Sunday, October 30, 2005

Interview With Melanie Lynne Hauser

So, after weeks of promising that I would interview Melanie Lynne Hauser, author of Confessions of Super Mom, the time has come! I posted my review of her book in a previous blog entry. But for those who are joining me for the very first time...what took you so long to find my blog? Uh, I mean, I know Melanie as a fellow writer from Backspace, the greatest website for authors in the world!

Anyhow...on to the interview...

RB: Confessions of Super Mom is your first published novel, and introduces us to a whole new kind of superhero. One who is human, who makes mistakes, and deals with the realities of life, including having to scrub the bathroom floors. Just how much of Birdie Lee (and her alter ego) was drawn from your own life?

MLH: She's like me only in the stage she's at in her life - children growing into adults, and not - on the surface - needing her quite so much. So she's wondering, "What's next? Who am I if I'm not The Mom?" I was in a similar place in my life when I decided to pursue writing; in her case, she really doesn't make the decision, at least not at first, to pursue something different. It's thrust upon her in the form of her newfound superpowers. But she does make the decision to embrace them fully.

I actually have to say that of all the books I've written, Birdie is the least like me. I'm not a fan of "writing what you know;" I found that only when I really let my imagination soar and take me places very different from my own little life, that that was when my fiction really took off.

RB: I see a strong similarity to Spiderman's Peter Parker, and Super Mom's Birdie Lee.

MLH: Yes, I do think that the Spiderman arc is the closest to Birdie's own. For a lot of reasons - Peter Parker was just a normal person before his accident, as Birdie Lee is before hers. I did want to write about the superhero story in a way that was familiar to readers, because this book - while containing that element - is still women's fiction. I didn't want to scare off readers of that genre by being too bold and weird with all the superhero stuff. I needed them to be able to understand it without too much trouble and so I needed to make her story similar to another well-known superhero's story. And I decided that it would be Spiderman.

RB: Diabetes plays a significant role in your story line. Specifically, the growing epidemic of Type 2 diabetes developing in children. What was it that caused you to tackle this issue in Super Mom?

MLH: Since she's Super Mom, her primary concern is always going to be children. I wanted there to be some significant social issues that she's tackling - albeit in a fictional, non-threatening way - and the growing epidemic of diabetes in this country seemed to fit in with all the other elements. (The subliminal messages in the video games, the sugary junk food). While I'm
not trying to make a statement, per se - it really is only a device for the story - I'm happy to be able to draw some attention to this problem.

RB: You introduced an oral insulin in your storyline, which is an area of on-going scientific research today. You even gave some technical details as to how such an insulin might work. How much research did you do for Super Mom on this subject?

MLH: Just what a person can do on the Internet! Actually, the oral insulin thing was a small problem. I wrote the book having done zero research, then sold it, then during the editorial phase I went back to make sure the medicine was somewhat believable. I had no idea, when writing, that there really was an oral insulin in development. During that editorial/research phase, I found out that there was, and had to scramble a bit in the story to make it
less the miraculous breakthrough that I had it originally, and more just a race to be the first to develop it.

RB: I loved all the references to superheroes we all know and love. Basically, were you already a fan of superheroes prior to Super Mom, or did you have to rely upon your children for that kind of information?

MLH: Since I'm a child of the Sixties and Seventies, I grew up watching The Wonder Twins on TV, Wonder Woman, the old Batman series...I think that really, the superhero mythology is a mythology of America, and you can't help but absorb part of it. But when things got technical, yes, I relied heavily upon my sons, my husband and my brother!

RB: As a male reader, I'll admit that those references really made your story real to me. Made Birdie really fit into the world of superheroes. I imagine that mothers are your target audience. After all, you elevate the role of being a mother to more than simply being mom to that of being a superhero itself. Yet, I can see anyone with an interest in superheroes...including men...really enjoying your book. Do you think more men are reading Super Mom than you had originally anticipated?

MLH: I really don't know. I don't think that Dutton [note from the editor: Dutton is Melanie's publisher] has positioned it as anything other than women's fiction. And certainly the authors who blurbed the book are well-known to female audiences, not male. But I have had a couple of men read it who expressed surprise - as you have - that they enjoyed it.

RB: Since you are working on a Super Mom sequel, I presume your first book is doing fairly well? Or is it still to early?

MLH: I think it's doing well!

RB: When will see Super Mom again?

MLH: In the sequel, titled SUPER MOM SAVES THE WORLD. I don't have a definite pub date yet, although I believe it will be in early 2007. The paperback of CONFESSIONS OF SUPER MOM, though, will be out in the summer of 2006.

RB: So what comes after Super Mom? I mean, after all the sequels? Movies? A stage play, perhaps? Or a Tony-award-winning musical?

MLH: The author's always the last person to know these things! It's in the hands of people who could do something with it in those areas; whether or not that actually happens is anybody's guess.

RB: I want to know...and perhaps you can spill the beans...will Super Mom ever learn to fly?

MLB: That will be answered in the sequel, so you'll just have to wait!

RB: I know in my own writing, that the support of others has been key to my ability to write. Who has been your source of inspiration?

