Tuesday, November 29, 2005

How's It Hanging?

When I was a wee lad of, oh, seventeen, I was a tad naive. And shy. So when the guy came up to me at my locker and said, "How's it hanging, Ryan?" I really had nothing to say. Frankly, I didn't even know what it meant. How's what hanging? And just how do things hang, anyway?

My lack of response triggered him to go into a rare moment. He decided to educate me. "You're supposed say, 'Loooooooooowwww'," emphasizing the word low in a deep, throaty voice.

Then, I got it. I understood. He was referring to my most personal of possessions. And, I thought, how entirely rude to ask someone something like that. Besides...just what do you say if, well, it isn't hanging low?

Anyhow I say all this because I wanted to discuss low blood glucose levels. Yeah. That's the tie-in. So, how's it hanging for you?

Of all of the problems diabetics face, to me the worst is the low. I can deal with highs. They don't bother me so much. But being low is just miserable. You feel shaky, or weak, or have blurred vision, or become irritable, or experience tingling or numb extremeties, or (eh-hem) impotence, or headache, or sudden nausea, or any combination of the above.

Thankfully, I'm very senstive to my lows. My BGL hits 73, and I can tell. But not always. When I'm tired, it takes longer to notice the symptoms...usually into the 50s. If I'm exhausted, I might hit into the 20s!

Prior to being placed on the pump, I actually had a fairly decent A1c. I was hovering in the low sevens with due diligence. But I was accomplishing this by having a lot of lows. Sometimes every day (or night). And that was the reason my doctor thought it best I switched to the pump. I'm so glad I did, because one of the greatest benefits I've seen is the enormous reduction in lows. Sure, I still have them. But neither with the same frequency nor intensity as I once experienced. And once I managed that, I was amazed at how much better I felt in general.

For me, eliminating lows is top priority. I'm willing to accept more frequent highs instead.

Do you want to know the absolute worst part of being low? I'll tell you...the horrible headaches that come about two hours after I've been low. They are intense, and they grow debilitating rather quickly. Ibuprofen doesn't nothing. Only Tylenol. You ever get those kinds of lows? The kind that bring on the dreaded headache?

Work on your lows. They are dangerous. They don't feel good. And they can feed into a roller coaster cycle. If you haven't yet reduced your lows, forget working on the highs. You'll feel much better for it.

And the next time someone asks you, "How's it hanging?", I can only hope your answer won't be, "Looooooowww!"

My Two Sons

Actually, I have three sons (and a daughter)...but this post is about two of those sons.

I'll start with the youngest. He's three. He's also cursed with quite severe food allergies. Milk, egg, nuts, and peanuts. (And, just to interject a brief complementary educational moment, peanuts are not considered nuts, which is why they are always listed separated. "Nuts" grow on trees. Peanuts are from the legume family. Remember that for the next time you're on Jeopardy.) Two months ago, he also had a significant asthmatic "event" that put him into the hospital for a few days. Since then, they changed his meds, which we soon insisted he take off of because the medicine was, in fact, demon-possession in a easy-to-administer breathing treatment. So, we tried a different medication. That actually worked really well for his skin. It cleared up his eczema nicely, but it wasn't enough, apparently. Almost two weeks ago, now, he contracted a viral infection in his lungs, triggering the asthma yet again, and sending him into the hospital again!

(You can see, now, why I am thankful for health insurance, as I mentioned in my last post.)

He's healthy for the moment, again, and he is now on two different medications. One to keep the asthma at bay, and the other which is helping his eczema. We also had him tested for some environmental allergies. It turns out, he's allergic to...well, just about everything. Trees, grass, mold, dust mites, cats, and dogs. There's probably more, but that's all they tested for this round.

Now then...onto my other son, who is six. As I mentioned several weeks ago, he was undergoing some testing to determine if he had Central Auditory Processing Disorder due to some learning and listening problems he's had for several years. Well, believe it or not, our diagnosis was wrong. Instead, he has a mixture of things. Cross-dominance (which means he is right-handed, but left-eared and left-eyed, which can contribute to learning issues), as well as an Auditory Descrimination Disorder, extraordinarily low-functioning short-term memory (though, his long-term memory is fabulous), and articulation issues. There are a few other areas, but those summarize it quite nicely.

Last night, my wife and I met with the speech pathologist to discuss our game plan. We are so relieved about all this. It is has been several years that we've been having him tested in various forms to find out what was wrong. We brought him into the school system for testing last year, and though they noticed some delays, there wasn'tt anything they would treat. We would go over exactly the types of problems we have seen, but would be summarily brushed off. Yet, my son is six-and-a-half, and has yet to be able to read anything. Only a few months ago could he finally recognize his alphabet letters. We weren't to be brushed off any longer!

And so now, we have a diagnosis. We have a game plan. We have hope.

Let me pause a moment here to say, however, that going over my son's test results was a bit scary...because many of the areas he was tagged as having seem to be areas I have always struggled with, myself. The short term memory problem, for one. Like, if my wife tells me to go get something and then tells me where it is, unless I consciously stop whatever I'm doing and focus on her every word, I will typically only remember the item to get, and the last thing she said. All the detail in between is lost to me.

