6 Holiday Gift Ideas for T1Ds

Holiday shopping can be hard. Especially if you’ve got a long list of people to shop for, and you’d like to give them thoughtful, practical gifts.

While I don’t have tips and tricks on how to pick out the perfect present for everyone on your list, I do have some ideas as to what you can get that special T1D in your life. The following six items can make fun stocking stuffers or gifts that your beloved T1D is sure to appreciate.

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  1. Pump Peelz – Is your T1D’s meter or pump in need of a makeover? A fresh stack of Pump Peelz can take care of that. Consider stocking up on prints and patterns that your T1D will love. You can even create your own one-of-a-kind design on the Pump Peelz site!
  2. T1D clothing – There are SO MANY styles out there these days, and they’re all extremely creative! Beyond t-shirts, I’ve seen sports bras, leggings, sweatshirts, and dresses all specially designed to either cater to a T1D’s medical gear or raise diabetes awareness. Whether you want to find a style that captures your T1D’s sense of humor or one that they’ll proudly don along with an insulin pump, you’re sure to come across T1D clothing that is funny, functional, and fashionable.
  3. Fun patches and pins – Okay, so maybe your T1D has a more subtle sense of style and doesn’t want to literally wear diabetes on their sleeve. No problem! Perhaps some cute T1D-related patches or pins are more their thing. Personally, I’m a big fan of the ones available on the T1D Lyf shop – they’re absolutely adorable and make a bold statement using a tiny surface.
  4. Myabetic gear – I admit that I went ahead and bought myself an early Christmas gift this year: a frosty pink Myabetic backpack. I’ve started carrying it around instead of a purse and I love it! Myabetic designs all of their wallets, bags, and other gear with diabetes in mind. Every pouch and pocket has a specific purpose that makes carrying diabetes supplies around much easier. I’ve got a Marie crossbody, Banting wallet, and now a Brandy backpack, so clearly, I’m no stranger to their awesome products. You can definitely find something that suits your T1D’s style on the Myabetic website.
  5. The Diabetic Health Journal by Lauren Bongiorno – Instagram introduced me to Lauren last year, and let me tell you, this girl is a powerhouse. As a diabetic health coach and a fitness guru, she knows what she’s talking about in her journal, which is designed to help people with T1D lower A1c, gain insight on blood sugar patterns, boost mood/energy levels, and so much more. This could make a great gift for a T1D who enjoys writing, or someone who is including diabetes in their New Year’s resolution goals.
  6. Vial Safe Insulin Protector – Alright, this sounds totally boring, but it’s one of the most practical gifts you could get a T1D who might be a little, er, clumsy. I’ve certainly shattered an insulin vial or two back in the day, and it’s a really crummy feeling when all that insulin is wasted. But these protective casings can help your T1D avoid the risk of breaking precious insulin vials, which are infinitely valuable. Look them up on Amazon for more information!

Of course, these are all just some suggestions. If you’re still stumped, I often stumble across amazing products just for T1Ds on Instagram. Who would’ve known that there’s virtually an endless array of goodies for T1Ds out there? With a little research and thoughtfulness, the T1D in your life is bound to be grateful for not just your gift to them, but also for your support in the fight against diabetes.

 

Disclosure: I am not paid to promote any of these products. The intent of sharing these items is to provide useful information to readers of my blog. Please visit the links I’ve shared to learn more about the products featured in this post.

This Thanksgiving, I’m Thankful for…Diabetes?

This post originally appeared on my blog at ASweetLife.org on November 26, 2013. It’s hard to believe that I wrote it nearly five years ago, but with Thanksgiving occurring tomorrow, I thought it would be appropriate to revisit it since it captures my feelings about diabetes this time of year. Of course, life has changed quite a bit in the last five years, so I’ve made a couple amendments (below, italicized) to the original…

Each year around Thanksgiving, I think about the things that I am thankful for in life. Some obvious answers come to mind: my parents. My brother, my boyfriend, my dog. The fact that I am able to attend an amazing college. The roof over my head and the food on my plate. The list could go on and on. I’m sure most of my answers are unsurprising.

But is it weird that I’m thankful for diabetes, too?

Don’t get me wrong here. Oftentimes, I resent that I have to deal with the burden that is diabetes on a daily basis. I cry about it, I get angry about it, I curse about it. I wish that it didn’t impact me or my loved ones the way that it does. I’m all too aware, however, that I cannot change the role diabetes plays in my life. All I can do is accept it. When I did that and truly thought about what acceptance means, I began to think of why I might feel blessed in some bizarre way to have diabetes.