MLH: Two people. My husband, whose belief in me is almost exhausting. He has such a positive outlook toward life in general, which spills over into my career, and it's kept me going when I think, honestly, I might have thrown in the towel if I hadn't had him in my life. And my agent, who always believed in my writing - not just a particular manuscript of mine. Which is
key. We had a book together that didn't sell, prior to CONFESSIONS OF SUPER MOM. But she didn't just believe in that book, but in my writing in general, and kept telling me that I would be published. Some agents, I think, tend to take a book-by-book view of an author's career. My agent didn't; she believes in me, and my writing - kind of the whole package, you know?

RB: Thanks, Melanie. I look forward to seeing more from Melanie Lynne Hauser in the future.

MLH: Thank you so much, Ryan!

So, get out there and buy Melanie's book, people! Or else...or else...well, I can't threaten with much of anything on a blog. So just do it!

Lessons from DST

Don't forget to change the time on your insulin pump as a result of Daylight Savings Time.

I learned a lesson this year. You see, last week, our local Fire Department decided to do something really nice. They put out this huge sign helping us to remember to change our clocks back for DST. So, last week, before going to bed, did just that. Which was nice, because the next day, the ensemble I sing in was scheduled to do a sound check forty-five minutes before our 9:30 am church service began. The extra hour helped offset the need to get to church earlier.

So, I pulled into the parking lot really amazed at just how many people were there at church early. I chalked it up to the fact that a lot of people must have forgotten to set their clocks back. Why else would the parking lot be full. Still, there was this gnawing at my gut that something went wrong.

I led the troops (aka, my kids) into the building, amazed that the nursery staff was already working.

"What are you all doing here?" I asked.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, didn't you set your clocks back?"

"That's next week, Ryan."

Oh. And, as I heard the music coming from the auditorium, I now realized I missed our sound check. I had that horrible feeling, like the feeling I got when I would wake up for school, and realized that the bus should be arriving at the bus stop in exactly 1 minute, and I'm not even out of bed yet!

It all worked out in the end, though. We sang in all three services...although we never did get the sound right...and no one other than the other five singers knew about our little test-run of the DST. And I learned something. Beyond learning that you Fall Back and Spring Forward (which I already knew)...I also learned not to trust the Fire Department! Because DST falls on the last Sunday of the month!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Write It Right Night

Tonight is my weekly writing night. Every Thursday evening, my wife kisses me good bye, and I head off to some secluded parking lot to write in peace. For those keeping track (which I think is at a grand total of noone), I've been stuck editing chapter fourteen for a couple months now. Last week, I managed to make some progress, but ended up moving on to chapter fifteen, deciding I'll come back to fourteen this week.

That's tonight. This chapter will be the end of me. Well, the end of this story. A thorn in my flesh, really. I can't seem to get it right. I've written it. I've rewritten it. I've edited it. And now I'm rewriting it again.

Have you ever watched a movie or read a book where everything is going along nicely, then, suddenly, something really really convenient happens. Like, the detective who has lost all traces of the suspect "accidently" stumbles about some clue that the otherwise meticulous criminal "accidently" dropped? Or worse yet, the hero of the story is stranded in the middle of the ocean with no hope of being rescued when, miraculously, this boat shows up out of the blue captained by none other than the author himself? (Yes...this latter case actually happened in a book I read...and I have henceforth declared I will never pick up another Clive Cussler book again!)

My problem is that, if not done right, that's what could end up happening in this scene. I have to get my characters from location A to location B, despite the fact they really have no reason to go to location B. But, the whole second half the book falls apart if they don't get to location B.

But I think I have it all worked out now. I think I have come up with a convincing scenario. But tonight is the night. Write it right night. I have to do it tonight if I'm going to make my goal of finishing this thing by the end of the year. So, wish me luck. On second thought, don't. Because "luck" is exactly what doesn't work in a plot. Instead, wish me "you can write it right, Ryan".

On a side note...I got a note from Melanie. You know...Melanie? Melanie Lynne Hauser? The one who wrote Confessions of Super Mom that I blogged about last week? Come on, now. Pay attention here. Anyhow, she seems to have forgotten about me stalking her temporarily and agreed to the interview. So, you can look forward to that soon. (In the meantime, you have gone out and bought her book haven't you?)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Under the Boardwalk

Does anyone out there have Boardwalk? If so, I'll sell you one of my umpteen Park Places for, say, a half-million dollars! (Before taxes, of course.)

I don't know why it is, but every year, I get excited about Monopoly, which apparently drives a sudden craving for food from McDonalds. Because when McDonalds has their annual Monopoly game, I'm there. I look for excuses, really, for craving a Big Mac meal. This, despite the fact that the other eleven months of the year, I try to avoid the place.

It is a sickness, I know. I mean, aside from winning a small fry, a small drink, or an occasional "large burger sandwich", I've never won anything. And, frankly, who wants a small fry or small drink? I end up using them because, after all, I won them...and still end up spending another five bucks on a meal I don't want so that I can get four more chances to win!

So, right now, my game board is filled up with every one of the properties that do not win you the big prize. Typical. Listen. I'll settle for Mediterranean Ave. Or Ventnor Ave. (Never mind that I don't care one iota about getting a bit part in the movie Glory Road.) It's all about the possibility.

