Saturday, May 16, 2015

So How's Sparky's Diet and Type 2 Diabetes Coming Along?

To clarify right off the bat...Sparky erred in the diabetes diagnosis. She has type 2, not type 1  diabetes. She went back and reviewed the comments and caught the mistake in the blog.

Just in case you are wondering....Sparky feels the need to be accountable to her family AND herself, so by going public and talking about how things are going, maybe that will help someone else! So far, by picking up exercise and riding her bike more, (15 miles at least three times a week), cutting out regular Coke every morning, and starting to watch portions and carbs, Sparky has lost ten pounds. (And she doesn't eat a handful of peanut M & M's every day any more either, adds a helpful E.) How are the glucose readings going? Not the best that they can be...According to some information Sparky has gleaned from lots and lots of reading...SUGGESTED guidelines for acceptable glucose readings should be:
         Fasting level (first thing upon waking up after not eating for 8-12 hours since the night before)
         1 hour after a meal:  <160
         2 hours after a meal: <140
         3 hours after a meal: <120
         Bedtime:  120-150

Sparky is not sure whether this is for people just trying to get their numbers down and who aren't on medication yet (that's her), or if this is for people who are on some kind of diabetes medication. She will find this out at her next doctor's appointment. But for now, she is using these guidelines to keep a food diary and testing her sugar 4 times a day for the probationary period, looking for patterns and spikes in food ingested. Sparky has another three months till she goes back to the doctor to find out what her A1C level is and whether it's stabilized, lowered, or she's in big trouble. For anybody curious and new to diabetes information, your A1C level is a blood test that gives the doctor an idea of an average of glucose levels for the past three months. You don't fast for this particular test. When Sparky found out she had diabetes, the criteria was, said her doctor, anyone who is 6.5 or higher on their A1C test is Type 2 diabetic. THAT was Sparky's wakeup call. She was 6.5...She had read that usually a second test is run within a certain amount of time of the first one, and if the second one came out with 6.5 or higher, that was the official diagnosis. NOPE! says the doctor...You're there, you're diabetic.

Sparky has learned a few things...

1) She has to deal with the "Dawn Phenomena"....that is where your blood sugar rises in the wee hours of the morning even though nothing has been eaten. Everybody's blood sugar rises around 4-5 AM even if they are NOT diabetic. But in people with Type 2 diabetes, it jumps up more. Sparky's sugar is quite a bit above the fasting morning level, anywhere from 120-140...The reason for the blood sugar rise is people with diabetes don't have normal insulin responses to adjust for this, so they might see their blood sugar go up. Her body is making less insulin and more glucagon (a hormone that increases blood glucose) than it needs. Suggestions to combat this have been to get a little more exercise in the evening, or to eat a little protein snack right before going to bed. Sparky has tried the snack route, and sometimes it helps, and sometimes it doesn't. The hard part is figuring out the best snack. Sparky doesn't like eating after dinner, she NEVER snacks after dinner and hasn't for years. (WAIT A MINUTE! says E., wanting to clarify. WHAT ABOUT OUR ICE CREAM SNACK a couple of times a week?????) Uh, well, uh....yes, we do have occasionally, a little teeny tiny serving of Hagen Daz ice cream now and then. (WAIT A MINUTE!....interjects E. Don't you mean the big size tubs and not the little ones?) AHEM! Whose story is this, anyway? grins Sparky. As she ways saying, you know those little serving cups they sell at the grocery? That's USUALLY what we have if we want some ice cream. And actually, that HAS had a favorable effect on blood sugar the next morning. Guess that little bit (OK, a LOT) of creamery fat has helped. So ice cream is good sometimes, in small doses...Sparky has also tried nuts, cottage cheese, and a cheese stick to get that morning sugar level down (But not all together, haha.)

2.) Things that Sparky thought would make her blood sugar jump through the roof, haven't. Like having a meal at the Cheesecake Factory---big green salad, Vietnamese summer rolls (thin wraps with asparagus, rice, mushrooms, carrots and shrimp served with peanut sauce and teriyaki sauce) AND a slice of strawberry cheesecake for dessert. Barely a jump....

