Friday, May 31, 2013


As the year grinds to a close, and finals commence, I am reminded of how much these kids have impacted me this year. Yesterday was another great example of their caring and compassion, towards myself and others.

The students in Spanish class had to prepare a meal and simulate a restaurant, where all the conversation was in, of course, Spanish. All the teachers who had a prep period during the presentation were invited to attend the mock restaurant in a classroom that looked surprisingly plausible as a dining room (minus the whiteboards!). Since I had class that period, my students brought me a plate of the food they had made. They had chosen to do a Filipino dish, and were explaining to me what they had created. What made this special, other than the free food (hey, people! Volunteer here!) was what one of the students said.

She told me that they were planning to make a shrimp dish but remembered that I couldn't eat seafood. I vaguely remembered telling them that I was allergic to seafood months ago when we were having a tangent conversation about food after class one day. They remembered. Not only did they remember, but they catered their menu to me, someone who couldn't even come to their presentation.


And this. This is what makes it worth it. This is what allows me to know that what I did meant something. And, it made me smile. There is nothing better than this!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Strengths and Weaknesses

“This post is my May entry in the DSMA Blog Carnival.  If you’d like to participate too, you can get all of the information at"

Question: What do you consider to be your Diabetes Strengths?  What do you think are your Diabetes Weaknesses?

Coming off of the Diabetes Blog Week, I have decided I am going to get deeper into blogging about diabetes and stop hiding in the shadows of my disease. This is my first DSMA (Diabetes Social Media Advocacy) Blog Carnival, but hopefully not the last!

I think my greatest diabetes strength is determination. It could be argued that determination is not a result of diabetes, but I think I have come out of this disease stronger and wiser than I would if I was just your average 22 year old struggling professional. When I have a bad blood sugar, I am determined to make it better. When I am told that something will be harder to accomplish because I have diabetes, you can bet I am going to work harder. I don't let the threat of diabetes stop from at least trying, and that's huge. My determination to beat this disease is what keeps me going. I could sit on a couch and wait to die, but there are mountains to climb, trees to hug, lessons to still be learned....

Ironically, my greatest weakness is acceptance. I am pretty vocal about my disease, my coworkers, and eventually my students found out about my diabetes, but I still have a hard time accepting that I have a chronic illness. Sometimes when I try something, I fail, and that gets to me. Sometimes the most random thing will make me angry about diabetes. I have a hard time accepting that if I get a cold, I also get high blood sugars and ketones. I have a hard time accepting that when it's a friends birthday, I will end up taking a bite out of someone's piece because I can't eat a whole one myself. I have a hard time accepting that no matter how good I feel and what I can accomplish, I am still weighed down by a tiny machine that beeps at me and essentially keeps me alive.

I think it is an interesting balance when you really think about it. For as much as I speak out about diabetes, there is still a large part of me that wishes I could hide it. I think something to work on, considering these choices as my weaknesses and strengths is to focus more on the people who do accept me the way I am, and look at home much I can do despite this illness. Learn to accept myself with the gifts I have been given and know that my determination outweighs my lack of acceptance.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Diabetes Week Recap

I know that I didn't finish diabetes week, and there are a few reasons for that, so I am writing now to finish up that obligation I made and to also explain why I seemingly dropped out of the blogging process.

Prompt 5 asked us if we could swap illnesses, what would we chose. So the idea was behind it was if you could pick any chronic illness to replace diabetes, what would you chose and why. The main reason I didn't answer this post was because I found it kind of offensive. Why? Well, there are multiple reasons.

I have spent years since my diagnosis trying to educate myself and others on juvenile diabetes, and diabetes in general. I have worked hard to be successful despite my illness, and I think on the whole I have done a pretty good job. This questions makes me feel like diabetes can be taken lightly and just swapped out for something else. What also made me dislike this question was the thought that other diseases are easy to handle. If you are asking me to pick a different disease, you are essentially asking me to pick one that I think would be easier to handle. I don't think that exists, and I also think that such a question is discourteous to people who suffer from another illness. From my perspective, if someone with a disease said they would rather have juvenile diabetes, I would be upset, because it SUCKS! The constant finger prints, blood work, having to deal with highs and lows and injections? I wouldn't wish this on anyone, and I wouldn't wish to have a different disease either.

I have met people with cystic fibrosis, Crohn's Disease, cancer, and other types of serious illness. Everyone handles their medical issues in their own ways, and I have met many incredibly strong and courageous individuals. To say I would rather have one of their diseases would mean that I was discrediting the severity of their illness and also my own.

