A Wonderful Community

I finished my second week of work at JDRF on Friday.  While it was a little slower than my first week, it was still a pretty great week.

I’m still working on T1D in the News everyday, which is really fun because it keeps me up to date on all things diabetes.  It’s pretty awesome.

I’ve also been helping with a presentation for the One Walk kick-off conference for all the chapters that are piloting the JDRF One Walk.  I’m gathering photos from each chapter along with their “We’re the _____ type” catchphrase.  Each chapter fills in the blank with a phrase that captures who their chapter is and what the Walk means to them.  For example, “We’re the won’t stop at anything type,” or “We’re the every step matters type.”  It’s been fun to see all the photos from all the different Walks held in different cities across the country, in addition to reading all the creative catchphrases the chapters come up with!  It reminds me that there’s people all over the country fighting for a cure for type 1 diabetes.  There are so many chapters across the United States, and they’re all working towards the same goal: a cure.  Even just working for JDRF is making me want a cure more badly than I have ever wanted one before.  Because I see all the work that is being put into one!!

One highlight of my work week was attending my first communications department meeting.  I had been told about these department meetings.  These meetings where Anne has a folder full of paperwork for each person.  A folder which you know nothing of what it contains.  A folder that Anne uses to fire questions to you about what you’re working on and what progress you’ve made and what more you need from her.  So it’s safe to say I was a little apprehensive.  Kady and Paige were chatting with me about the meetings, wondering if I’d even have my own folder.  They encouraged me that it’s intimidating at first, because you don’t know what she will ask you, but Anne is very thorough and not at all mean.  Just intimidatingly thorough apparently.

So I walked into the meeting and sat down with my pen and steno pad, ready to take notes and make a good impression.  Sure enough, Anne pulled out her stack of folders and began to ask each employee questions about their projects.  To most of these questions I felt absolutely clueless.  Everybody talked so fast and replied so quickly, it was hard to keep up and pretend I knew what everyone was talking about.  BUT!  When it came to the questions to Paige about T1D in the News and updating the Q&A document, I finally heard something that sounded familiar!  Paige mentioned that I had taken over T1D in the News and have been doing a good job with it,and that I did a fantastic job cleaning up the Q&A document.  AHHH!  And Jessica mentioned that I had been tracking down and organizing all the One Walk photos and catchphrases.  And Kady mentioned the survey I created for TON summit feedback.  I began to feel like a genuine part of the team 🙂

As Anne made her way through her stack of folders, I was patiently waiting to see if she would have one for me.  Alas, she did not.  When she reached the bottom of her stack she looked up, found me, and simply said, “Well Amy!  I do not have a folder for you, but it sounds like you are doing a lot of great work for us!  I hear little bits of you in every one else’s reports, so I’m happy you’re with us!”

I beamed and said, “Thank you!  It’s been so much fun getting to be a part of this!”

I left the meeting very happy 🙂

I feel like I’m part of the team!  Not just while I’m at work, but in a social way, too.  Paige is organizing a get-together for the comm department after work sometime soon.  Brian invited me to a weekly Ultimate Frisbee game.  Paige gave me info about the NYC pools opening this weekend.  It’s starting to feel like I have real friends that I’m working with!

And with that, my second week concluded.  But my sense of community didn’t!

My new friend,Marisa, came to visit me.  I met Marisa at the Students with Diabetes conference. We exchanged numbers and have talked just briefly since the conference, but she texted me awhile ago saying she would be in NYC this weekend visiting her brother.  So we made plans to see each other!

On Saturday morning, we spent some time at Union Square.  We walked around the market, looked at artwork, tasted some free samples, but eventually just sat down in a grassy spot to hang out and talk.  We talked about a lot things from diabetes to school to jobs to boys.  We complained about diabetes but we also were grateful for the community it has offered us.  How so many people can have the same thing in common, and that makes it so much easier.  Take us, for example!  We met a month ago in Florida of all places, and now we’re catching up in New York and are able to talk about the things that annoy us about diabetes, the things we learned from diabetes, and the people we have met because of diabetes.  It’s all pretty valuable.

From there, we went to Brooklyn Bridge, where we walked halfway, took some pictures, then turned back around.  It was hot, okay?  🙂
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All in all it was a slow week but a good week.  Full of good people and good friends.

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Home Away From Home: My Weekend with Matt

After completing my first week of work at JDRF, I was able to spend my first weekend with Matt, who rode a bus overnight Friday for nine hours (the things he does for me…) to arrive in New York City at an early, yawn-filled 6:30 am on Saturday.

