Thursday, August 30, 2012

Hitting A Snag

I've been wearing a Dexcom sensor for a while and I'm pretty used to living with what feels like a Lego block taped to my arm. There is only one thing I haven't figured out. How do I keep it from snagging on my clothes? There is a space between the sticky bandage and the sensor that is magnetically attracted to my clothes. Getting it caught on stuff hurts, but that's not the only problem.

I just got a weird reading from my Dexcom. It said 181. My finger said 118. I couldn't figure out why the numbers were no where near one another. Then I remembered when I was getting dressed after my shower  I yanked the sensor once again. This time I knocked part of the sensor out of its clip. I'm lucky it didn't spawn three question marks.

I'm still new to all this stuff. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to keep from snagging my Dexcom on my clothes? If you have any ideas let me know.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Beware of Cuckoo Friends

I got an urgent phone call Sunday afternoon from the eight-year-old daughter of a friend. A shelf in the garage collapsed and hit her mother in the head. I grabbed some stuff and hurried across town. I arrived at the house and found my friend sitting on the couch. She looked dazed. Since my friend is deaf I always bring my iPad so I can type to her. My sign language skills are severely limited.

When I got to my friend's house there were other people there. It was chaotic and a little scary. My friend needed to go to the hospital. I wanted to call an ambulance but that was voted down. I agreed to drive my friend and her daughter to the hospital. I had to pick up her husband along the way. Somehow in the confusion my iPad got left behind on their living room couch.

I took everyone to the hospital and babysat their daughter in the emergency room waiting room. After a few hours their little girl was bouncing off the walls. She needed toys to play with. I wished I had my iPad with me because that would at least give her something to do. So, I got my friend's house keys, drove back to the house to get some toys and grab my iPad.

I unlocked the door, looked on the couch... no iPad. I looked everywhere. No iPad. Where is it? What happened to it? I searched everywhere, but it was gone. Someone stole my iPad while I was taking my friend to the hospital!

The worst part is, my former friends probably know who took it, but they are covering for the thief. I'm not surprised by this, just really disappointed and angry. Have you ever had a feeling you were friends with a loser? I learned the hard way that being friends with losers is not worth it.

There are cuckoo people in this world and they come into our lives pretending to be normal people. But they're not. Common cuckoos look like normal birds. But they are different.
File:Cuculus canorus vogelartinfo chris romeiks CHR0791 cropped.jpg  Instead of building a nest for her eggs, the cuckoo flies to another bird's nest. She knocks one of the eggs out and lays a single egg in its place. Then she flies away. The host birds have no idea this invader laid a new egg in the nest, so the parents incubate the cuckoo's egg along with their own eggs. Then the cuckoo chick hatches earlier than the other eggs. It pushes all the unhatched eggs out of the nest until only the cuckoo chick remains. The host parents feed the cuckoo until it reaches adulthood. Then the whole cycle happens again.

People can be like this. I've watched people fly into my life and start taking things from me. They take my time, compassion, energy, money, and peace of mind. The more I give the more a human cuckoo takes. The only way to get rid of cuckoos is to throw them out of my life. This time the final shove out of my life came when my iPad was stolen right out of their house and neither of them thought it was a big deal.

It is a big deal.

It's not JUST about the iPad, which is replaceable at the Apple Store. What was special about that  iPad was my husband gave it to me as a gift. The hardware can be replaced. The gift can't. That moment in time is now gone. I'm sad and angry. I feel betrayed and upset. And they didn't even tell me thank you. They didn't offer to help me replace my iPad. Their attitude was, "Sucks for you." I considered filing a police report, but decided against it for reasons I'm not getting into here.

Cuckoos. I'm not a helpless warbler who has no choice but to look after a cuckoo bird. I can choose to evict the cuckoos from my life. I'm just sorry I had to have my iPad stolen before I remembered, "With friends like these, who needs enemies."

I'm slowly settling down inside. I feel like I ate an electric mixer and it is stuck on high. Team Smith pooled together our money today and we were able to order me a replacement iPad from the Apple Store. My family and true friends helped me through this stressful mess. Joy in the middle of panic. I'm hanging on to it while I kick the cuckoos out of my life. Goodbye and good riddance.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Another Year Cancer Free

I was diagnosed with thymoma cancer a few days before my 29th birthday on July 5th 1998. Sometimes myathenia gravis is a warning sign for thymoma so my doctor ordered a routine screening MRI. Neither of us expected it to come back positive. I had CT scans at two different hospitals and all three pathologists found the same mass in my chest.