3) Eating leftover pizza for breakfast is a bad idea, a big jump in blood sugar....Eating pizza is bad  most of the time, although accompanied with a big green salad first helps. Sparky used to eat a half of a pizza, no problem. Now, it's two pieces, tops. steps, right? Sparky is NOT giving up pizza....And yes, she knows there are much healthier pizza options out there...whole wheat crust, totally veggie...well, not going that route for now, although we have done veggie pizzas before....Sparky is making changes, whole grain bread for sandwiches...cutting out half the bread on the sandwich....substituting water for fruit juices, making smoothies with spinach and almond milk and other good stuff, eating much smaller portions. Clam chowder, shrimp cocktail and white bread...that makes Sparky's sugar rise quite a bit. Sparky thinks it's the potatoes in the soup, the saltine crackers she just has to eat with the soup, and the cocktail sauce. Probably all the carbs and hidden sugars in the sauces...sigh....

4) Sparky has discovered that you can't make generalizations about a diet when you are working to get your blood sugar down. What works for some people is not going to work for others. For some, corn might be a trigger to higher blood sugar numbers, for others, it won't be. And there's hidden sugar everywhere! Ketchup, hamburger buns, sandwich bread.....processed foods (which Sparky is trying very hard to stay away from)...Surprising where you find sugar. Sparky saw on a nutrition label that there are 3 grams of sugar in Publix grocery's cottage cheese! Why in the world does cottage cheese need sugar!?? Sparky is reading food labels really closely. Is Sparky doing sugar free everything? No, because she doesn't normally eat much sugar anywhere in her regular diet, at least not any coffee with sugar, no sugar sweetened beverages, no more carrot nut muffins...sigh...Sparky thought she was eating a decent breakfast with one carrot nut muffin--lots of vitamin A in those! But too much fat and carbs. Now, about ice cream, she's putting her foot down on that. Not going sugar free ice cream. Let's tackle the really bad stuff first! Sparky was eating too much candy and drinking too much pop. So that's a's OUT!

5) Mexican food jacks up Sparky's sugar...she thinks it's the corn tortillas and the chips before the meal...(Her favorite meal is shrimp tacos with mango salsa) Sparky's sugar levels appear to be sensitive to corn. She is still learning what other restaurant meals are triggers. We'll have to keep testing different restaurants, she thinks...  (GROAN......) Guess who that was? :-)

You have to find a diet that works for YOU! Sparky talked to the nutritionist at her doctor's office, and it was like talking to a person speaking a foreign language. She wanted Sparky to try nut butters, tempe, bulgar, quinoa (Sparky tried that---no thank you!) and kept giving her recipes...(Oh, that was a mistake! laughs E.) Sparky kept telling her she hated to cook, but the lady wasn't listening very well. Sparky thinks the nutritionist was a vegan, nothing wrong with that, but as Sparky was formerly a meat, potatoes, and pasta gal from the midwest, we couldn't get on the same page and speak the same language! Sigh.....Sparky knows what to do to do better....If we're going to eat out...grilled stuff...salads with vinegrette dressing, but even that can have a fair amount of sugar in it....Cooking with olive oil...(if and when she cooks, grins E.)  Lean meats, less beef, more fish (ugh), smoothies with veggies and fruit...fresh fruit....lots of water....not very many diet drinks...She's on the right track, she thinks...We'll see what another month brings...(You can't tell Sparky very much on what to eat, she's a very picky eater!) Yes, that's true...sigh....But she is trying!

Sparky found this magazine which she really liked....Some great information, some USEABLE recipes, (don't hold your breath says a resigned Eldo)...and healthy living tips for anybody, not just for those who are dealing with diabetes.... more thing...You can buy an A1C test (2 tests in the kit) at Walmart for about 25 dollars. Sparky tested herself after two months, and she is at 5.7 according to the test, so she is encouraged to see that the weight loss and trying to watch her diet seems to be helping. But--the doctor's office is the official test, so next month will be the decision....Meds or no meds....Sparky is really hoping not to have to take medication and will try harder to lose a few more pounds and try harder on the diet aspect....She will report back on this subject at her Introduction to Medicare appointment in July.

