The Power of Holding On

By: Martianne Stanger

In the past six months, two young women I love as family, one gal who lived in the local community, one older gentleman connected to a loved one, and one world-famous celebrity who was beloved by many all took their own lives. Undoubtedly – and unfortunately – many others did, too.

Why?

I cannot stop asking myself this question: Why?

I will never know the personal moment of despair and confusion that propelled each of these precious people to give up on life. I will, however, always understand that each moment these folks chose to hold on was one more moment that many are thankful for. In fact, we all wish they’d held on longer. I, for one, pray daily that everyone I know – and all with whom I have not yet made acquaintance – do what, for some reason, these beloved lost souls could not do: Hold on!

hold on

Hold on for one more day. One more moment. One more breath.

Reach through darkness, trusting that there is life – life worth living.

Please, give life a chance to be beautiful again.

It can be. It is. I know.

Decades ago, on more than one occasion, I got perilously close to saying goodbye. I honestly believed that I had no reason left to live, that any impact I had to make in this world had already been made. Thus, more than once, I was a millisecond away from acting on the choice to let go.

Yet, each time, I did not. I held on.

Thank friends. Thank family. Thank strangers. Thank God.

My 40-something-year-old self could never have told my teen-self that there really was a reason to keep living and that I still had purpose in this world. Thankfully, something else did. As a teen, a miracle happened in the hallways of my high school, and further – albeit less dramatic – miracles happened right through my twenties.

In fact, each time despair brought me to the brink of letting go of life, somehow, I held on for one more moment, one more day, one more year, one more decade, and then longer until that kind of despair simply let go of me.

I am so thankful that it did. I know others who are thankful, as well. People who have always known me and those who I had not yet even met during periods of life when holding on was so difficult. People I had not even imagined would ever exist.

Praises be… those people do exist. And you exist, too. Obviously, you do since you are reading this.

As you read, please know that your existence has value. Your life impacts others. Your choice to hold on is vital… and oh so appreciated!

I truly wish that older selves of the girls that I loved, the gal in the local community, the older man who is no more, the big-time star who so tragically made his final headlines, and all other lost-too-soon folks could one day affirm, as I am now doing, that holding on does defeat despair and life is so very much worth continuing with. I wish each had been able to hold on long enough to offer a living message of hope.

That wish is not reality though. Reality is those folks, for whatever reasons, were unable to hold on any longer.

You are able to, though. As am I. As are so many others.

In honor of the memories of those lost, I ask you do just that.

Please, hold on not only to your own life, but to others around you. Hold on through mourning. Hold one another in remembrance. Hold folks in support, in encouragement, in understanding, in silence, in sharing, in joy – because joy still exists and it awaits in moments to come, if not in this very moment you are in.

Be confident. Light shines through darkness. Holding on defeats despair. Faith, hope and love can – and do –prevail.

Just trust.

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My Son Has a Male Kindergarten Teacher

By: Kathy Trainor

Kindegarten

Today we found out that John has a male Kindergarten teacher. Many parents were chatting, saying they were “weirded out” by it – so much so that some are requesting that their child be transferred out of his class.

I will be the first to admit that most of the time early learning teachers tend to be women, but I would have NO problem with my children having a male kindergarten teacher.

It is 2014 – not 1914.  He has been a teacher for a few years in the school and has always taught Kindergarten. The school system does an amazing job at selecting teachers that meet the needs of students. Like any and all schools, there are background checks.

How many times do you hear, “Why don’t males teach in Elementary level?” Well, maybe it is because society as a whole is still close minded. Maybe being faced with comments like “my kids are not having a male teacher” discourage them from teaching younger children. This man picked teaching and wanted Kindergarten for a reason. What is the problem with wanting to do something you love? 

In my years of teaching, I have found that males in the teaching profession tend to be kind and calm. They offer a sense of humor and also act as great role models for many students, even leading some males into teaching themselves.

What do you think? Would you like a male Kindergarten teacher for your child?