The surgeon called me and said, "I'm looking at your repeat CT scan and I'm seeing tumor. When would you like to schedule surgery?"

This was surreal.  My little girl was playing with a Barbie van, driving it under the coffee table, while I was on the phone talking to this doctor about having surgery. Not a little procedure. A chest cracking, hand me the rib spreader, 9.5 hour marathon surgery. Here's what it looks like *GRAPHIC LINK OF REAL SURGERY* That is what I survived.

The day after surgery my heart swelled. I got an infection. I was so fragile after surgery using a remote control made me cry from the pain. It took a year before I could play the cello. It took two years before I could have a hug without pain. This was a massive surgery. My life is divided into before and after.

On my birthday a few weeks before surgery I told my mom I felt like my life depended on rolling a Yahtzee.  The only thing I wanted for my 29th birthday was a 30th birthday. Well, I got my birthday wish. I've had 14 birthdays since surgery. Here's to 14 more! Another year cancer free. YAY!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Road

Lately the road I am traveling on feels cold, lonely and bleak. I didn't want myasthenia gravis. I didn't want diabetes. I don't know how to handle all this.

The road ahead feels threatening. Thinking about it makes me worried and exhausted. Sometimes I want to quit.

But, then I see a bend in the road. If I follow the bend in the road, if I keep my wits about me and don't surrender, the road will lead me to a quieter place where beauty is found.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

B is for...

B is for Breakfast, the most important meal of the day. B is also for Bolus, which I forgot to do Before I ate Breakfast. B is for BG which spiked above 300 mg/dl

Oh man! Today felt like a roller coaster. I have a terrible headache. Ow! Today I Blew it.  B is for Bad Day.

Tomorrow morning I am going to Be on top of things. I will Bolus and then eat Breakfast. Then my BG will Be just fine. See, I can Be taught. Sometimes I just have to learn the hard way. Like today. Ow!

Getting So Excited

My cello is healing nicely at the repair shop. I am thinking about all the music I want to play. Bach, of course and this lovely Etude by Popper. It's my favorite Popper etude. Etudes are study pieces, kind of like musical homework. Popper Etude Number 36 always was fun to play. Listen:

Of course that was Janos Starker, one of the greatest cellists ever. I am not Janos Starker, or one of the greatest cellists ever. I can't play that etude as fast, or smoothly, or that perfectly. He makes it sound so easy and it's not. Listening to someone who can play it so well makes me smile inside.

Thinking about playing my cello again is making me happy. Popper Etude Number 36 is a joy benchmark in my life. Soon, very soon, I'll be playing it again. Slowly. With a metronome. But, playing nonetheless! Wow! I can't wait!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Going in Circles?

This made me sad. I went to the grocery store this afternoon and the route took me near Paula's house. I broke down in tears as I thought about how she died searching the house for her little boy. I switch from feeling sad to angry and back to sad. It's easy to feel like I am trapped and just going in circles. Grief is like that for me, whirling around in seemingly endless circles.

A lesson I learned after my mother died was that grief does whirl me in circles, but that doesn't mean something is wrong. I'm not spinning around going no where. I am spiraling my way forward. All of that whirling has a purpose. It's leading me forward toward a more peaceful place.

I'm spiraling my way out of depression right now. Even though it feels like I'm going in circles, I'm not. I'm moving forward in a spiral. That is comforting me lately.

I'm still facing writer's block during my daily writing time. I am keeping my journal and keeping my daily commitment to try and write something. What I end up writing is compost and that is frustrating me. I need to remember that I am spiraling my way out of writer's block. Every day leads me forward.

So many things block creative flow. One thing that releases it is giving myself permission to be lost and allow myself the freedom to spiral my way out. Lately I am so full of different feelings, thoughts and input that I haven't been able to grow hungry for writing. My mind is full. There is no room for writing. I'm picturing myself dropping the extra baggage down the stair well. I don't have to take this stuff with me. All I have to do is trust that there is an end to the spiral. I need to keep on moving forward toward a more peaceful place.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Whole New Angle

After several bent cannula disasters and rapid high blood sugars, I got frustrated with XPU the pump. My blood sugars were all over the place. Maybe this pump wasn't such a good idea.

I wondered if I should go back to multiple daily injections. I was getting dressed and I forgot to disconnect my pump. So I yanked my pump set because my tubing was 23 cm long. Yanking my pump set leads to bent cannula disasters which leads to Dexcom double arrows up in the middle of the night.

