Sunday, August 30, 2015

Consider Perseverance

Mowing the lawn this morning, my mind got stuck on the word "perseverance."    This thought was triggered first by the mysterious ivy plant that started to grow on the west side of the house this summer.  "How can this thing grow here?  It wasn't here last year.   I didn't plant it. I even tried to pull it up, but it keeps coming back."   However, like the mouse in Give a Mouse a Cookie, my thoughts wandered around before coming back to my starting place.

This stubborn green growth brought me back to Friday.  A 7th grade colleague started the year with a lesson on grit.  Last year, the sixth grade reading teachers did a project with the theme of perseverance.  The team I work with decided to build on it by sharing another book with our students and doing team building activities around that theme.  Friday, our colleague sent us an email to let us know the kids repeatedly talked about perseverance in some form during their opening discussions. This begs the question: Is perseverance something that is taught?

This lead me to consider my aunt, Connie.  She lost her arm in a farm accident in her late teens.  I do not remember her any other way.  I have never had this discussion with her, but I imagine she had to have gone through a tremendous time of anger, self-doubt, and frustration and most likely still experiences those emotions regularly.  However, what I see when I think of her is not struggle but acceptance- this is who I am- and strength-  I'll take your challenge.  The beautiful quilts she makes are a physical representation of her perseverance.  So, I consider: Is perseverance innate?
A gift from my aunt
And, now I'm thinking about my grandma, Norma.  For twelve years, I was the only girl cousin.   I spent many hours in her kitchen hiding from the boys and listening to her sage advice while she canned our beloved "Sauce".   TJ was diagnosed with diabetes two days before she died.  I had actually planned to leave to see her when TJ was admitted into the hospital.   Someone had told her TJ was sick, but not to what extent.  She was always very worried about the girls and diabetes and I didn't want her to have her last days with this burden.  However, I think she knew.  When I finally did make it to see her, she held my hand tight and told me, "Go home and take care of those kiddos."   Even to the last minute she found humor in life when she expressed frustration, "Dying isn't like the cowboy movies when they just shut their eyes and go."  Ever practical, my grandma.  I try to remember that when my emotions get me flying.  I hear her voice in my head, "Slow down, do what needs to be done."  So maybe, perseverance is an expectation, something modeled, something part of your family culture and norms?  

Take my kids for example, I don't remember ever sitting down with them- any of them, diabetes or not- and having a conversation specifically about perseverance.  We encourage them when they are frustrated, we push them to challenge themselves, we acknowledge bad days, we help them find solutions.   They see us fight and struggle in our own lives.  I have seen tears over painful set changes and lost sites.  I have heard angry words over the unfairness and the frustration of battling an invisible enemy; one who certainly does not play fair. This worries me, especially with two away at college.  It will be hard to manage this old villain in a new castle and I hope they make good decisions.  I have watched TJ find a positive in the fact he has to bring his own cake to someone else's birthday party.  ("At least I know I'll like the frosting.") Could perseverance be just a choice;  part of living a life rather than watching it go by? 

After I finished mowing, I looked up the word in the dictionary.  There were many definitions but the key ideas of "determination", "moving forward despite difficulty",  and "effort" jump to the forefront. I then went back around to look at that ivy plant.  Considering, I never planted it, have no idea where it came from, and have even tried to kill it- I think it embodies perseverance.  I took a picture and I will place it in my classroom next to the picture of my family and my aunt's table runner.  Because maybe there are no clear answers to my questions.  Maybe perseverance is all those things at different times.  Louisa May Alcott said, "I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship." Sometimes we need a person to guide us in the decision we were meant to make or to teach us about the path we are meant to follow.  Sometimes perseverance is less of a choice; it is just what we do to keep moving forward when life throws a punch.
My uninvited green friend. 

Sunday, August 2, 2015


Four years ago today, Troy and I were driving to Minneapolis for a weekend getaway to take in some Twins baseball.  On this particular drive, somewhere between Fergus Falls and Alexandria, I got a text from a friend I had lost touch with in recent years.  Her words instantly took my breath away and brought tears to my eyes.  "Addison was just dx'd with diabetes."  You see, we had become rather insulated in our little world.  We managed day to day.  We felt we were living successfully with diabetes.  We had ups and downs both in blood sugars and emotions but we were surviving.  We had become complacent and overly accepting of this disease in our lives.  Her text made me realize we shouldn't have to settle for this and no one else should have to live with it.

Now, four years later, we are in a different place.  We have become more active as a family in seeking a cure and promoting awareness.  I am no longer complacent or willing to accept that they will live with this disease their entire lives.  However, this has been a tough summer for me.  There are a lot of changes going on in our family.  First of all, two girls will be going off to college in two different places.  Taya will be venturing off to Duluth to tackle a biology major and Tylie is moving to Fargo to study History and English.  Just reading that you can see the differences in their personalities, yet it is hard for me to imagine one without the other. Tylie may be the oldest chronologically, but Taya has always been the one pushing her out of her comfort zone.   If Taya hadn't decided learning to ride a bike was a good thing, I am fairly certain Tylie would still be using training wheels.  Taya does things by the rules with order and logic and Tylie likes to dream and discover mysteries as they come along in her own time. They give each other balance.  What I have been learning in recent weeks is that they also give me balance.

Sending kids off to college is, in itself, an emotional event.  Now imagine those kids having diabetes. In addition to making sure they have bed sheets and coffee pots, my list includes finding a pharmacy and making sure glucagon is up to date.  In truth, I am terrified.  I have always been their back-up pancreas.  Even as they have learned to take care of themselves and I am more hands off, I fill the prescriptions, I follow their care, I see them daily.  I am up in the middle of the night when I hear the fridge open.  I am there when they are throwing up or have screaming headaches due to blood sugars that won't settle where they belong.  As they begin to make the natural separation from us and learn to live independently, I find myself anxious and unsure of what my new role is in both their real life and their diabetes life.  Endless questions run through my head and when I say them aloud, I can see their annoyance.  Does your roommate know what you are like when your blood sugar is off?  Does she know what to do if you can't do it yourself?  What if you get low in the middle of night?  What if you get sick?  Will you remember to check for keytones even if you don't think you have them?  I have managed to keep some thoughts in my head.  Instead of asking if there is a plan for where to keep pump supplies or syringes, I say out loud, "Do you need a microwave?" while quietly stashing AAA batteries and fruit snacks into the Target cart.  Much like four years ago, when I got that text from my friend, I realize yet again, we have become insulated.  I forgot to consider that there will be a time that they need to care for this disease more on their own, without me as immediate back-up.   They have to learn to manage it and own it in a way that works for them. I know we have raised them well.  I know they are independent and strong and resourceful and I am so proud of the women they have become. Frankly, I'm even a bit jealous of this new adventure they are about to undertake.  But, I know that diabetes does not play fair and that...well, that makes me angry.

Four years from now, we will again be in a different place.  The girls will either be finished up with college or working toward post graduate degrees.  TJ will be starting high school.  I want things to be different then.  I want them to move into homes without considering where to put all the medical supplies.  I want them to have families without fear of their health.  I want Addison and TJ to go college without being encumbered by a machine that doses medicine so food nutrients can actually fuel them.  Of course, above all, I want them to be happy.  Imagine how that would look in a world without Type 1 diabetes.

If you feel inclined to help make this a reality, please visit this link.  It will allow you to donate or join our One Walk team.  We are stronger together!