20 October, 2010

You're Replaceable

Dearest Pancreas,

We hope you have enjoyed your first 365 days of retirement. Perhaps we would have thrown you a party or given you a 25 years of good service plaque or some other ridiculous token of appreciation had you given us any notice that you were quitting. It has taken some time to adjust to your abrupt departure, but after a year of searching,
we have found a suitable replacement.

As with most things in life that show signs of diminished productivity, we have found a way to replace your basic functions with a smaller, shinier piece of technology. Frankly your appearance was rather dull compared to your replacement, which dons a metallic blue exterior. New Pancreas (NP), also plays riveting monophonic tunes (reminiscent of the early cell phone days) to alert us to its needs; you didn't even bother to leave us a note that you were in need of assistance. NP can perform all of your basic functions with a touc
h of a few buttons, and a few that you never could. For example, NP has a database of the nutritional values of all of our favorite foods, thus allowing us to keep careful track of our carb, fat, protein, and fiber intake. We just might end up more healthy without a working pancreas than we were when you were on the job.

Don't get me wrong, NP has its drawbacks just like any employee does. When you were still functioning we never had to worry about the cat trying to attack you, whereas the tubing on NP has a striking resemblance to a piece of string in the eyes of Jackson. The tubing is also short enough that we have to unclip NP from our belt in order to lower our pants and we then have to determine an appropriate resting spot for NP. Back when y
ou were still on the payroll we never had to ponder where we were going to rest our pancreas while going to the bathroom.

I'm sure you felt like it was the right decision for you when you decided your career was over, and we truly hope you are enjoying a cocktail on some Florida beach with all the other wrinkled has-beens. But if you thought we were just going to shut down and cease to exist without you, you must have grossly overestimated your significance in the overall performance of this body. We will be functioning better than ever with the addition of NP to the team, and with all of its bells and whistles, we doubt we'll ever look back to the antiquated days of your existence.


Dana's working organs

12 October, 2010

If you say it in a eulogy, you're saying it too late.

I thankfully have only lost a few loved ones in my lifetime, but in the few funerals I've attended, I've come to the conclusion that eulogies consist of all the things we wish we could have said. Hopefully this post doesn't come across as morbid, but I'd rather get these thoughts out there now - I don't want to have to wait until my grandma is gone to tell the whole world how awesome she is. As any of you who have met them know, I have had the pleasure of growing up with two sharply opposite grandmothers, but both entirely amazing. But this particular post is reserved for sharing my thoughts and feelings about my Grandma Ruth, while she is still here on Earth doing what she does.

If you have ever had the experience of meeting my grandmother, you might be struck by her thick accent, or her relative shyness (particularly in comparison to my other grandmother), or her ability to hold a conversation in her 4th (?) language while watching jeopardy and playing solitaire.

To understand the significance of my Grandma Ruth's life, you first have to understand a bit about the background of her life. She was born in Bern, Switzerland, but left her family and everything she knew behind when she married my grandfather and moved to Lebanon. My mom and uncles were born there, and then the family made the big move to the United States. The family grew to include five children, and my Grandma Ruth kept them fed and clothed, but not the lazy way that we do things now - things were made from scratch. I can't comment much on things from those times, but I'm sure if they didn't happen much the way they did, I likely would not be here writing this.

According to pictures, Grandma Ruth was in my life from the time that I got here, but her mark on my was really made on my life when she moved in with us when I was five. Grandma retired from her job at Rand McNally, sold her house, and moved down to Columbia. It was a symbiotic relationship - Grandma wasn't living alone and had a continued sense of purpose after retirement, and my mom had someone to help her with her family childcare business and to help with the three of us. Grandma being home was the best of everything; I gained a friend and confident, but she also instilled morals and responsibility in me.
Grandma Ruth isn't making an impact on our lives by giving us everything we've ever wanted, by letting us get away with things our parents never would, or by otherwise showering us in extravagance. Instead, Grandma has given us something even better - time with her. My Grandma has 12 Grandchildren, and has spent multiple years living with and helping to raise each of us, with her making her last round now down in Key West. Many grandmothers are able to see all of their grandchildren on a regular basis - but we have always lived in at least 4 different states spread out over the country at any given time.

