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Looking Back: Humalog Christmas Lights.

What says “holiday festivities” like insulin bottles fashioned into Christmas lights?  (You’re right – gingerbread cookies would be a little more ho, ho, ho, but stick with me.)  In anticipation of the coming holidays, I’m looking back at a post from two Februaries ago, which went live on Diabetes Art Day but is holiday-relevant, so let’s roll. 

For my arty attempt, I used insulin bottles as my “medium.”  Someone had mentioned you could make Christmas lights out of empty insulin bottles, so i wanted to take a stab at it.  (Hang on … there are even more horrible phrasing moments coming.)

The beginning of this hand-cramping mess.

All I needed:

  • Empty insulin bottles
  • A good, long screw
  • Christmas lights
  • Patience

Okay, so first off, you need to drain all the insulin from the bottle.  I’ve been collecting these bottles for the last few months, so I had some spares that I had injected every last unit of.

To get the white rubber stopper out of the bottle without ruining the cap, insert the sharp end of a two inch long screw into the bottle stopper and push it through.  Then, as you pull it back out, the stopped will start to pull through the top of the bottle.  You’ll need to grab the stopper with your fingers and shimmy it out, which sounds nice and easy, but it made my fingers cramp.  Those stoppers are slippery!

Once the rubber stoppers are out, you shove the light bulb into the top of the bottle and then display as you see fit.  I saw fit to stick them on this big metal tree thing we have on one of our walls.  They look festive, in that “your pancreas is busted” sort of way.

Happy Diabetes Art Day!!

Viola!  (Pronounced “vee-ooh-hahn-geespee.”)  You have insulin bottle lights.  Which means your holidays may smell like bandaids now.

“Instead of making insulin …”

“What’s insulin?” my daughter asked me as I was buckling her into the car seat.

She knows the word because vials of insulin sit where the butter usually resides in other people’s refrigerators.

“Insulin is a hormone that people’s pancreases make.  It helps make the foods we eat into something our bodies can use for energy.  My pancreas doesn’t make any insulin, so I put it into my body using my pump or the needles,” is my explanation.

“Right.  And that’s why you have diabetes and my dad and I don’t,” she replies.

“Exactly.  My pancreas is lazy sometimes.  Instead of making insulin, maybe my pancreas goes to the beach?”

She latched onto this idea immediately.  “Yeah!  Instead of making insulin, your pancreas goes in a ferris wheel!”

“Instead of making insulin, my pancreas has an ice cream party!”

“Oooh, oooh!  Instead of making insulin, your pancreas goes to the library and listens to story time and then takes out three books!”

“Very specific!”

The game went on for the entire car ride home.  “Instead of making insulin, your pancreas writes a letter to Santa!”  “Instead of making insulin, my pancreas takes a trip around the moon!”  “Instead of making insulin, your pancreas jumps on a trampoline!”  “Instead of making insulin, my pancreas grows peanuts on a peanut farm!”  “Instead of making insulin, your pancreas hangs out on Sundays with Batman!”  (On Sundays only.)

As the car pulled into the driveway, we were giggling madly about the adventures of my under-employed pancreas, outlined in great detail.

“Mom, your pancreas is extremely silly.”

“It totally is.”

“I wish it made insulin, though,” she said, snapping reality back into place in that plain, matter-of-fact way only she can.  She gave me a grin that made my heart swell and my pancreas shift uncomfortably in its seat.

“Yep.  Me too, love.”

The Friday Six: A Ton of Many Things.

“What do you want to do today, Mom?” Birdy asked.

“I don’t know.  What do you want to do?”

Long pause.

“Mom, I want to do a ton of many things!”

A ton of many things.  That makes more sense to me than I’d care to admit.  That’s what’s going on in my head – a ton of so many things – and today I’m using this space to share some stuff:

A dozen different people linked me to this nativity scene, because it’s clearly in my wheelhouse.

Want some superhero snowflakes to grace your home this holiday season?  Dude, there are printable patterns.

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, and as the calendar pages turn, so does my attention … to Spare a Rose.  This is an initiative we can be proud of as a community, and I’m looking forward to seeing how much world-changing we can do, come February.  To stay up-to-date on the efforts, you can now “like” the Spare a Rose page on Facebook.  (But what would matter more is becoming part of the effort.  See Spare A Rose for details.)

Fingerless gloves make blood sugar checks in the freezing cold weather just a little bit easier.  To quote Pat Benatar (who did not say this): “Love, and diabetes, is a battlefield.”