"Honey, go grab her pink outfit. I laid it on the shelves next to the white dresser."

So, I go to find something pink in the dresser. This is nothing new for me, so I can't blame it on age. It makes me think that my son inherited this from me.

From all of this, I can tell you that I'm thankful for Speech Pathologists, and the fact that they can decipher all the symptoms my son has and come up with a way to treat him.

Anyhow, there you have it...news about my two sons.

Monday, November 28, 2005

The Swing of Things

Last week, I took the entire week off work due to the Thanksgiving holiday. I had all these grand and glorious ideas for what I would accomplish. We'd get the entire house spic-and-span so we could put up the Christmas decorations. I'd get about six more chapters of my work-in-progress finished. I'd spend a bunch of time with each of the kids, both individually and collectively. I'd actually sit on the couch watching television with my wife without falling asleep in the process.

In fact, I quite often massage my wife's legs while we watch television. Okay, not "quite often"...perhaps "sometimes". And when my arms and fingers start to grow sore, she'll kick me in the gut to remind me I'm slacking on the job. Oh, sorry honey. I was just distracted. Can't feel my fingers any more. (Not that I'm complaining, or anything...quite often those aforementioned massages lead to other...uh...activities that I benefit greatly from.)

Anyhow...as it turned out, I really accomplished very little. We did manage to get a little cleaning done. We did manage to put up our main Christmas tree. Oh...and I got the lights put on the roof. (Nevermind that I never actually took them down from last year.) I did manage to get a bit of writing in. And I did manage to spend time with my kids. But all in all, it was a rather relaxing vacation. I'm not used to coming in to work after a vacation feeling so, you know, refreshed.

I was also a bit lax about my on-line activities, including updating this blog.

But my time is up now. Time to get back into the swing of things. Work, for one. Not to mention fifty million rehearsals for the church choir performances. I still have to put lights on the bushes, shrubs, and trees. And...well, I have a whole list of things that I just don't remember, but my wonderful wife always reminds me of just before it needs to get done. (Who needs a PDA...or even a calendar...when you have a wife?)

So this week, my plans for this blog include updates on my son, another diabetes-interest post, and another "whatever I feel like" post, as yet to be determined.

Oh yes...and in an effort to follow through on my "Thankful Day" post, I figured I would include in each blog entry one thing I'm thankful for but typically take for granted. So here we go: I'm thankful for health insurance. Despite the headaches I have in dealing with Blue Cross Blue Shield...I would be in debt to my eyeballs right now were I not blessed enough to have a job that provides good health insurance.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thankful Day

For our family, it is called "Thankful Day". It isn't a day about the Pilgrims and Native Americans. It isn't a day about turkey and mashed potatoes (though, we certainly have them). It is, first and foremost, a day we offer thankgiving to God, the creator of life and giver of every perfect and wonderful gift. It is a day we celebrate one another through the giving of gifts. And, it is the day I'm totally wiped out for having spent the previous night putting together two pieces of play furniture: some assembly required!

All told, I spent from 8:30 pm to 12:30 am assembling two toys. First, a train table for my son; and second, a wooden kitchen play set for my daughter. The train table was actually a breeze. Not too much to it. The kitchen, however, took forever! (Or some period of time close to it.)

In the end, our children loved all of the gifts we gave to them. It is our way of showing them how thankful we are for them. It is also in lieu of gifts on Christmas morning (which I'm sure I'll blog about that around Dec. 25).

And just what I am I thankful for? Other than God and my family? We are blessed. Spoiled is probably a better word. We live in the wealthiest nation in the world, almost entirely free of fear of random bombings or famine or religious persecution. We have every technological wonder at our fingertips while there are children starving and almost the entire continent of Africa ravaged by AIDS.

So what am I thankful for? Really, I have to ask myself what should I be thankful for? Because I think when one lives in such a way, we really lose sight of all the small things. Like shoes. Clothes. Food. Transportation. A house. With indoor plumbing. And a furnace.

I suppose it feels it bit like Selfish Day, the more I think about it. How much I have compared to so many others in the world.

And what happens after today? What happens with the tinge of guilt I have for having so much to be thankful for yet take for granted? The answer I must give, and the answer I would like to give are very different. Shamefully different.

Take a moment today...and tomorrow...and the day after tomorrow...to be thankful.

Monday, November 21, 2005

What's In a Name?

I wonder. Have you taken a look at all the clever names people come up with for their blogs? A few blogs from people I know include Ovations, The Refrigerator Door, and Insert Witty Title Here. I mean, with names like those, who wouldn't want to read?

And then there was me. RyanBruner. Not even RyanBruner. But ryanbruner. Who wants to read from a blog named after a guy you don't even know anything about? I mean, why not go read a blog by johnny, or Mrs. Smith? I guess I'm not the person to answer that, since, frankly, I think Ryan Bruner is an altogether fascinating, witty, and good-looking fellow that's always worth reading about.

But I still wonder. Would people flock to my blog if it had a different name? Like, well...I don't know. Because if I had any idea of a better name, I would have used it! (Although, I once was partial to being called "Rashio", which rhymes with "ratio". Of course, I was only eight at the time.)