I don’t think I realized how homesick I was until I hugged Matt at the bus station.

I had been so busy all week with the newness of working at JDRF and becoming familiar with a new routine that I honestly hadn’t had much time to sit down and let my feelings sink in.  I’d talked to my parents, my brother, and Matt on the phone as well as texted my friends a few times throughout the week, which probably helped keep my homesickness at bay.  But gosh, when I hugged Matt on Saturday morning, I desperately wanted to be home with all my familiar, loved faces surrounding me.  Having Matt with me this weekend gave me a little taste of home away from home, and I am thankful for that.

Saturday

We had a LOT of fun this weekend.  It all began, like I said, at 6:30 Saturday morning.  Originally, Matt’s bus was supposed to arrive at Port Authority at 7:40 am.  I was planning on waking up at 6:30 or 6:40 so I could get to the station at 7:15, giving myself to find his gate and calm my nerves 🙂 But, for obvious reasons, I couldn’t really sleep Friday night, so I was up on my feet before 6:00 am.  It’s a good thing I was, because I received a text just after 6:00 am saying he thinks the bus is close to the city.  I immediately went to the subway, thinking, “I’ve still got time; I’m sure his bus isn’t that close.”  But then at 6:20 am (while I’m still on the subway), I received another text saying he just got off the bus!  What!  So much for meeting him at the gate!  We ended up meeting outside of the bus station, where Matt teased me for not recognizing him.  I was standing outside of the station looking left and right for my bearded boyfriend, when all of a sudden I spot Matt, completely completely shaven!  Apparently I had looked right at him three or four times, he had smiled at me, but it didn’t even register with me!  Oops.  Best girlfriend award goes to me, right?  Haha.

So, because of said events, Matt and I got a whole extra hour together this weekend!  At 6:30 in the morning… haha.  After standing and laughing in front of Port Authority for a few minutes, we headed back to The Markle on the subway because we couldn’t check Matt into his room until later that afternoon.  Instead, we ate breakfast at The Markle and enjoyed a slow morning together.

After breakfast, we headed to the Empire State Building.  Go big or go home!  I had read online that it’s best to go as close to opening time (8:00 am) as possible in order to arrive when the lines haven’t had time to get exhaustingly long.  So we went around 8:30, and sure enough, we hardly had to wait!  It was a beautiful, warm and sunny day – perfect for looking over the city on the 86th floor.

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Even though we didn’t have to wait in line for very long, it sure was crowded up there!  The Top of the Rock has a much more open area with plenty of room to walk around and get that perfect view of the city without being intruded upon by the crowds of people pushing for their turn to look over the edge.  It was a little frustrating, but we still had a great time looking at the city and taking some pictures.

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After our visit to the Empire State Building, we walked eight blocks to Bryant Park and the New York Public Library.  The library is absolutely beautiful, even though most of what we say didn’t even involve books.  The marble archways are gorgeous.

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Of course, my favorite place was the gift shop, haha.  They were actually having a poster sale for $4.95 a poster.  I bought an old, color blocked poster of the Brooklyn Bridge.  There were some really cool posters with New York City maps, but unfortunately the color schemes weren’t my favorite… oh well.  I could’ve spent an hour in that store.

We enjoyed sitting in the sun at Bryant Park, where there was an orchestra playing behind the library.  Bryant Park is such a wonderful little spot in the city.  People basking in the sunlight, fathers and sons kicking soccer balls back and forth, couples having picnics, and little girls practicing their gymnastics.

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We went back to The Markle for lunch (the less expensive option compared to eating out for every meal).

After lunch, we went to check Matt into his room at Seafarer’s & International Hotel, just a few blocks away from The Markle.  We walked the few blocks in the hot sun while carrying his stuff.  That was fun.  Sort of.

Perhaps because of all the walking, my blood sugar levels dropped and went a little low.  This is one reason I love my Dexcom.  Without today’s technology, I probably would’ve just attributed my sweatiness and being out of breath to walking a few blocks in the hot sun while wearing jeans.  But nope.  It was because my blood sugar levels were going down!

I was a little cranky at my numbers.  I don’t like low blood sugars, because that means I have to take a juice box, sugar tabs, or something else sugary.  It means I have to interrupt myself and those around me by stopping what I’m currently doing, find a juice box in my bottomless purse, drink it, wait fifteen minutes, and finally see my numbers come back to normal.  So let’s just say I felt a little crummy after I had to interrupt my day with Matt with a sugar low.