This year, I decided to go all out and play the on-line version as well. It is time-consuming, and you can only enter ten codes a day...but, you know, there is that chance I could walk away with $10,000!

I figure there must be something missing in my life. Something deep, dark. Hidden. Something that causes an inner craving to beat the system. To walk away with more than a small fry. Maybe it is a sign that I wasn't loved enough as a child, or that I didn't have enough friends. Maybe I felt cheated of the physical possessions I always wanted. Being the youngest of seven can cause that, you know.

Whatever the reason, I keep hoping that one day I'll find that elusive Boardwalk piece. Someone has to find it. Why can't it be me?

When the game is over, I'll go back to being content with what I already have in life. Just as soon as I send in the Publisher's Clearinghouse sweepstakes form...

Monday, October 24, 2005

What I've Learned About Diabetes

A little more than twenty-three years. That's how long its been since I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Since that time, treatment of diabetes has changed a lot. We didn't have blood testing machines. (They wouldn't really become available until the following year.) Everything was urine testing. I even recall learning a song at Camp Midicha (diabetic camp). "Don't take a leak in my test tube, my test tube, my test tube; don't take a leak in my test tube, my test tube's cracked!" (Seriously.)

So, what have I learned since then? Plenty. So, I thought I would share some key lessons for those of you with diabetes, or with children with diabetes, or with friends who have children who have friends that have mothers who have siblings who have children with diabetes.

  1. Don't trust your doctor. Not that I'm saying you should ignore them or anything. But I've learned that despite most endocronologists being an "expert" in the field, they really don't know what it is like to live with diabetes on a daily basis. I've even dealt with a few that had God-complexes, insisting that I consult them for each and every change I make. Sorry, but I don't have time for that. I will add the caveat, however, that in order to really take responsibility for your own diabetes, you need to be well-educated. There is much to make the effort to learn it! Not only will you be able to control your diabetes much better, it will make the workload of your endo significantly less.

  2. Learn your symptoms...but test anyway. I will admit that I can, usually, tell my BGL to within 50 pts (mg/dL) without every poking a finger. I know my symptoms, and I'm keenly aware of them. And I've experienced them all. Blurred vision (low), moodiness (high), frequent urination (high...or, perhaps, the result of that Diet. Mt. Dew I just had), weakness (low), a sticky taste in my mouth (high), inability to concentrate (low), frequent coughing (borderline high), etc. But, no matter how well I can detect my BGL...usually...there are those times I don't. So, test. Take note of how you feel when your BGL is slightly high, slightly low, very high, and very low. Remember how you feel, and next time you feel that again...test!

  3. Analyze, analyze, analyze. This ties to number 1. But it is important to pay attention to all the variables in your life that affect your BGL.

    Number one, of course, is carbs. I spent a long time tweaking my insulin to carb ratios.

    Number two is basal rates (if you are on a pump). Even before I was pumping, I threw traditional therapy to the wind and went to a three-dose-a-day NPH schedule in order to simulate a better basal rate. When I switched to Lantus, I used two shots a day rather than one. My endo thought the idea was odd...but a year later, he ended up finding a colleague who was doing that very thing with his patients with much success. On a pump, you need to spend a lot of time and effort getting your basal rates correct for a fasting diet.

    Number three, correction factors. Take advantage of your highs. Bolus, and check, then check again. Pay attention to how much insulin it takes to bring your high down. If you are 300, and you give 4 units, and three hours later you are at 200, then you know each unit lowered it 25 pts. There are exceptions, however. I have found that if I'm high not long after a meal, or if I'm feeling particularly full (loss of appetite), that I still have more carbs in my system that haven't yet been digested. So, I might give those 4 units, and find that it doesn't do anything. All I'm doing is giving my body enough insulin to keep the BGL from going yet higher. Watch out for over-correcting. Then you start yourself on that roller coaster ride.

    Speaking of roller coaster rides, watch out for "feeding" your lows as well. If I wake up low, I feel ravished. I'll eat everything in the kitchen until my BGL is up. So, at those times, rather than trying to force myself to only eat enough to bring up my BGL, I actually will eat a lot of carbs. But then I bolus. Strange to do, I know, when I'm low. But if I am at 50, and I really only need 10 carbs, but I end up eating 60 carbs...then I need to correct for those 50 extra carbs. (Though, I will generally be careful, and give myself an extra 10 carbs leeway.) So, I bolus for 40 carbs, and allow the other 20 to raise my BGL. This keeps me off the roller coaster.

  4. Watch for the unknowns. This is being mindful of those unexplained highs and lows. Just because you can't explain them doesn't mean there isn't an explanation. For example, I found out that Little Caesar's Deep Dish pizza will cause a huge BGL rise about three hours later. (The dreaded "pizza effect".) Now I know to give myself an extra extended bolus for pizza to counteract this. I might not know the reason, fully, but I can recognize the pattern and prevent it. Also, I know that high-fat foods cause a temporary insulin resistance, which might wreak havoc on your insulin-to-carb ratios. Protein, as well, can eventually turn to carbs in the body if you consume enough. Take note of each time you experience any unknown...and then go back and see if you can figure out any pattern. You might even try reproducing the events. Eat the same meal, for example, a few days later and see what happens.
That's enough for now, I suppose. I could go on and on with this. And by the way, if you own a PalmOS-based PDA, check out my diabetes software Logbook DM (see my link along the side of my blog). I'm not saying this to drum up sales. I'll even give you a registration code for free if you really don't want to register. But I have it there to help diabetics, like myself.