Which brings me to my work-in-progress. As it turns out, when I started, I wasn't all that particular about some of the names of characters. I picked a name that just seemed right and went with it. Nothing special, really. But later, I, for various reasons, needed to change a few names. Suddenly the name that was "nothing special" I can't part with. I've spent too long with the character with that name. How can I envision them as anyone else without also re-envisioning their character?

Names are rather powerful things, I guess. I mean, I remember a few people from my childhood I just didn't like very much. To this day, I associate the name with the character of the person I knew as a kid. Sometimes that a good thing, sometimes bad.

And what's the point of all this discussion about names? Well, there really is none. I know, in the past, I usually wrap up such a post with some life-altering revelation about what it all means (uh...okay, perhaps now, but I'd like to think so). But today, I'm just not in the mood to think about the implications of what's in a name and the grand scheme of life. I hope you understand.

I do hope to update you next time on the status of two my sons. One involving yet another hospital visit, and the other the results of his testing. Until then...Adios!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

A Good Book

I've got a question for you all. If someone were to ask you right now what's a good book to read, what would you answer? (Let's limit this to fiction for now.)

Could you name just one? I suppose in my case, the book I'm most impressed with is Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. It has the perfect blend of absolutely gorgeous writing with a wonderfully unique concept in speculative fiction. (Which, by the way, is a secret code word for science fiction and/or fantasy, in case you were wondering. But don't let that scare you. This isn't your typical science fiction. No space ships. No laser guns. Not even any robots.)

Aside from that book, I still have a large list of books I really really really like. And I have yet another list of books that I have yet to read that others have recommended. I'm plugging away at that list as well, slowly but surely. And now that my ensemble concert is over (which, by the way, went quite well, thank you very much!), I can go back to listening to audiobooks again. I was on hiatus in the past couple months so that I could practice the songs we were to perform...fourteen in total, although I only sang in seven of those.

Currently, I'm reading Magician by Raymond Feist, as recommended by a close friend of mine. Okay, okay. I'm not actually reading it yet. He loaned it to me a few days ago. But I'm about to start reading it, so that still counts, doesn't it?

Of course, there are also the books I want to read that are non-fiction. My brother's books, for example. I've read parts of his latest books (which came out a few months ago), but haven't had time to actually sit down and finish them. But if I might make a plug for his books, look for them at your local bookstore (or on-line). I Still Believe by Kurt Bruner, and Finding God in the Land of Narnia by Kurt Bruner and Jim Ware. (He's got quite a few other books available as well, by the way.)

Okay. Scratch my first question. Instead, answer these questions:
  1. What is the fiction book you would recommend to someone right now?
  2. What is the fiction book you are currently reading or you just finished reading?
  3. Are you going to buy my brother's book? (Just thought I'd check.)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Joy of Being High

I've never touched any form of mood-altering drug, illegal or otherwise. I don't even drink alcohol. (Well, there was that one time when I was about fifteen. I was at a wedding and my blood sugar was low, so I went up to the bar for a glass of orange juice. Took one sip and nearly spit it all over the table. Turns out I had picked up orange juice all right...mixed with Vodka. Blech!)

Anyhow, the kind of "high" I'm talking about is high blood glucose level. So, if you were hoping to share in the joys of marijuana use, you've come to the wrong place. The closest I've come to the stuff was when I was trying to sell oranges as a band fundraiser, going door-to-door, and at one of the houses, this truly stoned man came to the door in his underwear wreaking of the stuff. (He bought some oranges, though!)

Typically, highs trigger panic in a diabetic. The end of the world, and all. But in reality, those unexpected highs are an opportunity. If you've read any of my other entries about diabetes, you'll notice I'm big on the analysis thing. So, how can you best utilize your high BGL?

One thing is to verify your currently correction bolus factor. Let's say you test, and you are at 300. Also presume you haven't eaten anything for a couple hours. Your current correction factor is, say, 1 unit for every 50 mg/dL over your target (100 mg/dL for this exercise). That means you need to give 4 units.

Next. Test. Test every thirty minutes for the next 3-4 hours. If your BGL doesn't start to fall, or if it actually starts to go UP, then you know there is something in your system still feeding into your high. Perhaps there is undigested food still sitting in your belly. (You'll feel full, if this is the case.) Or, perhaps you had eaten a high-protein meal a couple hours earlier. If that's the case, then your experiment on your correction bolus is over because you need to not only bring your BGL down, but also give more insulin for the undigested food or protein.

But let's say your BGL starts dropping shortly after your bolus. At the end of the four hours, you find your BGL dropped to 140 rather than 100, as you had expected. Time to fix your correction bolus! Do the math: 300 - 140 = 160. You lowered your BGL by 160 mg/dL with 4 units. Divide the 160 by the number of units you gave (4) and you get 40 instead of 50. So, your correction bolus should have been 1 unit for every 40 mg/dL instead of 50.