Fingerless gloves: making life easier for blood sugar checks since the early 80's.

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

Mail kimp.

These look adorable, until they start to swell and disintegrate in your hot chocolate.

Diabetes burnout is one thing.  But what happens after diabetes burnout?  Renza’s post is raw, honest, and broke my heart a little bit.

Chris interviewed Chris.

“You know the scene. It’s breakfast time, on a school day, and there are 101 tasks to complete in an infinitesimally tiny timescale.”  This glimpse into morning routines gave me a grin.

If you’re at the Diabetes UnConference in March (and please do be do be dooooo!), you can be a high roller.  Which means you can get super scared of heights if you want.  Which I want!

Ever wonder if you and your insulin pump are a good fit for one another?  Check out Melissa’s article to help determine which pump is right for you!

Orgs supporting diabetes and exercise are becoming increasingly rare. This is scary shit, because exercise is IMPORTANT. Throwing some love to Connected in Motion as they discuss the evolution and plan their future.

“This is what it takes to start to feel better.  To feel happy.  To feel able.  And if I can’t do it on my own, then I’ll have to figure out who the right people are and get them on my bus to help me get further along down that road.  For now, it’s one mile at a time.”  This post from Martin is gorgeous – please take a read.

This song.  On repeat.  For the rest of the year:

Stuff shared.

“Real People” Sick.

For months, I escaped most of the germ cycle.  I received my flu shot.  I wash my hands.  I don’t lick doorknobs or shopping cart handles or people I don’t know.  My ears, nose, and throat remained plague-free.

Until about four days ago.

I have a rotten cold.  And if you know me at all, you’ll recall that anything to do with nose/mucus grossness becomes all my nightmares given flesh [1].

My friends think the phrase “real people sick” [2]  is bizarre.  “You’re a real person, Kerri,” is what they say.  (“Stop whining about your cold, you big baby,” is what they add.)  But dealing with a foolish, run-of-the-mill cold irritates me more than the most intense diabetes management day because I am just not used to being “real people sick.”  Diabetes, I’m used to.  Pump sites and finger pricks and CGM data is part of a normal day.  But a running nose and sort throat, that hacking, nastytown feeling that takes over my shoulders and neck when I’m playing host to cold germs?  Far less tolerable.

For now, my backpack is stashed with Kleenex (both new and used – ew!!!!!) and cough drops.  I hate my nose until further notice.  And once this cold retreats, I’ll be forever grateful that the only crud I have to lug around is diabetes-related. [3]

1.  Really.  Go read Neil Gaiman’s Troll Bridge.  It’s a gorgeous piece of writing that stops me cold every time.  It’s simple, evocative, and full of stolen moments.

2.  Real People Sick: The differentiation between blood sugar issues and the common cold. Phrase slips out most often when the diabetic admits to not feeling well and must specify that it is not blood sugar related.

3.  Footnotes in a blog post are silly.  So is this.

Not Diabetes: Window Seat Cushion.

Things I can’t do:  make insulin.

Things I can do:  make a window seat in less than ten minutes.

Armed with fabric, padding, plywood, a staple gun, and a very helpful YouTube video, it took me ten minutes to make a window sat cushion for the bench beneath our window.  (The pillows were a different story and required a sewing machine, scissors, a measuring tape, some straight pins, a lot of wine, some made-up curse words, thread, two annoying cats, and one inquisitively “helpful” four year old who insisted on pushing the peddle on the sewing machine, which made for quite an adventure.)

And yes, I pricked my finger accidentally whilst pinning the pillows.  And yes, I checked my blood sugar as a result, because why waste a good prick?  :)

Hypo Management.

“Ninety-five percent of the time, I’m fine.  The lows are ones I can treat myself, even if the number is really low.  Usually my symptoms are shakiness or like this brain fog.  When the lows are really gross, I usually cry at random.  Or I throw things.  No real in between.  But the majority of the time, I can take care of things myself, and then it’s over.  Like nothing happened.”

I tried to explain this to a friend who was asking when it’s necessary to intervene during a low blood sugar, but explaining the slide from “fine” to “holy effing low blood sugar” sounds confusing when I say it out loud.

