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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What Low Blood Sugar Feels Like For Me

The current view of my dining room table, with just some of my diabetes supplies.

It's 11:25 pm, and I've been asleep for about an hour. Then suddenly, I'm not. Here's the thought process for how my mind works when I wake up, experiencing low blood sugar due to diabetes.

I'm hot...Oh my it's so hot in here...It's dark...Must be nighttime...How late?...Have to get out of these blankets...My heart is racing, I can hear it in my ears...What time is it?...Why am I so hot?...The air conditioner is on...I can hear it...That means it's summer...If the air conditioning is on, I shouldn't be hot...I only have this thin blanket here...I'm hot, but now I'm shivering...I can't see the clock, I need my glasses...Oh, it's 11:25 pm?...I shouldn't be feeling like this now...I must be low.
That process, from waking up until I realize I need to check my blood sugar, takes a couple of minutes because my brain really isn't getting enough sugar to help me think clearly. And though I've been a diabetic for more than a decade, and these nights don't happen all that often, it's still scary as hell every time it does.

Part of what makes it so scary each time is how random it is. When this happened again on Sunday night, I was annoyed because I'd taken the kids for ice cream that afternoon, and so why in the world would I be having low blood sugar that night? If I'd gone to the gym too (I almost always get low after working out), then maybe I'd have anticipated it. But not that night. Not only an hour after I'd finally fallen asleep, feeling Sunday night blahs and not wanting the weekend to be over.

Then I need to treat the low. Sometimes, if I'm still groggy and haven't turned on the lights, I'll convince myself to eat some of the glucose tabs I keep on my nightstand. They taste like chalk and I try to make sure I rinse my mouth really well after eating them, because I'm terrified they'll give me cavities (yay, a staying alive solution that just causes another problem!), but getting up to brush my teeth would definitely ruin my chances of falling back to sleep. Most of the time, I go downstairs and get something to eat, usually a bowl of cereal. The hard thing is to not eat too much, despite how awful the low feels. I've learned not to eat until the low is completely gone, because then my blood sugar will be too high the next day. The trick is to eat just enough, and ride out it out until I feel normal again. And then, somehow, find a way to fall back to sleep.

In case you haven't gotten the point by now, the entire experience is pretty awful. The scariest part about it is that I could potentially get so low some night, that I don't wake up at all.

I wrote back in May that I was planning to get back to using a continuous glucose monitor soon, and due to insurance issues, I haven't been able to get it started yet. I have to send back most of those supplies you see on my dining room table above. That's only part of the picture--it doesn't include an entire shelf of insulin in my refrigerator, and boxes and boxes of needles, lancets and test strips too. Diabetes takes up both real estate in my brain, and in my refrigerator, closet, dressers.

Most of the time, I try not to think about it too much. I take my meds and test, and see my endocrinologist every few months. I'm lucky that despite having to live with this chronic disease, I can manage it in ways that aren't overly challenging. But nighttime low blood sugar? That I'd be happy to do without.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Gathering Under Street Lamps

Last night was the annual Arts Nite at the day camp my children have attended for the past few weeks. It was Hannah's sixth summer participating in the event, and it's become a highlight of the year for me. The night runs long, as the youngest kids kick it off with a short play and corresponding song, and then the oldest kids perform a full-scale musical.

Both kids were thrilled to participate in their plays this year, with Max as the title role in "A Sick Day for Amos McGee," and Hannah playing a resident in the town of Whoville in the musical based on the writings of Dr. Seuss, "Seussical." Both of them put all of their hearts into their productions, and they loved being on stage and part of a cast.

It's in these short summer months that I see explosive growth in my children. The experiences they have at camp are different than anything they do the rest of the year, and it shows in the ever-expanding confidence they display, especially when on stage. I always leave these performances bursting with pride.

Moments like these are meant for ice cream. The older kids had been talking about visiting a local ice cream shop for days, but when the time came, Hannah didn't want to go. Maybe she was worried that she wouldn't fit in, or was uncomfortable in the clothes she had on. She was tired, it was too late, she didn't want her little brother tagging along. But I encouraged her to go, and eventually, to my great joy as well as hers, we went. She celebrated with sprinkles and ice cream trails cascading down her arms in the summer humidity. Under the light of the street lamps, 20 kids gathered and raucously sang, with even more enthusiasm than they'd had on stage. 

Half a country away, others gathered under street lamps in Ferguson, Missouri, not to celebrate, but to mourn. I'll never know why Hannah wanted to hold herself back from joining her friends last night, but I do know this: it wasn't because she was concerned for her personal safety. It wasn't about being treated in a callous way because of her skin color. Some day, she might know fear, because she is a young woman, or because she is a Jew, but I pray that won't be the case. While these kids ate ice cream and sang, others were subjected to tear gas and worse.