Of course, one time isn't enough to know for certain. You should try it again the next opportunity you get. Often, what I do is split the difference. Instead of jumping to the 40 mg/dL next time, I'll change to 45 mg/dL instead. Then, the next high I have, I'll try it out again. If I'm still off, I split the difference again. This builds in a bit of protection against a fluke.

Being high (uh, talking BGL here remember) doesn't have to be a bad thing. If you see it as an opportunity to tweak your boluses, not only will you feel more at ease...but you'll be improving your long-term care. You can actually calculate a much more accurate correction factor when your BGL is very high versus just a little high.

Good luck...and may all your highs be joyful!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Moles Prevail

I've got a mole. Or maybe several moles. How can you know for sure? But if it is only one...it certainly is a busy mole.

My front yard, as tiny as it is, has been residence to the mole or moles since springtime, and now features a lovely network of mounds and tunnels. The resulting pattern is a beautiful mixture faux romance and modern...with just a touch of something rather earthy.

At one point, I actually saw the mole. Well, I saw the ground moving where the mole was digging. Out of desperation (and those of you with weak stomaches or animal lovers might want to skip to the next paragraph), I made a running leap, landing squarely on the moving ground. I stomped several more times for good measure. Really, as much as I don't like the moles, I didn't want the poor thing to suffer. A quick and painful death, that's what I was shooting for. Two days later, the tunnels were back. So, either I missed the mole entirely, or I only got one of them.

So, what to do? And why did they have to set up house in my yard, of all yards in the area. I mean, I've taken great care of my yard, fertilizing every two months, even using GrubX to keep those bugs from eating away my lawn. (They did that several years ago...hence, the GrubX.)

I found this stuff to kill the moles. "Poison Peanuts". Turns out, there are no peanuts in the ingredients at all, which is good for our children. So, several weeks ago, I poke holes in the tunnels and gave them some free food. A few days later, I checked...and the food was gone!

And, to my relief, so were the appearance of more tunnels. Finally. Death to the moles! Only, that also happened to be during a cold spell. As Michigan weather tends to do, it changes for the better. Warm weather returned. And so did the tunnels. I think I only made them sick. So, a few days ago, I went out and gave them more free food. A lot more. And guess what? There are still more tunnels!

The creatures really are amazing little things. They have no issues tunneling under sidewalks and driveways. Yet, they prefer making patterns in my prize-winning lawn. (Okay. I haven't won any prizes, but I was enjoying the alliteration of the P sound in that sentence.)

Now I'm at a loss. I found this spray stuff at Home Depot that you drench your lawn with. It's supposed to annoy the moles and chase them away. But do I really want to do that to my neighbors? (Well, actually...yes, I do, if it means I don't have to deal with them.) Still, I have my doubts it even works. Especially at $12 a bottle!

I have this image of Bill Murray in Caddyshack. That'll be me one of these days. Sticking dynamite in my front lawn, blowing myself up while the moles prevail.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Miscellany And Other Stuff

I've been having brainstorms over the last few days. It's been keeping me up at night, actually. (By the way, for me that means it takes twenty minutes to fall alseep instead of two.)

For example, there is a scene I'm adding to my work-in-progress. I had started it...but now, over the course of several nights I've worked out the details. I'm so excited to get a chance to sit down and write!

I'm also a couple days away from the ensemble concert I'm singing in. You'll be happy to know I finally managed to learn all the words to my solo. In the meantime, I think I've come down with something. Totally exhausted. The kind of tired that just isn't normal, you know? So, after Wednesday's concert, I'm hoping to get some rest. I'm taking the entire week of Thanksgiving off from work, so I'll be able to catch up on missed sleep.

I also have today off work. It is Veteran's Day (observed). I find that a bit funny. Nevermind the country celebrated Veteran's Day on Friday, as it should. Our workplace decided we should celebrate on Monday. I think what it really means is that hunting season is more important than our Veterans, which is altogether sad.

Sorry that this blog entry has nothing really worth reading. But, you know, I gave you two separate entries on Friday, and I'm writing this from home...so, consider yourself lucky!

(Hmm. How entirely self-centered that sounded. As if you should consider yourself lucky to read pretty much nothing of significance from me. Apparently I think everyone reading this has a rather pathetic life or something. I suppose that could be true. But true or not, I shouldn't presume it to be true. Right?)

I promise my next entry will be of something more important...such as what I'm doing about my mole problem. (That is, the moles that dig tunnels under your lawn as opposed to the kind that grow in annoying and unexpected places on your body!)

Friday, November 11, 2005

What Ever Happened to VHS?

The other night, my wife and I were watching something on television. E.R. maybe? I don't remember. But that's not important right now. What is important was the advertisement for the release of some movie on DVD and...get this...PSP.

"What's PSP?" my wife asked me. "And what ever happened to VHS?"

Good question, on both accounts. Although, I suppose the video-gamers out there already know what the PSP is. PlayStation Portable. Frankly, I'm surprised by this. I realize that portable video devices are about to become The Next Big Thing and all. I mean, look at Apple's latest iPod with iVideo for people on the iGo. Still, how many people will really want to buy a video in PSP format instead of DVD format? Doesn't that limit playback to a 2-inch wide screen. (Forgive me if that isn't the actual dimension. I'm not really into video game systems.)