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Co-Parenting 101

By: Angela Semeta

As we all may know, a divorce or a separation between two parents isn’t easy for anyone, especially the child/children. When my daughter’s father and I decided to go our separate ways it was not an easy decision but we knew that in the end it was the best for everyone. We Co-parentingknew that it would mean putting our daughter’s best interest above our own and that we would have to come together and find a way to make particular sacrifices for our daughter. Now that we were new to the co-parent world, things would be much different but we would have to make things work and learn to be civil for the sake of our daughter.

It is important to remember that even though your disagreements may be part of what got you to this point in the first place, you must try not to put your child in the middle of your heat-of-the-moment discussions. Children are not equipped to understand adult problems, nor should they have to bear the stress. Find time when the two of you can discuss differences you may have that focus on the needs of your child. Never try to get in the middle of your child’s relationship with the other parent or use your child to get back at your ex, as it will promote feelings of insecurity.

It is also very important to come to an agreement on visitation, vacation and holidays. We normally switch off holidays, and then the following year we get our daughter on the holidays we didn’t get her on the year prior. Another difficult topic of discussion is when your ex or yourself is ready to start a new relationship. At some point it is bound to happen. Luckily for myself and my ex, we have been able to remain friends throughout the process and are able to communicate. Though neither of us is in a relationship at this point, we have discussed the topic.  We agreed to keep each other informed and cross that bridge when we get to it.

I have seen many couples go through many bitter divorces and breakups, and it is so important to remember to put your child’s needs first. In some circumstances the courts must get involved for custody or visitation purposes. But at the end of the day if you can just sit down together and avoid any type of conflict, then everyone wins. Most importantly, your child will see you both as role models and know that you were able to handle the situation in a responsible fashion. He or she will know that they are not to blame for the relationship not working out.

Posted in Angela Semeta, Divorce, Family, Parenting Advice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Living With Diabetes, Part 2

By: Rachel Ventura

Rachel VenturaTo read Part 1 of Rachel’s journey to manage her diabetes, click here

Within the past year, I started experiencing hypoglycemia unawareness, which can happen to people who have had diabetes for a long time. In my case, it has been 20 years. Very scary stuff, especially with two little ones almost always with me.

Normally, when your blood sugar begins to get low, around 70, you can feel it. Many of you who do not have diabetes have experienced low blood sugar, or as it’s medically known, hypoglycemia. If you haven’t eaten or have done a lot of exercise, or in a diabetic’s case, taken too much insulin, you may begin to feel shaky, sweaty, weak and/or hungry. These are signs of hypoglycemia. You eat something or drink some juice, and your blood sugar goes up. You feel better. But what was happening to me, I was no longer feeling these signs. All of a sudden, I would feel really disoriented. The best word for me to describe it is loopy. I just felt really silly. I knew I was acting off, but I couldn’t stop it. It was scary. When I would finally test my blood sugar after one of these episodes, it was usually somewhere between 30 and 40. That’s extremely low, close to becoming unconscious and/or having a seizure. Too close. I started telling my 4 year old daughter that if I’m acting like that she needs to remind me I need to eat something, or if we were out somewhere, to get me help. That’s a scary thing – for me and for her!

When I told my endocrinologist about this, she suggested I get the Dexcom continuous glucose monitoring system, another piece of technology I am forever grateful for. I contacted the Dexcom representative and within three weeks, I had the system in my possession. I had my training and have now been using the system for almost two months. It. Is. Amazing.

The Dexcom is tubeless and wireless, just like my OmniPod. I wear the small sensor with a cannula under my skin and it tests my blood sugar every few minutes. It communicates with a small receiver about the size of an iPod that I must keep within 20 feet of myself. I change the sensor every seven days. The receiver shows me a graph with all of my blood sugars and – the thing that helps me the most – it shows me where my blood sugar is heading: if it’s staying steady, going up or down, and if it’s heading in either direction quickly or slowly. This makes all the difference in the world. Now I can see if my blood sugar is low, or getting there, even if I don’t feel the symptoms! I can completely cut off those scary, loopy episodes, and my daughter can worry much less about me.

I also test my blood sugar much less often. I was testing 8-10 times a day. My fingertips looked like pin cushions! Now with the Dexcom, I test 2-4 times a day. Amazing!

So I have these 2 pods attached to me at all times, and I must keep these two receivers in my purse.

