on TV that included making a slit in a really hot variety, such as a habanero, and cooking it with the other ingredients, then removing it before serving. I've done this once, and it was good.
A couple of suggestions:
* Find a recipe on the Internet (or in a cookbook, if one of yours has it) for "New Mexican Green Chili". Cook and eat. You're welcome. You owe me one.
* If you ever do a small roast in a slow cooker as I do, chop up some poblano, Anaheim, or jalapeno into the cooking liquid. It will add a lovely (but controlled) spiciness to the meat, and you'll be able to do something interesting with the cooking liquid afterward.
* Try substituting some seeded, demembraned, and finely diced Anaheim into a tuna or chicken salad. A few experiments with this will start to teach you about the spice tolerance of you and the folks you cook for.
It's hardly a unique experience, and others have written about it. But it's the first time it's happened to me, so I'm gonna write about it.
When I cleared out my mailbox tonight, I saw the envelope and knew immediately what it was and what it meant.
The letter was from the AARP, formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons.
It was an invitation to join.
I'm officially old.
This does not traumatize me: the evidence has been mounting for some time. But I turned fifty a few weeks ago, and so my name popped up on some AARP computer, and the letter got sent.
I may well join. I think it's a good organization, and the magazine is pretty good.
Get off my lawn.
I'd like to raise a toast (Coke Zero, if you'd like to join me) to those people who have touched my life for just a little while, be it a few months or even just a few minutes. I'm not talking about romantic relationships, but they've been no less special for that.
Here's to seatmates on airplanes or buses with whom I've had conversations that I think about to this day. It won't surprise my friends to learn that I usually keep to myself, but have still had some splendid opportunities.
Please join me in thanking the people in the short-lived depression support group I attended, who showed me so much about life I'd never suspected.
I drink the health of the retired government official from Syria I found sitting on the front lawn of my apartment complex in my home town. My conversation with him, using scraps of three languages and some rough drawings, gave me hope for international understanding. I hope he, as he taught me to say, went in peace.
Further, I pay tribute to the two friends from a silly newsgroup who reached out to me in friendship after a family tragedy.
A further raise of my glass to the girl who played me a song on her guitar during a free period in high school. A precious gift from someone I hadn't otherwise really talked to, either before or since.
Here's to the Internet friends with whom a single conversation has created a precious sense of connection. There have been so many in the diabetes online community. I appreciate you, individually and as a group.
Yes, friendship can be eternal. But fleeting can be pretty good, too.
I find life to be full of paradoxes, big and small. One of the paradoxes I find in the search for personal change is that to get more of something you want, you often have to give up some of what you have of that thing.
I find it useful to think of financial investments as an analogy. For most of us, part of increasing our financial stability is finding ways to build some savings, even if just a little bit, to get us through a rough patch or to secure a more comfortable retirement. But, few of us make the kind of income that allows us to save money without any pain. So, if we can't increase our income, we have to make the choices that allow us to cut our spending.
Exercise is a lot like that. Most of us know that exercise is good for everybody, and it's especially good for diabetics. It's most especially good for those of us with Type 2 (and many type 1 folks as well) because it reduces insulin resistance, sometimes dramatically. When I'm exercising regularly, my fasting numbers improve, I don't seem to spike as high after a meal, AND I seem to recover from the spike more rapidly.
I've been off the regular exercise pattern for a few months now. I'd recently been making some headway, but was derailed by the heat wave we've had here: the highs have been above 95 just about every day for a couple of weeks, and more exercise has just been out of the question for me. Perhaps as a result of the non-exercise, I'm just not feeling as well as I could be.
So, here's the paradox: in order to feel better, I have to "invest" some of my dwindling energy store into some aerobic movement. I can't buy exercise in a store, and I can't borrow some from a friend - I have to make that investment myself. Bummer, huh?
I suspect that sleep works the same way. I often have trouble sleeping, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. So, I sleep late on Saturdays and Sundays. But, I've often read that one of the best ways to improve one's sleep is to have a regular sleep schedule - that DOESN'T include sleeping until 10 on weekends. To improve, I'm probably going to have to give up sleeping in, even though it feels desperately needed, as an investment in better sleep.