And take a moment to share something you've learned!

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Neck Ties: Leaving a Legacy

I have a lot of neck ties. A few years ago, I whittled my collection down to about the thirty I can't live without. I can't seem to part with them, despite that fact that I only have occasion to wear the things about once a year. Work is now five day casual (we even have an occasional "Blue Jean Day"), and to wear a tie to church makes you an odd ball.

So, they wait in the darkness of my closet for a moment to strut their stuff.

Well, last night, they got that moment. And what a brief moment it was. But let me back up a bit. You see, I took the day off work yesterday because we had a friend graciously offer to take all four of our kids not only for the day, but over night. This meant an entire day for my wife and I to enjoy some peace and quiet. Unfortunately, four hours after dropping them off, one of them came down with a fever.

So, I went back and picked him (and him alone!) up. Our plans for a romantic evening out were foiled. Our son, who is three-and-a-half, laid on my wife that evening as we watched reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond. In the episode, Deborah had bought a tie as a Christmas gift. My son saw it and said, "What's a tie?"

My heart swelled. What's a tie? Wow! This is one of those father-son moments. Opportunities to pass on the legacy of manhood from one generation to the next. I figured I wouldn't have one such moment until my oldest needs to shave. (Plug in the Remington, turn on the switch, and scrub your face with the razor.)

So, I rushed into my bedroom, pulled out one of my favorite neck ties, and brought it out for a hands on demonstration. "This is a tie," I announced, draping it around my neck. He wasn't paying attention. Instead, there was a far more interesting commercial on.

"Look, Noah. A tie! See? You do this with it?" And I deftly tied the tie into a perfect little knot, tightening it up to my neck. "See? Noah?"

He looked at me, briefly, then said, "My tummy hurts."

Oh well. So much for leaving a legacy. My little magic trick of, "Now you see the knot, now you don't," didn't seem to impress him either.

So, I guess I'll have to wait for him to sprout a beard.

Thursday, October 20, 2005


Melanie Lynne Hauser, as in the author of the book Confessions of Super Mom, seems to have sent herself to her Fortress of Solitude for a week to spent alone time writing her sequel. I requested an interview with her, and for whatever reason, she doesn't seem to want to take herself away from her mountain view with elk that stand outside her doorway to respond.

Whatever, Melanie! I just don't understand how the beauty of God's creation, and making progress on a contracted novel could be more important than answering a few questions from me. So, I guess I'll have to proceed without your input. (Are you feeling the guilt yet?)

Actually, I think I might have scared Melanie away. After my post on her blog about creating a tie-in between my own WIP and her sequel, I think she thinks I'm stalking her. Honestly I'm not. It was only a joke. (Sort of.)

In all seriousness, I'm actually glad she is writing. That means, eventually, I'll get the opportunity to read another book from her! Because Confessions of Super Mom really was wonderful.

Melanie has a writing style that is face-paced and humorous. Combine that with a unique look at the superhero life of one Birdie Lee, aka Super Mom, who must juggle her life as a divorced mother of two with her newfound powers of being a human Swiffer, not to mention influencing the conscience of an entire have one great book! (The novel, coincidentally, manages to deal with the subject of diabetes as well!)

I'm not really sure who wouldn't like this book. While the primary audience is likely mothers, I will admit that as a father, not to mention a fan of superheroes, I was hooked as well. (My own work-in-progress deals with kids who have the potential to become superheroes.)

But I'm not just telling you all about this book for my own health. You see, the publishing world is a hard place to be today. A lot of great first-time-authors struggle to get enough sales to cause the publisher to justify selling more of their books. It is quite rare for an author to write one book and suddenly become a millionaire. In fact, more often than not, the royalities from the first book are enough to replace a couple home appliances, or take a family vacation.

So, when a new author comes along and does a great job, it is important to buy their book! Read it. Then recommend it! Word of mouth is key.

Melanie has a great book. You'll enjoy. So get out to your local bookstore and buy it!

Now, then...hopefully, I can still get that interview...once Melanie lifts the restraining order. (Honestly, I didn't know she wouldn't like me just coming over to her house at 3:00 in the morning insisting she answer my questions, or else.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

You Like Me...You Really Like Me!

Okay, so I'm no Sally Field. But I was looking over my stats for the past few days for my blog. Not that I obsess about that kind of thing. I mean, it's not like I actually pay attention to the fact that at exactly 10:20 am (blog time), someone visited my site after performing a search on tying shoes. Nah. I don't really notice stuff like that.

But, what I noticed was a marked increase of pageloads on Monday. In fact, I received about five times as many page loads and four times as many unique visitors. One ambitious bloke from the UK (well, I think bloke, since I'm not entirely sure what it means to be a if I'm offending anyone with that term, I just sounded British) actually read every post I've written all in one day. I'll just say "I'm sorry" up front to that person that they have such a boring life that they actually spent that much time visiting my blog. (I hope you get better soon.)