Insulin

Sometimes I do feel like a bionic diabetic. Ha! But let’s hear it for technology!! The strides they are making towards a bionic pancreas are unbelievable. I truly believe I will see a cure in my lifetime. I have to believe it. Not even for me, but for our future generation. I know that at any moment, one of my nieces or nephews or one of my own children, could be diagnosed. But thanks to technology, I am living an almost completely normal life. And they would be able to as well. Of course, still with pokes and needles, counting carbs all day, figuring out insulin ratios, and watching pretty much every move we make. Normal. Almost. But amazing!

Posted in Health, Rachel Ventura | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Lost

By: Heather Desmond O’Neill

HeatherThat pit in your stomach when you lose, or you think you have lost, your child.

My 6-year-old son and I were in Target. We had been looking for a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle bracelet for his brother. They didn’t have any in the boy’s department, so as we were checking out, I thought there may be some in the aisles where they sell all of the “impulse buy” merchandise. I mean, who doesn’t need a Tide-to-Go pen, or a small batch of wet wipes or some extra hair ties?

We happened to be shopping on a rather busy day, and all of the registers were running with lines of at least 3-4 people in them.  I searched the aisle we were in. He said he would look at the few around us.

I put my merchandise on the belt and waited the few minutes in line.

Jameson did not return.

I looked around behind me, left my line and went to the aisles around where I was standing.

Nothing.

I called a few times. Not loudly, but enough that he could hear me if he was within earshot.

Nothing.

I go back to my line figuring he would return to where he thought I was.

Nothing.

Now I could care less about my place in line and walk in front of the line I was in. Now I am starting to panic. I call a little louder.

Nothing.

A little louder.

Still nothing.

People are staring at me.  I want to scream at them.

I raise my voice – “Has anyone seen a little boy with a blue Spiderman shirt?”  “JAMESON! JAMESON!”

Pure panic.

Some woman points to the service desk and tells me I should go report it.  I want to kick her in the throat.

Why would I want to stop looking for my son to talk to the customer service desk?

There are, what seem like a million people staring at me. Silent. No one is looking. No one is saying a word.

What is wrong with them?

“HAS ANYONE SEEN A LITTLE BOY WITH A BLUE SPIDERMAN SHIRT?”  I repeat.

It feels as though an hour has gone by.

My mind is racing.  I am tearing up.  The door to the store is right there. I know he didn’t leave. He wouldn’t leave without me. Plus, we didn’t come in that door. But anyone could have grabbed his hand and walked him out. WHERE IS HE?!?

No one is moving!

Finally – “He’s here!”  Some angel of a woman calls out to me.

He’s coming this way.”  More songs from heaven call out.

“JAMESON!”

“MAMA!”  And I see his angelic face with big crocodile tears streaming down them.

We are both crying.

I hug him and pull him aside, away from all of the people still staring at us.

“Where were you?”  I say through tears and hugs.

“I was looking for the bracelet and walked too far away.” He is clearly shaken up. He has no idea the panic and relief I have just experienced.

I make my way back to the line I was in, pay for our merchandise and cannot wait to get out of this store.

People are still staring.

A woman touches my arm as we are leaving and says she lost (and found) her son once.  She understands the range of emotions I am going through.

I never want to experience this again. I know it is inevitable. My children will wander, we will become separated. For now, I will hug them a little closer. Kiss their faces a little bit more. I will embrace the fact that I am blessed to have my two children home, safe, with me.

To the bystanders: please don’t stare at a woman who is clearly in panic mode. Offer support and assistance. Look for the child! Staring in silence does nothing to help the situation.

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Texting and Driving

By: Carolyn Coleman

Now that my son is 15 years old, he has this idea that he will be driving himself to school as of next school year. The thought of this sends chills through my body.

texting drivingOver the past few months I’ve taken a special interest in watching drivers and the things they do while they are behind the wheel. I see people with books on the steering wheel. However, most of what I see is drivers with one hand on the wheel while holding the phone in the other hand. On my daily drive to and from work I’m amazed at the number of drivers I see texting.