What investments do you need to make?
(I promise this will get to diabetes. I don't promise a short trip.)
I believe that ability in the arts - in most things, actually, but that's a broader subject - is composed of two major elements. The first is what is either inborn or perhaps gifted by the universe: talent, genius, soul, inspiration, whatever makes sense to you. The other is what I like to call "chops", borrowing a term some musicians use: the accumulated skills, experience, practice, and know-how that goes into producing the artistic work, whether that work is a dance, a sonnet, a song, a painting, or any other creative work.
The full role of talent, etc., is perhaps disputable. (I recently heard an interview with a psychologist who argues that talent plays little or no role in ability, which is really obtained through education and practice.) But the role of "chops" is not disputable: the cellist is the high school orchestra may have loads and loads of soulfulness to express, but that doesn't make him Yo-Yo Ma. No amount of talent will make a toddler with her fingerpaints into an instant Georgia O'Keefe. The five-year old in ballet class may have been gifted with a body perfectly suited to dance, but he's not (yet) Rudolf Nureyev.
It's my belief that we pay too much attention to the "talent" side of the equation. Many years ago, I read a weird and wonderful book called "Sayonara, Michelangelo", which was about many things, but mostly about Michelangelo's paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and the restoration thereof late in the last century. At one point in the book, the author argues that in praising Michelangelo's genius, we wind up giving him insufficient credit for his ability, his experience, and his hard work.
I once read a memoir by the actor Alan Alda, most famous for his role in "M.A.S.H.". The real revelation for me from that book is the amount of the actor's craft that must be learned, from the ways to express certain emotions to successfully mimicking an accent. George Clooney's a great actor, I'm told, but he wouldn't be without his chops.
Earlier week, with considerable reluctance, I blogged a poem I'd written. I got some very nice comments on it, and I'm pleased it connected for some people. But, other than the schoolwork everyone's done, I've written maybe three dozen poems in my life. But I haven't written hundreds of poems, I haven't sat through critiques by fellow students knowledgeable and passionate about the craft, and I know very little about form and meter. While I did write a poem that expressed my idea, I'm not a poet - I just don't have the chops.
Chops plays a huge role in diabetes management, too, and we acquire them only with time and effort. Although our bodies continue to spring surprises on us, we do learn how to anticipate and deal with many of the individualities of our own diabetes. (Shredded Wheat is poison, diabetes? Really, diabetes?) We learn tips and techniques for a thousand things, from how to test our blood to the way we want to handle doing so in public. A person dependent on insulin are engaged in a lifelong process of learning how to be his or her own pancreas. (My hat is off to those who have mastered the "double wave bolus".) From time to time, we need to learn (or relearn) that the things we know HOW to do are important enough to actually do them.
Then, there are the lessons that can be harder to learn because we don't entirely want to learn them, from maintaining our weight (for those with that issue) to avoiding those favorite foods that, although we CAN eat them, just aren't worth what they do to us. (I'm looking at you, white rice.)
I'm learning, and you're learning. We need to be gentle with ourselves about what we haven't yet learned, acknowledge and feel good about the things we have learned, and be open to the things we don't yet know that we need to learn.
Above all, there are no good or bad diabetics. It's all chops.
(Please note: I am aware that some of my readers have dealt for many years with diabetes being fare more intrusive than mine is at this stage. I am guessing that my reaction to what happened may seem silly, but I want to document this as I experienced it.)
Wednesday morning, my fasting test was in the 140s, higher than is optimal for me. So, though I don't to this often, I decided to test before leaving for my lunch hour and choose lunch based on the result. 132, so I decided to just have a salad for lunch.
I usually like to relax in the staff lounge over lunch hour and pick my meal up on my way back to my desk. I'm trying to do some pre- and post-testing to learn better meals, so I tested again. 82. I'd dropped 50 points in an hour of doing essentially nothing. That felt new, and as close as I was to the bottom of my good range, I was afraid that I was still dropping. And the meal I had chosen was pretty close to carb-free.