Last night, I took photos of my children getting the opportunity to excel and celebrate. Parents in Ferguson should have been able to do that, too. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Depression Lies

The Internet is overwhelmed today with tributes to Robin Williams in the wake of his death and reported suicide being attributed to depression. Like many, I'm sad to lose someone of such stunning talent, but also recognize that we lose many individuals far too soon because depression is a horrible, horrible liar.

Here are the personal accounts of four of my friends and fellow bloggers who have been there and struggled, struggle still. I appreciate that they've shared their stories, and hope that they will serve as inspiration for others to get the help that they need.

At No Points for Style, An Eternal Multitude of Despondency

At The Napkin Hoarder, In His Shoes

At Squared Mommy, let's be honest here...

At Another Version of a Mother, Depression Is

If you're having a hard time, there are many resources to help you remember that you matter. Visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, or call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Squares and Weeks

 My friend Nanette sent out the article, "Your Life in Weeks" to our women's networking group. It graphically depicts what segments of your life look like from birth to age 90, first in decades, then years, and finally, weeks. The diamonds used for decades are huge when compared to the 52 squares on each row meant to represent one year of life.

If you were pregnant and signed up for a certain website's weekly newsletters, you began to know you could look forward to your growing baby being described as some kind of fruit or vegetable on a weekly basis. A string bean, a peach, whatever it was, I know it helped me to imagine the beginnings of this new life. And since children complicate life in innumerable ways, I know I'm also not the only one who lives and dies by the Google calendar, with its three week window into the future. Measuring out my life in weeks isn't a new concept to me, yet seeing the scope of my entire life measured out that way was.

If I had many more of those tiny squares left ahead of me, I'd love to go back and plot out my life to the squares. With both of my children born in January, those would be easy to find. My wedding anniversary would fall right around the halfway point of another year. The day I moved to the Boston area to begin my college career would fall right near the midpoint of my life so far (in just a few weeks, I'll have lived as long in Boston as I did in Cleveland!).

But the real point is that you should be using each of those tiny squares to make your life count, to be reaching towards whatever your goals might be. And because the concept of a week is easier to grasp than similar every day strategies (like "do one thing every day that scares you"), I'm going to try to implement it in some form. For now, it's becoming part of the task list inside my Google calendar. Instead of being a to do list, it'll help me to remember what's been done.

For example, in this first week post-BlogHer14, I had a few immediate things I wanted to follow up with upon returning home. I emailed two of the speakers I had enjoyed, hoping to perhaps collaborate with them, and one emailed me back right away and I pitched more concrete ideas in return. I submitted two potential guest posts to other sites, with one being pretty much guaranteed to run and the other somewhat likely. I also started an about.me page at the urging of another speaker (you can see it here.)

I'm sure there will be weeks when nothing is done that moves me closer to goals that I have. I'll cut myself some slack when that happens. But honestly? One thing a week towards making me figure things out and push beyond my comfort zone? I think I'll manage.

And I owe it to all those little squares to try.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Hook: A #BlogHer14 Recap

Reading at the LTYM Open Mic
Well, I'm back from my second time attending the annual BlogHer conference. I expressed some self-doubt in my last post, and I think it was good for me to get that out of the way, because by the time I got to San Jose, I'd managed to let go of a lot of it. I knew what I wanted to get out of my time there, and I made sure that I did get it.

And I had an absolute ball.

Now there are logistics issues involved in every conference, but just like I wouldn't slam the organizers of something I attended for work online, I'm not going to talk about those issues here. I'll be filling out the conference evaluation, and if you desperately need to know my thoughts, I'll share them in a non-public way. Whining doesn't look good on anyone.

That being said, I also feel like some of the conference organizers and BlogHer employees have become friends. They even have a nickname for me. I know how hard they worked and are still working now, and I respect them too much to be negative when the overall experience brought me so much joy.

So, here's what I wanted to accomplish. I wanted to dedicate these few days to thinking about how to take my blogging to another level. I attended Pathfinder Day's business track (you can see the slides from the sessions online), and finally crafted an elevator pitch:
My name is Cheryl Stober, and welcome to Busy Since Birth. I focus on providing moments of "me too" connection and encouragement to fellow working parents, in all their capacities. My crazy-busy life has led me to say, "I'm having it all--at the exact same time."
I also realized that while the traditional paths to monetization may not be for me because of both my current job and my lack of passion for it, there may be other paths that I can pursue instead. So I'm making up a word: I want to "experience-ize" my blog. I'm hoping to find more opportunities for putting myself out there, whether it's writing for other outlets, or speaking, or podcasts, or video. I want to keep having new experiences because of this blog, and I think that I will. And if money happens to come along with it, all the better.

Which leads me to another aspect of this year's conference that I appreciated: in my opinion, the Expo floor experience was more manageable and the swag wasn't a reason to attend. Last year I felt really silly not trying to get more free stuff, and this year, it felt like less of a big deal. Sure, it's fun to learn about new products and see what might be an interesting new addition to your life, but I didn't feel pressured to participate or chase down party invitations, and that was a relief.

