Sunday, December 31, 2006

What I learned on my Christmas Vacation, by Nic.

I like to talk. I learned this after losing my voice. It's very hard to be rendered mute when you are a story teller and a joke-cracker. And it's hard to lose your voice anyway, when every little interaction requires voice. Especially when those "little" interactions are 4 job interviews in two days. Thankfully I didn't fully lose my voice until after the last one, but gracious, that last one was a struggle!

The Continuous Glucose Monitor is a mixed blessing. I knew this already, but the mixed-ness became more apparent as my journey to Philadelphia for interview drew near. I love, love, love knowing my blood sugar all of the time. It is addicting, and as I prepped to leave I was faced with this debate: "Do I really want to test my blood sugar 10 times a day when interviewing" versus "Do I want my roomates to hate me because the CGM goes off constantly in the middle of the night"? I decided that roomate hate was a bad thing and left the GGM at home. This turned out to be a good decision, becuase between the stress and the illness (a quasi-cold that has lasted 10 days!) my average was 280, with some exciting 45s and 489s thrown in.

Things are not always as they appear. When I approached my interviews I had a ranking of what school I wanted to end up at. The one in dust-bowl, Tornado-alley state was near the bottom, while the one in a city-that-is-300-miles-from-anywhere was near the top. But the interview experience changed all of that. The Dust Bowl school had interviewers who were so nice and human; we had a comfortable conversation and they showed me that they really care about their faculty (and faculty families) as people. This certainly was not the case with the 300-miles-from-anywhere school, which was an unsettingly interview for several reasons. I haven't discounted it totally--for on thing, the poor people probably had interviewed 20 people by the time they got to me--but it certainly shifted my career priorities.

Reading non-school books is fun! This I also knew, but it had been a long time. But between being sick and being fried from course and interview prep, I got to read a lot of books this break that have absolutely nothing to do with my dissertation! I enjoyed my first exposure to David Sedaris's Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim--funny and sad and true and twisted all at the same time. Definitley my type of humor. Joanne Dobson's academic mystery novels took a little guilt out of the fun reading since her heroine, Karen Pelletier, is a nineteenth-century American scholar. Dobson gives such a wry and truthful glance at the warped world in which I've chosen to build a career. And I finally read The Kite Runner, a beautiful novel by Khaled Husseini that I continue to think about. And now, the fun reading is over. I only have 4 months to finish my diss!

I love my husband and my family. They are such blessings. Handsome hubby tricked me with my Christmas gift and gave me Love Actually (an all-time favorite) instead of the very pracitcial and un-Christmassy box of glasses that he had wrapped up (with Love Actually inside). He takes great care of me all of the time, but especially when I wiped out with a migraine (Monday); a blood sugar (Tuesday); a cold/larynigitis (now). And he is patient. And my mom and dad are the most supportive parents in the world, calling me in Phildelphia and checking in and emailing me daily. It's a good time to count blessings.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The education lady laughs at me when I tell her I'm only going to wear the CGM once a month.

"A lot of people say that, but then they love it," she says.

I can see why. Yesterday I tested my blood sugar twice. Just twice. Do you know how long it's been since I tested my blood sugar just twice? I don't.

I love the trend chart, the arrows, and the fact that I can more or less have a grip on my blood sugar at any time.

I also love that I might finally get a grip on my carb counting.

"You don't use the bolus wizard?" the education lady asks in confusion as we program my pump.
"Why not?"
I lower my voice to a stage whisper, glancing at the other two nurses in the room who are watching and learning along with me--one of whom trained me on carb counting 4 years ago--"because I don't know my carb ratio."

They all laugh. I leave with an appointment card in hand for a refresher course.

I really do like the CGM. I like how it tells me when I am going up or coming down, and how I can stave off a low because of those nifty little double arrows. But I am also finding it disorienting. Part of this is humorous--it's disorienting because I am always checking it and it's hard not to bump into things when fiddling with the pump. But the fact that it's 10-15 minutes behind my actual blood sugar is proving frustrating. I felt my afternoon plummet--heat waves, shakes, and all--long before the double arrows clued me in. And those arrows and the "68" flashing on my screen 20 minutes after I had treated had be second guessing--do I need more juice? Am I still falling?