For starters, my diabetes has brought me closer to my family. My mom and I are able to relate to each other on a different level because of it. My dad and my brother show concern and unrelenting support for us that might not be the same if Mom and I did not have diabetes.

Sometimes, I think about how even though my diabetes seems to have a mind of its own, it adds a certain degree of control regarding some aspects of my daily life. It helps me get into a routine that is pretty static. It relies on what I choose to feed myself; in this way, it motivates me to make the right choices when it comes to my diet.

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And it has brought some amazing opportunities my way. Without diabetes, I would not have become president of the UMass Amherst chapter of the College Diabetes Network. I would not have discovered the Children with Diabetes: Friends for Life conference that I attended in Disney this past summer, where I made some awesome friends who keep in touch with me. And I certainly would not have begun blogging for ASweetLife.org. This experience itself has allowed me to get in touch with my feelings regarding diabetes to a greater extent. I have been able to explore my interests as an individual who loves to write. I have the pleasure of speaking with a wider variety of people within the diabetic community and hearing individual stories that I might not have ever heard.

I never would have guessed that a mere five years after writing this post, I’d be writing content for my very own diabetes blog. The creation of Hugging the Cactus is a huge diabetes-related accomplishment itself, but I’m reflecting on other diabetes changes I’ve experienced and how I’m thankful for them…so many come to mind. My OmniPod insulin pump, my improved A1c levels, new friendships formed…I’ve come a long way, and I’m grateful for every single positive experience that diabetes has brought into my life.

That’s why I’m seeing diabetes as something to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. I long for the day where diabetes is cured and I no longer have to think about it. But for now, I want to make the best out of something that could be perceived as the worst.

With all that said…enjoy your Thanksgiving holiday! No matter how you choose to celebrate it, remember that you are loved, you matter, and there’s people in your life who are endlessly thankful for your love and light.

Trick-Or-Treating with Diabetes

Happy Halloween, boos and ghouls!!!

Halloween is a holiday that most people associate with candy and costumes. Since I have T1D, you might assume that I wasn’t able to partake in haunted happenings as a kiddo. But that’s far from the truth. In fact, I looked forward to Halloween every year just like any other child who enjoyed dressing up, watching It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, and trick-or-treating.

My parents handled trick-or-treating and my diabetes like true pros: They let me enjoy it and take home just as much candy as my older brother each year. We always wound up with fairly large hauls, and the only difference between mine and his is that mine contained a couple extra “diabetes-friendly” goodies, courtesy of my relatives.

I’m glad that they never made me feel different, or like I couldn’t celebrate it in the same way as my brother and other kids my age because of my diabetes. In turn, I bet they were glad that I was always determined to make my candy last as long as possible – they didn’t have to worry about me sneaking extra pieces, unless they were accounted for with a bolus. And we mutually enjoyed that there were plenty of “low snacks” to spare around the house to take care of any hypos that my mom or myself might have. Trust me, treating lows is always much more fun with a good piece of candy, especially if it was a Reese’s cup.

Today, I’m celebrating Halloween by wearing a costume to work and eating pizza with my coworkers. It’s definitely a departure from the Halloweens of my childhood, but no less fun. I figured I’d wrap up this holiday-centric post by remembering the good ole trick-or-treating days with some pictures of my favorite costumes I wore in my “youth”:

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Circa 1995

The year that I was a nurse, and my brother was the letter “G”. Yes, you read that correctly. I’m fairly certain this Halloween was so memorable because of his unique costume choice, not because it was my first time trick-or-treating.

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Lady Liberty

My Statue of Liberty costume – possibly my favorite costume ever! My mom HANDMADE the entire thing, from the giant tinfoil crown to the torch that (she insisted) I kept high in the air the whole time I was trick-or-treating.

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Cowgirl with an attitude

A cowgirl! This picture makes me laugh because it really captures my personality…

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Cinderelly, Cinderelly!

…but then again, so does this one! Cinderella is my absolute favorite Disney princess, so when I got to dress up just like her for one Halloween, it was a dream come true.

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It’s leviOsa, not levioSA.

Speaking of magical characters, I loved dressing up as Hermione as an adult! I wore this costume for my first Halloween at my job. It was a hit around the office.

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She really is a funny girl, that Belle

And that brings us up to last year’s Belle costume. Another Disney princess, another elaborate hairstyle, another fun outfit and character to don for a day.

Whether you indulge on some candy today, wear a costume, or merely go about your business like any other day…make it a great one and may your blood sugars be spooktacular!

