♦ No Big Deal

Dear Shaina,
Another revelation for the apparently clueless mother…I had no idea of your anticipated diabetes diagnosis. There were many things that rolled around in my head in regard to the impact of my disease on the inner workings of your child mind, but that one eluded me.

I have always worked very hard to not burden anyone with my disease. When I was first diagnosed, your Bubbe and Zayde were devastated. My illness took on the magnitude of all the tragedies they had endured in their lives. I became to them the sick child. It weighed heavy on their hearts. I somehow knew that the only way I could ease their pain was to stay alive and live my life as if this diabetes thing was no big deal.

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I started baking sugar-full desserts when I had friends over because I didn’t want people to feel like they had to deprive themselves in my presence. I baked sugar-free apple crisp and always had fresh fruit for myself so people wouldn’t feel sorry for me or feel bad for eating sugar in front of me. Managing the food part is the relatively easy part of living with diabetes, but it’s the most obvious concern to the non-diabetic world.

I learned early that people had a lot of misperceptions about this disease and I intuitively knew that it was my job to protect them from feeling responsible for my diabetes and, in turn, protect myself from their stereotypes. I made it look like it was no big deal. It worked for me…most of the time. I have only recently come to appreciate how big a deal the past fifty years have been. I can finally allow myself to feel some of my sadness without fearing that it will weigh heavily on the people I love or dampen my own spirit.

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I am truly grateful that you didn’t feel my burden as your own. I am truly grateful that the worst fallout you have had to deal with are your enormous grocery bills and your obsession with fresh foods and cooking for yourself and everyone else you come into contact with. I am truly grateful to be very much alive and able to finally figure out what was really going on in that child brain of yours. I pray every day that I will live another twenty years (at least) so that I can be fully enlightened about what is really going on in your brain today. By now, I realize that cluelessness is a natural state of parenting in real-time.

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In the meantime, the full force of summer in Birmingham has hit…hot and humid. The kale and cucumbers are thriving. The tomatoes are just beginning to get red and all the herbs are flourishing. A bluebird has decided to take up residence in our little birdhouse in the front yard and she has hatched a noisy little bunch of chirping baby bluebirds. So much for our summer entertainment…

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I look forward to hearing about all of your adventures and I look forward even more to being clued in on the whole story twenty years from now.

Love,
Mom
xooxoxoxoxooxxoxo

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Savory Herbed Potato Salad

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This is my go-to summer Potato Salad. It has no mayonnaise which makes it a little less scary to take on a summer picnic. This recipe takes full advantage of all the herbs growing in our garden. It is very flavorful and everyone seems to love it. For those of you who have asked for this recipe, here it it is!

  • 3 pounds red potatoes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 small shallot minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground fresh pepper
  • 1/4 small red onion, chopped or thinly sliced
  • 3-4 scallions sliced in small pieces
  • 3-4 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • Black kalamata olives (optional)
  • Coarse kosher salt to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

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Boil potatoes with skin on until just done (easily pierced with a knife or fork). Overcooking can cause potatoes to be mushy.

Rinse with cold water and cut into bite sized pieces. I leave the skin on. Put in a large bowl.

While potatoes are cooking, prepare the fresh herbs and onions.

Whisk together oil, mustard,vinegar, shallots and salt and pepper. IMG_6243

Pour mixture over potatoes and toss until potatoes are covered.

Add remaining ingredients and toss together. The amount of fresh herbs can be varied based on your taste preferences

Add salt and pepper to taste.

This dish is best if prepared the day before serving.

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◊ Your Sweet Life

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Dear mom,

When I was young, I expected a diabetes diagnosis. Bubbe had it, you had it… it seemed only a matter of time before I’d be sticking needles in my tush too. To your credit, I was a-ok with this self-predicted future. Your health, fullness of life and energy levels were well above average – you worked and played harder than any of the moms I knew. Among all the possible illnesses out there, I thought, diabetes would be doable.

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I know better now. I no longer anticipate a diagnosis nor think about where I’d position an insulin pump when I dress up. I know that living with diabetes is not as painless as you make it seem.

People ask me how I got into food and if I’ve always eaten so healthily. I think I inherited my health awareness by watching you manage yours. Not everyone has the opportunity to see how powerful a half cup of juice can be on a person’s ability to function. The active role you took in your health rubbed off on me…  growing up, food in our house food was, literally, medicine.

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10 things children of diabetics learn early:

  1. Candy or juice? They’re pretty much the same.
  2. Always always always carry snacksIMG_7735
  3. Needles aren’t scary
  4. Vitamin-e oil is good for scars
  5. White and brown food is almost always mostly sugar

    SUGAR!

  6. Make a fuss at bars and restaurants – it’s worth it
mom martini

When you want a low-sugar margarita, don’t trust the bartender: order a shot of tequila, a shot of fresh lime juice, a shot of fresh orange juice and soda water to make a perfect drink

7. Health is everythingIMG_7127

It feels strange to celebrate this 50-years-with-diabetes thing. I know it’s a big deal to live for 50 healthy years with diabetes, but I never considered an alternative for you.

I’m honored to celebrate your sweet life by supporting ‪‎UAB Comprehensive Diabetes Center‘s search for a cure.  We’ll party hard when I get home, but for now let’s drink some kale to your health!

