More than a Diagnosis

I’m partaking in this year’s Diabetes Blog Week. Each post this week will be based on a pre-determined prompt constructed by Karen over at Bittersweet Diabetes. You can participate by visiting her website.

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More Than Diabetes – Friday 5/19

Let’s wrap up the week by sharing a little more about ourselves, beyond the chronic illness we or our loved ones live with.  Share an interest, hobby, passion, something that is YOU.  If you want to explore how it relates to or helps with diabetes you can. Or let it be a part of you that is completely separate from diabetes because there is more to life than just diabetes!  (This topic is a suggestion from the 2016 #DBlogWeek survey.)


The first post of the week I don’t have all queued up. Oops.

So, it’d be silly to not mention that I’m a ballroom, latin, and swing dancer. I mean, I’ve written about it a few times.

But besides that, I’m also:

A mom to a strong-willed toddler.

A wife to a supportive husband.

A daughter to some of the best parents on the planet.

A loyal employee and client manager.

A reliable friend.

A closet Disney fanatic.

A musical theater lover.

The worst cook on the planet. (But I make up for it by baking.)

A hyper-organized party planner.

Pinterest-obsessed.

A perfectionist.

A former choir girl.

Stubborn as fuck.

A lover of all things coffee.

A fan of a good craft beer.

A seeker of nuanced political conversation.

A decent photographer and graphic designer.

Obsessed with understanding social media dynamics.

Easily hooked by a good dystopian novel.

And lastly, not just a pre-existing condition.

An Argument for Spoons

I’m partaking in this year’s Diabetes Blog Week. Each post this week will be based on a pre-determined prompt constructed by Karen over at Bittersweet Diabetes. You can participate by visiting her website.

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Throwback Thursday: What Brings Me Down – Thursday 5/18

Today let’s revisit a prompt from 2014 – May is Mental Health Month so now seems like a great time to explore the emotional side of living with, or caring for someone with, diabetes. What things can make dealing with diabetes an emotional issue for you and/or your loved one, and how do you cope? (Thanks again to Scott for this 2014 topic.)


I often refer to spoon theory when it comes to breaking down the mental side of living with a chronic condition. If you aren’t familiar with spoon theory, it’s basically how much energy I can devote on a daily basis to all aspects of survival. E.G. diabetes, working, parenting, etc.

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Most days, I fortunate to have enough spoons to complete my daily responsibilities. Some days, I’m pulling the energy from my ass and I barely make it through until my child’s bedtime. I won’t bother opening a bottle of wine on those nights because that would require me to 1) open a bottle and 2) calculate the effects of one 4 oz glass of wine on my current blood sugar with the amount of insulin I have on board. (See, not worth it.)

The most trying days are usually when I can’t seem to get my toddler and my blood sugars on coordinating breakdown schedules. Bean seems to know when mommy needs juice or a snack and it’s precisely when the whining starts. Usually, my husband is around to soothe the toddler while I retreat in my haze. But, since lows happen whenever they may, sometimes we are at the store, in the car, anywhere inconvenient.

The worst are the sustained lows that take forever to recover. I often feel like I can’t address my daughter’s concerns or problem, no matter how trivial, if I’m too busy pulling myself out of a low.

And I get it. Taking care of myself means I’m a better parent. No one wants a car crash. She’ll understand later. But there is something disheartening about listening to your child cry while waiting for those numbers to creep up. The screams are louder. The insatiable hunger is more intense. The urgency is greater but I’m at the will of my own body’s response. It’s unnerving.

I usually end those days with -3 spoons left at my disposal – usually sitting on the couch aimlessly flipping through social media or watching recorded television. And those spoons don’t come back. I can’t bank them and save them for a bad day. I start the next day with the same amount of spoons as the previous day. Rinse. Repeat.

Not all days are like this. Most days, my daughter is a gem and I have great support at home. Most days, my blood sugars behave. Most days, I have spoons to spare. The challenge is not focusing on the days I lose all of my spoons, but it’s hard to just not give a fork.