Prompt 6 asked us to create a piece of art that symbolized our diabetes. I thought really hard about this one in advance, and couldn't think of anything. Looking back after a week and still thinking about this topic made me think about a picture that was unfortunately lost when I changed phones last year.

I taught my nephew, Lucas, how to give me an insulin shot. One day we were sitting on the couch watching TV when I needed to take a shot of insulin (I was off the pump for a few days). He wanted to see what I was doing, and was in this very helpful stage. I showed him how to fill up the syringe and how I inserted it, and then I let him push the plunger. I was able to explain to him what I was doing and how it wasn't a game but something to keep me healthy. He was fascinated and wanted to learn more, and that weekend, I let him help give me shots. My sister caught a picture of it one time, and it was really sweet, this tiny child with such a look of concentration on his face helping give me my medicine. It has stuck with me since then, because he showed such maturity for a four year old and took it seriously every time. That would be my piece of art: That picture showing wisdom beyond his four years.

Finally, Prompt 7 asked us to share three new blogs we had read. Well, I found a lot of good blogs, all that I would encourage you to read if you are interested, and you can find the entire list at Bittersweet Diabetes.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Love Conquers All

Love Conquers All.

When I opened my laptop, I saw those faded words popup at me. I had written them on the space in front of the keyboard during my senior year of college, when I was going through a rough time. I’ve seen them since then when I’ve popped out my computer, but tonight they really resonate with me. 
Maybe because it’s another rough time.

I cried on Saturday, when I saw my first class graduate. I am so incredibly proud of them and what they’ve done in the time that I have spent with them. Every single student was accepted into at least one college, and they all have plans about what they are going to do after high school. Nothing makes me happier than knowing that they are planning for their futures. 

Sr. Jeanne asked us to think about three questions as we prepared to do a session of FaceTime with her this weekend. Most of the questions I had thought about, but was unsure of how to answer when we had her on the phone. Some of the questions I wasn’t even sure I wanted to answer while I was sitting there with the rest of my community. But, they are all good questions and all deserve to be answered.

What have you learned during this year that you would like to continue to incorporate into your life?

I have learned that what I do matters. The education world is much harder to navigate than I originally thought. Bu, I can do it. I am smart enough and I am strong enough. There are a lot of people out there that bash educators, and I have not been immune to those insults. People online can be incredibly harsh, but I have also realized that my self-worth is not tied up in what other people think. I learned so many things about myself this year, and one of the most important things I have learned other than my profession, is that I am important. I matter. 

There have been some times this year where I haven’t felt that. There have been some people that have tried to make feel like I am not important, but I am. And, I will always take that with me no matter where I go or what I do.

 What gifts has this experience and the reservation given to you?

I saw my 25 seniors graduate this weekend. I taught them, and now they are precious young adults who are going to go out and start the rest of their lives. There are many beautiful memories from this year, but having one of my kids hug the breath out of me and whisper “thank you” has forever and completely altered my view on gifts. I will always remember them as my first kids, even when they are gone and grown up.

Another gift is patience. Things do not work out in a linear fashion out here. If you are inflexible, you will have a difficult time. I have learned that sometimes you need to disregard the plans and go with the flow. Sometimes, when that happens, things work out so much better than you ever could have imagined.

 What gifts do you believe you have given to the Navajo people?

I gave everything I could to the people I lived with this year. I don’t know if I would say I gave them any gifts, but I tried my hardest to be in the moment with them. I tried to learn about their culture, and respect their traditions, and I believe I did my best. I treated them with respect, and didn’t walk around with an air of superiority because I am white and educated. I made friends, who became like family to me. My gift is simply that I tried to make the most of my time out here and didn’t take for granted the experiences I had this past year.

Today marks a year since I graduated from college, and some days it still doesn’t feel like it’s real. The reality is that I am sitting in one of the few spots that has internet on the Reservation to work on one of my graduate classes. I know that I keep speaking in amazement about how far I have come in a year, but it still honestly surprises me sometimes. 

When I look down at those words, “Love Conquers All”, I think about how far I’ve come and how much farther I still have to go. Although it is breaking my heart to leave the Reservation, I also know that I am ready to take the next step. I am ready to pack up and move to the East Coast again, because I know that part of me will always be on the Navajo Nation.

When I see those words, I think of the inherent good most people possess even if their actions do not show it. I see those words and remind myself to love myself because I am worth it and I will always be worth it.