I think each of the 12 of us can say that our childhood and thus who we have become as adults would be very different had she not played a part in our lives.

Some of the greatest moments with Grandma Ruth were the simplest - we would go for walks to the pond, or I would stretch out on her bed while she watched her "shows", or she would teach me a card game or I would teach her one. I also used to run down to her room crying anytime my parents did or said something to upset me. And the greatest thing was she listened, but without ever taking my side over my parents. She would help me feel better, but also help to enforce what my parents thought was best.

Grandma also has an amazing memory. I would not be as connected to my own heritage without getting the opportunity to sit and listen to her stories. As an 80+ year old woman who recently suffered a stroke, you would think recalling the details of her childhood would be difficult. I was blessed with the chance to sit with her and document names and dates for all of her family photos that we scanned. She was able to recall even minute details of events from the past, and thus provided me a connection to my ancestors. This is even more significant due to the fact that I have no relationship with my grandfather, so what she shares with us of his family is really all I know. I am lucky to still have the opportunity to tell her how much she means, and how glad I am that she chooses to give us knowledge of our grandfather.

I'm glad for each day that I am given to be able to call my Grandma up and tell her that I love her - to send her letters thanking her for what she has done for me. I would much rather the whole world know now how great she is - but don't all rush down to key west all at once to meet her :). I would also much rather send this to her now than read it to a wooden box down the road.

Love you Grandma!
Keep up your fight against the challenges that have been set before you - and know that you have left a lasting impression on not only your family, but all of the children you have helped along the way - from the neighbors' kids in Queens to the daycare kids in Columbia and Long Island.

10 August, 2010

RoDaBeBe: A Gastronomic Exposé

Perhaps you are one of the lucky few who was given the opportunity to read RoDaBeBe: Trying to Understand the Problem, written by Becky Ward during our first year of college (I apologize in advance, as this snippet does not even come close to her caliber of writing). Or perhaps you have come to know one or all of us through our various adventures in life. The third and most unfortunate group you might fall into is the group of people who are thinking to themselves, what is a RoDaBeBe? No matter which group you fall into, I promise that you will walk away from this with an entirely new understanding of who we are.

RoDaBeBe is a dietary restriction nightmare. RoDaBeBe is a vegetarian, a diabetic, a lactose intolerant, and a kosher. Allow me to take you on a RoDaBeBe tour of the food pyramid. If the four members of RoDaBeBe were to gather for a meal, the grains group can only appear on our table with a side of insulin. Anything from the dairy group is accompanied by a lactaid pill, or eliminated from the table completely, as we also have an anti-cheese among us. The meat group is all but wiped about between the vegetarian, the kosher, and the picky. While that group also contains nuts, eggs, and beans, who can make a meal out of just those?

I know what you are thinking – what’s the big deal? Stick to fruits and vegetables and you all will be good to go. We don’t do anything that simply. Fruits and vegetables are all fine and good, as long as roasted red peppers are not a part of the dish. And while you are at it, add kiwi and apple allergies to the list too.

I would normally say that dessert is the best part of a meal – after all, who doesn’t have at least one dessert that they find to be delicious? Try to name one that doesn’t have dairy, sugar, gelatin, or turn your tongue a funny color.

Amazingly enough we are able to walk into almost any restaurant and all find something we can eat. From time to time we even manage to cook a few dishes together that manage to meet all of the above requirements and restrictions. It only ever gets to be a tad bit challenging when we are guests somewhere and someone else has prepared food for us.

Good thing our prodigious personalities make up for what our plates lack!

Oh yea, in case you still don't understand, RoDaBeBe is a name Robyn came up with in high school to refer to the four of us - it is made up of the first two letters of each of our names.

07 June, 2010

The perfect relationship

In my humble 26 years of life, I have learned a thing or two about good relationships.