So I did some thinking. Maybe straight sets aren't working for me? I wonder if an angled set would work better. Dexcom is angled after all. And what about tube length? Should I try a longer tube? I talked with Animas and got sent a few samples.

I unwrapped my first Inset 30 set. I took one look at the introducer needle and freaked out.The cannula is 13 millimeters. The introducer needle is even longer. That is one long needle! The last thing I wanted to do was stick that in my body. No way!

I freely admit the Inset 30 scared the pants off of me. Maybe this angled set idea wasn't so smart. I read the instructions. I read them again. I surfed the internet for videos of people inserting the thing. It took me a few hours to work up the courage to pull the trigger and fire that scary long needle into my skin.

One. Oh man. I can't do this. Wipe sweat off forehead.

Come back try again. One. Two. Oh no! Oh #$%! Deep breath!

One. Two. *Wince* Three. Squeeze the buttons... SNAP!


That's it? That didn't hurt. What was I worried about? I changed my set and got my pump refilled with insulin. I'm getting faster at this. I don't feel like I have oven mitts on my hands anymore. Filling my pump is as routine as tying my shoes. Practice may not make perfect but it sure makes things easier.

It's been a week using angled sets and longer tubing. I think I've fallen back in love with my insulin pump. My numbers are good. I'm glad I decided to give my pump another chance. Right now I'm looking at pumping from a whole different angle.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

When Insulin Pumps Attack

I was cleaning the living room and listening to my iPod. Without thinking, I put my iPod in the same pocket as my insulin pump. The headphone wires got tangled up with the pump tubing. They started playing Cat's Cradle with me in the middle.

Note to self: When using an iPod and an insulin pump keep them in different pockets next time!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Cello = Joy

My cello is in the shop. In a month my cello will be back with me and I will play Bach with my own hands. Just thinking about playing again is making me feel...

Cellos rule. Cellos add joy to life. Seriously. Did you ever notice which instrument begins Ode to Joy from Beethoven's 9th? Scroll to 57:48 and listen for a bit.

Without the cellos there would be no Ode to Joy. No cellos, no joy. Know cello, know joy.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Having A Dry Spell

Illinois is having a serious drought. The lake where I take walks with my husband has dried up.

Droughts are stressful, both outside in the world, and inside the spirit. I've been having a creative drought lately. I've tried a lot of different things to fix it:

  • Forcing myself to write.
  • Not forcing myself to write.
  • Using writing prompts.
  • Setting appointments for writing.
  • Rewarding myself for writing.

None of these proved effective. I'm having a dry spell.  I haven't been able to determine if I'm depressed because I'm not writing, or if I'm not writing because I am depressed. Admitting this feels like defeat. Depression always feels like defeat, like I did something wrong and now I deserve to feel shriveled up. Depression lies.

Depression forms a dark mist around me. I was depressed before Paula died. I am even more depressed now. I feel as if someone took a massive garden hose and sprayed all the color out of my world. I flip between feeling profoundly sad and intensely angry and back again. Once a murder was an exciting way to begin a story. Then I felt Paula's mother Gina's trembling embrace. Then I felt her tears mix with mine on my cheek.

This is Joy Benchmarks. Joy is happy, dammit! Joy Benchmarks is place where I search for joy in the smallest of things and share my discoveries with you. Right now joy is hard to find. Grief is not fun to talk about, but it is part of being human. Please bear with me as I sort through all this. 

Illinois is having a serious drought. I feel like I am having a serious drought as well. Perhaps I need to be less hard on myself. Perhaps I need to recognize that seasons have a flow, and dry is one of those seasons. I want to feel a rush of creativity. I want to be wide awake and full of life. I want to have trouble sleeping because I want to write. Now I sleep too much and write too little.

I can't give up. I have to believe I will create again. I need to believe that creative flow will come, just like I trust rain will replenish my favorite lake. Creativity will replenish my spirit. All I have to do is wait.


I am not a doctor. I do not have a medical degree. Nothing on this site qualifies as medical advice. These are lessons I'm learning at the University of Catastrophe. What I find to be correct answers in my classes may not be the right answers for you.

If you are enrolled with your own major at the University of Catastrophe, please consult your doctor, therapist, attorney, auto mechanic, veterinarian, plumber, dietician, arborist, acupuncturist, manicurist, mother, local dairy council, shoe shine boy, or other equally qualified professional, for advice and assistance.

If you email me your personal information will not be shared without your permission and your email address will not be sold. I hate spam. Even with eggs.

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