Blame it On The D

I’m partaking in this year’s Diabetes Blog Week. Each post this week will be based on a pre-determined prompt constructed by Karen over at Bittersweet Diabetes. You can participate by visiting her website.

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The Blame Game – Wednesday 5/17

Having diabetes often makes a visit to the doctor a dreaded experience, as there is invariably bad news of one kind or another.  And sometimes the way the doctor talks to you can leave you feeling like you’re at fault.  Or maybe you have a fantastic healthcare team, but have experienced blame and judgment from someone else in your life – friend, loved one, complete stranger.  Think about a particularly bad instance, how that person talked to you, the words they used and the conversation you had.  Now, the game part.  Let’s turn this around.  If you could turn that person into a puppet, what would you have them say that would leave you feeling empowered and good about yourself?   Let’s help teach people how to support us, rather than blame us!  (Thank you, Brian, for inspiring this topic.)


I feel like this topic could be an extension of yesterday’s post. After all, isn’t the crux of the whole healthcare debate whether or not we made some bad life choice and therefore got diabetes as a result? The moment I mention I have diabetes, the questions start. Is it bad? Can you eat that? Why don’t you just exercise more? Why aren’t you fat?

The questions were more prevalent when I was pregnant with Bean. I remember going to an open interview event for local doulas. By the time we got to the meet and greet portion of the afternoon, I experienced a whole lot of side-eyes and strange questions from a group of women supposedly interested in lifting each other up. This wasn’t to say all of them were like this – the two who had worked with T1 patients at my hospital just weren’t available on my due date.

I had meet & greets awkwardly cut off because I was apparently delivering at the wrong hospital in the area (it has a level 4 neonatal unit and is one of the best children’s hospitals). I wasn’t really high-risk (pretty sure diabetes classifies you as a high-risk pregnancy). I probably didn’t love my MFM and I should try a family practice physician instead (um, no, I love my MFM because she lets me do what I want and family practice would just refer me there anyway). Oh, and the kicker – is my child going to have diabetes too? (Sigh, no. She has just as much of a chance of developing it as your children do.)

Needless to say, I didn’t hire a doula and the experience soured me to ever seeking out their services for any future pregnancies. There isn’t anything wrong with wanting to use a doula during the birth process, but I didn’t see how she could have helped me in my unique situation. You could see it during the meet and greets; the minute I mentioned I had a high-risk pregnancy, the shields went up.

I don’t blame them for being scared to take me on as a client, but I would have appreciated the honesty over the judgment. A simple, hey, y’know, not sure if I’m the gal to work with you because I don’t know a whole lot about your condition would have worked better than doubting I actually had a condition.

Also, now I have this song stuck in my head…

Young and Sick

I’m partaking in this year’s Diabetes Blog Week. Each post this week will be based on a pre-determined prompt constructed by Karen over at Bittersweet Diabetes. You can participate by visiting her website.

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The Cost of a Chronic Illness – Tuesday 5/16

Insulin and other diabetes medications and supplies can be costly.  Here in the US, insurance status and age (as in Medicare eligibility) can impact both the cost and coverage.  So today, let’s discuss how cost impacts our diabetes care.  Do you have advice to share?  For those outside the US, is cost a concern?  Are there other factors such as accessibility or education that cause barriers to your diabetes care?  (This topic was inspired by suggestions from Rick and Jen.)


Alternate title: how to piss off the entire diabetic online community on a Tuesday morning. (#thanksjen)

It’s no secret that having diabetes is expensive. It’s also no secret that no one in public office seems to understand that chronic conditions are usually the result of drawing a genetic short straw. I mean, check here, here, here, and here for examples from our elected (and appointed) officials.

For me, it’s the difference between being a stay at home mom, freelancing or working part time, or being a full-time working mom. I have a job with rare, excellent coverage and I have little to no complaints about my medical benefits. I have both individual and dependent premiums covered 100%. (I pay for it by not getting annual raises and a relatively low wage for my job description – but, win some, lose some.) I often go through scenarios where I opt to pull Bean out of daycare because I don’t think it’s worth my paycheck – then I realize that I’m probably also saving about $1200/month by getting insurance from my employer. With the legislature now rolling toward a repeal of the ACA that would effectively double the cost of any individual insurance plan for us, I will be staying at my job until I’m 70. In lieu of paying for individual medical insurance, I’d like to retire comfortably, save for an emergency and Bean’s college fund, pay off our mortgage, stay out of credit card debt, and a litany of other things other than a new iPhone every year.