UPDATE....Sparky went in for a recheck on her sugar levels, and her doctor is VERY happy with her results so far...Sparky's A1C level is 6.2, NOT what the Walmart test said, but the doctor was still ok with that. She said if Sparky can stay under 6.2 and fine tune her diet a little more, no meds will be needed. HOORAY! But it just goes to show, that you can't always rely on the little lab tests sold in stores and for something like this, you really need to be checking in with your doctor on a regular basis.  Sparky still needs an eye exam to make sure nothing funky is going on with her eyes with the high sugar diagnosis....Okay...NOW she can say, until next time......

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Close Encounters of the Alligator Kind

Sparky is at it again....Getting too close and personal with alligators...But not on purpose...(Yeah, right! says E. with consternation.) Well, the story goes like this...

Sparky was riding her bike through Lakewood Ranch, and there's a particular pond she has spotted an alligator every now and then. They are usually on the small side, NOT like this one which was in Sparky and Eldo's neighborhood pond just down the street from their house two days ago.

At any rate, Sparky stopped to take some photos of these really pretty marsh plants that are experiencing a resurge in blooms right now....She was really focused on these blooming plants.....
She looked up and in the distance, saw an alligator swimming in her direction...She didn't think anything of it. They move around in the water, and float for awhile.....She could tell that this one wasn't very big, so she kept taking photos of the plants.

The alligator kept coming. He was a young one, only about 2 feet long....Sparky wasn't worried. (Yeah, but they all have teeth! says a worried E.) The alligator was going to keep coming right to the water's edge, Sparky could tell, so she backed off a bit. She decided to get her bike between her and the gator, just in case. As she moved her bike to the left of the marsh plants, a few feet from the water's edge, the gator swung the same way. She moved to the right, the gator swung back. He was definitely not afraid of her, and definitely watching her movements. Normally, the little ones, if they are near the water's edge and a human comes within eyesight, they scuttle back into the water with a splash. Not this one! Even his eyes look very different from the normal lazy eyed gators we have seen.
Sparky decided this might be an aggressive little gator, AND possibly a hungry one. So she backed off even more and took her bike back to the sidewalk, watching behind her all the way, making sure the bike was between the pond and the sidewalk. The gator glided into the marsh, right up next to the flowering plant Sparky had been taking photos of.
Sparky decided it was time to get back on the bike and back on her ride, while she still could! :-)
BUT---curiosity tempted her to turn back and take one last look at the gator to see if he was still in position. This time, she used her zoom on her camera from a different angle. He was hidden at the VERY edge of the pond, close to the sidewalk. If anybody had decided to take a walk around the marsh to admire the plants....(AHEM! COUGH COUGH!) that gator could have easily surprised the heck out of them and perhaps taken a bite, giving new meaning to the words "ankle biter".
Sparky is learning about the habits and movements of gators, that's for sure! One more note about gator encounters....

Eldy was golfing with his buddies last week, and they observed a 8-10 foot gator laying with his head practically in the water, tail side out. Two buzzards were working on a meal on the ground behind and to the side of the gator, and all of a sudden that alligator whipped around so fast, facing the birds, the guys thought the gator was after the birds. Nothing happened but the startled birds were hesitant to keep going after the meal on the ground after that. The guys said you wouldn't believe how fast that gator turned himself, it was a blur. Another golfing day, and somebody lost a ball in the woods. They were going to go after the ball when all of a sudden, a little alligator came dashing out of the woods making a beeline for the water on the other side. The fellas were VERY leery after that about going into the woods to look for lost balls. You don't expect to find a gator in the woods! But he was probably making his way across the greens, into a patch of woods directly in his line of sight of water, and so, no worries, guys...probably won't encounter a gator again in the woods. Now, the golf course? That's another story for another day.....

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Family Visits!