Now I read a lot of blogs. After last year's conference, I added even more to my blog reader. Then LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER added a whole new crew of people for me to follow. So I wasn't shy when I had the chance to approach bloggers I knew and admired, and enjoyed connecting with so many people. It's not like I'm in the same room with them every day, and so I made the most of every opportunity to chat. And taking those opportunities meant I had a lot of really meaningful conversations too. As it was BlogHer's 10th anniversary, there was a lot of discussion of where blogs have been and where they're going, and especially discussions on the impact we can have while handling difficult issues of race, gender, feminism, sexism, frankly, all varieties of activism. Those discussions aren't easy to have, but I felt BlogHer created a safe space where we could have them, so long as you participated with care and understanding. Every meal, every break, and even the late night hours in my hotel room with my roommates, was an opportunity for a deep connection to be made, and I savored them all.

Above all else, I was beyond thrilled to have my "found my tribe." This is something that is beaten to death in the blogging community, to find those people who get you, and yet now that it's really happened for me, I get it. There are lots of other people who I had fun with this weekend, but a huge thank you to Kimberly, Phyllis, Danielle, Lisa and Melissa.


And that right there? That's the hook. Yes, I'm going to quote Blues Traveler and say that it's the hook that brings you back, and those people and many more are the reason I'd want to keep attending BlogHer conferences. Because I laughed harder than I have in ages, cried real tears of emotion, had someone's back, challenged my perceptions, put myself out there and danced like a fool. There's even video to prove it, if you dig hard enough.

Other highlights? Getting my hair stroked by the LTYM New Cities Mentor. Hugging one of the BlogHer founders. Being called the wrong name by the founder of LTYM. :) Reading at the LTYM open mic and promoting the heck out of the show. The 10x10 presentations. Getting hand massages. Seeing Phyllis read at Voices of the Year. The writing lab I attended. The Mrs. Band and their "I'm Enough" campaign (seriously, go watch it). Dinner with bloggers I've long admired. The ridiculously awesome "bitch you can hug" Kara Swisher. Hearing about creating your own personal Board of Directors to advise you in life. Kerry Washington's selfie. Cheese cake instead of cheese steak. It's tricky.

I'm really, really glad I got to go. Thanks to everyone at BlogHer that made it all possible. Hoping to get hooked again next year.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Most People

I'm leaving for BlogHer14 tomorrow, and of course it's making me reflect on where I've been and what I've done since leaving last year's event. A few weeks before I went last year, I wrote this, hoping the conference would rejuvenate me and help me find my place:

"There are so many voices that need to be heard, voices that are telling tales of, well, everything I'm not. Tales of drunkenness and sobriety; abuse and wonderment; health and illness; infertility and multiple births; special needs parenting and single parenting; poverty and luxury; exercise fanatics and overweight acceptance; stylishness and technological savvy; crafters and foodies; meditation and impulsiveness; swearing and over-sharing; religion and politics. Then we all shout through our megaphones of choice, walking the line between excess promotion and praying someone will read it.
And then there's me. I don't neatly fit into any of those categories, and it makes it hard to find my tribe, both of other bloggers and of readers. ... I have to admit there are times that I feel like my voice is really unnecessary."

I still love writing here. I think I've written some really good pieces in this past year. Good things have happened for me, like appearing on Motherlode, completing 50 interviews for The Having It All Project, and producing LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER.

But the sad truth is that fewer people are reading Busy Since Birth than ever.

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Marc heard the song "Most People" first, by a band called Dawes. "Most people don't talk enough about how lucky they are." The lyric, one of many great ones in the song, has been stuck in my head lately. I know I'm lucky. I hope I say it often enough.

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How do you acknowledge the competing feelings? That you're one of too many voices longing to be heard, and yet being happy with all that you have? That much can be accomplished while little can be gained?

I really want to have fun over the next few days, but I also plan to work hard. I want to try to figure out what it is I'm missing, and what I want to do next.  And if you're reading this and have any ideas for me, I'd love to hear them.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Working Motherhood: Podcast Edition

I had the fabulous opportunity to be part of Dr. Portia Jackson's daily podcast, Working Motherhood. It's probably the closest I'll get to being interviewed by Katie Couric or Oprah, and I have to admit, it was a lot of fun. I shared some of what my day to day life looks like, a challenge and a triumph, anda few resources I've enjoyed as a working mom.

I've never done a podcast before, and I probably over-prepared for the interview, but Portia still managed to squeeze in a few questions along the way that I hadn't anticipated. And then she titled my podcast as "Anticipating Needs," and I had a bit of a laugh over that.

You can read the show notes over at WorkingMotherhood.com, where you can also listen to the podcast, or download it for your commute over on iTunes or Stitcher.

And if you'd like to participate in the Working Motherhood podcast, reach out to me and I'll connect you, or you can nominate yourself too!

I hope you'll let me know if you listen!