Thursday, December 24, 2020

A Writer's Pen

A writer carries a pen.

That is the way it is.

For as long as I recall, that's how it has been. Moments have appeared, of course, where that vow failed. Where I did not have a pen to write with. Where the pen was in my hand, but it didn't write.

Moments in history are marked by the written word. Journalists know and live this truth*.... (yes, truth matters. Facts matter. Alternate versions of both do not**.) ... [the fact that we have to emphasize this in 2020-21 is ridiculous, but the reality exists].

I carry a pen. Because I'm a writer. Because the written word matters. Because facts and details matter. Context is everything. Painting a picture with my words is what I've done, professionally and personally, for so long.

Words have painted a picture, opened a portal into the heart and mind. I've read what others have written with their own pens, even if those pens aren't physical but mental and those words have materialized from digital tools. The idea of what the pen provides has been a backbone of my existence, and for so many it shapes what we know.

So when 2020 began, that was the way it was.

And then, the year became what it did. COVID-19 became a common household term, one capturing attention and headlines and passions and grief so often. Each day, it was something new. While also some of the same.

Words mattered. And yet, too often, they did not. Truth wasn't truth, facts were not facts, and reality seemed to exist on multiple planes simultaneously.

And yet, I carried a pen. As writers do. Even when they write most of their words by keyboard. By mobile device and MacBook, When signatures and the written word, actually written, aren't as important as they once were when a virtual-everything is the reality.

In 2020, my became something more.

A global pandemic arose for the first time in a century, and with it precautions and safety protocols that limited our actions. Changed our mindsets. Made us hesitate before going out, and if we did made us mull how we interacted with others and navigated this world safely. Germs might exist in everything we touch, everyone we interact with physically, every air we breath without a facemask.

Touchscreens became a hesitation, at gas stations and liquor stores and grocery hubs and beyond.

Our "new normal" manifested itself in both brutal and subtle ways, from the people around us to the "clean pen" baskets atop our local brewery counter.

And so, my writer's pen took on a new meaning.

To write, of course. But also to tab the keys on the touchscreen.

In a time when we must grapple with the simple act of human connection and what it means to "social distance," this pen of mine became so much more than it had before.

With it, I chronicle my life and the history from this corner booth of the world. But also, I protect myself and others in health.

And tell the story for my fellow humans to read. Written words, transcribed by a pen, that I hold in my hand. No matter the amount of hand sanitizer and hand washing, this pen travels with me.

To tell stories, because words matter.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Look to the Stars


Human beings look to the stars. We always have, always will.

That becomes clear even more in a year like 2020, when the world is caught up in a pandemic that's reached global health crisis levels. We have what's dubbed "the great conjunction" of 2020, when Jupiter and Saturn are closer than they usually are and can be seen by the human eye. While these large planets align and near each other every 20 years, they aren't often this close and even less often are they able to be viewed by the naked human eye.

Sure, this happens every 20 years to some extent. But before 2020, the last time the two planets were this close was in 1623... and even then, that alignment wasn't visible to the human eye. It was way back in 1226 the last time this happened and could actually be seen.

Think about that for a moment... almost 800 years.

That's simply amazing.

Think back eight centuries ago, to March 4, 1226. This was during the High Middle Ages period, about a decade after the Magna Carta had been signed. The Crusades were ongoing, with the Sixth Crusade just about to start in order to recapture Jerusalem.

Hell, that's remarkable to think that before 2020 the last time we experienced a similar celestial event would've been back then, so many centuries ago...

Family History Reflections

Looking at this from a genealogical POV, my own Hoskins and Hoskyns lines weren't even born yet with those surnames. Chances are my long-ago ancestors were then known by the surname Osekin, which historical accounts note came after the Norman Conquest of 1066 when some of my ancestors were a part of that.

They went on to become the Hoskyns, were associated with Robert the Bruce of Scotland and all that good Braveheart lore. And so on into Herfordshire England, eventually leading to Bartholomew who changed the name to Hoskins in coming to the New World in the 1600s.

Roughly four centuries ago in 1623, the last time this "great conjunction" happened like this, that was before America. Pre-colonial times, just a few years after the famed Pilgrims made their way to the New World and settled here in Jamestown. My own genealogy tells of Bartholomew Hoskins, the first-ever American immigrant who came from the prominent Hoskyns line in England and was in his early 20s at the time.

Did he look up at the night sky on that July 1623, thinking about the entirety of the cosmos and how we're all connected worldwide? That despite the challenges and horrors of those early years in this new land, how he had survived and was starting a family?

Then again, the "great conjunction of 1623" wasn't even visible to the human eye... so it's not even something that could be seen, if Bartholomew had wanted to look up and had known to be looking for something special.

Who knows what ancestors from the 1220s were doing at that time, and if they happened to look up at the stars to reflect on everything larger than ourselves... it may have been cloudy that night back in 1226, for all we know.