We had Sparky's Canadian cousins come for a brief visit, David and Louise Dudley. They were passing through the area on their way to a cruise and stopped by for the night. They LOVED Sarasota and Bradenton and this is their second visit here with us. We took them to a wonderful restaurant called Mattison's City Grille in downtown Sarasota. Sparky loves places that present food beautifully. (Sparky LOVES any kind of food presentation, who is she kidding!? kids E.) Well, isn't this really pretty, though? This is their crab rangoon...It was fantastic!
And how about this? This was a beef tenderloin appetizer....With balsamic vinaigrette dressing, chopped up tomatoes, little sprouts of some kind, big beefy heirloom tomatoes under that little piece of meat and a truffle oil...whatever the heck that is! It was amazing!

We pointed out the flamingo bike, part of a series of bikes that a local artist has themed and displayed in different parts of downtown Sarasota. Louise liked the bike!
After the Dudleys had come and gone, next it was a visit from Kristi and Connor, Eldy's daughter and  grandson. They stayed for a few days so we were able to do lots with them! Sparky took Connor to the Mote Research Aquarium. He loved the lion fish, even if they are an invasive species!
Sparky loves the jellyfish.....These are Australian spotted jellyfish....
They have a jellyfish research lab at the aquarium, too.

Some lobsters came out of hiding in their tank and strutted around in front of Connor. The guide volunteer said that was very unusual for them to show themselves. 

Connor was NOT interested in touching anything in the several touch tanks that Mote has. He preferred to just look. Mote Aquarium is a wonderful place to take families. There is so much to see there and almost always a special exhibit of some sort. The aquarium is a research facility and not only are they growing coral for reef rehabilitation, they are researching ocean marine life and rehabilitating turtles there. He also enjoyed seeing the big manatees and learning about them---Hugh and Buffet. They eat 72 heads of lettuce a day, among other things! Connor's reluctance to touch anything reminded Sparky of the next to the last day spotting of a very large alligator in our local pond just down the street. "C'mon, Connor, let's go see him." Connor didn't appear too eager, but we walked down the sidewalk to the pond. There he was, on the opposite bank. Connor looked nervous. Sparky said, "I'm going to take a picture of him, Connor, you stay right here." And she headed around the bank to the other side. As she looked back, she saw Connor packing back and forth on the sidewalk. "I'll be right back," Sparky said. Connor said, "Ok..." and a few seconds later, "C'mon, Jeannie, let's go home!"  Sparky said, "Don't you want to come down to the bank to see him a little better?" (The gator was on the other side of the bank, quite far from where Connor was.) Nope...He wanted to go home...We did. :-)

Connor and his mom swam in the ocean on Easter Sunday.....We had a BBQ at the beach surrounded by wonderful hispanic music. If you want to picnic at Coquina Beach on Anna Maria Island on a Sunday, you have to get there early to claim a spot. We were there at 9:00 AM and all the picnic benches were claimed!
Sparky and Kristi managed to get a 12 mile bike ride in but got caught in a tremendous downpour. It was only a 20% chance of rain that day. As the torrential downpour started in the middle of our bike ride, we were caught! No ponchos, no jackets to protect Sparky's camera. We frantically tried to call Eldy on our iPhones, but the water was coming down so hard, we couldn't get the phones to recognize our finger swipes. Kristi said, "Let's just text 'HELP!' ". Sparky thought Eldo might have a heart attack as he had no idea where we were, if we did that. We decided to keep going. Luckily, we switched over to the sidewalks as the streets flood rapidly but temporarily when there's a downpour. Car after car slammed through the huge puddles on the street, throwing up tremendous rooster tails of water in our direction. Heck, we couldn't get any wetter than we were, so we just laughed and laughed. We made it back home, drenched thoroughly and with dirt trails up our backs from the muddy water circulating backwards from our tires onto our shirts! It hadn't even rained hardly at all back at the house!
Eldy and daughter, Kristi at AMI
Kristi and Connor had a great time while they were here. But, as with all family visits, soon it was time for them to head back home to Indiana. And boy, is it quiet around here right now! It will be for some time until family returns......Bye for now!  