 

How insurance companies see me.

My voice is one that Congress needs to hear the most. My experience as someone who is young and sick differs greatly from someone approaching the Medicare age. I am a middle-aged adult in the middle class with an invisible illness that requires high-cost, around the clock maintenance. My income disqualifies me from most drug rebates and assistance programs. However, I don’t just have $10,000 per year lying around. Obviously, we are smart enough to cut non-essentials to keep the insulin flowing, but at what point do you deem retirement and fiscal responsibility a non-essential?

But, if you listen to news coverage or our public officials, our stories are seemingly left out of the conversation. I’ve been trying to think of ways the health care conversation would be different if the “young and sick” had seats at the table. Several things would need to be accepted beforehand:

  1. That not all chronic conditions are the result of lifestyle choices.
  2. That medical costs not only are a drain on those on fixed incomes later in life, but also hinder the choices young people make about their futures.
  3. That those younger will effectively pick jobs or careers based on benefit packages offered by an employer.
  4. That chronic conditions don’t benefit from catastrophic coverage alone.  
  5. That a majority of Americans are one diagnosis away from medical bankruptcy.

It’s hard to get anywhere because the current conversation revolves around Americans obtaining affordable health insurance and confusing it with getting affordable health care. Until we can accurately address the rising costs of medical care with our legislature, we will continue to fight the wrong battle. Have you considered looking up the Diabetes PAC?

Diabetes is a Cranky Toddler

I’m partaking in this year’s Diabetes Blog Week. Each post this week will be based on a pre-determined prompt constructed by Karen over at Bittersweet Diabetes. You can participate by visiting her website.

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Diabetes and The Unexpected – Monday 5/15

Diabetes can sometimes seem to play by a rulebook that makes no sense, tossing out unexpected challenges at random.  What are your best tips for being prepared when the unexpected happens?  Or, take this topic another way and tell us about some good things diabetes has brought into your, or your loved one’s, life that you never could have expected?  (Thank you, Heather, for inspiring this topic!)


We hear the narrative from a variety of sources – Control your diabetes better with XYZ diet. Avoid complications and medications with better control. Your diabetes is out of control. You have great control of your diabetes. Your fetus depends on having the ultimate control of your diabetes.

Of some of the most candid advice that I’ve read in the diabetic online community, what has stuck with me the most was this: “Diabetes, by definition, is not something we can just control. At best, we can only manage it and hope for the best outcome.” So really, diabetes is a cranky toddler.

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No, really. In the present moment, there is no better comparison to diabetes than dealing with a toddler who is in serious need of a nap. Have you ever tried to reason with a fussy toddler? It’s damn near impossible.

I mean, I can try to negotiate with diabetes. Just a few more units of insulin will bring you down… No? How about a new infusion set? I can attempt to redirect diabetes. If I go for a walk, maybe I can distract this high blood sugar from escalating. I can punish diabetes. Only a 1 unit correction? No way! Rage bolus, activate! I could also ignore diabetes. Oh. 250 mg/dl? Meh.

The reaction is exhausting and leaves me wanting a nap, or a beer, or both. But deep down, I know that this sleepless, screaming, tantrum-ing reaction is temporary. A phase or blip in the grand scheme of things. Addressing the problem with this mindset often helps bring in some much-needed perspective. My diabetes isn’t always like this and sometimes there is no real reason for the less than perfect blood sugars.

Now, if you want something real crazy, you can have both a toddler and diabetes, like I do. This post inspired by the fact that my kid has skipped her nap for the last two days. Oof.

Honest Recipes: Banana Flax Muffins

I haven’t done a recipe post in a while. (Maybe several years.)