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xo,

Shaina

L’chaim – here’s to finding a CURE in your lifetime!

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Kale Coconut Smoothies

Serves 2

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  • 1/4 c unsweetened soy milk
  • 1/4 c light coconut milk
  • 1 tbs almond butter
  • 1 frozen banana, chopped
  • 1/4 c frozen mango (or pineapple, orange or other citrusy fruit)
  • 5 – 7 leaves of fresh dinosaur kale, trimmed
  • dash of vanilla
  • dash of salt

Place all ingredients into food processor in order listed (always put liquid in first to give the blades some room to work their magic). Blend until smooth. Add ice if you desire a thicker consistency.

Kale harvest at the farm

Kale harvest at the farm

♦ My Sweet Life

Dear Shaina,

Don’t despair. There is hope for the burn-your-ass and keep-running-like-a-rat syndrome. Eventually you find your stride. Eventually you make your place and settle in. Eventually you realize that you don’t have to feel the burn in order to do some good.

I hate to acknowledge that you may have internalized this suffer-until-it-feels-good affliction from my side of the family. I think its about survival. The good news is we are all surviving. The tough part is that we all have to figure out how to do it on our own.

Speaking of survival tactics, I hear you’re doing a little yoga. Mahjong and yoga…hmmm…I won’t say a word. You are already 30 years ahead of where I was at your age!

In the meantime,I am celebrating my fiftieth year of living with Diabetes! Hard to believe…that fifty years have gone by…and that I am still here to write my daughter a letter about it. On June 6, 1965, the day I was diagnosed with what was then called Juvenile Diabetes, my odds for surviving another fifty years were slim.

46 years ago

46 years ago

The chatter I heard on the street as a 13 year old newly diagnosed diabetic was about a neighbor, an elderly grandfather, a long lost cousin…who lost a leg, went blind, died from kidney failure or heart disease. I chose to tune out most of that. I was instructed to never go barefoot, to not get upset, to eat the same thing at the same time every day, to stay away from sugar, to test my urine four times a day, and of course, to take insulin shots. I chose to ignore most of that too, except taking insulin and staying away from sugar. I knew I had to do those two things in order to survive.

I made the decision, early on, that I wanted to live and that Diabetes was just going to have to live in my life. I wasn’t going to live a life ruled by the fear and dogma that was the prevailing diabetic wisdom of the day. So I went barefoot outside in the summer, got mad when I was mad, stayed away from sweets, took my shots and avoided doctors as much as possible. I allowed myself to hate diabetes without having to hate myself or my life.

I live my life fully everyday; I work; I travel; I celebrate with friends and family; I love my family deeply. I cherish each day! Diabetes has been my constant, many times, unwelcome companion. Our relationship is based on mutual respect and acceptance…acceptance of our mutual goals and our individual needs…and the necessary compromises required for any relationship to succeed.

It is hard for me to believe I have reached this milestone. I am grateful for all the skilled doctors who have hung in there with me despite my stubbornness, for all the latest and greatest torture devices designed to help me manage this disease and for all the research that has enabled me to see the world through my own eyes, to walk as many miles as I feel like on my own two legs and to love with a heart that beats regularly and reliably.

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I am thankful for all the miracles in my life…especially for you and Dad…and hope that I have not overly burdened you.

I know I have been lucky, but I still hate diabetes…and I am ready for the cure! I wish I had a fairy godmother who could temporarily turn me into one of those lab rats at the UAB Comprehensive Diabetes Center, www.uab.edu/diabetes, where they have been studying a drug that essentially cures diabetes in diabetic rats. I’m putting my hope on that research and I plan on spending this year prodding them along with a little fundraising support.

I have so many things to celebrate in my life. This year, my sweet life is at the top of the list!

Love,
Mom
xoxoxoxoxoxoxoox

Summer Kale and Pesto Pasta

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It’s summer time and the garden is rich with basil and kale. This meal is dedicated to you, Shaina. You and Dad went out to the farm and picked a garbage bag full of young tender kale…and you even washed out the dirt and most of the grass. We may overdose on kale this summer…kale smoothies, kale quiche, kale salads, kale burgers…but it’s all good! I am already seeing green!

Pasta

Small bow tie pasta, basil, olive oil chopped garlic dried or fresh good black olives sundries tomatoes pine nuts (optional) shaved Parmesan Cheese (optional)

Cook pasta according to directions. Drain. While the pasta is still hot, mix in basic basil pesto (fresh basil leaves, olive oil, fresh garlic, salt, pepper, all thrown into a food processor) to taste. Add olives and sun dried tomatoes. Set aside.IMG_6054 (1)

Kale

Fresh kale, as much kale as you have or want fresh chopped garlic, to taste olive oil salt pepper hot pepper sauce (optional)

Wash kale thoroughly. If kale is mature, remove thick stems and tear leaves into pieces. If the kale is young and tender, the stems do not need to be removed and you can use the whole leaf.

Heat a large sauté pan. Add a little olive oil and the chopped garlic and sauté lightly.
Add the fresh kale and salute until just cooked and tender. Add salt, pepper and more garlic to taste.
Place pesto pasta on a plate and top with the sautéed kale. Garnish with shaved parmesan cheese, pine nuts or pepper sauce, if desired.