Anyhow, the whole spike does cause one to wonder. What, exactly, spurred this on? And why didn't it continue on Tuesday? For one day, and one day only, you liked me. But that's okay. Really it is. Because I never envisioned my readership even surpassing five...on a good day.

But I'm curious. Did a bunch of you just accidently stumble in, never to return? And for those of you who did return (since the log shows an abnormally high number of returning visitors on Tuesday), what was it that did it? Perhaps it is idle curiousity, like standing outside the Penguin exhibit, watching them waddle around. Look there. See that man? He's trying to blog! Isn't it funny how he is trying to be funny? Don't you feel sorry for him? Awww, look at that. He's got baby penguins. How cute!

I'll admit, though...there is a part of me that it possible...that perhaps, like me? You really like me?

Or not.

Whatever the sick, twisted reason you have for reading my posts, however...I want to thank you now.

In other news...I (finally) finished reading Confessions of Super Mom. However, don't let the length of time I took to read it sway you. It was a great book. But I've had so much in life taking away from my time that I haven't even written anything on my own WIP in over a month. But, I'll write about Confessions in another blog, otherwise I'll go over my allotted word count. (I'm hoping to interview author Melanie Lynne Hauser...if I can get her to stop working on her sequel long enough...I mean, where are her priorities?)

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Saving George

Imagine what life would be like if, all of sudden, fifty-foot creatures suddenly showed up and sprayed you with chemicals that kill you instantly. Or they pick you up and squish you in their fingers. Or just stomp on you.

See, we've got these bugs. Little black and orange beetles that seem to infest the siding on our house every autumn. My wife and I call them Halloween bugs, but I think they are technically Box Elders.

My three-year-old son, however, calls them George. Every one of them.

For the past several years, I've diligently poisoned the little things so that we can actually walk in our front door without being swarmed. This year was no different. But, it seems, some survived. And a few really smart bugs decided to find their way into our house, clinging to the ceiling for life.

My son loves George. So, with choo-choo train in hand, he decided to take George for a ride. He found George in his room, picked him up (or her...I mean, just how do you tell a female George from a male George?), and placed him into the train where the Fisher Price Little People usually ride.

Then he found another George. So, he decided to play with George and George together, but by this time, my wife tells me, one of the Georges didn't seem to be moving. And when two-year-old sister came along and decided to pet one, you can imagine what happened. Let's just say, George will be having a funeral later. Not to mention the other George.

Oddly enough, there seems to be a practical lesson to be learned here. How easy it can be for our attempts at having fun with others to cause pain. Words can be spoken carelessly, or misconstrued such that the relationship is harmed. With one swift, but powerful slice of the tongue, we can open wounds...sometimes wounds that never heal.

I think of how many times I react with my children, where I lose my patience and say something I shouldn't. Not because I want to hurt them, but because I'm frustrated. Yet, they are the victims.

So, while my kids might be on a mission in saving George (and his brother George, and his other brother George), I'm on a mission of raising my kids...without squishing them in the process.

Monday, October 17, 2005


It's been too long since my last post, I know. The pressure is too much. I mean, I managed a fairly funny post about Blinkies, and then one about Diabetes. How can I top that? Everything that comes to mind is mediocre at best.

So, what to write about? Honestly, I don't know. Ideas sprung to mind, but I realized no one would really care about my take on the theological implications of eldership in the church, or whether jelly donuts are more important than the color red.

Incidently, that latter comparison stems from a personality test I took, as posted to the writer's board I frequent by author Martha O'Conner. Should I warn you about that test? I mean, where's the fun in that? But then, it will take up a lot of precious time before you learn anything from the results. If you decide to take the personality test, be advised that the jelly donuts and color red comparison isn't actually in the test, but you'll understand where that question comes from better when/if you take it.

Anyhow, consider this post a complete waste of time in acknowledgement (or is that acknowlegement? acknowledgment? I always forget.) that I have nothing to say today, really.

And, as we all know, when you have nothing to say, there really is one thing left to say:


Thursday, October 13, 2005

Life as a Diabetic

It is interesting to me to talk to other diabetics. Or, perhaps I should say, persons with diabetes? (I'll get to that in a moment.)

I've found that when I find someone who shares my disease, our conversations tend to revolve around common experiences related to that disease. I suppose that's only natural. My wife's aunt, for example, has Type 1 diabetes. We are loads of fun to be around when we're together. We monopolize the topic of conversation, discussing such entertaining concepts as, "Do you bolus before you eat, or after?" As you can imagine, we are the life of any family gathering.

But, ironically, outside of those relationships, my discussion and reference to diabetes in my life is rather minimal. I guess I don't see myself as my disease. While I refer to myself as a diabetic, in actuality, I'm not. Sure, I have the disease, and I live with its implications daily. But, more or less, I choose not to be seen as a diabetic. I'd much rather be seen as a good husband and father, or a software engineer, or singer, or any other multitude of labels. Being a diabetic is only one small aspect of my life. No point in drawing special attention to it.