Anyway, we tend to like muffins in this house. (And by we, I mean, the toddler likes to eat them and I like to not think too hard about packing her weekday breakfasts. Win win.) I often find myself hiding vegetables, fiber, and other nutrient dense items in these muffins because let’s face it, toddlers aren’t going to eat it alone.

My usual Spinach Banana muffin standby recipe was thwarted by under-estimating how much spinach this household goes through. Alas, no more spinach left. Since I’m not going to Target for the 5th time this week, I decided to be resourceful and use what I had in my kitchen.

Banana Flax Muffins

My pantry tends to be a breeding ground for good intentions that never see the light of day. I go on Pinterest and find cool recipes with obscure ingredients, buy said ingredients, and then never do anything with them. (Usually, because those recipes feature even more obscure ingredients I forgot to purchase.) This is the one occasion where Pinterest did not steer me wrong, so I must share.

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Banana flax muffins sound as about as interesting as the backside of my hand, but they are actually really good. I’m sure the toddler will find them most appealing in her morning fare; especially because they crumble into pieces of sweet allergen-free banana bread flavor quite easily. (I can hear the “Mommy, I made mess” from the backseat of my car now.)

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Why are they so crumbly? Well, that would be the rice flour and the flax meal… and not a lick of eggs, flour, dairy, or refined sugar or fun to be seen here. I literally have no idea why I had brown rice flour in my pantry. It was sealed and old – so I definitely brought it over during our move because I felt guilty for paying so much for it. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a decent recipe that uses only rice flour?

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And flax meal – well, bonus for me as I’ve been looking to incorporate more fiber-rich whole grains into my diet. Apparently, flax can help lower LDL cholesterol. Cool – I’ll scarf down a few of these a week and maybe that will get my endocrinologist off my back. (Don’t worry – my LDL level is okay-ish for a normal person. Just not a person with diabetes.)

Thank goodness they taste pretty damn awesome.

Without further ado, I present Banana Flax Muffins.

Banana Flax Muffins

Banana Flax Muffins

Makes 16
Ingredients
  • 2-1/2 cups brown rice flour
  • 3/4 cup golden flaxseed meal
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 cups mashed bananas (3 medium)
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 1 cup maple syrup (or agave, or whatever liquid sweetener you prefer)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 3/4 – 1 cup water or milk of choice (I used almond milk)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350˚ F. Line 2 muffin pans with 16 muffin papers. Spray liners with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, flaxseed meal, ground cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In a medium bowl, mash bananas very well. Stir in oil, maple syrup, vanilla, lemon juice, and water or milk until well mixed. (I used a Kitchen Aid mixer on the lowest setting.)
  4. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix until well combined. Fold in raisins, if using.
  5. Fill the muffin tins to the rim with batter. Bake in the center of the oven for 20-23 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Cool completely before serving.

Notes

  1. The dough is going to look odd if you don’t normally bake with alternate flours. It almost had a gelatinous, gooey look to it. It’ll come together – flax is often subbed out for eggs.
  2. There was a note about the muffins sticking to the liners – solve that by spraying the liners with cooking spray. Or use silicone ones.

 

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Why Not Just Test?


I’ve gotten lazy.

Not to the point that my A1C is out of range, but I’m using the Dexcom as my blood glucose monitor a little too often.

And who wouldn’t – especially when there is a five-alarm high (literally) at 2 am and bed is too comfy to bounce out and finger stick. Especially since the FDA recently approved (eh, sort of old news now) the Dexcom G5 readings to dose insulin.

My issue is that my Dexcom has never accurately captured blood sugar readings over 220 mg/dl. (Maybe once in a blue moon… or on day 8 of a sensor life only.) I will hang tight at 210 mg/dl, stable, and unwavering. But a fingerstick will yield a very different (usually higher) result.

This needs to be taken into consideration with middle of the night dosing. I have been having issues with my bedtime snack bolus (if I have something) and crashing at midnight. Enter midnight juicebox. (And I do get up and test for those.)