Love conquers all because it doesn’t divide, it multiples, and spreads in a never ending wave.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Diabetes Blog Week: Day Four

We don’t always realize it, but each one of us had come a long way since diabetes first came into our life. It doesn’t matter if it’s been 5 weeks, 5 years or 50 years, you’ve done something outstanding diabetes-wise. So today let’s share the greatest accomplishment you’ve made in terms of dealing with your (or your loved one’s) diabetes. No accomplishment is too big or too small – think about self-acceptance, something you’ve mastered (pump / exercise / diet / etc.), making a tough care decision (finding a new endo or support group / choosing to use or not use a technology / etc.)

It will be eight years in October. Sometimes it seems like time has flown by, and other times I can’t honestly remember life before diabetes. I have accomplished a lot in the past eight years, but I know that there are so many other things that are still out there. I’ve raised a lot of money for the JDRF, and I know that I can do my part to raise even more. I graduated high school. I graduated college. I moved across the country by myself. I got into grad school. I went to three foreign countries by myself (four if you count Canada). I got an insulin pump. I stood up to bullies who teased me about my illness. I learned not to cry at an IV or blood tests. 

Some are larger feats than others, but all special in their own way. 

I still have goals that want to accomplish. I want to graduate with my Master’s. I want to work in educational administration. I want to teach overseas. I want to get married one day and maybe have a family. I want to see my nephews grow up. I want to one day see an end to diabetes. 

I want to live a life that I can look back on and say, “diabetes didn’t stop me”. I already am.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Diabetes Blog Week- Day Three

Today we’re going to share our most memorable diabetes day. You can take this anywhere.... your or your loved one's diagnosis, a bad low, a bad high, a big success, any day that you’d like to share.

This is a hard one because there a number of days that are memorable. The day I was diagnosed; the day I found out that I had gone into DKA in college…but the one that is currently standing out in my mind has to do with when I was student teaching. 

I was working at a small, private school for students who had various types of learning needs. These students ranged from autism spectrum disorders to emotional support needs to general learning support needs. I also had a student who was type 1 diabetic. 

I think those of us who use insulin pumps have some sort of internal sensor that lets you know when a fellow diabetic walks into the room. Through the haze of learning student names on the first day, that was the first thing I noticed about this girl. A pink animas pump clipped to her waistband. 

She was in one of my afternoon classes, and very outspoken about her diabetes. The first unit I taught them about was the Roman Empire, and we were discussing life back then. Suddenly, she blurted out. “I don’t like this conversation!” I looked at her and asked why, and she responded that she hated history because she realized if she lived in any other time period but today, she would have died years ago. 

It’s a thought that I have had myself, but it somehow sounded different coming out of someone else’s mouth. It was an interesting concept that other people had put that thought into consideration. I spent seven months at that school, and towards the end of my time there, this girl was starting the college search. 

Something that I will always remember is when she came up to me after class and wanted to talk about going to college with diabetes. She had a lot of questions, she said, and didn’t know who to ask about them until she met me. We talked after class every day until she thought she had all her questions answered: about living in dorms, dealing with roommates, talking to the disability resource center. I encouraged her to talk to her endocrinology team about things I couldn’t answer. I remembered she asked me about drinking, and I told her that was a medical question I wasn’t qualified to answer (also, I was not going to give alcohol advice to a 17 year old high school junior!)

It’s been over a year since I taught at that school. I graduated college and moved to the southwest to work for a year. I am about to finish my first year of being a real teacher with my own classroom. I have diabetic ups and downs since then, but I will always remember this particular girl. She was my first diabetic student, and probably won’t be my last. However, through her, I was able to let down my guard about being diabetic myself. I hid my insulin pump in my clothes because I didn’t want people to see it and give me that sympathetic, sad smile I was used to when people found out I had an illness. 

It’s funny but this girl only found out I was diabetic because she tried to pull an excuse about not doing something because of diabetes, and I told her I didn’t believe it, and whipped out my own pump.I kept in touch with a few of my students after I left that school; she wasn’t one of them, but it’s okay. I didn’t enter the teaching profession to make friends with my students.

 She’s a senior now and last I heard she was accepted into a few good colleges. I only wish the best for her, and hope that she remembers our conversations after classes, and can take some of that with her to college.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Next Chapter

I started grad school yesterday.

Those words still feel funny in my mouth. They are incredibly exciting to say, but also tinged with nervousness. When I was in high school, I was told I wasn't good enough to go to college. I was told to make alternate plans and maybe consider a community college if I was feeling adventurous. One of the best decisions in my life was deciding not to listen to the woman who told me that and signing my acceptance to Cabrini.