I admit it: I panicked a little. Was I going to go low, maybe seriously so? And what could I do to stop it? If something really bad was happening, a quarter cup of tomatoes wasn't going to slow it down. (Did I remember that I had glucose tabs for backup, sitting right in my desk? Noooooooooo.)
For the first time since diagnosis, I was scared about what was happening to me then. Sure, I've worried plenty about complications down the road, and about the significance of the occasional tingling in my feet, but that's a different thing. Even the time I was in the 400s, I knew what had caused it and I thought I knew the best thing to do about it (though I was wrong).
Even though the adult part of my brain kept trying to assure me that a problem was unlikely, I still felt frightened. And, I felt alone.
I calmed down some, and ate my salad. Half an hour later, I was at 87, so I was no longer dropping. At my 2-hour post test, I was nearly 100. The crisis, if there ever was a crisis, was over.
What's significant about that event to me is not what happened with the blood sugar, but how I felt about it. I'm not surprised that I was frightened, but I wouldn't have anticipated the sense of isolation. That sense of isolation might be telling me that I need a stronger emergency backup system. Maybe I need to remind my colleagues about my supply of glucose tabs and what to do if I need them. Maybe I need to decide how I would handle a real semi-emergency, one that didn't seem at a 911 level.
I'm not alone. I just need a plan.
I am in love with the English Language, and have been as long as I can remember.
I love words. I like their sound, and I like their rhythm. Most of all, though, I love their meanings, the often subtle shades of connotation that make apparently interchangeable words just a little bit different.
I like the history of English. I love that English is a Germanic language that took a French lover. I love that this couple adopted Greek and Latin and loved them as their own children, and I love that this raucous, tumultuous family parties with every language on the planet. (Did you know that "ketchup" is Indonesian and "boondocks" is taken from the Tagalog? How can you not love that?)
I don't read much poetry, and I haven't read much literary fiction. Most of my reading is nonfiction and essays. But that doesn't mean the quality of prose doesn't matter to me. I love reading writers that love language as much as I do. Some of my favorite essayists are primarily poets: Donald Hall is the only person for who's autograph I've stood in line. I love the twinkle-in-the-eye elegance of E. B. White, the brittle beauty of Joan Didion, and the riotous combativeness of Tom Wolfe.
My interests are many, and I'm always open to a new one. So, I'm less concerned with a writer's subject than with his craft. I've loved Roger Angell on baseball, Lewis Thomas and Richard Selzer on medicine, Witold Rybczynski on architecture, and John McPhee on many different things. Years ago, the library where I work created a bookmark with titles I'd chosen from each of the ten classes of the Dewey Decimal System.
I love puns, the more groan-inducing the better, and I love them best of all when they contain a play on meanings as well as sounds. I love word histories, although most of the ones you see outside of reference works are bogus. I love how etymology can suggest connections between ideas and concepts that I'd never considered.
English makes me happy.
can come upon me in a rush,
grasping at the throat of my peace --
choking off ambition
choking off change
choking off hope.
more usually, however,
creeps in around the corners of my mind.
Knowing the way well, he requires no light,
Has no need to alert me to his presence
Before his bags are fully unpacked.
likes to wear disguises
to defer the moment of recognition.
Most often he borrows the solemn raiment of Realism,
but sometimes disgraces the sacred robes of Humility,
defiling the cloth with his lies.
is not invincible.
He can often be defeated
by laughter, by love, or by prayer.
But seldom can you dislodge him
Before you know who he is.
If you like rice and recognize that brown rice might be better for you, but find that you don't like the texture, check to see if the market where you shop has medium-grain or short-grain brown rice available. The different "lengths" of rice are actually quite different, and cook up differently. I find that the short and medium grain brown rices much have a softer texture than the long-grain when cooked. It's still not as soft as white rice, but nearly so. And, in my experience, short and medium grains don't get hard in the refrigerator. (I can even enjoy it cold, but I'm a little weird that way.)
As with beans, you can create some great-tasting dishes by adding spices or other flavorings to the cooking liquid. I love using reduced-sodium chicken stock for this.