Juicebox rebounds and my alarm sounds at 2 or 3 am with a high BG alert. I’m mad for several reasons: 1) it’s the second time tonight I have been woken up; 2) I’ve been skirting my high alarm threshold for several hours; 3) I’m definitely higher than what my Dexcom is telling me.

But rather than treating that 195 mg/dl accurately and having some semblance of a good fasting blood sugar, I opt to treat the 160 I woke up with. And then wake up two hours later needing another correction. This probably could have been avoided if I just got up again and verified the correct blood sugar.

And yes, I’m overanalyzing 35 points difference in my blood sugar and being annoyed by it.  Sigh.

Learning From My Capsule Wardrobe

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I started 2016 with a mission to clean out my closet and live on a very limited wardrobe for three months at a time. Like most projects and I, they all start with good intentions and then fall into remiss. I do get the question, “so are you still living with a capsule wardrobe” every so often, so I figure I’d update.

Short answer: not really.

Long answer.

I went back and looked at my original posts last year to remind myself why I wanted to limit my clothing resources. At the core, I was frustrated by having a closet full of clothes and “nothing to wear/pack for trips/etc.” The sheer amount of stuff I had hanging in my closet overwhelmed me and I just went to the same 5 pieces during the work week anyway. Then I kept adding clothes to the mix. (Dumb idea.)

After I cleaned everything out and put together my outfits for the quarter, I felt accomplished! Packing for my business trips was easy. I even downgraded to a simple carry-on for most trips.

But things happened mid-capsule. The weather would change dramatically. My office would transition to a different dress code for a week, quarter, or busy time. I’d be traveling even more. I had fancier events at the dance studio. And the killer – I got bored with my closet toward the end of each capsule. I found myself changing out items mid-capsule a lot, simply because something called for it.

Needless to say, a capsule wardrobe life doesn’t fit my lifestyle at all. No matter how many articles of clothing or shoes I tried to pare down to, I always ended up with other items in the closet.

However, it wasn’t all for naught. I did learn several things and still keep those in the back my mind when looking at my closet.

I liked saving money during the capsule, so I aim to purchase new items for my closet from secondhand sources. My favorite is still ThredUp for convenience sake, but I’ll trade or buy items on Ebay, Facebook groups, or Craigslist. If I have a chance, I also check out thrift stores and consignment shops in the area. (But, shopping in person? Who has time for that?)

My aimless searching through aisles in Target or Ross for new clothes doesn’t really happen anymore. This has cut the Target bill down a bit per month. (Or goes toward Bean’s wardrobe budget.)

I attempt to shop smarter. Brand new items ideally come from ethically produced or conscious sources. I try to shop local shops, Etsy stores, or “made in USA” items. I try to cater my subscription box profiles to ask for Made in USA items so I can still enjoy the surprise aspect of personal shopping. I would love to one day have a “greener” closet, but this is a financial undertaking on its own.

I have become incredibly picky about what I buy. I try to avoid items that “just fit okay” or “are cute pants but don’t have pockets.”

I alter or repair clothes, rather than donating them to someone else who might fix them. (Unlikely.)

I now pack up and store my “dead of winter” clothes, rather than leave them out during the summer months. (I never did this and I’m not sure why.)

I adhere to a color scheme and avoid adding new pieces to my closet that don’t fit within those parameters. There is currently no red, orange, chocolate brown, or yellow in my closet, for example. No plans to add them either.

I don’t throw clothes in the wash after one wear. (Unless it’s gross.) Clothes are washed as closely as possible to the care instructions on the label. Lots of things get hung dry.


I’m not trying to discourage anyone from trying to clean out their closet and make their remaining items work. Pinterest makes it look so damn simple as well. But since I have so many different facets to my life, it was difficult to limit myself to a set number of months and items. And I spent more time during each “season” fixing my closet to cater to outside events and weather – which defeats the purpose of having a capsule!

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When a Teacher Leaves

An early bulk of this blog detailed my life as a competitive and showcase ballroom dancer while living with Type 1 diabetes. Then life happened and I’m more or less a recovering addict of dancesport. I participated in showcases post-birth, but I’ve recently changed dance goal directives, putting a stop to solo showcases at the moment. This most recent hiatus is simply because I don’t have a full-time male instructor at this time.