Matt, however, always seems be a bit more positive than I am in this area.  He always speaks up about how he wants to help take care of me.  How diabetes will never be a burden for him, because taking care of diabetes takes care of me.  He’s always more vigilant about treating lows than I am, too.

I have the bad habit of letting my numbers sit and hover in the 70s, maybe even 60s, because I know that at least it’s good they’re not hovering in the 180s or 200s.  This, unfortunately, can lead to hypoglycemic unawareness.  This happens when a person is so accustomed to low blood sugar that they fail to recognize or experience the usual symptoms of hypoglycemia (sweatiness, shakiness, weakness).  This can lead to dangerously low numbers while skipping the warning signs, thus lapsing without warning into severe hypoglycemia, becoming confused, disoriented, or even unconscious.  Obviously this is dangerous and frightening, especially for those around me, like Matt.  He has been so good about encouraging me to treat my lows, even if I feel awkward or uncomfortable doing so in public.  He assures me that he doesn’t look down on me when my numbers are out of range, whether low or high.  He knows I do my best everyday.

So when I was cranky and feeling crummy about being low on Saturday afternoon, I was happy he was there to cheer me up.  And not just with his words, but with a surprise, too!

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Right after I had taken a juice to bring my numbers back up, Matt asked if he could see my hand.  I was pretty confused.  Why did he want to see my hand?  Did he want to learn how to prick my finger?  Did he want to see if I was still bleeding from my previous finger prick?

Instead, he told me, “This just seems like a good time to give you my gift… you need some cheering up.  This ring is a ‘just because’ gift, but also to celebrate your internship with JDRF and all your hard work with your diabetes.”

You see, just after the SWD Conference, Matt and I were both so blown away by the diabetes online community.  All the blogs, YouTube accounts, Facebook pages, etc.  Matt actually started looking on Etsy for diabetes products.  Over the course of a few days, he sent me links to funny keychains, diabetes alert jewelry, and other such items.  There was one Etsy seller he sent me, Ccaria, who sold jewelry to raise funds for JDRF.  On her page was a ring that she made to represent the blue circle that was created as a universal symbol for diabetes by IDF.

I usually don’t like using extreme statements, but I’m pretty sure this is the most thoughtful gift I’ve received.

And Matt, just so you know, you don’t have to give me presents every time my sugars make me cranky 😉

Later that night, Matt and I enjoyed our one fancy night out to Max Brenner followed by the Staten Island Ferry just before sunset (thank you Liz for the suggestion!).  We got all dressed up to go to Max Brenner for dinner and dessert.  My friend, Katie, who went to school in New York City for a few years, told me that Max Brenner has the BEST dessert and she was right on!  The place reminded me of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, with brown pipes snaking around the ceiling and walls, perhaps even carrying chocolate?  The atmosphere was very fun, very loud, and very close (our table was inches from the tables on either side of us).  I immediately noticed after ten minutes that both candles on our table were burnt out.  Looks like Matt and I carry on my parents’ tradition of always getting the table that’s a little off!  We both ordered appetizers for dinner: Matt with quesadillas, me with my wings (only I would order wings on a fancy dress-up date).  I just can’t help myself.  They were delicious!  For dessert we ordered the S’mores Concoction.  Served like a science experiment, we received a humongous beaker willed with chocolate, marshmallow sauce, and whipped cream.  On the side were graham crackers, burnt marshmallows, banana slices, and a small beaker of caramel sauce.  We mixed it all together and ate our delicious concoction!

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After Max Brenner, we headed to the Staten Island ferry for the 8:00 pm departure.  My friend, Liz, grew up in Long Island and gave me lots of tips a few months ago when she heard I was living in New York City this summer.  She told me the best thing you can do for free is take the Staten Island ferry.  She recommended taking the ferry to Staten Island an hour before sunset (because you can watch the sun go down on the water) and hopping right back on to Manhattan (because the sky is dark and the city will be lit up).  Boy am I happy she gave me this idea!

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Sure enough, we watched a beautiful sunset on the ferry.

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It was a bit cold, but it was a wonderful end to our date night.

Sunday

On Sunday morning, Matt checked out of his hotel room and we headed to Levain Bakery on the Upper West Side.  I had packed a lot of yummy food from Trader Joe’s for a picnic in Central Park, but thought it would be fun to pick up some baked goods.  I ordered a blueberry muffin and Matt ordered a chocolate chip brioche.  I still don’t know what a brioche is, but it was YUMMY.

