Diabetes Jeopardy!

Sometimes I wonder if anyone in my house can remember a time when diabetes wasn’t always on our minds.

I can’t, not really.

It’s become part of our normal, the routine, something like washing your hands before you eat dinner or  the fact that there’s homework on school days. You don’t think too much about it — it’s just there. Most days, anyway.

Some days, it’s all we talk about or think about. Maybe because Mitzi’s very high or very low or is sick or has a lot of sports or she’s rebelling in her preteen way about all the stuff in her life and diabetes management is just another boundary to push.

Yesterday, we all had diabetes on the mind because of MCAS, the state-wide mandated standardized tests given twice a year. Mitzi had her first round yesterday, so, starting the night before, we prepared. Not for the academics, though — we prepared for the blood sugars.

MCAS is a unique annoyance for Mitzi (even more than it usually is for every other child or adult who has to suffer the ridiculous things). If her blood sugar is too high, she can’t start the test when the other kids do — and can’t even start until it’s normal. And if it doesn’t normalize in enough time that she can take the test on that particular day, she has to make it up, missing class. If it happens on test day number two — well, more makeups, more missed class. Avoiding that scenario was in all of our best interests.

Blood sugar was on my mind when I woke up. What would it be? How early should I wake her up to test and find out? A low-carb breakfast was on the menu (scrambled eggs, while the other kids got pancakes). Would it be okay?

Luckily, it was. Normal at breakfast, even lower throughout the day. We discussed it at dinner, praising Mitzi for managing herself so well all day, and slipped into a general discussion about diabetes. Mitzi tossed questions at her siblings: If I pass out, what do you do? (Call 911, tell them you’re diabetic! Cooper even chimed in, “Get that diabetic epi-pen thingie with the glucawhatever!”) Is 150 a good blood sugar? (Yes!)

Joanna knows her diabetes stuff!

Joanna knows her diabetes stuff!

This led to the idea of Diabetes Jeopardy! After we finished eating, the younger three headed for their showers and Mitzi grabbed a bunch of index cards. She made categories and questions and assigned monetary values. When everyone was ready, they played. I watched from the dining room, struggling with something on the computer I was doing for Ray.

It was adorable. And impressive. A $400 question: What do I need if my number is high? All the kids were quick, but Joanna’s “BUZZ!!!!” was the fastest. “MORE INSULIN!!!!!” she shouted, jumping up and down.

Three years ago it made me sad that my small children had to know all of this. That a three and four year old had to recognize their big sister’s physical symptoms of highs and lows and know how to tell Mommy and Daddy about it.

Now it just makes me proud.

Mitzi finds it terribly annoying, the way one of her siblings will ask her if she’s bolused for the apple she’s eating, or the way that they might find me to see if it’s okay that she’s having a snack. The way everyone at various times asks her where her kit is, if she tested yet, and what the number was. Mitzi is eleven, and everything about her parents and siblings is annoying. But especially when they butt into her diabetes business.

But last night. Ah, last night, it was okay, and for the first time ever, diabetes was kind of fun.

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A sort of goodbye, for now, to my little sister who lives too far away….

I know I said I was going to blog my tush off for banned books week.  And I didn’t.  Gah.  That’s what happens around here, plans are made, lists are crafted, ideas are simmering — and then the darned kids get in the way.  Life happens.

The good news is that the stuff that kept me away wasn’t bad stuff.  Just stuff.  I also had a fantastic week with my sister visiting from Colorado.  Apparently, she is going to be living there for the near future, despite my constant reminders that New England also has snowboarding in the winter and amazing hiking/biking during the other seasons.  Since she’s from here originally, she already knows this, but I still tell her.  Because having my sister — my best friend — living thousands of miles away really stinks.

We’ve always been together, whether because my parents made us or because we actually chose to, from the shared bedroom (almost through college) to the shared apartments (Beacon Hill, Southie) to the shared house (when we all crashed at Mom and Dad’s for a year).  Then Ray and I moved back to Massachusetts, and she stayed tackle corporate America.

That separation wasn’t bad — three hours in a car isn’t much, and we visited a lot.  Then, of all things, she decides to head west, to follow a dream and seek what might be found in another part of the country.  Darn her.   What she eventually found was love, permanence, a new sense of self, and a different sort of road to happiness.

I’ll say it again — darn her.

It’s funny when you know someone your whole life, then don’t see them for a year, and when you do, it’s the same all over again, but better.  The way she shines.  The confidence.  The joy, even when life’s a struggle.  And I know where she lives right now is, for her, good and right (and that guy of hers better not do anything out of line, hear me?), but I am selfish.  I want her nearby.

The kids are saving dollars to buy plane tickets to visit their cherished aunt, and can find Telluride on a map.  I tell them that yes, maybe some day we will also go west.  Until then, heart strings are long and tough.

And there’s always email, cell phones, and the good old US post office.

It’s not enough, but it will have to do.

Saying goodbye….

My little sister Michelle is leaving tomorrow for Jackson, Wyoming, for her second year as office manager atLost Creek Ranch This is her second season at the ranch, and she’s really looking forward to spending another six months out west.  We, here in the East, wish she would just stay put.  There was always something reassuring, admittedly in a very selfish sense, when Michelle lived down the road in Quincy.  I know she has to follow her own muse….I wish its herald was closer to Massachusetts, is all.  What the heck.  October isn’t so far away, is it??

Going West

Denial. Not just a river in Egypt.

Okay, the oldest joke in the world. But I’ve been swimming in denial for a few months now, and am just feeling ready to talk about it, because it’s really going to happen.

Michelle is really leaving.

Michelle is my little sister, the baby of the family. (She hates to be called that, but to me, oftentimes, that’s what she is.) At the same time, for most of my life she’s been my best friend, strongest supporter, fiercest defender, disher of tough love. She has an amazingly gentle heart and incredibly strong shoulders. I hope I’ve been somewhat the same for her.

Next week she’s leaving the East to embark on a journey West, to the land of big skies, of wide open spaces, where she’ll work on a ranch for six months, leaving behind the fast-paced world of corporate America, Blackberries, deadlines and cafeterias (but thankfully not her blog, email or cell phone, come on now.) This position been a dream of hers for years now. The move is a courageous, joyous one, not lightly made or softly planned.

I couldn’t be more thrilled for her. Really. And since we live so far apart now, it’s not like we’re ending our weekly lunches or daily workouts together. Live the dream. It’s not about me. Go for it. All that stuff. I know there’s nothing to be upset about.

But there’s something sad about the change. What if she won’t be able to chat on the phone 95 times a day like we do now? Or email at the drop of a hat? What if the kids want to call her and leave a song message on her voice mail?

She says it’s only for six months. “Imagine I’m going to college,” she says. “The time will fly by.”

Sure. But when she went to college I was gone too, and we were too young to be sad at goodbyes.

The kids, particularly Mitzi, grow teary at the thought of Shelley far away. In comforting them, I remind myself of things:

Look at your auntie. She is brave. She is taking a chance to fulfill a dream, risking a comfortable and certain present for an unknown future. And, kids, make sure you ask her how alive it makes her feel to do that. Ask her if colors seem brighter, the wind a little sweeter.

And always remember, my babies, I might think to say, remember that the unexamined life is not worth living. You only get one go-around. Make it count.

No matter where you go, you can always come home.

Michelle, you too.