The missing instructor wasn’t a surprise; all students had about a year of notice to plan for next steps and new instructors if needed. This was a vast improvement over what happened with a previous instructor, who turned in his two-week notice to his studio and students and promptly left the country. Being without another male teacher is not new for me, and “retiring” from competitive dancing coordinated nicely with this recent departure, but it’s probably a shock to the core for other dancers who don’t see departures coming.

So, what to do?

 

Errr… probably not.

 

Check with the studio’s plan. This kind of depends on how your home studio functions. There are dance studios that operate strictly as space, which then contracts instructors to use said space, or there are studios which hire instructors as employees. Getting and keeping male instructors around seems to be a universal problem in the dancesport community. There seems to be this weird issue of not having enough male instructors at a given studio. But if one does come around, it can be a challenge to establish a student base with an already ingrained community. There is a possibility that there are no immediate plans to hire a high-level instructor to replace the previous one. Maybe there aren’t any available. Studio HR dynamics are a separate post altogether; the goal of this post was to offer suggestions for students who may find themselves orphaned already.

Try the newer/different male instructor. This seems like the easiest solution, though it may seem daunting if you were with an old instructor for a number of years. New teaching methods, new communication preferences, new feelings. It’s going to feel like starting from scratch for a couple weeks/months. It might suck at first, especially if your expectations were molded by your old instructor’s habits. But, it doesn’t hurt to try. A different thought – the new instructor needs to build up his business and experience with students too.

Work with female instructors. They all have to know how to lead, so don’t worry about not being able to work on following. Plus, they can help with styling, connection, turn technique, and footwork variation ideas. (Just a few suggestions.)

Find an amateur/practice partner. Is there a similar-level male student at your studio with similar dance goals? Start practicing together. Share lessons together. (This is a great cost saver too.) Amateur competitions are loads cheaper than pro-am comps if competing is a common goal.

Practice on your own. Your previous instructor probably gave you lots of instruction during your time together. Now would be a good time to work on everything you were harped on during lessons; none of which probably need a partner present. This is a great post on solo practicing.

Form/Join a Small Group Ensemble. I still love performing, so I have been using my previous solo instruction time to work with an all-girls performance team. Still get to work on dance, have fun, and participate in showcases.

Learn the opposite role. Nothing tunes me into my connection with my partners than dancing as a leader. I can only really lead one or two dances, but I’m definitely available to lead socially when the is a leader shortage at dance outings. This option allows the freedom to work with any instructor in the studio for assistance.

Join/Audition for a Competitive Formation Team. This option isn’t always available at studios, but if it is – look into it. For ours, we get weekly coaching lessons by a master level teacher for a low monthly membership fee. Then we perform or compete around the region. The team does amazing things for dancing – plus all of the practice requirements fill out schedules nicely.

Try a new discipline. Was Standard your go-to dance realm? Try Latin. Or American Smooth. Or west coast swing. Not only will the challenge of switching to a new set of dances keep you on your toes, it’ll help your preferred dance. Or you might fall in love with the new dance and never look back.

Leave your studio and seek instruction elsewhere. This is obviously not my preferred suggestion, but if you want to keep dancing, you gotta do what you gotta do. This option is easier to do in larger metropolitan areas, but I can understand why someone wouldn’t want to leave a home-base studio. (I don’t want to leave mine.) But, if your goals don’t match what the current staff can help you with, then that’s a studio problem – not yours. A less abrupt suggestion? See if the pro can come to you every other weekend or so. (Or vice versa.)

How to continue your ballroom dance training when there isn't a pro around.

Start Over

For the first time in a while, I actually feel compelled to write again.

I recently saw an ad for 2017’s Diabetes Blog Week dates. Then got a bit depressed that the prompts were not ready. (I know they won’t be for a while, but given how long it takes to write posts over here…)

I have several ideas to tie up loose ends I started last year – just need to sit down and write.

Until then…