First, both partners need to be unique individuals with their own characteristics and identity. Admit it - we all roll our eyes at the couple that consists of one partner and their clone, and we can all identify at least one friend who changes who they are and what they enjoy based on who they are with. Nobody wants to date themselves. Thats boring, and weird.

With that being said, it is important that the partners complement each other. It is crucial that the two are able to support each other regardless of the circumstances and environment they encounter. When you have someone you can rely on, the unknown is less scary.

It is important that each member of the team be tolerant of the other's tastes and aspirations despite coming from different backgrounds or growing up in different areas. That isn't to say that one must like and agree with everything the other does - just respect those differences.

Finally, it is important that both partners are willing to devote time to each other, enjoy each other's company, both contribute to the integrity of the relationship, and both feel that they are a meaningful part of the pair.

And the very last key to a great relationship is humor.

...and now I would like to announce the relationship of the century award...

It goes to ......


This pair has going for it what all of us hope to have one day.

Cheese and tomatoes are nothing like each other. Each is completely unique - not even from the same food groups. They are cultivated completely differently, and while there are many varieties of each, cheese and tomatoes share few other similarities with each other.

Despite coming from such different backgrounds, cheese and tomatoes are able to come together in such a variety of ways. Put cheese on bread, grill it up, and tomato soup or ketchup become the perfect complements. Change it up a bit and put the cheese on a tortilla instead, and now salsa is the supporting sidekick. Make another alteration and this time and stretch out a nice round bread-like substance, spread with tomato sauce and sprinkle with cheese, and now you have one of the finest combinations ever. Take out the carbs completely, and tomatoes and cheese do just fine together without any other ingredients to tarnish their taste.

Now see the key here is that a tomato without the cheese is edible - and it serves the purpose of making people wonder what gets classified as a fruit and what as a vegetable. And cheese is similar. Sure, pair it with a cracker, and you've got something that can last for a little while, but pair it with a tomato, and there is no telling how long those flavors can continue to appease you. Cheese is here to prove to us that the word coagulation can lead to delicious. That's right, nothing is more appealing/appalling than coagulated milk proteins. So, each item, tomatoes, and cheese, can get through a few situations when paired with other items. Just like we can get through parts of life in mediocre relationships. But if you want a combination that can make any meal work, put the tomatoes and cheese together - and now you have a meal that will succeed despite the time of day, the type of meal, or the fanciness of the occasion.

Each has a reason for existing alone, but the greatness of each is amplified when you put them together.

No better place to amplify such greatness than in my belly :)

And in real relationships, people need to complement AND compliment each other.

02 May, 2010

Some things should not be sold door-to-door

and just to name a few...

1. children
2. medical advice
3. sex
4. false teeth
5. religion

I returned home one day a few weeks back to find this little booklet rubber-banded to my doorknob. I have become accustomed to all sorts of junk mail being left at my door, but this was a whole different type of ridiculous advertising. I opened the book to find this picture/story:

Some of you may find what I have to say next offensive. I will say in advance that I'm sorry that you feel that way, but I'm entitled to my opinion too.

I have yet to be convinced by the fliers left on my door and on my car to hire a cleaning service. I have not used any of the menus that have been left for me to order dinner. I am certainly not going to suddenly turn to new religious beliefs because a book about God loving me was left on my door.

I'm not saying that I have anything against the followers of the King James Version of the Bible who published the book, nor do I have anything against people who practice an organized religion. I'm not even against people trying to spread their religious beliefs, but how many people become religious converts based on a book on a door? Especially one with such horrendous pictures.

Those who sort of know me know that I don't attend church, I don't own a Bible, and I celebrate Christmas in the purely American sense that I give and receive presents.

Those who know me well know that I am often curious about religion, that I talk tough things out with a "higher being", and that I'm still undecided on what, if any, sort of afterlife exists. Like many other people growing up in our country in this time period, differences in religious backgrounds in my family history made way for a lack of formal religious following. My grandfather was raised Muslim, my grandmother was raised Catholic, and my other grandparents were brought up in other sects of Christianity; without one clear-cut answer as to which religion to follow, I grew up in a family with no conventional religious practices.