Of course, as I am writing this I decided to go to the Internet to see what is being said about this new trend:

“Texting while driving is a growing trend, and a national epidemic, quickly becoming one of the country’s top killers.”

“We found out she was injured by a man that was texting and driving.

“Texting and drivingis a scourge that jeopardizes the lives of every single person who uses public roads.”

“Texting while driving is a major cause of traffic crashes and fatalities. Texting drivers are 23 times more likely to be involved in an auto accident than non-texting.”

“At least 59% of young people know that texting and driving is dangerous… but 46% still admit to driving while distracted.”

“Bans on texting while driving cut traffic deaths by 3 percent for all drivers, and 11 percent for those between 15- and 21-years-old”

I feel as though every day I am adding topics to my list of things to talk to my son about. It’s so true that the older they get, the tougher the discussion becomes. For now, the texting and driving issue is at the top of our list. As a parent, I try to make sure I talk to my son about life issues. I like to keep the line of communication open so that he always feels comfortable coming to talk to me.

My son and I are on board with the no texting while driving ban in my car. I welcome you to get on board with this idea, too.

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Living With Diabetes, Part 1

By: Rachel Ventura

Rachel VenturaIn this world filled with technology, I feel truly blessed. I currently have two pieces of technology attached to my body that are helping me survive. Here, let me explain…

In the beginning of summer 1992, I was 10 years old and finishing up the 5th grade. Big things were on the horizon: middle school. It was such a scary and exciting time! The joining of four elementary schools, new people, lockers, changing classrooms. I loved the thought of growing up a bit and having more independence. I couldn’t wait!

As the summer grew closer, I started feeling sick. I remember just not feeling right. My teacher must have thought I was crazy because I was going to the water bubbler and the bathroom more often than anyone else. I just couldn’t quench my thirst and I always had to pee! I would go home from school and just lay on the couch. I didn’t feel like playing outside or seeing my friends, which was very unlike me.

I’ll never forget the night I was so thirsty that I brought a full pitcher of grape Kool-Aid to bed with me. I drank the entire thing and that night, I wet my bed. I couldn’t believe it! I was 10 years old. I didn’t have accidents! I knew something was wrong with me, but I didn’t know what. I was scared, but I kept it to myself. I never even told my mom I had wet my bed.

My parents also knew something was up. I wasn’t acting like myself and I was losing weight – something very scary for a small-framed-to-begin-with 10 year old. The final straw was when my mom took me and a few friends to Dairy Queen the week after school got out. We were celebrating the start of summer! My friends ordered their cones with dip and sprinkles and Blizzards with yummy additions, and when it came time for me to order, I asked for a glass of water. That was all I wanted.

We went to my pediatrician and after taking one look at me, they said I should go to the ER. There, we found out my blood sugar was almost 900. I was hooked up to some IV’s, poked and prodded, and then sent off on an ambulance ride to Boston. I was scared and exhausted and didn’t want any needles or shots (funny, knowing now what I was about to be faced with), but at the same time I was happy to be getting some help. I just wanted to feel better.

Once we arrived at the hospital, I was officially diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. It’s genetic. I knew my Uncle Billy had diabetes. He was also diagnosed at the age of 10. I spent a week in the hospital in Boston, learning all about this disease and how to control it. The worst thing for me was learning it was something I was always going to have; it doesn’t go away. There is no cure. Oh, and shots. I remember the nurses teaching me how to draw the insulin into the syringe, carefully remove any air bubbles, and practicing the injections into oranges. My brother even let me practice on him once! (With saline, not insulin, of course.)

Then it came time. Time for me to give myself a shot. It was so scary and painful, but I got the hang of it. On top of giving myself insulin shots, I had to learn to test my blood sugar, check for urine ketones, and watch everything I eat and how much I exercise. It’s a lot for a little 10 year old to take in!

That summer wasn’t fun. Instead of being excited for middle school, as I had been just a few months earlier, I was completely dreading it. I knew you couldn’t tell I was diabetic from the outside, and no one would know unless I told them, but I knew I was different. And to a 10 year old girl entering middle school, different was the last thing I wanted to be. I was already the youngest in my class, and therefore less developed than all of the other girls in my grade. I became depressed and developed low self-esteem, something I still deal with to this day. We told a few of my closest friends what was going on with me and taught them about any warning signs. Other than that, I tried to be as normal as possible, which was bad news. I just didn’t want to be diabetic.