This, I guess, is just something to get used to. And I am looking forward to it. Merry Christmas to me!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Today, in an effort to escape the oppression of blood sugars, grief, and rain, I picked up a Lady's Home Journal. No holiday cheer there. I found an excerpt by Mrs. Edwards, former presidential candidate John Edward's wife, recounting life after the death of their 16 year-old son, Wade. In it, Edwards quotes a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay. Called "Dirge Without Music," part of it reads:

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

I opened Lady's Home Journal trying to forget, for a moment, the holidays and the memories that for the last two days...last two weeks...last two months...have engulfed me. Of...decorating the Christmas tree with my brother. Of seeing every James Bond movie with him. Of giving each other thinly-veiled clues about what we'd gotten each other for Christmas. Of his inability to keep secrets. Of getting the giggles every Christmas Eve when an elderly woman would sing O Holy Night, straining to reach the high notes with a voice that must have once been beautiful. But in Lady's Home Journal, in that excerpt by Mrs. Edwards, were truth that I cannot escape.

I know God has a plan in taking my brother early. I know He is working. And I can approve--to a point--but I am not resigned. I am not resigned to the fact that each year means one more year without him, means that I must add another number onto the phrase "the last time I saw him was so many years ago." Three is too many--what will it be like when it is 30? I am not resigned to the fact that I cannot say that my brother "passed away." He didn't pass away--he died when he chose to inhale a lethal combination of chemicals, just one more time. I am not resigned to the fact that my parents are broken, that my cousin, a 9-year old red-headed pixie, grieves for his fun-loving cousin so hard. That when we go to Christmas Eve services, there is a space that cannot be filled no matter how closely we scrunch together.

My brother was smart--smarter than me--he was an adorable red-head with a heart that bled for anything hurting or anyone hurt. He brought home injured animals. He bought flowers for friends-who-were-girls because no one had given them flowers before. He had a contagious laugh. He was witty--a fisherman--more Irish than our heritage implies. He was braver than anyone I know, taking a stand when it was hard, and living with depression and addiction and making it through each day with a smile on his face and love on his heart. And he is dead.

I am not resigned.

I am not resigned.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

6:30 am. The alarm goes off and I start. Is it time already?

I stumble to the shower. Luxuriate in very hot water. Begin the pain-staking interview preperation. I eat breakfast in my robe so as not to spill on my "professional" black suit. I stand in my "foundations" as I put on make-up and blowdry my hair. I force myself into nylons and clip my pump to the elastic before finally putting on the suit.

7:30 am. I leave the house, more worried about spilling on my suit, getting chalk on my suit, getting blood on my suit than anything else.

8:30 am-11:30 am. Rolling right along. No suit disasters, nor have I scuffed up my "comfortable but professional leather pumps". My blood sugar is 76 at 10:30, and I sip half a coke. I would rather be on the high end than on the low end when 12:30 rolls around.

11:30 am. My morning's work is done, and panic hits. I have an interview in one hour. And I need to eat. But if I eat, I will spill on my suit and have to dry clean it, again. (Yes, obsessive, I know.) But now the panic is less about my suit than the interview itself. For calm, I eat. But the menu at the coffee shop poses a challenge: grilled cheese--greesy, out. Tuna--er, tuna breath, bad idea. A wrap with onion? I don't think so. I settle on the soup, deciding that chicken noodle is a fairly safe choice. Certainly better than the chili. I burn my tongue. Badly. But then I settle into the rhythms of dipping the spoon, cradling the broth, savoring its flavor. Chicken soup is good for the soul.

I corner a noodle with my spoon, noting that broth won't do me much good if my blood sugar nosedives during the "tell us about your dissertation" questions.

The noodle...
falls off the spoon...
plops into the soup...
and the soup...
jumps out the bowl...
onto my suit!

I set the soup aside.

Buy a Hershey's with almonds to solace my quaking soul.

And gum, just in case.

Arrive at my interview at a steady 136 and my mind and nerves in tact, and chicken noodle soup that has dried invisibly--bless that chicken's heart.

The interview goes just fine.