Sunday, April 19, 2015

A Little Gem Courtesy of Audubon

Sparky and Eldo have never been to the Venice Rookery...a little site maintained by the Audubon Society...Not sure why, partly because we hadn't heard of it until this year. Sparky started seeing photos from photographer acquaintances and they were shooting some amazing photos at this little park in Venice.

So we decided to go late afternoon one Sunday and here's what we found...a very small park with a small island in the middle. Alligators frequent the lake to keep predators away from the birds, or so the site says. Sparky would think the gators would get an occasional avian meal? Also there is limited parking in a very small lot, but luckily, not very many people here today...We arrived about 5:30 PM...As we spent some time at the park, the serious photographers starting showing up later with HUMONGOUS 600 mm.....WOW! Sunset was almost 8:00 PM so perhaps we were there a little on the early side, as Sparky had to shoot into the sun a little bit. These photos are taken with a small Canon SX500 IS. The zoom is only 30X on this camera and the detail is not as crisp as she hoped it would be....But Sparky was still happy with most of her photos.

People there said the nesting starts in February.....Almost every bird species we saw there were sitting on nests today, and many of the babies had hatched and were already growing and getting ready to fledge in a few days or a few weeks. It was so cool to see a heron with its nest, which was pretty big! So used to only seeing them standing in the water fishing...

There were several herons on nests...

Here, the great blue heron chicks or young birds were clamoring for food. They look big enough to feed themselves! And don't they look like Groucho Marx a bit?

Here's another shot of the hungry herons...Those head feathers just crack us up!

Snowy egrets and their chicks were in abundance.....They look like fluffs of cotton balls. :-)

The snowy egrets were showing off BIG time!
Not sure what those birds are to the left of this beautiful egret, but they might be cormorant chicks? They almost look like baby swans. This is Sparky's favorite photo of the night.....

What a wonderful sight to see, and we are so lucky that this place is within a 30 minute drive for us. We'll definitely be back again soon!

Until next time....The End

Sunday, April 12, 2015

A Walk on the Wild Side

Wild weather, that is.....We decided to go to the beach, Coquina Beach on Anna Maria Island on a day where there was a rip current warning, the winds were blowing at 20-25 m.p.h., and the temperature was 57 degrees? Why, you ask? Just because we can...and because Sparky loves watching the waves, and taking a walk on the big, beautiful promenade shaded with Australian pines on a brisk day. We don't have too many of those here in Florida, you know.....

It was wonderful! The terns and gulls were out facing into the northerly winds, all in one direction... Sparky was watching their feathers make them all look like they were having a bad hair day, and along come these two birds who look like they are chatting together.
As she watches, one flies off to the water, and lands on the shoulders of another one standing in the water!
Sparky is thinking, "Hm-m-m-mm..some hanky panky about to happen?" Nope, he just stayed on that bird's back for about five minutes. Every once in awhile, the bottom bird would look up as if to say, "WELL? Are you gonna take off or not?"

Or, maybe...."He ain't heavy, he's my brother...."  (Groan, says E.)
"I'm workin' on it, I'm workin' on it!"
Coquina Beach is adding some great new stuff to the picnic areas...More places to sit and rest....Some nice brickwork under your feet....

Little informational kiosks....Sparky learned all about "WRACK" today on her walk down the boardwalk from these informational signs. She did not know that wrack was seaweed and seagrass debris mixed with dead red and brown algae. The wrack also has sea beans, dune plant seed, crumbled sea shells and other stuff, some undesirable like plastics. Heavily maintained cleanup of beaches with mechanical equipment does away with the wrack, a vital part of the ocean ecosystem. The kiosk sign encourages people to pick up the human debris like plastics themselves, to help keep the wrack in the ecosystem, which provides fuel for migratory birds, like the dunlin sandpiper. The things you can learn at Coquina Beach!

And, they've added some cool bike racks....

There were not very many people out on the beach today at all...Some were still grilling in the picnic areas....This hammock wasn't in use...Maybe they were afraid the wind would topple them out!

Some people were on the quieter side of the beach and just enjoying the beautiful brisk day.....

The red flag was out and blowing hard..."STAY OUT OF THE WATER".....Most did, but a few crazy ones were out in the surf...Umbrellas blew away, the sand was whirling around...