Still, I guess the nerves are natural. I am worried that I won't be good enough, that my tendencies to be a perfectionist will turn people off. I have two degrees in history, but I am choosing to make the switch to English. I am confident in my ability to teach English, but I also keep thinking about how hard I worked to be a good history teacher. The reality is that I need to stop thinking so much about what others might think of me and do what is best for myself.

I was accepted into a two year teaching fellowship with SJU. I am going to be placed at an inner-city school that has come with nothing but good recommendations. I have a friend who works there now and loves it. For not being much of a phone personality, all of my interviews went well. I know that this is where I am supposed to be going at this point in time. I shouldn't question it, but sometimes I still do.

Undergrad was easy for me; I worry about taking classes while teaching my own. Community this year was extremely difficult; I worry about similar situations in the next two years. Living on a stipend wasn't easy; I am still coming to terms with the fact that the first three years of my career will be based off of stipends. No savings, living very simply.

Despite all the worries I have, there are no misgivings. Every time I begin to doubt myself, I think about how far I have come in a year and how much farther I have to go. It's been a full year since I've graduated college, and I have been able to make a life for myself. I didn't go home to live on my parent's couch. I don't bemoan how the world is unfair to new graduates. I try to make the best of the situations I am placed into.

Well, most of the time.

Although I am starting a new chapter of my life, it doesn't mean that this one has to be completely closed. No matter where I go, in life and in the world, I will always remember my time on the Reservation and how it has shaped me so much in just a year. I am reminded that I can always come back, and I know that eventually, I will. And I am also reminded that although I will be physically gone in six weeks, memories live much longer than that.

Diabetes Blog Week- Day Two

Recently various petitions have been circulating the Diabetes Online Community, so today let’s pretend to write our own. Tell us who you would write the petition to – a person, an organization, even an object (animate or inanimate) - get creative!! What are you trying to change and what have you experienced that makes you want this change?

I looked at this and instantly knew who I would address. How I would address them is still a little sketchy, but everything has to start with an idea, right? So, it's not in a petition-like format, but maybe, one day it will be.

I would write the Navajo Nation. Type 2 diabetes is pandemic on the Reservation and it is affecting children who are still in elementary school. I think the Navajo Nation has made progress. In Window Rock, they have a Special Diabetes Project Fitness Center that is free for anyone who lives here (including year long volunteers- W00T!) which is a good start. Indian Health Services provides a majority of healthcare for Natives, but education is sometimes lacking.

When I came out here in August, I had to continuously explain my insulin pump and even what type 1 diabetes was. There were some people who didn't know that there were different types. I wasn't offended, just a little surprised that there was limited knowledge on something I thought was a pretty public disease. 

So, I would petition the Navajo Nation to create more educational resources for diabetes. I would ask the U.S. Government for more money for research for the Native American populations and for everyone else as well. I would petition the Navajo Nation to revise their laws and regulations that say because I am white, I cannot be treated at their hospitals. I would ride myself and others of being told that who you are, what you look like precludes you from certain treatment. 

In a word (or two): medical equality.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Diabetes Blog Week- Day One

May 13-19, 2013 is designated as Diabetes Blog Week, and this year, I think I am going to take the challenge! I had heard of it before this year, but either wasn't into blogging at the time or just felt a general lack of motivation to participate. This year is all about stepping outside of my comfort zone though, so for the next week, I will be following the writing prompts to the best of my ability.

Often our health care team only sees us for about 15 minutes several times a year, and they might not have a sense of what our lives are really like. Today, let’s pretend our medical team is reading our blogs. What do you wish they could see about your and/or your loved one's daily life with diabetes? On the other hand, what do you hope they don't see?
I think I have a fairly good medical team, that takes care of me. They've helped me out a lot this past year as I have been travelling and couldn't get into appointments. I have had the same endocrinologist office since I was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes in 2005, and I really hope that I will not have to switch offices anytime in the near future. What I wish they could see about my daily life with diabetes is just the general, random stuff that makes life unexpected. I know when they read my insulin pump at the office, they circle the days where I have weird numbers or do manual boluses instead of using the wizard (sorry, if you read my blog for non-diabetes related issues, you might be lost here).

What I wish they could see about that is that sometimes I am so BUSY. I barely have time to breathe much less calculate carbs and exercise and micromanage diabetes on the day. But, it doesn't mean that I don't care. I wish they would focus less on the three days where I have weird readings and focus on the three months where everything is going amazingly.