Regardless of the PSP, the other question still remains. VHS. The movie is not available on VHS. Remember those? Kind of like audio cassettes, only bigger. Uh, wait. Audio cassettes. You know what those are, don't you? Anyhow, it seems the end of the age of VHS is over. In fact, the only thing that really kept the VCR around this long was the fact it could be used to record TV shows so easily. But with the advent of DVRs and recordable DVD players, such a need is over.

If you are still holding out and buying VHS tapes, I strongly suggest you stop. Today. Because in the next couple years, they will be not just obsolete, but collector's items. (Hmm. Which means, perhaps, you should buy them!)

(While I'm on the subject...kind of, sort of...am I the only one annoyed that Disney can't just sell DVDs like everyone else? Instead they say, "Coming soon on DisneyDVD!" As if they have created a whole new and improved type of DVD. Which they haven't.)

Of course in a couple of years we'll face the same problem with DVDs. The BluRay DVD and HD-DVD are at our technological doorstep. Which means the $15 I just paid for the DVD release of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith is a complete waste, since I'll undoubtedly want the high definition version in a couple years. (Or not. Actually, I can't see spending any more money on Star Wars since the latest set of movies left me horribly disenfranchised from the franchise.)

Now that I think of it, I'm thinking we shouldn't bother buying much of anything today, as it becomes obsolete faster than you can say, well, anything that takes a few months to say. In fact, the very food we eat might very well be obsolete.

In the meantime, our VCR just died. We have a backup. But I'm wondering about the financial benefit of bothering to replace it. Yet, we still have some movies on video. Yentl, for example. Why is it that such a fabulous movie is not released to DVD yet? Hurry up, you people who release movies to DVD...the VHS is going the way of the dinosaur.

The Elevator Pitch

Every aspiring author is supposed to have one. The Elevator Pitch. Basically, in the time it takes you to go from the first floor to the second floor, you have a conversation that goes something like this:

"Hey, Ryan."

"Hi, Bob. Two, please."

"What'd you do last night?"


"You're writing a book?"

Floor two lights up.


"Really? What's it about?"

Doors start to open.

And so you have all of three seconds to summarize the story it took you two years to write.

My problem is, I don't have an elevator pitch. At least, not a decent one. I kind of bumble along, mentioning a few key points, by which time Bob says:

"Well, I'll catch you later."

I already struggled with writing a query letter. This is a three-paragraph letter that also must summarize your story. But it is three paragraphs, not one sentence. And I have had months and months to tweak that. The whole Elevator Pitch is too spontaneous. I need to have it written out and rehearsed.

So, here are a couple possibilities. Let me know what you think:
  1. Mindburst is about a group of kids with special mindwielding abilities who escape from the asylum they're in to find their parents.
  2. It's called Mindburst. This girl, who has spent her whole life in an asylum for kids with special mind powers, escapes with some of her friends to search for her parents, only to find the world outside the asylum hates her for what she is.
Not really happy with either. The first is too sparse. The second, too long and wordy.

The hard part about all this is that when you've spent so much time with each of these characters, developing them, taking an adventure with them, even crying with them...it seems downright rude to reduce their story down to just a single sentence. Hopefully they'll understand. And, perhaps if I'm truly lucky, one of these characters will just tell me what I should say for them. Because I'm kind of sick of having to do all the work for them! It's like they think I'm God or something.

So, after my elevator pitch, what would Bob say?

"Oh. That sounds...interesting." Translation: Doesn't sound like anything I'd ever read.

"Wow. That's a lot like another book I read once." Translation: You're a copy-cat. Can't think up anything original, eh?

"Sounds great. Good luck with that." Translation: Frankly, I don't care about your book. I was being polite. Tell me about it if you ever make it big.

Suddenly, I'm feeling rather irritated at Bob.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Revision Time

It seems that yesterday's "D-Blogger" day went well...at least based on the proliferation of readers I had yesterday. The only problem is, I think a majority of the people who visited were already diabetes aware. But hopefully someone out there learned something!

Okay...shifting gears...A couple weeks ago I had my "Write It Right Night", which I blogged about. If you recall, my intention was to get a troublesome scene finished.

Well, since that time I not only yanked the entire chapter, but I've yanked about three chapters, plus shuffled around stuff from two other chapters. I've then modified my plot, and I'm in the process of inserting a couple new scenes.

Whoever said that being a writer was easy? Because it sure wasn't a writer! Now, this is my first book, so I've been learning a lot. In fact, compared to my first draft, this draft (which I'm now calling draft four) shares very little of the same actual text and, in some cases, storyline. Same premise, same characters, same eventual outcome, etc. But the story keeps changing.

Rest assured (because I know you were really nervous for me and suffering insomnia as a result) I will finish this book. I still could even get it done by year's end, as I had originally planned.

Wouldn't life be great, though, if it worked how an author wrote? What if we live a part of our lives, decided we didn't like it, and said, "Okay...revision time." You then go back and edit the parts that don't flow well, or the parts that lead to a dead-end. You might still leave in mistakes made. After all, we learn from our mistakes. But you realized that a choice you made fifteen years ago took you down a plotline you wish it hadn't.