I'm not a victim of diabetes. I'm not different. At least, I'm not any more different from anyone else because of my diabetes than they are different from me for any other reason. After all, if I know someone with cancer, they don't become known to me as a "malignant" or any other such term. They have cancer, but they are foremost a person who shares many hopes and dreams, as well as has many other differences.

When I introduce myself to someone, I don't offer my hand and say, "Hello. My name is Ryan, and I'm a diabetic." The fact that I'm a diabetic (or diabetic, or a person with diabetes) rarely comes up at all. I'd rather not be known as "the diabetic who is writing a book" or "the diabetic who has a blog" or "the diabetic who usually fails miserably at being funny".

Consider actor Victor Garber or actress Halle Berry. They are not known as diabetics. Yet, they are diabetics.

I may live my life as a diabetic, but I don't have to be defined as one.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Do You Want To See My Blinkies?

Two days ago, my wife and I were sitting in our living room talking. I don't even remember what we were talking about. Sometime profound and life-changing, no doubt. But then she asked me, out of the blue, "Do you want to see my blinkies?"

Well, sure! I'd love to see your blinkies anytime!

Of course, I was a bit disappointed to find out it didn't involve the bedroom. But I will tell you, when you hear a person use the term "blinkie" about five times in under a minute, it can be quite hysterical. Just try it sometime!

Don't know what a blinkie is? Well, neither did I. But, apparently in the forums she frequents, they are all the rage. In a nutshell, they are like miniture digital bumper stickers you include on the bottom of your sig line or e-mail message. (They are not, I learned, a slang term for a certain part of the female anatomy.)

But these little images aren't just static images. I'm sure you guessed by now...blink! Like a tiny neon sign, proclaiming some adorable, or thought-provoking, or silly, or just matter-of-fact statement.

So last night, my wife showed me all the blinkies that she likes. She even found a few for me, such as one that proclaimed myself to be a Brownie Addict. (Now wait...before you think anything weird, we're talking about chocolate here, not Girl Scout wannabees.) Another proudly announced that I not only saw the Lord of the Rings movies (all three in the special extended version, by the way), but I actually read the books. (I will admit, that is somewhat of a lie. I mean, I tried to read them, but never got more than halfway through the first book. So, ultimately, I listened to the complete series in audiobook format.)

What's the point to all this? Well. I don't know. But, apparently they are important. Possibly revolutionizing the way we communicate on the computer. We may even end up with blinkie wars in much the same way we have bumper sticker wars. You know, like how someone has a bumper sticker that says "Visualize World Peace" and pretty soon, someone comes up with another than says "Visualize Whirled Peas". Or, like the Icthus (which is the little fish symbol Chrisitians put on their cars), then with the Darwinized Icthus (the fish with legs), and finally, the larger Icthus eating up the Darwinized Icthus.

Anyhow, with something so important, I couldn't just ignore the topic. I figure I need to get out the word. Blinkies are the "in thing". If you're not on board, you'll be a nobody. So, display them proudly, and then ask someone you love, "Do you want to see my blinkies?"

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Go With the Flow

Life flows gently, meandering between its banks, unsure of where it is headed, but undaunted by the obstacles it faces.

Either that, or life crashes along the shore, rearranging the grains of sand over and over, briefly falling away, only to crash again.

As much as I would like the first description to be true, I'm finding the wave metaphor more realistic lately. It has been a month, at least, since I have really had time to sit down and write anything in my work-in-progress. Something unexpected keeps coming up. And when I think I finally have it all straightened out, something new comes along.

This past week it was my son's hospitalization. But I'm hoping that this week will be the lull I need to make progress. It is frustrating to be so close to finishing, so close to moving onto that next step toward becoming an author, and suddenly stop making any progress whatsoever.

And, of course, I was supposed to write on Thursday, which is my sort-of, kind-of, regular writing night. Only, that was the only evening available to schedule an eye doctor appointment for my oldest son. Time for new glasses. But I still have Saturday. I think.

Of course, that presumes I'll forego the mowing of the lawn and the futile attempt to rid said lawn of the moles that have taken up residence. I bought some "poison peanuts", in attempt to delete them from existance. Yet, for some reason, they turned up missing.

My wife hid them. She told me so. "You can't use that stuff. It can kill small animals." Well, that's the point. Mostly, she's concerned because one of our children is deathly allergic to peanuts. So, the moles may have a reprieve for now.

Despite my busyness, I can't help but remember the advice I was given not long ago. What seems important to me, what seems to be taking away from my time, is usually a choice. I have set priorities, whether I like to think of that or not. I decided, for example, that my son's eyesight is more important than my writing (for now).

But there comes a time in life when you don't have a choice. My son's asthma, for example. When the bad times in life happen, suddenly all those things I find myself preoccupied with are no longer so important. Waves crash on the shore sometimes, and we have no choice but to go with the flow.

Monday, October 10, 2005

The Power of Love

The two see each other. How long has it been? Too long. But now, they have caught one another's gaze. They race toward each other, arms outstretched.

"Oh, Noah!"

"Oh, Rebekah!"

And the two embrace.