Sparky saw a BIG bird fly overhead and land in the pines above her. Too bad the iPhone zoom just can't pull in the same detail as a regular camera, at least not yet, anyway! A yellow crowned night heron!

We thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon at Coquina Beach on Anna Maria Island....Even though it's high season, and you can't find a parking space anywhere or travel anywhere without traffic bogging you down, or find a nice quiet spot at the beach, today you could! As we left for the day, Sparky couldn't help but enjoy the antics of one last bird having a bath in a rain puddle in the parking lot.....
Until next time......

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Time to Visit the Grandson!

Sparky was so excited to get to go see her little grandson in Houston....It was a short visit, just four days, but Sparky had a ball! And so did little Barron. Sparky flew Spirit Airlines, and perhaps will not be flying them again any time soon. We were delayed at the Orlando airport for 2 1/2 hours ON THE PLANE because of "peeling paint" they said on a part of the plane, the cowling. After an hour or so, they did say we could disembark, but had to stay in the boarding area. We couldn't take off until all the proper clearance paperwork was done and the repair inspected to the 'nth' degree. Sparky got off with about one third of the passengers who chose that option, then waited, and waited and waited some more. She overheard some lady say she knew there was something wrong when she could see some sort of "duct tape" on the plane as she came on board...Yikes!....The captain did explain what was going on after a LONG period of time, so that information was appreciated. We eventually took off and Sparky landed in Houston uneventfully. By the way, Spirit charges for both carry on AND/or checked baggage...Their fares might be reasonable, but they end up getting you one way or another!

It didn't take long for Barron to remember Grandma from quite a few Facebook chats. Thank goodness for modern technology! Sparky remembers talking to her grandma and grandpa by her dad handing her old fashioned corded phone, saying, "HERE! Talk to your grandma and grandpa!" with having no idea what to say with awkward silences on both ends. Now, there's much more interaction and fun faces to be shared. Heck, you can read stories to your kids by FaceTime chat if you have an iPhone, or choose Skype, or Google Chat Room, or probably there are even more ways out there to connect! But attention span has to be there, too, lol!  Sparky is starting to lose ground with keeping up with technology, but at least she's very in the moment with talking to her little grandson by face time, he's almost three and growing oh, so fast......

He decided Grandma was going to be his latest and newest wrestling buddy! Within 15 minutes of arriving home, we were on the couch and Barron was tackling Sparky over and over and over. Of course she had to pretend that he was almost stronger than she, so she let him grab her by the neck and pull her down on the couch. He laughed and laughed. Grandma made all the appropriate groans and comments that he was just too tough! Barron likes to tickle Grandma Sparky, too. For some reason, he called his tickling, "mosquito bites" and he would say, "I'm going to give you mosquito bites, Grandma!"
The second day Sparky was visiting, we headed off to the Houston Zoo, a MARVELOUS zoo as far as landscaping and layout was concerned. It was truly a very beautiful zoo!

For seniors, 9.00 entrance fee---nice!  Barron LOVES the zoo very much and never tires of going....His favorite animals are probably the goats at the petting part of the children's zoo. The goat just quietly stood there and let him hug him quite a bit. He was very careful and gentle with the goat.

The children's section of the zoo was terrific! Congo drums to play....
Lots of hands on learning....Even if he can't read yet....But he's learning, he knows LOTS of his letters, can sing the ABC song, recognizes numbers up to 20 and has a very sophisticated sense of humor!

When he got tired of walking, he settled for Grandma's shoulders.....

We took lots of silly selfies....

We did chalk drawings on the patio, and Barron is laughing hysterically because he came over and swiped some orange and blue chalk on Grandma's feet and Grandma gasped in horror! (wink, wink!)
The four days were over before Sparky knew it.....Time to head home....It will be awhile before another visit, but we will stay close by internet and phone...Sparky can't wait to hear the latest Barron stories until she can go visit again....Thank you, Kerry, for a wonderful visit.....

Goodnite sweet boy, Grandma had so much fun with you and loves you very  much.....Until next time...