I was still raised in a family with strong moral beliefs, I was still taught to always try to do what is right, and I learned the importance of helping those who are less fortunate.

I have largely been satisfied with my freedom to research various religions on my own and to choose my own beliefs. I'm sure some situations would have been easier had I had a strong religious connection to believe in, but I also think that I am stronger because I've found things that work for me. As confused as I have been about religion, and I'm sure there will continue to be moments in my future where I'm not sure where I'm going or who I am or what I believe in, I doubt that I will at any point make these sorts of decisions based on a pamphlet left on my door.

and to those of you that finish this and think "she's going to hell", just so you know, according to my "religion" I have to believe in such a place to be able to go there :)

21 April, 2010


April 22nd is Earth Day, a day designed to appreciate our most beautiful planet. At least I must assume it is the most beautiful, as I have yet to visit any others. So tomorrow many will try to be a little more earth friendly, a little more aware. I’m glad we have a day like this, but I also wish that I was better at being earth friendly everyday. I find it difficult to keep in the forefront of my busy mind the many ways that I a can leave less of a negative impact on this lovely place we live.

One effort that I have decided to take on this year is walking anywhere I need to go that is within three miles. My hope is that I can do this at least until winter, when hopefully Mother Nature will not dump another bunch of twenty inch snowstorms on us. I live within a mile of a grocery store, and the walk there is not bad at all. I also found that I buy less crap when I know I have to carry it all back. The closest MOM’s Organic Market is about four miles away, and although I have not ventured there on foot yet, I’m sure it’s a bearable trek as well.

It is certainly nice to know that I am damaging the environment less by using my car less, and I feel accomplished after walking to these local establishments, but I have found that the biggest benefit has come from knowing that when I eat, it is something I have worked for. The food is much more enjoyable, and I’m in better shape too. I think that one of the contributing factors to obese America is that few people do any work for their food anymore.

Humans used to hunt and gather, expending most of their energy to acquire more food and thus more energy to continue the cycle. Eventually this turned into various methods of farming, which still required a significant expenditure of energy. Even after many people abandoned farming people still spent a considerable portion of their day cooking and preparing food before consuming it. But now we are at the point that if it requires more than five minutes of sitting in our car in the drive thru, we had to work too hard for our food.

So what if everyone gave up paying for a gym membership each month, got off the treadmill, elliptical, and various other exercise gadgets, and instead simply walked to the grocery store, farmers market, or restaurant for their next meal?

19 April, 2010

Six Months Clean

One hundred eighty two days ago my life changed for the better; that was the day that I gave up my sugar high. Like most people who make such a life change, I feel happier, healthier, and more alive. In contrast to most addicts however, I had to pick up the needles in order to clean up my act.

Six months ago I drove to an urgent care place for an 11pm appointment. For two weeks I had been drinking like crazy (water, people…water!). I couldn’t get through a lesson without drinking a full bottle. And the obvious result was that every hour I couldn’t get to the bathroom fast enough. I don’t exactly have a job where it’s acceptable to be leaving constantly to pee, especially when the nearest bathroom is nowhere near my “learning cottage” of a trailer. So when I started getting pain in my kidneys, I made the appointment that landed me in a swine flu infested doctor’s office at almost midnight on a school night.

Like most junkies, all it took was some pee in a cup to see that I was positive. The urine test led to a blood test, and the rest played out like a scene in a crappy lifetime movie. The tech pricked my finger and read me the glucose monitor result of 500; she then hurriedly left the room. I already knew what this meant, but being that I was in a doctor’s office (of sorts) I was waiting for someone to give me an official diagnosis before trying to process anything. For those who know me, although I wasn’t trying to process anything, my brain was already moving at 5,000 miles an hour.