I spent the next nine years basically pretending I did not have diabetes. I ate pretty much whatever I wanted, never tested my blood sugar, and took my insulin shots only when I felt like it, sometimes skipping them all together. I never felt good. I always felt sick. I was in and out of the hospital for pancreatitis and dehydration. I knew these things were terrible for me, but I didn’t want to be different. I was a stupid, rebellious teenager.

I knew there were many complications of poorly controlled diabetes, and I knew they could start appearing as much as 10 years after diagnosis. This scared me to no end, but I didn’t know how to take care of myself or where to start.

This all changed when I was 19 and got into a bad car accident. I ended up breaking my pelvis in two places and while I was in the ER, I saw a new doctor. I remember he asked what I had taken for insulin, and I replied that I was going to take a shot before bed but I hadn’t had any that day yet. It was midnight. He explained that I was supposed to take my shots before I ate meals – that was the whole point of insulin! I honestly didn’t even know that. Or maybe I chose to not know. Either way, I was in bad shape.

After that day, with the help of my new doctor, I started taking better care of myself (but still not great care). I was taking my insulin at the right times, but not always the right amounts. And I still was not eating the right things. Then two years later, my Uncle Billy passed away from complications of diabetes. He was only 40 years old. He battled the disease for 30 years but never really took good care of himself. In the 10 years before he passed away, he suffered from a stroke, a heart attack, kidney failure and nerve damage that resulted in a full leg amputation, all complications of type 1 diabetes.

I literally saw my life flash before my eyes. I saw this as my future. And that scared the crap out of me. I was only 20 years old and started thinking my life was already half over. I will forever miss my Uncle Billy, but his passing made me wake up. He didn’t have to die so young. If only he had just taken better care of himself… I didn’t want to die at 40. I wanted to get married, have kids, and watch them grow up. I knew it was time that I had to make some huge changes. And I did just that.

The possibility of an insulin pump was always available to me. However, I never wanted the tubes and wires that came with it.

The year after my uncle passed, while at the JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes, I learned about OmniPod. It’s a tubeless, wireless insulin pump, and the thought of it made me jump for joy! I brought the information to my doctor and he referred me to an endocrinologist to get set up. It took almost a year to get everything in place and get started, but thank God I did. I’ve been on OmniPod now for six years and my only regret is not starting sooner. It’s a small pod, about the size of half a kiwi that sticks to my skin with adhesive. A cannula is inserted under my skin and delivers my insulin, which I prefill the pod with. It wirelessly communicates with a receiver about the size of a small phone. All of my rates and calculations (determined by my endocrinologist) are entered in the receiver, though I can, and do, make changes as needed. I test my blood sugar directly in the receiver, let it know how many carbs I will eat, and it determines how much insulin I need. I confirm and it delivers. Amazing! I change the pod every three days or when it has run out of insulin, whichever comes first. I’ve learned how to count carbs and calculate my basal rates and bolus amounts.

My A1c, a measurement of one’s average blood sugar for 3 months, has gone from 10 (an average of 240) to my most recent, 6.7 (an average of 140). A non-diabetic’s blood sugar should be anywhere between 80 and 120 at any given time. For mine to average 140 is amazing!! I feel good, better than I ever have in my life.

To top it off, because of the OmniPod and better control over my diabetes, I was able to have two perfectly healthy pregnancies and give birth to two beautiful babies!! Before OmniPod, I was not healthy enough to get pregnant or to stay pregnant. My doctor told me that when he started practicing medicine, which wasn’t that long ago, they did not encourage diabetic women to get pregnant. It was just too dangerous for both the mom and the baby. How sad is that? Again, I am so thankful for technology.

I am in control of my diabetes! Actually, I’m kicking its butt! Insulin is not a cure. Insulin pumps are not a cure either, but they sure do help.

Stayed tuned for Part 2 of Rachel’s journey to manage her diabetes, coming next week.

Posted in Health, Rachel Ventura | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments