Monday, December 12, 2011

Keeping it simple

This post might be a little early for Christmas but I didnt want to get too caught up in things before having the opportunity to write it because if you post this kind of thing in January, it's just kinda weird. We all know that it's so easy to get so busy that we miss all that is out there for us to appreciate - the sights, the smells, the sounds that surround us. 

For those of us who have diabetes, this is doubly true because we also deal with a disease that tends to dominate our time, and we count buckets of carbs, we rage bolus trying to get our blood glucose numbers in line, and we ride the famous glucoaster. We do all of this and we do all the things that regular folk do - the shopping, the baking, and all the things that go along with the holiday season. And some of us crash and burn. 
I was reminded on the weekend that simple things make me happy. As we took down our rather bedraggled but well-loved fake Christmas tree and put up a mighty fine Douglas fir, the smell of the tree scented air, mingling with a hint of apple cinnamon spice (alas compliments of Glade, not my baking).

The room has lit up from colourful tree lights, pretty garlands wrapped with more coloured lights, wrapping the room. As a twinkling wonderland emerged in our house, the room also filled with Christmas carols and songs, setting the mood, and throwing me back to sometime way back. I love Christmas music. And what better song to decorate the tree and my family room for Christmas than a little Vince Guaraldi and dancing to a little Linus and Lucy.

But I saw something else this weekend, that just made me feel happy. It made me happy because a 16 year old youth, who totally gets Christmas and what it's all about, created a wonderful video, performing the Little Drummer Boy - the drums, all the instruments, directing, shots - everything. Gotta love this dude!

He says, "I just want people to remember what Christmas is about. It's not about Santa, it's not about presents. It's about the birth of Christ, and that's what's important to me right now."

In an interview with CBC News, Sean Quigley, a high school student in Winnipeg, Manitoba, tells the story of how the video came to be. He was going to film it in front of the Christmas tree, but the lighting wasn't working, and he scrapped the idea the night before he was to shoot it. He said, "I prayed that I would get something awesome and woke up the next day and it just happened to snow all night and the beautiful scenery that you see in the music video."

He touches on what faith can bring - that sometimes that we are given the gift of what we need. And we can learn from that. 

He also says, in a typical way that only a 16 year old can carry off so casually, "I just did it for kicks".

Yeah, Sean. You did it in the best way possible and you remind us what this is all about, and there is no better time than this as we get busy with the season. Whether it's Christmas, Hanukkah, or whatever you celebrate, let this young dude remind us to take a moment, breathe deeply and remember that life is about the simple things. It's time to say to the people in our lives, thanks for being there. And as I get busy this season, buying gifts and whatnots for the people in our lives,I will once again immerse myself in the twinkling lights, hints of air freshener fresh baking and forest smells in my family room Christmas Wonderland, while enjoying some cookies Bailey's, listening to music and remembering that it's not the gifts that make this a wonderful time of year. I will remember what it's all about and just hang out with those that mean the most to me. (That, and I won't forget to bolus for said Bailey's!)

This season I resolve to subscribe to the KISS principle - Keep It Simple Santa.

Monday, November 21, 2011

An Open Letter: Are we all listening?

Dear Diabetes Medical Professional:

I'm not here to tell you how to do your job. I haven't gone to school for years like you have. I haven't spent countless hours, days and nights pouring over medical text books. I haven't been bored to tears during the driest lecture (on diabetes) ever.  I haven't spent sleepless nights during the craziness of the full moon in the ER, trying to peer into the ears of a wiggly, screaming toddler with equally hysterical parents.

But let me tell you what I do know. I know that I am your patient. I know I have a disease that needs to be managed well, and that I could suffer through a host of complications that could rob me of my quality of life… or life itself.

Did you know it doesn't help me if you share scary stories with me? Did you know that it makes me anxious when you ask me what happened, pointing out the red-circled high blood sugar numbers in my log.

Because guess what? I have heard these stories over and over again. I've heard them from you, or other professionals like you. I've heard them from well-meaning family members, friends and colleagues who tell me about a grandmother, an aunt, or a friend who lost limbs, eyesight or even worse, a child who lost the battle in their sleep, before she even had a chance.

So you might wonder what I need from you? 

First and foremost, I need you to understand that I respect you bring medical and other valuable diabetes knowledge to the table. I also don't expect you to have all the answers.

In return, I expect that you will want to understand where I'm coming from. That when I come to you with a crappy A1C, or a concern about my wildly fluctuating BG numbers, or heaven forbid, one complication or another. I am not coming to you for admonishment, or to be asked for a rundown of what happened two Tuesdays ago, at 2:13 pm when I had a high BG number.

Just keep this in mind, can you tell me what you wore to work two Tuesdays ago? That's just one day out of 14. I test 8 times a day - that's more than 50 tests a week!

Please know that I have done my best at just getting through life. I have won some battles, and lost others. I will continue to work on things, to improve, and as I step out of your office, I will have the resolve to do better, and I will. My A1C may or may not accurately reflect this. But it doesn't mean that I haven't stopped trying.

All I ask is that you try to listen to me. Really listen. I promise that I'll try to listen to you as well. Really listen. If we both do this, it will form a strong backbone for our relationship. We can win this together - you as a Diabetes Medical Professional and me, as a Person With Diabetes.

Finally, please remember, that I am a person first.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sunday Musings: Life is Short

On weekends I like to start the day with a little lot of coffee, a nice breakfast, and then sit down to read about what's been going on in the world. Then I set to browse through many posts by my blogger friends to see what I may have missed throughout the week. As I peruse this content, I often find inspirational, sad, comical and informative bits that I will share with you - and perhaps give you something to think about too.

This first week's submission of my Sunday Musings is a message that perhaps many of you have already seen, but perhaps not. If so, it doesn't hurt to revisit the message contained in it. If you've never seen it, hope you enjoy it.

Holstee Manifesto: Lifecycle Video

Holstee Manifesto: Typography Video
For those who love fonts and having things read to you with a great voiceover voice, click on the following link at YouTube:

Did You Know?  

Did you know that embedded YouTube videos are difficult, if not impossible, for blind people to navigate? I do try to make this site accessible to the blind and visually impaired, in part, so my biggest fan husband can also enjoy my blog without needing me to read it to him without a screen reader, which makes things seem rather, well, robotic.

(Irony alert: The paragraph above was not very screen reader friendly. The words "biggest fan" above were crossed out, which are replaced by the word "husband" - your screen readers likely missed that 'crossing out' thing!)

An easy thing that you can do to make your site more accessible is to provide a direct link to your videos to the YouTube site. 

For more information about how to make your blog more accessible, visit the American Federation of the Blind's article, "How to make your blog accessible to blind readers".

Friday, November 11, 2011

Lest We Forget

In Flanders Fields
In Flanders fields, the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; wait and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead, short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields!
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands, we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields!

~ John McCrae 

In Canada and throughout the Commonwealth, Remembrance Day ceremonies offer veterans the opportunity to remember and salute fallen comrades, and all Canadians an occasion to reflect on the sacrifices made and the tragedies endured in their name.

Lest We Forget is what we say, for we shall not forget. For me, it reminds me of these fallen soldiers who have given the ultimate sacrifice - instead of staying home, safe with their families, attending to their daily lives, they fought in trenches, enduring pain and suffering that most of us can't even imagine. This day was set out so that we do not forget these fallen men and women who gave so selflessly. This day is for them. This post is for them.

The drawing above was done by my nephew Keith in 2002. He was only 10 years old at the time. It is clear that he "got" it. And I hope it serves to help us all "get" it too. 

Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, physician and poet, served in WWI
in the Canadian Medical Corps and had been artillery veteran of the Boer War

"Lest We Forget" was published on 11-11-11 at 11:00:00 to honour those who gave their lives serving Canada's military

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Picture Story: Glucoaster* Show

(Not Quite) Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday bedtime
19.7 = 355 mg

Wednesday morning 2:00 am
1.6 = 129 mg

Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. (exerpt)
by Simon & Garfunkel