Moments later, the two race across the Pergo floor, hand-in-hand and start building a new neighborhood with the wooden blocks.

My son came home on Saturday, and both Mom and Dad were emotionally exhausted. My wife was also physically exhausted, as she couldn't sleep most of the time she was in the hospital.

But it was the scene above that made all of the frustration, all of the scared feelings, all the weariness disappear. When I brought home my other three kids, my daughter, who is not quite two, saw my son after almost three days...and couldn't help but go give him a huge hug.

Not only was the whole event cute as could be, but it reveals something truly amazing about the power of family. Nevermind that most of the time my two youngest find ways to simply annoy each other, push each other, take toys from one another. Despite all of the tribulations that come with a family, there is love. As it says in 1 Corinthians, "...and the greatest of these is love."

It only took a day of being back for my son to start pushing my daughter around again. Yet, she still plays with him. Ah, the power of love.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

The Nearly-Deadly Hospital Visit

For the past two days, my third son has been in the hospital. This is his first hospitalization for asthma, though he has had a few Emergency Room visits. I'm exhausted, going to bed. My wife is at the hospital with him overnight again. He'll probably be in at least another full day, but we'll see how he is doing tomorrow.

What is interesting about all this actually ties to the on-going debated about the teaching of Intelligent Design versus Evolution in schools. One of the driving arguments from the evolution side of things is that evolution is the foundation of biology. Also, that intelligent design is not science.

Well, let me tell you, if modern biology is supposed to be science, I think the evolutionists had better some up with another argument. Because from what I've seen, first with my own diabetes, then with two children with severe food allergies and asthma...that doctors and hospitals in general really don't know much about anything.
The most basic of instructions can't seem to be followed. My son has several severe food allergies. Milk, in particular. Not an intolerance. A full-blown allergy, that ingestion can lead to death if not treated. So, what does the hospital do? They bring him a tray with pudding, milk, and chicken with an alfredo sauce. There was a cup of fruit. Nice dinner. And at lunch, they brought him a similar meal (with a tuna fish sandwich...and he has an egg allergy as well). They called down and ordered a replacement meal, mentioning the allergies. Two hours later, they finally brought him a new lunch. Milk, pudding, and tuna fish. Again. Thanks for trying to kill my son!

Then, we had three separate doctors give us three completely different and conflicting information about the state of our son. Then, they were blaming each other for having missed diagnosing his asthma sooner. Professionally, of course. But blaming, nonetheless.

Listen, I've studied science. I'm an engineer myself, and I think that modern biology is about the least scientific field there is. Every study, every new drug, and even some old ones, have gone through some scientific discourse only to either be contradicted, or found to kill people, etc.

Frankly, I'm annoyed by it all. Not the Intelligent Design versus Evolution debate. That will be on-going for quite some time. No, I'm annoyed that these doctors and hospital staff that don't seem to listen to their patients...or the parents of their parents. We are the ones witnessing this stuff day in and day out. We know a thing or two about what is going on. So, please, Mr. Doctor, sir, don't brush me off with some prepared answer from a medical book or even from past experience. My son is not a "textbook case". Listen to us, for once, and just maybe we could have kept him out of the hospital to begin with!

Of course, I'm tired and emotional about this at the moment. So, perhaps I'll delete this post in a few days. For now, I'm going to bed, and not afraid to let people know how annoying this all is.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Life as President

Have you ever wondered what life would be like as President? Just consider what our latest contestant in the political game has had to deal with. An unprecedented terrorist attack. An unprecedented hurricane (or two). War. Oh, and most significantly, constant belittling from David Letterman.

But, whatever. That's all in the life of a President, right? The part that, to me, would be the most difficult thing to live with is how every choice, every action, or every lack of action, is scrutinized, criticized, and jazzercized. (Okay, so I couldn't think of another -ized word that fit.)

On top of that, no matter what decision you make, it will always be the wrong decision to someone. It certainly takes a thick skin. I wouldn't have what it takes, even if I were politically minded.

Yet, I can't help but realize that I am President. Not for a country. But for a family. Everything I do is scrutinized by my family. And while I may have the power to restrict free speech on the matter, it is sobering to realize that my actions or my lack of actions, my choices, whether right or wrong, matter. They are noticed. They are shaping the citizens of my household.

I don't have the luxury to be myself first, or do what benefits me or my Vice President exclusively. Because how my kids turn out as adults is directly related to how I govern today.

If I exhibit poor fiscal responsibility, that is what my kids will learn to do as well.

If I react with violence, or anger, or even just yelling, that is what my kids will model.

If I fail to teach them proper health care, or provide a poor education, they will suffer.

And my kids aren't even teens yet. That scrutiny will eventually turn into criticism. So I better have the right answers for the choices I make when it comes time for that parental press conference.

Life as President of the Bruner Family Household is a big responsibility. No reelections, no term limits. My constituency is counting on me for life.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The Best Day Ever

It seems I have spent a great deal of time blogging about my second son, but not about my other three children. Perhaps that is because, unlike my other kids, my second son (who I'll call JB here) is so fascinating.

