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Monday, August 25, 2014

Twice as Old: My First Day of College

On this date, almost* half my life ago, I began my freshman year of college at Brandeis University. It's the day I met a few people who would go on to become some of my best friends, and the start of my life in the Boston area.

There is so much I remember about that day, and the memories are so vivid that it's hard to believe they happened 18 years ago. I remember that I wore a Planet Hollywood t-shirt and black jean shorts. I remember being horrified that I'd submitted such an old picture for our freshman class meet/meat book. I remember unpacking my room, buying my books and saying goodbye to my family long before my roommate Carol arrived. I remember meeting Julie from across the hall, and Mike from the dorm next door.

During that orientation week (our theme was Amalgamation--remember that?), there were all sorts of activities scheduled to introduce us to our campus and other classmates, but I mostly remember the other firsts from that week. Our first trip to the grocery store. Taking a bus into Boston to go to my first club. Walking for what seemed like forever, trying to find some random party. Not going to the first Shabbat dinner of the year, because I wasn't sure if that was right for me (then never missing a first week Shabbat dinner again).

That first semester was filled with early morning breakfasts with half of my hall-mates before Chem class, and planning for our first "Screw Your Roommate" dance (oh how we planned). It was about finger painting our window shade, funny email forwards printed out and taped into bathroom stalls, and hosting as many people as we could on the floor of our dorm room. It was about USEM (the required university seminar course, mine was called "Not For the Faint of Heart") and learning to write papers. It was about Sugar Babies, ice cream turkeys and family weekend. About not going home for Thanksgiving until you realized you needed to go home. It was going home for Christmas break, finding out about a loss and realizing that your support network, much less your entire world, had changed completely. It was realizing that change was okay.

So much happened over the next few years. A lot of it I'd love to relive if I had the chance, some of it I'd change, and there are portions I could do without. But I mostly look back on college fondly, and am happy with the trajectory of my life that began there.

* According to the official day count, I won't have lived in Boston for half of my life until next July, since I was almost nineteen when I started college. But this is close enough. :)

Carol, Julie and me at the end of our freshman year, with Justice Brandeis


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Come As You Are (and Tell Us About Your Blog!)

During last week's summer (parenting) vacation, I ended up throwing a little party at my house. Last January I had an evening open and hadn't gotten together with any friends in a while, so I posted something on Facebook saying, "I'm free Sunday night, who can join me for dinner?" Ten people showed up, amazing connections were made and it felt like a wonderful edition of "Cheryl Stober, this is your life!" I couldn't wait to do it again.

This time, the response rate seemed higher than before, and since Marc and the kids were away, I had invited pretty much every local female I could think of for a VERY CASUAL open house party on that random Thursday night. I knew lots of people would be away or have other commitments, but in the end, thirteen people were able to come by for another fun evening of getting to know each other. The group was basically split between my Jewish friends and my blogging friends, and as the night went on, we did get to a "so tell me what your blog is about" part of the evening. I promised to make a list of them all, so here they are:

Phyllis Myung of The Napkin Hoarder
Susan Petcher of Learned Happiness
Jessica Woodbury of Don't Mind the Mess
Diane Thies of Dollops of Diane
Lauryn Blakesly of The Vintage Mom (new to the Boston area!)
Stephanie Weitzman of Stephanie's tid bits

I promised myself I'd take some pictures that night...and promptly forgot as soon as everyone arrived. But it was great catching up with everyone in person and without our screens involved. I can't wait to do it again!

Friday, August 22, 2014

What I Did On My Summer (Parenting) Vacation

This past week, my husband Marc took our two kids away to family camp while I stayed behind at home. I didn't have the vacation time to go away this week, so they went without me. I cried at having to leave them on Monday morning, but by the end of a long work day, my mood had changed. I was determined to enjoy my week.

In the spirit of back to school assignments everywhere, here is how I spent my summer (parenting) vacation:

1. I got a mani/pedi. Because obviously.
2. I ate takeout on the couch in front of the TV watching everything from a documentary to trashy reality shows. 
3. I took a nap on the couch, too. 
4. On my work from home day, usually still a busy one with the kids at home, I worked in my pajamas until 2 pm. 
5. I ran multiple errands in a row, completing them all. 
6. I had time to peruse the racks at a discount retailer and to try on jeans before I bought them.
7. I met Kimberly, my friend at Red Shutters, at one of those step by step painting places where we were invited to come and create a masterpiece--more or less.
8. I threw a party. I really did. A dozen other mom friends from various parts of my life came together and spent a few hours catching up. It was awesome. 
9. I slept in the middle of the bed. 
10. I truly relished in the quiet.

Bottom left photo taken by Mia at The Paint Bar, courtesy of Kimberly
And here's what I didn't do on my summer (parenting) vacation:
1. Laundry. I will pay for this over the weekend, but five laundry-free days? I've treasured them. 
2. Cleaning and straightening up the house. I did it once when I got home from work on Monday night, and then the house magically stayed clean!
3. Tell anyone to turn off the TV or put down a screen. I probably spent less time in front of screens this week too. 
4. Break up any disagreements or yell. My children are 10 and 6 years old, and not totally angelic. No eye-rolling, whining or back talk for days.

And the most important thing I didn't do on my summer (parenting) vacation?

Photos taken by Marc
5. Feel guilty. I really didn't. My kids were having a ball, my husband was working on projects he loves with friends he rarely sees, and I was free to do what I wanted knowing that it would all come to an end soon enough. School starts in just over a week, and we have a few days of togetherness planned before then.

It's been a great week.

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.