Keep the faith

Thinking on all of this, the phrase "keep the faith" comes to mind. While the Bon Jovi tune by this name is a good one, it's not what I'm referring to here. No, instead this is based on Christian faith.

This celestial event may have been what's referred to as the "Star of Bethlehem" in the nativity story from the Book of Matthew.

In my own Bible readings, that passage has so many interpretations that it's difficult to not look at it now, in the 21st century, with a combination of both astronomical fact and human faith factored into the interpretation.

Could the "Star of Bethlehem" been in the sky on Dec. 21, 2020? Even though it was cloudy here in Southeast Michigan without any visibility, does that mean an experience 800-years in the making was ruined? Does it mean one can't find their own faith, their own beliefs, their own fears and hopes and loves and reflections, in the mind beyond those clouds?

Maybe we can see what this "Christmas Star of 2020" is guiding us toward, just like it was guiding those Three Wise Men way back when. There's endless speculation and belief on what the Bible says and whether that "Christmas Star" as a real astronomical event or a God-offered vision... but if it were up to me and my Bible reading, I'd go for a mixture of both.

That star alerted the magi to the birth of Christ, prompting them to make the long journey from the East. But whatever may have happened back then, the symbolism and guidance for our own lives now can be a deeper meaning.

Despite all we've endured in 2020 collectively, there is a cosmic light in the sky. It can guide us toward something, even if it's physically clouded in the sky and can't be seen with our own eyes. We can feel it, we can focus our heart on what it's leading us toward.

That hundreds of years after this last appeared as it does in the sky, we are connected to each other -- past and present, and the future. Our planet has lived this long, and it's our duty to ensure it lives on so that future generations can experience these astronomical events — and reflect on them, in whatever ways they choose.

It's our duty as humans, being the descendents of those in the 1600s and 1200s and before then, to continue our life on this planet. We must guard Earth, and not self-destruct.

Those are the lessons I take from this "Christmas Star of 2020," even if it was too cloudy in my corner of the world to physically see it.

I can look to the heavens, use my mind and heart, and know where it's leading me. And us. Together.

Friday, September 11, 2020

We will NEVER forget 9/11.... (on 9/11)

We will NEVER forget 9/11.... on 9/11.

But every other day, we can and do.

Every other day outside of 9/11, American people don't see a need to be civil, to keep each other in our hearts and do whatever we can to protect others' wellbeing if it doesn't serve our own selfish purposes.

Wear a mask to protect the greater good? Work hard to ensure that more fellow humans, no matter how old or what other health ailments they may have, don't die? Work to adapt lives and businesses to ensure health and safety first, rather than a "only the fit survive" mentality seen in The Hunger Games?

Nope, that kind of thinking is only reserved for 9/11.

It's sad, sickening, embarrassing, maddening.

I read this insight recently online:

In the wake of 9/11, we stood united as one nation. The commonalities that bonded us during that time seem to be lost now and we need to strive to return to that common purpose as a nation. Therefore, it is not just the tragedy of September 11, 2001 that we must remember but the feeling of unity that we felt on September 12, 2001. The patriotism, unity, and civility we displayed afterwards is just as important as remembering the horror and devastation caused by the 9/11 attacks. It was a moment when nothing divided us because we were ALL Americans."

It's ironic, really. Many of us shed tears on 9/11 like clockwork now. But once the anniversary passes by, too many fall back to a lack of civility, unity, decorum and heart. When Sept. 12 arrives again each year, what once meant unity and moving forward now means retreating to tribal corners.

Remember that, America.

Friday, May 8, 2020

My Continuing Mental Health Water Voyage

As we mark Mental Health Month in May, I thought it'd be a good time to revisit some of my past writings on this topic as it pertains to diabetes and mental health.

For me, the struggles were most pronounced in 2011-2013. Here is what I wrote on it at the time:

I was like a ship in the darkened night-time waters trying to find my way to shore. The light house wasn't easy to find, but I knew it was there. The choppy waters of depression and diabetes and life stresses were all crashing against me, slowing down my journey and pushing me even further off course.

But a fellow Person With Diabetes (PWD) who happened to be a therapist helped me conquer those waters. I actually dubbed her "Mind Ninja" because of her nimble "ninja skills" to get into into my psyche. Mind Ninja became my navigational guide, allowing me to talk openly about how I really felt and the fears I had, while encouraging me to interact with people and confront my feelings. She prompted me to retrain my brain to replace negative thinking with positive thoughts, and move forward one day at a time. She emphasized that I should not view sharing my story or taking meds as weaknesses, but necessary steps forward.

With her help, I was able to find that beacon to help me reach the calm mental "shoreline" where I needed to be.

For the most part since then, I've been safely anchored to shore, with moments of storm weather where medication has helped keep me afloat in particular choppy waters.