Diabetes in the Renaissance

Can you imagine having diabetes in the 14th – 17th centuries??? The answer to that is no, you probably cannot…because without modern medicine, it wouldn’t have been possible for a T1D to survive in the Renaissance. And ‘cuz, well y’know, the Black Plague was a thing back then and lots of people didn’t survive.

But fortunately, we’re living in the 21st century, which means we have access to all sorts of things that help us manage diabetes. Still waiting on that cure, though.

Where am I going with all this?

I wanted to recount my recent trip to a Renaissance festival, in which I spent a day taking care of my diabetes while jousting tournaments, Shakespearean performances, and drunken debaucheries took place all around. And you know what? It was easier than I thought it’d be.

Sure, I didn’t check my blood sugar with my meter as much as I should have. My inner germaphobe was reluctant to rely on my meter for accurate results, seeing as there weren’t really any hand-washing stations on the fairgrounds. (Remember, this is the Renaissance…things were a little grimier in those days.) I used hand sanitizer whenever it was available to me to keep my hands clean, but it was a bit of a challenge, especially when my mitts got caked in mud post-ax throwing.

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Enjoying a turkey leg alongside a serving of Chardonnay at the Renaissance Faire – y’know, to keep things classy.

Thankfully, I had my Dexcom G6 to help keep me on track as I ate my way through the fictional 16th century village. I was jazzed that several low-carb options were available to me; throughout the day, I snacked on a giant turkey leg, a Scotch egg, and spiced nuts. Maybe a “diabetes-friendly” diet would’ve been easy to follow in the Renaissance? Though I will admit that I gave in to temptation and ate (devoured) a slice of cheesecake. On a stick. And dipped in chocolate. Not low carb, but super YUM.

So even though my diet was far from nutritious at the ye olde faire, I think that all the walking around and sharp-objects-throwing kept my blood sugar in check, much to my relief. My experience at the fest is just another example of how diabetes won’t prevent me from living life to the fullest, whether it’s in the reality of 2018 or the fantasy of the 16th century.

‘Tis the (Pumpkin Spice) Season

Let me begin this post by saying that I do not believe I can be categorized as “basic white girl”. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term “basic white girl” in the Urban Dictionary sense of the word, it can be defined as:

A female who conforms to her surroundings and claims she is unique. She often drinks Starbucks, wears Ugg boots in August, and posts selfies on social networking sites every. single. day. Also uses hashtags that don’t have anything to do with the picture itself.

Basic white girl starter kit includes: Uggs, Starbucks, leggings or yoga pants, pumpkin spice, every social media platform ever created, etc.

– Urban Dictionary

I’ve never owned a pair of Ugg boots. I only drink Starbucks every once in awhile, but I don’t order froufrou “bevvies” when I go – usually, I just stick with an iced coffee, black. And I certainly don’t have enough self-confidence to post a selfie on social media every damn day. That sounds exhausting.

But if an undying love for any and all things pumpkin spice scented/flavored qualifies me as “basic”, then I guess I’m gonna have to take my pumpkin spice coffee and run with it!

Pumpkin Spice

Since pumpkin spice manifests itself in many carb-laden treats this time of year, you might be wondering exactly how I can get away with enjoying a mass quantity of the stuff. And no, my method doesn’t involve dosing tons of insulin so I can down endless amounts of pumpkin spice M&Ms, ice cream, Oreos, yogurt, muffins, or any other kind of pumpkin-spicy product you can imagine.

It’s much simpler than that – all that I do is make it my mission each year, right around mid-August, to find as many carb-free pumpkin spice products as possible, buy them, and revel in them for the following three months.

You’d be surprised to learn how easy it is, too. Here are just a few of the pumpkin spice products I’ve stocked up on in the last few years: Gum, candles, tea, butter (yes, pumpkin spice BUTTER), hand sanitizer, soap, peanut butter…the list can go on and on, and it does, considering that the gamut of pumpkin spice offerings only increases year after year.

I’ve hunted down foods that have both pumpkin spice and a lower carb count, like Halo Top Pumpkin Pie ice cream or FiberOne bars (ugh, they’re so good it’s not fair). I’ve even mixed it up by combining pumpkin spice with some more manageable carbs, such as plain oatmeal. I just can’t get enough, especially since this is a seasonal offering that plays pretty nicely with my diabetes.

So if that makes me basic, then I’ll wear the label proudly, just as I do with my diabetes.