That’s the weirdest part, for me, that whole panic-then-peace part of severe hypoglycemic events.  My lows have historically come crashing in at a breakneck speed, which is part of why using a CGM has been a pivotal change for me.  Getting a head’s up on when a low is happening, or being able to treat it even before it becomes a problem, has helped me feel safer in the face of hypo unawareness (a lack of low blood sugar symptoms) and fast-dropping numbers.

My endo suggested that I raise my low alarm on my Dexcom from 65 mg/dL to 80 mg/dL in efforts to catch lows earlier, and in the last month or so, I’ve had far fewer chaotic hypos.  Instead, I’m grabbing the lows before they even become low, snagging a 70 while it slides versus waking up in the trenches of a 40.

Low alarm at 80 has been the best suggestion in a long time. #diabetes

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

Small little tweaks here and there make differences I couldn’t have imagined. … that, and I’m burning through my supply of glucose tabs with a little less vigor.


Let Loose.

(Is it okay to let loose with a stream of consciousness sort of thing today?  I hope so.  My mind isn’t capable of anything else at the moment.)

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the diabetes community.  So much has changed since the Internet started to populate with patient stories.  I don’t mean that in a “oh, the industry!” sort of sense, but more that the concept of “I am not alone with diabetes” has gone from hopeful to factual over the last decade.  I love the diabetes community.  After such a long gap between camp and finding online support, I appreciate the friendships – real and true – I’ve forged over the last decade.  To go full Jerry McGuire on the whole mess, they complete me.  I even appreciate the people I find prickly to a certain extent, because my interactions with people I don’t get along with help me grow as a person.

My feelings about the community are a weird contrast against diabetes itself, because the disease is not something I love.  I don’t appreciate it.  I don’t view it as a gift.  I view it as a disease.  So it’s a strange hybrid feeling to be so taken with a group of people anchored around a disease I would give back in a heartbeat.

(Oh hell yes, I’m in that kind of hug-everything mood today.  Wait until I cut-and-paste blooming violets and rainbows and doughnut rain up in this blog post.  It’s a combination of jet lag and hypoglycemia.)

By contrast, I haven’t wanted to share so much online these days.  I thought I was hitting a pocket of diabetes burnout a few weeks ago, but then I realized my blood sugars were fine.  I was checking my blood sugar at the necessary times.  I was wearing my devices and doing whatever was necessary to keep them, and me, up and running.  It’s a comfortable diabetes apathy that I’ve settled into, with results that are in range enough and diabetes control that falls within the guidelines well enough.  But I’ve wanted to shut the computer more and more lately.  Maybe it’s not diabetes but social media burnout?

Over the last few weeks, my life has been busy in ways that have nothing to do with diabetes.  I’ve been outside logging miles on the running trails, as this is my favorite time of year to run outside.  I have a new, comfortable routine of waking up before the rest of my family and making a pot of coffee, then reading blogs and emails while single-handedly killing the pot of coffee.  (Which means, by the time everyone else wakes up, I’m completely lit.)  We moved to a new town, I’ve been on the road for work, I’ve been investing myself in friendships and family, and I’m trying to spend more time talking to people I love instead of Tweeting into the abyss.  I made a conscious decision to pull back from the Internet and rethink how I felt about advocacy, especially in the wake of, for me, a less-than-fulfilling Diabetes Month.

And then yesterday I spent the day with the P4DC team and this welcomed wave of re-invigoration washed over me.  The conversations were diverse, but did close with a brainstorming session about Spare A Rose, which reminded me that the DOC isn’t about sharing thoughts and feelings without recognizing how frigging lucky we are.  We are lucky.  I feel like we found our footing, as an online community, by connecting with one another and comparing our good moments with our tougher moments, talking about our general lifestyle stuff and we got really comfortable in that space.  And then we started to realize, after connecting with our fellow and privileged peers (because if you’re reading this on a glowing screen, you’re luckier than most), that we live in a bubble of sorts.  We have nice problems to be managing, all things considered.  I think we came to realize that, as a community, and our ambitions and outreach started to step outside of serving ourselves.  Greater good sort of stuff.

That inspires the absolute hell out of me.  Changing our world takes a lot of effort and dedication and determination but good heavens, we can do this.  I am going through the ebb and flow of life and diabetes and all that comes with continuing to move forward but when I look at this community and see what we’ve done, and then consider what we’re capable of, the advocate in me rises from the ashes of burnout.  Like a phoenix.  (Or, probably  more realistically, a groundhog.)

Whether furry or on fire, my desire to be part of this vibrant community remains intact, intense, and appreciative.


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