What I hope they don't see is how the diagnosis can get to me sometimes. How the disease, no matter how much I joke about it, or take care of myself, wears on me. They already know, so it may be a silly wish that they don't see it, but still, I want them to see me as the strong woman that I have become despite the shortcomings of being diabetic. I hope they never think I am a quitter, I hope they see my determination outshining the moments where I want to throw my glucose meter against a wall and pretend that everything is alright.

Most of all, I hope they know how much I appreciate them and what they have done for me. They saw a scared little girl with a scary diagnosis join the lacrosse team, make the varsity cross country team, and graduate high school. They saw me go to France, Switzerland, Ecuador. They saw me graduate college with honors and begin a career. They are seeing me return to school. And they've never given up on me, never stopped joking and never stopped making me feel like I was going to do good in the world, and not let an illness hold me back.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Putting out Fires

This weekend, my friends and I went to Mesa Verde in Colorado, and Four Corners on the way back. Four Corners is cool because you have the opportunity to stand in four states at once. It’s a gimmicky tourist trap at best, but it didn’t lessen the excitement as we approached it and took pictures of everyone squatting in the middle of the square. It’s only about three hours from where we live, and we decided as the year is drawing to a close and we make plans to leave that doing something fun was absolutely needed. What I didn’t know about Four Corners is that it is where the Navajo Reservation and the Ute Mountain Reservation meet. Standing in the complex looking at the flags of Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico flutter, interspersed with the tribal flags, was pretty amazing. There is so much history, so much culture that I have yet to absorb and I find the clock is ticking faster as I look at my final six weeks on the reservation.

Mesa Verde was gorgeous. All the national parks out here are. I tell everyone that if I wasn’t a teacher, I would be a park ranger just do I could be in this natural beauty all day. We took a tour of ancient cliff dwellings, sighing in awe at what the Puebloan Indians did centuries ago, and how well preserved it is. Getting to the dwellings involved climbing up and down rough hewn wooden ladder bolted into the side of cliffs (hi, mom)and following carefully, yet deteriorating paths constructed by the civilian conservation corps created by FDR during the Great Depression.

If you want to get anywhere out here, you need to drive. And drive. And then drive a little bit longer. Mesa Verde was no exception. Driving through the park to get to the museums and tour sites, we saw acres upon acres of burnt and dead trees. White and flaky, black and withered, they came with us on miles of travel down the winding roads. In 2003, a wildfire tore through Colorado and caused this damage. Park Rangers say experts expect the park will take about 300 years to fully recover from the damages. It’s only 10 years later, so if the experts are right, the park still has a long way to go.

What was more interesting than the destruction of the fires was what came after they went. New growth is slowly, but surely making its way to the landscape. Green is bursting out of the charred earth, wrapping itself around the limbs of their predecessors. It’s a slow progress, but it is still progress, and it is beautiful even in the tough landscape. You see multiple levels driving past. You see the trees that lost everything and remain a shell of their former selves. You see trees that were badly damaged but hung on and stand a decade later with their scars proving their worth in battle. You see the new life, springing forth of its own accord and at different intervals. Young, strong saplings that began soon after the fires were extinguished, and plants that are still new and weak and fragile.

If you only saw the dead trees, if you chose not to look because you saw something ugly, you would also miss the beautiful parts. If you turn your head away from the blacked trunk of a tree, you might miss its other side, which is still holding on to life. The leaves maybe a little more droopy than others, but still resolutely there.

As I slowly begin to gather my things and prepare to travel back to the East Coast for a new adventure, I keep thinking about those trees. Their first impression was a little misleading. They looked a little scary, kind of dangerous. But there was more underneath that first glimpse. The reservation is similar. At first glance, it can be scary and unknown, but once you actually look, you see how beautiful it really is. If I looked at the reservation and chose to focus on the negative aspects, this year would have been miserable. If I only looked at how many alcoholics were here, or how prevalent the abuse rates are, I might have run, closed my eyes, and dreamed of a better place.

Instead, I looked. I accepted that there were damaged, diseased parts, but I looked for the green undergrowth that makes it worthwhile.  I held onto the vibrant life that I did find and encouraged it to grow. Progress is slow, but it is steady. I see the growth in my students who graduate this weekend and prepare to go off and do great things with their lives. I see it in the community events I attend, the handshakes at mass, laughter in the hallways at school.

Forest fires can be created by carelessness; by a campfire forgotten, a sneaky cigarette gone awry. Stereotypical fires can be created by misinformation; but putting too much credit in a story and not enough in what you see for yourself. If I had allowed myself to believe the stereotypes of the reservation, I would not have opened myself up to the many experiences I have had this year.  

I would have spent all my time looking at the burnt shells of trees instead of seeing the beauty that was thriving right below.