...My life seems unreal,
My crime an illusion,
A scene badly written
In which I must play...

~~~ Click here to listen

Wednesday morning 9:00 am
17.2 = 310 mg

The After Show

Chocolate Icing Detritus

More Detritus

 For those who subscribe to 11:11... 
I'm a little freaked out by this! I think my spirit was a little bit off last night

*Glucoaster: Unstable (roller coaster) blood glucose over a relatively short period of time, which is effectively shown by a graph on a CGM (Continuous Glucose Monitor), but because I do it 'old school', you are treated to this rather lengthy picture story

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Whiteboard Advocacy

Every little bit counts.

I thought I'd tackle advocacy on a very small scale at work. I mentioned before that I was armed with a whiteboard at work, and would share my messages, which I'd been doing.

Admittedly, it's been rather hit and miss, but I've been trying to share just something - counting down the days to World Diabetes Day, a myth buster fact or two, and most recently, the addition of info about the Big Blue Test, encouraging co-workers to participate.

My mini advocacy compaign, posing with my white board
(and obviously participating in Wearing Blue on Fridays and wearing my Blue Circle necklace
for Diabetes Awareness)

To be honest, I thought no one was listening. Co-workers would walk in and out of my office with nary a glance at my board, or so I thought. Until I was too busy to post a different fact for a few days (just doing the countdown).

Thomas:  So, aren't you doing it anymore?  
Me:  What? 
Thomas:  The diabetes thing on the whiteboard.  
Me:  You noticed?! (with a genuinely surprised tone)
Thomas:  Yes, and you haven't added anything new. My Dad has diabetes, you know.  
Me:  Oh, I didn't know and I didn't think anybody noticed it, but I'm glad you did. What kind of diabetes does your Dad have?  
Thomas:  I don't know. 

And so the conversation went, more or less. I continued asking him a few questions which were inspired by his, "I don't know"... like was he on insulin or meds (meds) and further educated him that it would be Type 2 diabetes, and so on and blahdeblahblah.

So Thomas learned something, and so did I. Thomas now had some insight into his father's condition, and I also had some insight into what my little whiteboard might be contributing to my work community.

If I can just help one person... another person... I've done my job, and this advocacy thing, as humble as it is, is worthwhile.

If one, two or even more can learn something about this disease, and the pervasiveness of it in our lives, in our loved ones lives, and the health and economic impacts of diabetes around the world, I've done my bit (for now anyway). All starting with my whiteboard.

Whiteboard advocacy may not be a big thing, but what I have learned:

Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.
                                                                                                              ~William James

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Not a toy ... a game changer

Of course we all know that there has been a lot of buzz about Siri, Apple's iPhone 4S's sassy personal assistant and latest innovation, or toy, depending on your perspective. There have been a lot of posts in the last few days, showing off some of the frivolous things you can do with Siri.
Rosie from the Jetsons: Assistant extraordinaire
May be able to teach Siri a thing or two
But I see it differently. I'm excited, but not for myself. After all I have an Android phone, which will remain Siri-less. Sure, there are a few apps out there that might approximate Siri's functionality, but I'm excited because it represents leaps and bounds forward for my husband Larry's ability to use his iPhone.

I'm sure that many of you have been texting for years. But until the iPhone 4 arrived on our doorstep 6 months ago, there was no texting for Larry. For those of you not in the know, Larry is blind, and the only phones that he could use were "dumb" phones and certainly there was nothing "smart" about the phones he's had. There was no feedback other than a few beeps and it required a lot of faith that he might actually got through to me when he wanted to - a basic that most of us take for granted. 

There was no using a contact list, the voice activated dial often resulted in "did not understand" or just a yawning silence, because it couldn't match the name in its database, which was frustrating on so many levels.

Enter the iPhone 4. Larry can now do almost everything. With Apple's VoiceOver, its text-to-speech software that is part of both the iOS and OSX operating systems, he can use contact lists, calendars, set alarms, check email, tweet, and listen to music, all on the fly. These are things we've all taken for granted for quite some time.

Apple computers that have been released over the last few years have been equipped with VoiceOver. In our household, we've come to affectionately know VoiceOver's voice as Alex, who we've come to know and love (actually, sometimes it's a love-hate relationship as he gets rather finicky at times). On the iDevices, Samantha is his counterpart. On the iPhone 4S, Samantha works with Siri.

Using this phone, Samantha will continue to work, telling Larry about things that Siri can't quite figure out, while Siri can help with everyday tasks, quickly and efficiently - a good personal assistant if you ask me. Siri brings a new dimension to phones. Best of all, unlike the other text-to-speech apps out there, Siri will understand the difference between what Samantha might be talking about, and what Larry might be saying, and not get confused along the way. 