Well. It doesn't work that way, so just forget about it! (Although, I have tucked away a story idea for some potential future book that actually has such a premise.)

It is hard for me to believe that I've been working on this book for coming up on two years. When I started, I thought, maybe, six months. Shows what I know! (But the positive spin on that is I'm planning on living at least 75 years. Which means I'm probably off by a magnitude of four. So...I'll live to 300!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Diabetes Aware

I've been told that today is the day that we (the blogging community of persons with diabetes...though, perhaps I should trademark that as "The Blogging Community of Persons with Diabetes" or TBCPD) are to blog about diabetes.

Why? Because November is Diabetes Awareness Month.

So, are you aware of diabetes? Chances are you know someone with diabetes. But how much do you actually know about the disease? I'm frequently amazed at how much people know about diabetes that is actually wrong.

Part of the problem is that the term "diabetes" primarily applies to two completely different diseases. These two forms have various names, though the most commonly accepted terms are "Type 1" and "Type 2".

Type 1, which is what I have had since I was nine, is also known as Juvenile Diabetes. This is because, usually, it is diagnosed during one's childhood. But that isn't always the case. Anyhow, with Type 1, you are dealing with an autoimmune disease. There is some (as yet, unknown) environmental trigger that causes the body to attack itself. The body kills off the beta cells which produce insulin. Without insulin, of course, you die. This is why Type 1 diabetics spend the remainder of their lives giving themselves insulin.

The second type...Type 2. This is also known as adult onset. Type 2 is not fully understood, but is strongly tied to obesity. Scientists haven't yet decided if the obesity actually causes Type 2, or if obesity is more or less another symptom of the fundamental cause of Type 2. Regardless, anyone who is overweight is at greater risk for developing Type 2. And Type 2 is typically diet-controlled, perhaps with oral medication. However, Type 2 can develop into insulin-dependence. This doesn't mean it becomes Type 1. It just means the Type 2 diabetic must also give insulin.

There are a few other forms of diabetes (such as gestational, which is similar to Type 2), but a majority of diabetics fall under the banner of Type 1 or Type 2.

So...what does all that difference mean? Plenty. Frankly, I am very thankful I am not a Type 2 diabetic. There seems to be this idea the Type 1 is "worse" than Type 2 for some reason. I'm guessing because if I stop giving myself insulin, I'll keel over. But in practice, Type 1 is far easier (well, in relative terms) to deal with. Type 2 forces a completely lifestyle change. Type 1, not so much. I can still eat pretty much anything I want...I just have to be aware of what I'm eating and adjust insulin accordingly.

The Type 2 diabetic, however, doesn't have such a luxury. They can never know for sure how their body will react to the amount of food they are eating, or how insulin resistant they are on any given day. Not to mention, Type 2 is far more prolific than Type 1. I probably have the percentage wrong...but if I recall, Type 1 only accounts for 5-10% of diabetes cases in the United States.

In both cases, diabetics must keep close tabs on their blood sugar (aka, BGL or Blood Glucose Levels). Frequest testing is required. And, diabetics live out their lives concerned about the development of various complications, such as blindness (retinopathy), neuropathy, heart disease, etc.

If you believe that diabetes doesn't impact you, you are already mistaken there. Even if you are perfectly healthy and skinny-as-a-twig, diabetes and it's complications is one of the number one medical expenses driving up health care today.

So, there you have it...in a nutshell. Of course, there is far more to learn. Check out the American Diabetes Association for more information.

Thank you. You are dismissed.

Monday, November 07, 2005

The Big Day

Well, today's the big day. The day we just might finally get answers. (Actually, we won't get answers today...we'll get questions. But those questions will lead to the answers.)

My six-year-old son has struggled with certain aspects of learning language for years. We noticed it at three. He's since undergone hearing tests, vision tests, auditory tests, academic tests, and probably a few I'm forgetting. All have come back normal. But there's something not right. We know it. His Sunday School teachers know it.

You give him a simple instruction, such as, "Go put these clothes in the white dresser drawer," and he'll take the clothes on put them on the white book case. He also has struggled with just identifying his alphabet letters, despite having no trouble with math. At the same time, he is highly creative and quite intelligent.

So, what's the problem? According to all of the testing so far...nothing. And, in fact, were we not homeschooling him, he would very likely have been diagnosed with ADD, put on medication, and thrown into a special education program that never actually addresses the problem.

He doesn't have ADD, by the way. In fact, after a lot of research, my wife finally tracked down what we believe it is. And, in fact, it is what an experienced educator of 35 years has said, as well as a psychologist has suggested. So, it call comes down to today.

As I type this, my son is undergoing yet another series of tests...but this time, with the person who has the expertise to diagnose him properly. It gives us hope that we'll finally have answers, and then finally have a plan to help him overcome it. Hopefully, in a week or so, I'll be able to tell you all that he has Central Auditory Processing Disorder...a problem that is frequently misdiagnosed as ADD, which results in the completely wrong treatment.