Over the years, it feels as though I've been on the same voyage with varying degrees of water-roughness. I may have swapped ships a couple times, especially navigating a move between states, but generally I am still afloat and navigating this water journey.

Even now, when it feels we're treading water during a pandemic and public health crisis. Every day can feel overwhelming and at times more recently, I have been feeling like I'm on the verge of going underwater. Finding balance is a key, and it's so important to step away from the world's weight and my own mental mess to focus on some good — in whatever healthy ways I can find them.

The toughest part, in the beginning, was seeking help. I'd kept telling myself: "No, I'm not depressed. I just need to deal. This isn't anything I can't manage on my own. If I can't, then I must be weak and ill-equipped to simply handle my own life!"

But through hearing the stories of several others in the DOC, I was able to see that it wasn't a weakness to share these personal struggles... these emotional and mental hurdles that I wasn't able to deal with on my own. These people opened my eyes.

And I hope that other PWDs who need it most can find that strength and courage now, to reach out if they are feeling down in the depths.

There's nothing wrong with that, nothing to be ashamed of.

Since starting to work in the professional diabetes writing space almost a decade ago, I've also had to pay special attention to gradually weaning myself off of being connected online all the time. Personal and professional diabetes advocacy take up most of my time, and I realize that I do need to draw a line between my personal and professional lives in order to avoid being overwhelmed.

Really, we can't do it ourselves all the time and often we need some friends to help shoulder a burden -- or a good therapist who really "gets" what you're going through. The first step is knowing that it's OK to not have to carry our burdens all by ourselves...

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Welcome to the End of the World?

Well, did anyone think this is what 2020 would look like?

Global pandemic and worldwide public health emergency, everything shutting down and a potential economic collapse on the horizon.

Holy fuck.
A "Pandemic (in Quarantine) Playlist on my Spotify is now a thing, and my own remote worklife now in its 8th year has taken on an eeerie new spin. As are my watchlists full of dystopian and post-apocalyptic TVs and movies for streaming in these strange times.

All of my work travel and conferences for the spring have been nixed, and we're all watching closely to see what the impact may be for summer events.

What about my "underlying health condition" that is type 1 diabetes?

So far, so good. No signs of anything astray. As I've shared over on DiabetesMine, I have been using the Tandem t:slim X2 device since mid-October 2019. That followed three-and-a-half years of Multiple Daily Dosing with pens and Afrezza inhaled insulin insulin. I started off with Basal-IQ and then in mid-January transitioned to the spectacular Control-IQ feature. This is only a trial run for product review purposes, and I'm still determining whether I will be able to buy and access this technology for my own use going forward... but given the state of affairs, I've been given the OK to keep using this loaner CIQ for the time being.

We'll see where we go from here.

Of course, with the pandemic fears everywhere you turn, I'm a bit nervous and anxious. Any spike in blood sugars are getting more attention and I'm not as quick to shrug them off. Our house is stocked full of hand soap (WASH YOUR HANDS!) and hand sanitizer and we're taking all the recommended precautions... as well as staying home as much as possible.

There was a common cold in the house a few weeks ago, but that was closely monitored at every stage and it's since passed without escalating to anything of concern.

Still, as everything evolves by the hour and day, it all raises the anxiety level.

Every sneeze and throat tickle raises my worry-level. But it's important to remember that sometimes, a sneeze is just a sneeze. Sometimes Michigan cold weather leads to throat fussiness. I am checking my temperature daily just in case. No signs of anything outside the norm, as that's concerned.

Doing our best to not panic and stay calm, and we're certainly not on the page as some seem to be with hoarding and stockpiling everything. Still, we did replenish our food and necessary items ahead of time just in case.

And as to meds and supplies?

Yes, I am being cautious and prepared on that, too. Making sure my insulin and supplies are all filled for at least the next few months, and have also managed to get backup insulin syringes on hand in case anything goes very sideways for the future.

In the supply container that slides underneath the bed, I was also amazed to find a couple boxes of older syringes filled about 5 years ago just before our move from Indiana back to Michigan... do syringes actually expire? I thought about tossing them as medical waste, but hesitated and flashed to scenes of The Walking Dead in my mind. So I opted to set them aside and keep, in the event of an apocalypse or something.

This whole ordeal has also motivated me to actually change my lancet for fingersticks after each use, which is a HOLY WHOA kind of moment in itself. That huge backup of never-used lancets is looking quite interesting these days. As are alcohol swipes, not only for actually wiping my fingers before each fingerstick but also for general sanitary use to stop spreading germs.

Amazing times, indeed.

I'm trying to keep everything balanced for the sake of mental health, but this is all pretty intense.

OK, this is stream of consciousness post is coming to an end... back to CNN and my Pandemic Playlist.

Be safe, calm and healthy, Friends.