Again, Siri is not about all fun and games. She's an assistant - a tool. But this is why we can hardly wait to get the iPhone 4S. Despite the naysayers, Siri is not a toy; she's merely in her infancy. As she grows up, I believe she will only get better over time.

And finally, we still have fun with Siri:

You too can try VoiceOver on your own iDevice or Mac. If you are running Leopard or later (the later versions are better):

  • Any Mac computer/laptop running Snow Leopard or Lion (although Leopard will work too, just not as well):  Toggle on/off - Command+F5
  • iPod Touch (v 3 or later), iPhone 4/4S, iPad or iPad2:  Settings+General+Accessibility. 

Tip: Swipe to go through the different elements and double tap to launch apps or select elements.

Now try it with your eyes closed. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What makes it all worthwhile?

It's rather humbling to have to go back to the drawing board.

I've been posting a daily Diabetes Mythbuster on my whiteboard at work every day for a few days now. I scored a couple of questions and at least one quizzical look on the first day, but that glimmer of interest died quickly.

Perhaps I'm being too subtle. Perhaps I'm just impatient. Perhaps people think I'm just as crazy as the cat lady who lives down the street from them.

But that won't stop me. I'll continue my little advocacy project (because I am stubborn like a dog with a bone) and cook up some new ideas. (Hmm, here's an idea - food cupcakes might get their attention!)

I will make myself heard. It's just a matter of figuring out a way to be seen as a passionate colleague with some interesting stuff to share (and maybe some cupcakes).

Maybe just one person will learn something or maybe the information I share will help just one person. That's all it will take to make it all worthwhile.

And if they think I'm like that crazy cat lady, that's okay. I can live with that.

I am an optimist. It does not seem too much use being anything else.
                                                                          ~ Winston Churchill

Monday, October 17, 2011

The diabetes puzzle

Continuing my Diabetes Mythbuster mission, today's message is that there is more than just the "bad kind" and the kind everyone's grandmother has. 

I'm no doctor of course, so if you would like more information, there are some great real sources out there.

Check out the website which has some great information about all of the types.

However, who knew there were so many types - Types 1, 1.5, 2, 3, LADA, Gestational, MODY, Insipidis and more(!) And certainly, with this in mind, one can appreciate the puzzle that our doctors and specialists have to sort out when patients come to them with a host of symptoms.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Let 'em eat cake

Sometimes I feel like a minnow in a big pond of bloodsuckers (okay, admittedly it was a rough week at the office). I work for a government agency, where I have only a small voice, but what I do have is a huge whiteboard and I'm not afraid to share my message on it.

So I thought I'd try to get the message out to my colleagues about World Diabetes Day, and along the way, dispel some of the myths that are rampant about diabetes. I knew that my whiteboard would be the perfect venue for the cause.

Then, Friday morning, the very first day of my new mission, not just one, but two(!) friends at work brought me cake! Which is so awesome because it means they were listening to me when I told them that I could eat anything I wanted.

Jamie and her whiteboard
Day 1 of her diabetes advocacy mission
Diabetes Mythbuster #1:  Let 'em eat cake!! People with Type 1 Diabetes can eat what we like. We just choose what we want to eat and when to eat it. (Insert poorly drawn cake here) Can I eat this? Heck yes!! 
So my very first day of diabetes advocacy was a hit with the perfect myth to bust, and might I suggest for the rest of them who don't want to listen to this minnow - let 'em eat cupcakes!!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

On your mark, get ready...

I'm back and I'm giving this blogging thing a go once again.

I haven't been blogging for the better part of a couple of years now; so instead of boring my good readers with the ins and outs of what's happened in the meantime, I'm going to hold my breath and jump in the deep end - sink or swim. 

For those of you who are discovering my little space here in this very crowded web, why have I called my blog Flying Furballs? To me, this idea captures the very essence of the randomness of this blog. You never know what is lurking just beneath the couch... and for the very brave in my home, you're sure to find some furballs. 

They say, write what you're passionate about - so here's my list in no particular order:
  • Family and 'fur-people'
  • Life and everyday challenges that come along with said life
  • Diabetes Online Community (a.k.a. the DOC)
  • Advocacy - especially Diabetes and accessibility
  • Snippets and pure randomness - things that just amuse me (you'll find a lot of this)
  • Cupcakes (little bit of bolus-worthy nirvana)

So here we go!

"Sometimes," said Pooh, "the smallest things take up the most room in your heart."
                                                                                                                      A.A. Milne