My official diagnosis came in the form of the tech and the doctor’s conversation outside of the hardly soundproof exam room door. It went sort of like this “500? Really?” “We don’t get people like that here.” “I don’t think we’ve ever had to tell someone that.” As much as it sounds like something that would only happen on TV, this conversation went on for must have been at least another ten minutes. And then another ten minutes passed. Finally the doctor came in and the great words she managed to come up with after her 20 minutes of planning were, “I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you have diabetes.” Really? That’s the best she could come up with after all that build up? This was followed up with, “Did you want us to call an ambulance, or did you have someone who could drive you to the hospital?”

So, not really knowing what else to do, I called my parents’ house, woke them up, and gave an explanation about as brief as the doctor’s diagnosis was. They of course agreed to drive down, but that meant another forty-five minutes of sitting in the exam room waiting. To make things easier, the doctor and the tech took turns coming in every ten minutes to ask me how I was doing. This was honestly the most irritating part of the whole event. I was doing just fine; after all, I had had a whole extra twenty minutes to digest my diagnosis before they even gave it to me.

Fast forward twelve hours, and I was walking out of the hospital a new person. Or a slightly cranky, tired, and hungry less than perfect version of my new self. I had spent about four hours in the ER waiting area (again surrounded by the hamthrax) with a poorly placed needle in my arm connected to absolutely nothing. Apparently they do this when you first get there so that when they finally see you days later it will be that much quicker to hook you up to whatever you need. I was then seen for a total of five minutes by the ER doctor, who must have received her schooling in the same place as the urgent care doc. She walked in, looked at my chart and said, “Well, it looks like you have diabetes. When the diabetes educator and nutritionist get here around 8am we will have them meet with you.” And she walked out. The next four hours consisted of me being hooked up to IV fluids in an attempt to lower my glucose level. And waiting. And waiting. The diabetes educator and the nutritionist tag teamed me for the next four hours, explaining how my new life would work.

So, I walked out of the hospital and started my detox. Interestingly enough I received zero insulin while I was in the hospital; my first dose occurred after I picked up my prescriptions and got back to my apartment. I was finally working towards cleansing my body of the useless sugars that had been poisoning me for portions of the last three years. And like any body that had been used to something that was taken away abruptly, my body revolted against my lowering glucose levels. I felt hungry constantly. I wanted to use so badly; I just wanted a damn big bowl of pasta with a side of fruit and a pile of sugar on top.

Over 900 finger sticks and over 700 insulin injections later, I’m pretty certain that the disease that tends to cut people’s lives a bit shorter will actually help me live mine better. Although my endocrinologist says I can eat what I want (in moderation, just like the rest of the world), I still think more about what I put in my mouth (insert dirty joke here). I started to workout again more seriously; partially because I felt well enough to do so again, and partially because I know it will help me maintain healthier glucose levels. I drink less; not that I don’t still have a little fun when I go out, but this was the official end to the complete belligerent nights of my college past. Basically it put an end to the irresponsible way that I was treating my body.

I’m content with the fact that I have diabetes. I was lucky enough to get this disease at what I think must be the easiest time. My parents didn’t have to go through worrying about a young child with diabetes. I didn’t have to be that weird kid that has to go to the nurse all the time. I didn’t have to sit out of rec sports events, or get sent off to sleepovers with a long instruction booklet on how to deal with me. I got to enjoy college to the max with things like homecoming morning breakfasts of mimosas and jello. I also wasn’t at a point where I was too old to care about making changes to my life. I welcomed the changes I had to make; they were necessary whether I was given this disease or not. Diabetes was just a convincing catalyst to get my stubborn self to follow through with becoming a less reckless adult.

So I wake up everyday happy to be alive. Happy to have a disease that has made me a better person. Happy that I didn’t have to be one of the people that has lived their whole life like this. Happy that my diabetes is well controlled and easy to manage. Happy that I have the motivation to prove to myself that I can run further, faster, longer. Happy that I finally know what made me feel sick for periods of time over the last three years (and that I wasn’t just imaging the symptoms). Happy that I’m six months sugar-clean.

And yes, I realize how overly dramatic this is. But that's who I am. :)