This whole experience just reaffirms how important it is for parents to be advocates for your own child. We've been told over and over that he is fine. But we have known better. If the medical doctors and teachers don't know how to label the problem, it doesn't exist. But had we accepted that, I'm afraid for what would become of my son. Frustrated, perhaps depressed, with a poor self-esteem.

As it is he doesn't like to try new things because he's afraid of failure. He sees the success of his older brother, who by the same age, had no difficulty reading. He struggles with playing games he doesn't know because he doesn't understand how to play them...though, once he learns how, he typically excels.

I'm reminded of a quote that Dr. Phil makes on his show. You can't fix a problem until you're willing to address it. And the only ones who are willing to address my son's problem are my wife and myself.

Friday, November 04, 2005

A Numbers Game

Diabetes is the ultimate numbers game, where your very life is at stake...not money. (Well, money, too. Diabetes is an expensive disease, after all.)

Of course, there are the number of units of insulin you are taking. For pump users, that includes basal rates. It involves carefully working out the exact correction factor and carb-to-insulin ratio. For me, we're talking 1 unit for every 30 mg/dL over my target BGL, and 1 unit for every 9.5 grams of carbs.

Next up, we have carbs. Counting carbs. Often, it is guessing carbs. No, scratch that. "Estimating" carbs. We never guess. Right? That pile of rice on your plate? Well...it is somewhere between 10 and 100 carbs. I'm sure of it.

Then, the all powerful blood glucose level (BGL). This is where the numbers game turns into a gambling addiction. We obsess over the BGL, always hoping, praying, that after that 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 countdown, we see the perfect 98 mg/dL! (Or, whatever your preferred target value is.) It rarely happens. And when it does, we are totally shocked and test again just to make sure it wasn't a fluke. More often than not, we lose the game there. But, we can't stop playing. So, we try again.

Beyond that, we move into more esoteric territory. Numbers we can't directly see nor control. A1c. The payoff of every diabetic's gambling. The doctor wants it below 7. We rejoice when we just manage to pull a lower A1c than we did three months ago. Finally, after years of trying, I finally managed a 6.7! Time to celebrate, right? But then my doctor informs me that they now want everyone to be below 6.5. Argh. Just when you think you hit the jackpot, they change the rules on you!

Throw in your weight, cholesterol levels, microalbumin count, and the number of hairs on your head (okay...maybe not, but sometimes it feels that way), and you can see the problem. The game is rigged, I tell you.

But, there is no choice in the matter. We can't opt out of the game. So, make the best of it. Have fun with the game. And really focus on the nuances that are important.

Let me tell you a little secret about BGL. It doesn't really matter if it goes high. Hit a 300? Don't fret. Your A1c isn't shot because of it. You won't suddenly develop retinopathy. The key to success isn't in that single number. It is keeping your BGLs from staying high.

You test. You see that 300 and panick. But then you correct. An hour later, you are at 150. Another hour later, you are at 120. No harm done. It is when you see that 300 and do nothing that is a problem. You leave that 300 there for several hours, and you are going to have issues.

In gambling...or, perhaps, the stock market is a better analogy...it doesn't matter that you just lost $500 today. Not when you have made $2000 in the past month. We are in this thing for the long haul. Always remember that!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Slow Readers, Unite!

Once upon time, in a galaxy far, far away...yadda yadda yadda...and they all lived happily ever after.

I'm a slow reader. Always have been. I even once checked out a book from the library about learning how to speed read, but I couldn't get through the whole thing before it was due back. As a guy who actually enjoys reading a good book, not to mention trying to write a good book, it is a problem.

There are, of course, the typical problems with getting through a book. Finding time, for one. It is so easy to plop down in front of the television and get an entire story visually fed to you in two hours. That same story, in book form, takes, oh, about twenty hours.

Back in college, I had a literature class that involved reading one book every week, including writing a paper. You know how many of those books I actually finished? One. (At least, I'm pretty sure I finished it.)

The side benefit to being a slow reader, however, is that I'm a pretty good judge as to what is a good book. Not that there aren't plenty of good books I don't read (or finish). But, if there is a book that I actually read and finish from cover to cover, typically others will like it as well. Granted, I have no real way to test this theory, aside from a small samplings of friends. In fact, what I'm saying might be totally arrogant on my part, and that I can't tell a classic from a catastrophe. But this is my blog, and I can say what I want!

Anyhow, I was recently saddened when I found out that of the top 100 books according to some Important Publication That Rates Things Like This, I had only read three. Three! How pathetic! For a fleeting moment, I thought I had read four, only to recall that I had read the script to the stage play version of the story, not the actual book upon which the stage play was based.

So, I want to change that. Uh. Not the stage play, nor the book upon which the play was based. I want to improve my score.

But I had a horrible revelation that in order to do that, I would have to actually read some of the books on that list. And I just don't have the time for that!

But I came up with a solution. Since I'm such a great judge of books (refer to paragraph 5), rather than trying to read from the list...all I have to do is convince the Important Publication That Rates Things Like This that their list is wrong. And then, I will simply tell them what books should be on their list. So, without having to read another word from another book, I might be able to up my score from three out of a hundred to, say, thirty out of a hundred.