Not that my other kids aren't. But my eldest is basically a carbon-copy of myself. He not only looks like me, but he excels in all the same areas I did as a kid, and he struggles in the same areas. The way he thinks mirrors me so well, it is sometimes scary. My third son, while still rather young, is showing signs of being like his oldest brother as well. My daughter...well, at not even two, it is hard to know for sure, though she is most definitely "all girl". She already is more concerned with her clothes, shoes, and dolls than her brothers ever were. (Who am I kidding...her brothers would walk around naked if we let them. Who needs clothes?)

But JB is different. Polar opposites from myself in many ways. He is strong in areas that I'm weak, and vice versa. He is very emotional, feeling things very deeply...things that, to me, are odd things to feel anything about whatsoever! He is highly artistic. Drawing, for him, is like breathing. I don't know if he could survive a day without putting the pen or pencil to paper to draw. Me? Well, I can draw a mean stick-figure if I try really hard.

And JB is stubborn. He gets that from his mother, to be sure. No, really. I'm not stubborn at all. And I better not hear you say otherwise. (So, okay...perhaps I'm a little stubborn...but he gets it mostly from his mother. That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it.)

Anyhow, the reason I'm bringing this up today is because I learn so much from him. He is like sandpaper. While he rubs me raw sometimes, in the end, I come out a smoother, better man for it. Which brings me to one particular aspect of his life I have an opportunity to learn a thing or two from.

Every few days, it seems like something happens that JB declares, "This is the best day ever!" Now, to make such a statement, you'd think we gave him a bag of candy at an amusement park, where he can eat all of the hot dogs he wants. But it doesn't take that. The smallest thing that, to me, is no big deal, becomes a source of celebration for him.

The other day, my wife told him, "You're ten percent smarter today!" He doesn't even know what "ten percent" means. But this was in honor of him being able to add numbers in his head without the use of his fingers. He was so proud of himself, and soon declared this to be the best day ever.

If only the rest of us could see life that way. Each small accomplishment, each small reward is a opportunity to declare this as the best day ever. Me, I'm glad to have a son who can teach me these things. For that, I must say, this is the best day ever!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Freedom of choice

When I heard the news, I was devestated. Only weeks to live, if that. I was sure of it. After all, that's what it means to have a disease, right?

When I was nine, I was diagnosed with Type 1 (then, called Juvenile) Diabetes. A week in the hospital, and several education classes later, I found out that some diseases aren't as deadly as I originally thought.

Not that diabetes is great, or anything. The fact is, diabetes can be deadly. Even debilitating, as it is the number of cause of amputations and blindness. But I must emphasize the words "can be", because, in my experience, it doesn't have to be.

I'm actually thankful for my diabetes. When I look at the road I was on in terms of eating as a kid, I think I would be risking a heart attack today. But, thanks to my diagnosis, I was forced to learn about healthy eating habits. I was forced to have to be mindful of my daily choices. Sure, having to give myself multiple daily injections, not to mention countless finger pokes, isn't exactly fun. But I'm alive today because of it. Not only alive. Healthy.

Keeping tabs on my diabetes is a chore. Only, I don't see it as a chore. It is a part of my life. It is who I am. It is who I will be for the rest of my life. I don't foresee a cure in my lifetime. But new tools and treatments are being developed constantly. (Including my very own diabetes software, Logbook DM.)

I switched to an insulin pump three years ago, and have never been sorry. Almost. Because, you see, having more freedom in what I eat has led to me eating more unhealthy foods. More fat, more cholesterol. Sweets are even the problem. I put on weight in the first time in literally fifteen years.

It makes you wonder about freedom, in general. Sometimes having the freedom to do something doesn't mean we should. Sometimes not having the freedom to do things is actually a benefit to us. I'm not even totally sure of all the implications that has on my life.

But I make choices everyday. We all do. Sometimes we are kept from making choices. My diabetes kept me from certain choices for a long time. And I was better for it.

So there is a thought. Rather than focusing on the negative implications something has on our lives, try to see what insights, what benefits that negative thing has for you. Because I can either live with diabetes, or die with it. My choice.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Peace and Serenity

I don't recommend movies a lot. There are some exceptions, but love or hate of movies is often extremely subjective. (Case in point: I loved the entire Matrix trilogy, while many people really hated the last two.)

But last night, I made a trip to the theatre with some friends to check out the Joss Whedon movie, Serenity. Apparently it is based on the tv show Firefly, which I never had the pleasure of watching. My brother-in-law, however, was geeked to see the movie since he is a Firefly evangelist. (Much as I was, at one time in my life, of the show Babylon 5.)

I went into the movie knowing next-to-nothing. Yet, within five minutes, I was already blown away. The writing is incredible. Nevermind the special effects here. This movie has strong characters, great editing, lots of tension...and an exciting action scene or two.

I definitely want to see it again. After a single viewing, however, I would definitely put this on par with the first Matrix. And, unlike Star Wars, with, perhaps, the exception of The Empire Strikes Back, this movie depends far more on great acting, characters, writing, plot, setting, and ideas in general.

So, I'm interrupting my regularly scheculed blogging to make a movie recommendation. Go see Serenity. It may not bring Peace on Earth...but you'll have a great time. One of the few movies these days with the $9.00 per ticket price tag!