3 Things I Learned From Giving up Alcohol for Lent

Unless you’re familiar with the Catholic faith, that title probably doesn’t make much sense to you. “Lent” is a period of time – the 40 days before Easter Sunday – in which Catholics traditionally practice penance, prayer, and almsgiving. In addition to avoiding the consumption of meat on Fridays during Lent, it’s also common for observers to give up something in order to focus more energy on acts of kindness and charity.

This year, I decided to give up alcohol.

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All of this, and more, was off limits throughout Lent.

I was inspired by my mom, who has eschewed alcohol during Lent for the last few years. I was a bit hesitant to take on the challenge; after all, I’m a young adult who enjoys going out and drinking every now and then. I wondered how it might affect my social life, and whether I’d experience any heckling or peer pressure from friends. But I was also open to the idea that forgoing alcohol during Lent could benefit me in some ways, so I felt ready to go forward with my plan.

Here’s what I learned from abstaining from alcohol for 40 days:

  1. My blood sugars were a little more predictable/easier to manage. One of my biggest issues with alcohol is that it’s hard to know just how many carbs are in one drink. Beer tends to be higher carb, whereas wine typically contains less. Hard liquor boasts even fewer carbs, but things get tricky when sugary mixers get added to the equation. So when I drink alcohol, I try to prepare myself for any possible scenario that could result from miscalculated carb intakes. But by giving up alcohol during Lent, I didn’t have this problem when I was dining out. I simply had to bolus for the food on my plate and enjoyed worrying less about what my blood sugar would be like later in the evening.
  2. Nobody gave me a tough time over my decision. This was a pleasant surprise, albeit one that I should’ve seen coming. After all, I’m not in college anymore. Peer pressure is practically non-existent in my life these days, and I’m thankful for its absence. If anything, my alcohol avoidance triggered discussions among my friends and colleagues, who generally seemed interested in the concept of giving something up for a length of time.
  3. It reminded me there are other (healthier!) ways to unwind that don’t involve drinking. Obviously, I knew that on a sub-conscious level. But I was automatically encouraged to explore alternative ways to relax after a long day at work. I definitely amped up the amount I exercised, and I probably ate a smidge more dark chocolate (okay, more than that) to reward myself throughout the week. And I didn’t become a shut-in on Friday and Saturday nights like I feared; rather, I participated in all my usual weekend activities, just sans alcohol. A huge plus to this was not having to worry about whacky blood sugars or who would be a designated driver – the safety element made the whole alcohol-avoidance thing much more appealing.

Does this mean that I’m going to avoid drinking alcohol forever now? No, because I still enjoy having a pint of beer, glass of wine, or specialty cocktail at my fancy. But I do feel more empowered to say “no” when I just don’t feel like drinking socially. I also feel good about cutting back on my alcohol intake overall and making a commitment to consciously deciding whether or not I want to drink. I think that my mind, body, and blood sugars will be better off.

Easter Basket Dos and Don’ts for People with Diabetes

Please don’t judge me for what I’m about to say…

…Even though I’m an adult, I still get Easter baskets. I know, I’m a bit spoiled.

The contents of said Easter baskets have varied over the years. But the ever-thoughtful Easter bunny has always been conscientious of the goodies he places within it, given my diabetes. After all, diabetes doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy Easter treats, both of the sugary and sugar-free variety.

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One of my favorite Easter baskets received as an adult contained a stuffed animal, two bottles of wine, a book of crossword puzzles, and Easter chocolates.

Whether a kid or an adult, here’s some ideas for an Easter basket that any T1D in your life will appreciate:

For kids:
Coloring books, markers/crayons/colored pencils, stickers, comic books, movies, frisbees, outdoor/warm weather toys, nail polish, puzzles, mini games, stuffed animals…

For adults:
Lottery tickets, gift cards, coffee, wine/beer (one of the best finds in an Easter basket, TBH), gum, other small snacks, books…

Truly, depending on who the basket is for, there’s a ton of possibilities as to what can fill it.

My thoughts on candy:
I’m the only person I know who doesn’t completely loathe sugar-free chocolates. Obviously, I prefer actual chocolate – because, you know, that’s what tastes good. But I don’t exactly love all the carbs in it. I find that snacking on sugar-free chocolates (as long as the quantity is small) satisfies a sweets craving well enough. But I also think that real treats, like Reese’s peanut butter eggs (my weakness) or Cadbury eggs (pure confectionary delight) are okay. After all, Easter is only once a year. And with carb counts widely available these days, it’s easy to know exactly how many you’re consuming.

Plus…who doesn’t love a good candy sale the day after a holiday? Talk about a great low blood sugar stash!

On another note…Happy Easter, Happy Passover, and Happy Spring to you!!!