And here are some of my suggested titles:
  • Encyclopedia Brown: Boy Detective...I mean, who doesn't love a good mystery. Right? And if they include the first book, perhaps they can include more of the books!
  • Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing...Judy Blume is a mainstay of American pop culture. How could one of her books not be on the list?
  • Dragonlance Chronicles...I was a little leery about including this one. After all, it is a trilogy. And a trilogy of three relatively long books. Not really ideal reading material for the slow readers of the country. But, I realized I really needed to up my average word count, so I decided to keep it!
  • Fox in Sox...Oh, you laugh. But, come on. Really. How can Dr. Seuss not be included? And on top of that, of all his books, this one is most definitely the most challenging. Have you ever read through the entire book out loud without making a mistake?
  • and the truly classic, Choose Your Own Adventure series...Honestly, I don't care which book from the series. Personally, I think as long as you read at least one book from the series, and you actually played out each and every possible ending, you deserve credit. Don't you?
I have plenty more titles to suggest, never you fear. But that's enough of a sampling to illustrate, don't you think?

Slow readers, unite!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

A Gift From God

Can I talk about my wife for a moment?

I don't know how many of you are married, or even how many of you are men...but if you are a married man, you know the value of a good wife.

And I have a good wife. A great wife, actually. A wife that helps me to be a better husband and father. A wife who will point out my flaws in a loving gentle way, yet also offer me just the right amount of food for my ego. Not too much, else I'll become big-headed. (Well, more big-headed.) But always enough.

She encourages me. She challenges me. In many ways (okay...in most ways) she is the funnier of the two of us. Perhaps I'm just easily amused--I don't know. But there is barely a day that goes by where she doesn't make me laugh.

And she is smart. Very smart. Smart in ways that I am not. Even when I'm right about something...she knows a way to be "righter". About important things, too. Like relationships.

What I know about parenting is because I learned it from her. I shudder at the thought of how I might be with my kids without the support of my wife. I lose my patience easily, expect perfection in ways children can't provide. Yet, she sees that in me. She reins me and helps me to see the bigger picture.

My wife works hard. Harder than I do. I get to sit at a desk every day. What I do is mentally challenging, perhaps. But she is shaping the very lives of our children. She is never left with a moment's peace.

Of course, you might get the impression that there are never hiccups in our marriage. Times when we just don't like each other very much. Those times happen. But when they do, they are short lived. "Do not let the sun descend upon your anger." Painful moments happen...but sometimes they are necessary to grow. Like pruning a rose bush that then grows even more beautiful.

I guess I feel the need to talk about my wife because of last night. We had this great conversation last night. The kind that sticks with you and makes you think. And since she was on my mind, I thought I would take the opportunity to express just a tiny portion of the gratitude I have for her. She is, truly, a gift from God.

I love you, honey!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Pumpkin Day

So, did everyone have a nice Pumpkin Day?

What's that? You don't know what Pumpkin Day is? Perhaps you know it by a different name.

Our family doesn't "do" Halloween. Our reasons are numerous, which I won't go into now. We, however, do celebrate God's creation in what we call Pumpkin Day. Any why we ever came up with the name Pumpkin Day is beyond me. It is a rather lame name, I'll admit. But it's what stuck...and we aren't about to break tradition now.

Let me share with you all a little tip: If there was ever a time you wanted to have a nice night out at a restarant, Oct. 31 is the night to do it. Every year, we start off our festivities with a nice family dinner out. And we're not talking about Mickey D's or Burger King. We're talking the big leagues here. Like Cracker Barrel, or Don Pablo's. Or, as the case was this year, Bob Evan's. And every year, we are just amazed at how empty these places can be. Last night, we practically had the entire non-smoking section of the place to ourselves. I counted about five tables with folks eating.

Anyhow, after our meal, we headed home, playing the "name something God made" game along the way...and then it was pumpkin carving time. Have you ever read The Pumpkin Patch Parable? Well, that's the book we use, where a pumpkin is a means to teach a Biblical lesson about Jesus. We lit our pumpkin candles and displayed them proudly on our entertainment center as we moved on to the next phase of the evening. The treasure hunt. We give clues which tell our kids where to find each "treasure."

The last part of the evening was supposed to be a family movie...but, for whatever reason, it was already 10:00 pm before we finished the treasure hunt. So, the movie had to be pushed off to another night.

Actually, Pumpkin Day typically extends beyond Oct. 31 itself. The weekend before, we make a trip to a wooded park for a family walk (and pictures...we must never forget about pictures!). Then we go to the pumpkin patch (which is really Mary's Farm Market where they already picked the pumpkins and piled them up for us).

My kids love Pumpkin Day (which is an understatement of epic proportions). My wife...well, she loves that the kids love it, though, admittedly, it is a lot of work for her. More work, in fact, than any other holiday. I love the fact that it is a family tradition unique to our family. It is a big event. And it is something we do together. And it is events like Pumpkin Day that make me see how important tradition can be for a family.

I think traditions are often lost, today. The idea seems old-fashioned. But I challenge each of you to create a family tradition. Something truly your own, where everyone is involved. You'll be amazed at how it draws the family together.