'cation, baby!

Saturday, September 16, 2006 | 7 comment(s)

It's official:
I'm on vacation! Yaaahhooo!

We're heading out tonight to spend the next two weeks
  • driving and
  • camping and
  • sleeping and
  • skipping and
  • reading and
  • fishing and
  • relaxing and
  • hiking and
  • yucking it up and
  • eating and
  • visiting and
  • lolly-gagging around
in Colorado and New Mexico.

Oh, I need this, and it's going to be good.

Be well folks, and I'll catch up in a few weeks!

Ode to a Rucksack

Wednesday, September 13, 2006 | 11 comment(s)

Pablo Neruda
Some worthwhile Odes:Now that man could write an ode!

I am not, so this ain't poetry (sorry).

We are diabetics; we come with baggage (physically, emotionally, and literally). I've always known this about myself, and I've kinda had a hunch that it was true of others with diabetes, too, but have never known for sure. Reading a few blogs in the OC has confirmed it for me. Birdie over at "aiming for grace" craves more sassy satchels to carry her gear in, and Beth over at "In Search of Balance" is looking forward to no longer having to carry that extra 10 pounds worth of supplies everywhere she goes.

In addition to some (more) insights to my neuroses, I completely realize that this is practically a commercial.

I want to tell you about my backpack. Actually, I want to write a paean and sing hosannas about it too (okay, so perhaps I am feeling a little poetic). Perhaps a rock opera would suffice.

I have a green, L.L. Bean Continental Rucksack that I have worn almost everyday for the past 15 years. I purchased this backpack in Sept. 1991 as I was starting college.

It has carried books through school, clothes on trips (to England, Japan, Guatemala, & Costa Rica, to Utah, New Mexico, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine, Florida, Texas, & North Carolina), lunches to work, beer & wine to parties, supplies to camping, and climbing gear to cliffs.

I love my backpack.

In addition, to all of the various tasks I put it through, there are a few things that are always in it:
  • The left side pocket holds about a week's supply of granola bars
  • Also in the right side pocket is a ratty, lamenated, mildewed, DC City map
  • The left side pocket holds my non-ipod, 40 gig mp3 player/portable hard drive, and my cell phone, and a serious tangle of earbuds for both devices
  • The center zippered pocket carries has in it:
    • A glucometer
    • A glucagon kit
    • A Swiss Army knife (except when flying)
    • A small spoon (don't ask)
    • Miscellaneous pens and pencils
    • A vial of "Keto-Diastix"
    • Usually a spare canister (or two or three) of test strips
    • A compass
    • A 128 Mb data fob
    • A pack of gum
    • Calorie King's "Calorie, FAT, & Carb Counter"
    • And a spare tube of glucose tabs.
    (In short it's a truly miraculous bottom-less pocket).
  • And the main compartment almost always has a mini umbrella in it (Like my Dad has taught me: "Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it").

I wear this backpack to work everyday.

In addition to all the "regular" items I carry in it, I usually also have my lunch in it, a magazine I'm reading (e.g., Diabetes Self-Management, Countdown, Forecast, Harpers, Atlantic Monthly) or a book I'm currently reading, and clothes to change into or out of when biking to work. It gets heavy sometimes.

It gets wet from the sweat while biking or when I'm caught in the rain (that mini umbrella doesn't really cover me AND my backpack). I've had soda bottles and wine bottles explode inside of it. I think I've only washed a few times. At this point, I'm afraid it would fall apart if I were to put it in a washing machine.

It is my security blanket. I would be naked
In fact
My friend Lee once exclaimed: "Kevin! You're Naked!" when she saw me without my backpack on for the first time.

without it. Devastated.

If I'm not actually wearing my backpack, it is in the office drawer next to me, or by my bedside table, or in the car seat next to me, or in the closet of a house I'm visiting, or under the table at a restaurant I'm eating at. I've worn it with a suit at a professional conference once.
But I don't do that anymore
I was mocked a little by someone on the panel and I have since bought a slightly more professional side bag (also made by L.L. Bean) that I use when I'm going some where "professional."


Probably five years ago, I thought it was dead. Every buckle and zipper on it was broken. I even bought a new backpack from L.L. Bean. Unfortunately, they had discontinued the Continental Rucksack for a few years (thankfully they have brought it back, though I think it's slightly smaller) so I couldn't buy another one *just* like it at the time. But I found out that I was able to send the bag to L.L. Bean and they replaced all the buckles and the busted zipper for something like $17! It was almost like new. It had a new lease on life. I was overjoyed.

I know that it is somewhat unnatural to have some much affection for an inanimate object, but I can't help it. It's starting to show more significant signs of wear and tear around several stitches and I'm nervous about how much longer it will last. I am going to be a very sad camper (pun intended) when this backpack dies.

How Stella? How?

Monday, September 04, 2006 | 14 comment(s)

My sugars have been awful lately, I haven't been keeping up with my logging, and I am not pleased.

I'm a man of routines and habits. When I'm in a groove, things can chug along quite nicely - I eat the same meals, I test like crazy, I keep detailed notes in my logbook. When I'm in this groove, I've been able to keep my average readings in the 140s range (and occasionally into the 130s and once even into the 120s range).

Then I fall out of that groove. Sometimes I have no idea what happened or why. Just BAM! and the record has skipped and I'm repeating old (bad) habits. That's kinda where I am right now. (that's kinda where I am right now, that's kinda where I am right now, that's kinda where I am right now, that's kinda where I am right now (to beat a metaphor to death)).

I keep a logbook of all my blood sugar readings in an excel file that I keep on my office computer. I generally keep my glucometer out on my desk and find that it's no problem for me to test my blood and directly enter it into the logbook that I have open (generally at all times). I also log what I've eaten, how many carbs (often wild-ass guesses), how much insulin I take for each meal, and any exercise I do. I have the readings automatically plotted out in daily line graphs and some weekly statistics calculated as well. During the day when I'm sitting at my desk, this all works great.

