Diabetes Self-Management Blog

I don’t remember when I didn’t know how to sew. I can still see myself as a little girl, sitting on my grandmother’s scratchy green sofa, embroidery hoop in one hand and a needle and floss in the other, following the pattern on an embroidery kit bought at Wall’s — a five-and-dime store near my grandmother’s house. Or sitting at a sewing machine at the front window in the living room, guiding fabric under a speeding needle.

That being said, I’ve done no more than sew on a button here and there or mend a small tear in a seam for probably 30 years. Until last week.

My Sunday mornings are spent with what seems like about seven or eight tornadoes, each going in a different direction. The tornadoes look an awful lot like children I’ve known since they were infants (for the most part), but they move so fast it’s difficult to tell. They’re noisy, they’re energetic, they’re intelligent, they’re inquisitive and, no matter how much my body aches and my ears ring after our weekly time together, I won’t give it up until I’m even more decrepit than I already am.

The torna…er, children…make up the religious school at my synagogue, where I’m religious school director and teach a class. When I was young, we sat quietly and listened while the teacher droned on. Today’s children require a bit more activity, so I try to couple lessons with related projects. My class was doing a section on yarmulkes, so it seemed appropriate for the children to make their own. Which meant I needed to do some samples, so I could show them the steps and a finished product.

Now, stay with me. This story does have a connection with diabetes, and not because I accidentally stabbed my finger and got some “free” blood to check my glucose.

My grandson sews — and, in fact, is the reason there is even a sewing machine in my house — and volunteered to help out. But he kept putting it off and putting it off, so I finally sat down in front of a sewing machine for the first time since the 1970’s.

It’s a good thing I decided to take a practice run, which became clear when I showed my first attempt to my husband.

“Do any of the children have a pointed head?” he asked.

On to my second try: a four-panel yarmulke with alternating patterns. Except that I couldn’t quite remember how to cut fabric, so I got print, stripe, print, stripe. Instead, when I pieced it together, it was print, print, stripe, stripe. I had to cut more fabric. At least yarmulkes are small, so I had plenty of leftover material.

OK. Here comes a diabetes analogy. Even when we’ve done something for a long time and think we still know what we’re doing, we have to step back and re-educate ourselves. For example, I began by weighing or measuring out food portions, then got to the point where I could pretty much eyeball them. Every so often, however, I need to weigh and measure again, because what I remember the portion size to be grows without my realizing it.

Also, when we’ve done something for a long time, we get stuck in a rut and, when things change, we keep trying to do it the old way. Even after making six yarmulke linings and two yarmulkes, I’m still reaching for a lever that was in one position on my old machine, but in a different place on the new one.

People with Type 2 diabetes frequently have to change medication regimens, as our pancreases manufacture less and less insulin over time. Insulin-to-carbohydrate ratios, basal requirements, and correction factors change over time. Doses don’t remain the same for a lifetime. When hormones hit, dosages can change more than once within a month’s time.

An inability to change can be disastrous. I met a woman a few years ago who insisted on continuing to take one insulin injection per day, even after complications from poorly controlled blood glucose began to appear.

Sometimes you don’t quite understand what your health-care provider or diabetes educator is trying to teach you. I showed one of the children how to hand-stitch the band around the bottom of his yarmulke to the lining on the inside. He struggled and struggled, until I realized that he is left-handed. And I am not. I apologized, tied off the thread — and then showed him how to do it left-handed (struggling myself because it was foreign to me).

We have different learning styles and we may have obstacles that prevent us from doing things the “normal” way. It may be a vision problem, arthritis, neuropathy, or something else. Our educators may not realize there is a problem unless we say something like, “I need to do this while you explain.” Or “I can’t use that meter because the strips are too small for me to grasp.” Your educator should know — even if you don’t — that some meters have bigger strips or some have strips in a drum or on a disk. Don’t be afraid to speak up. I’m sure it’s frustrating to educators when their instructions aren’t followed, but don’t realize that their teaching methods don’t fit your learning style.

I had originally thought that having my grandson man the sewing machine while I worked with the children on cutting, ironing, and piecing the fabric together would be enough. Thank goodness one of the parents stayed to help! And she sews! It took all three of us to help four 10- and 11-year-olds make one yarmulke apiece.

We can all use some help, whether we’re new at diabetes (or sewing) or have had it for a while and need anything from information on a new regimen to support when it gets to be too much. If it’s offered, take it. If you need it, ask.

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