When I've got my groove on, I come in the office and download
Nitty-gritty details
I use Lifescan meters: The OneTouch Ultra AND the OneTouch UltraSmart. I also use Lifescan's database software that read the data from both meters. I like this.

Previously I used the OneTouch Profile II (which is a total dinosaur that requires gobs of blood, takes 45 seconds to produces a reading(!), and spits out its readings in whole blood rather than plasma equivalents) and the Ascencia Dex 2 meter.

I like using 2 meters because
  1. I always have a back-up handy, and
  2. I like one that I can keep at my desk or in my backpack, or on my night stand and another one that I can basically keep in my pocket at all times.
I used to really like the Dex 2 meter, 'cause it didn't require carrying test strips in the other pocket (well, that's not true, I generally always had an extra set of 10 strips with me) and I could pull the meter out of my pocket and slide out a strip and be ready to test in no time.

I found, however, that I was subconsciously (okay, perhaps consciously, too) testing when I was more likely to be having higher blood sugars: e.g., while exercising or while out socializing. And since I never downloaded the data from this little pocket meter, I never really got the "full" picture, but instead, I got a downwardly biased picture of my average readings from the OneTouch meter (which I downloaded into the same software database that I still use).

I like this new duo of meters 'cause it gives me a better picture of my control, and it helps to keep me honest with myself (which I need more often than I'd like to admit).

my readings from the previous day and overnight and morning into the OneTouch database. I then manually update my logbook with whatever readings I've missed (i.e., readings 5pm - 9am). I can usually recall what I ate for dinner, and can scroll through my pump for bolus information to plug into my logbook. It's a little time consuming (maybe 10 mins. each morning), but I've found that the information in the logbook is laid out *just* like I like it, and I'm peculiar that way.

The down-side to this system is that I have to create a new file each week. Part of this was by design, however. I found that judging my management in 1-week intervals works best for me. I can clearly look at a graph of my weekly averages and tell whether it was a "good week", a "bad week" or a "shitty week." Every Monday morning I would do the same as any other weekday, but I'd also hand enter the blood sugar readings from over the weekend.
The Sad Truth
I have never really kept decent records of what I eat, or what my boluses are like, or what my activity levels are like over the weekends, because they are often so random. I'm not eating my "standard breakfast" or my "standard lunch" and I'm certainly not eating them at relatively fixed times like when I'm at the office (and I find I snack A LOT more when I'm at home). So, I just log the blood sugar readings and nothing else from my weekends and this gives me a sense that I'm "taking a (much needed?) break" from all the other record keeping that I do all week long.

It breaks my heart every time I say this, but "weekends suck." My control slips severely over the weekend.

Then I save my completed file for the previous week, create a new copy of it for the new week, manually clear out all the previous week's worth of data, and then start filling in my Monday morning readings. I find that the Monday morning logbook routine takes a bit more time than any of the Tuesday-Friday routines (perhaps 15 mins.).

So my troubles started several weeks ago when I took a long weekend trip and then took the following Monday off from work. Tuesday morning, I found the notion of having to hand enter data from Thursday evening - Sunday evening in the previous week and then create a new file and then hand enter the data for all day Monday into Tuesday morning to be too daunting a task and so I happily gave myself "the week off" from logging.

When I downloaded all my readings into the OneTouch database, I was pleased to find that my control hadn't suffered a bit for the lack of logging. Then started a new week, I got back on the logging bandwagon, I had a great week of readings, and I was happy as a clam.
Other Fun "Happy as a..." Similes
  • Happy as a Sandboy
  • Happy as a Tapir
  • Happy as a Hippo
  • Happy as Larry (honest, I'm not making that up)
  • Happy as a Lark
  • Happy as a Peacock
  • Happy as a Pig in Shit, and then (of course) there's plain ol':
  • Happy Camper


But then two weekends ago it was my birthday and I had my follow-up eye doctor's appointment on Monday morning and I took the rest of the day off from work while my eyes returned to normal. Then again Tuesday last week I was overwhelmed with the amount of data I'd have to hand-enter and basically took another "logging vacation."

Only this past week I know my blood sugars have just sucked. I haven't downloaded my data yet to see how crappy my averages were over the past week but, I'm guessing they went up by 50-80 mg/dl, easily. The only thing that will keep the averages out of the 200s range will be the string of lows in the 50s range that I had three nights in a row last week (which really isn't a very satisfying way to achieve low average blood sugar stats).

I certainly can't blame all of my poor control on my lack of logging since my previous "logging break" proved to me that I could maintain decent control without writing every tidbit down. I'm putting my money on the fact that I drove to work everyday last week (except Monday, when I wasn't in the office) instead of riding my bike to work. The weatherman
I Still Haven't Learned
When I was a little kid, my Nana used to say to me: "Little boys who lie grow up to be weathermen."

threw a couple head-fakes at me when I was barely awake (promising rain, but producing just clouds and great 70 degree weather) during the first half of the week, but then followed through with some decent downpours in the second half of the workweek.

So today is the third Monday off in the past month, and although I could get used to a 4-day workweek, I really don't like the unintended secondary effects these long weekends are having on my control. My plan is to bike into work early tomorrow (Tuesday) morning, and take the time to start the week off on the right foot and get my groove back on with my logging, my eating, and my exercising.

I've just re-read this very inspirational story about the Cleveland brothers, and while factors such as diet, exercise, and genetics certainly played a significant role in their longevity with diabetes, so too did keeping meticulous records.

I'm just hoping I can get my groove back. How'd you do it Stella? How?