We headed to Central Park and spotted some flat rocks on the other side of the lake.  We spent a solid half hour wandering around trying to find the path to those rocks, and we finally found it!  …only to find that some geese had already staked their territory.  Just a few minutes of patience was needed, and the geese went back in the water.  We sat on the rocks with our blanket and food and started munching away while watching the people on row boats in the lake.  Apparently they only cost $12 per hour!  (Mental note for next time Matt visits).  About ten minuets into our picnic, an African-American couple was rowing past our rocks while two geese were sitting fairly close to our rocks.  All of a sudden, a goose from the other side of the lake starts to rapidly fly straight towards the geese sitting by us.  This goose, honking like crazy, flew right next to the woman’s head, seemingly straight towards us.  The woman and I were both shrieking while the goose continued to chase after the other one.  They flew away in the other direction, while the woman on the row boat exasperatingly shouted, “What the heck was that?!?!” while her husband was just laughing to himself.

What an afternoon.

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It was great.

There was also a tiny, rapid-moving spider on our blanket halfway through our picnic.  I jumped up and started hopping like a little girl who has to go to the bathroom while Matt crushed it.  I’m a baby when it comes to insects.  Especially eight-legged ones who move like the speed of light.

After our picnic in Central Park we headed to the Green Flea, just one street over from where we were in the park.  We spent most of our day wandering around the dozens of booths selling antiques, handmade items, refurbished objects, and the like.  I bought a really cute dress for only $30 and a ring for $10.  Matt spotted some neat bookshelves made out of old doors, and I spotted a mirror completely covered in pennies.

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After exploring the Green Flea, we went back to The Markle for an hour before church.  I introduced Matt to Denise, one of the ladies that works at the front desk.  (She’s my favorite).  She talked to Matt and me for a while, asking how he liked New York, about our plans for the summer, and what not.

At 5, we headed over to church (Redeemer Presbyterian at The Salvation Army).  I love that it’s just around the corner.  And we got to hear Dr. Tim Keller speak!  He preached out of 2 Peter on the Christian life and our freedom because of submission to Christ.  It was a wonderful sermon, full of illustrations, stories, and inspirations to think about who/what I am submitting to.  Like he said in his sermon, we are slaves to something.  We’re either slaves to God or slaves to something else.  There is no in between.  But becoming a slave to God gives us the freedom to serve and love others as He enables us to.  Powerful stuff.

After church, we headed to Times Square to find somewhere close to Port Authority where  we could watch the World Cup and eat dinner.  What seemed to be an impossible task at first (most places had waits of 2+ hours) quickly turned into a surprising delight!  On a whim, I told Matt we should check out this Irish pub on the corner.  We walked in and asked if they had a table for two.  They did!  They had four floors, each with TVs to watch the game.  It was actually a nicer environment than a sports bar, as most people on our floor were eating dinner and not just drinking.

We ordered appetizers and watched American score two goals against Portugal and then in the last 30 seconds, Portugal scored… I’ve never gotten so into a soccer game before, but I was genuinely upset!  Matt tried to explain various rules to me throughout the game, but I remained clueless.  It was still very fun to watch and be surrounded by devoted fans.

After the game, we went to Starbucks right across from Port Authority for the last hour before Matt had to be at his bus gate.  It was a nice ending to a wonderful weekend.  We sat, talked, prayed, and had some time to let it sink in that we would be saying goodbye soon.  We walked over to Port Authority, found Matt’s station, and got ready to say goodbye.  Matt, being the protective one he is, walked me back to the Subway tunnel in Port Authority.  He wanted to make sure I got into the Subway safely, as the bus station sometimes has some… interesting characters.  We hugged and said goodbye in front of the Subway entrance.

It was a fast weekend, but a full one!  Full of blessings, quality time with Matt, and lots of fun.  I am thankful that he was able and willing to travel to New York City not just this once, but again later in July!  And I am able to go home (to Lakeside) to spend the 4th of July with my family 🙂 This summer away of home won’t be so hard after all…

 

The Days Go By Quickly…

DISCLAIMER: I hope you like to read, because I like to write.  And I wrote a lot.  A lot, a lot.  But look!  There’s photos at the bottom to look forward to!

I officially have one week of experience working for JDRF National in New York City!  I feel pretty accomplished and ready to take on the next six weeks of this internship.  This week has been absolutely full of gaining more experience, learning new things, coming up with new ideas, and lots and lots of work.

Before I share with you all what I’ve been doing this week, I’d like to share this recent article from Relevant about the importance of having a Sabbath day.

Though I’ve only been working for one week, this is my very first week working full-time ANYWHERE.  Yes, I’ve been a full-time student and yes, I’ve had summer jobs (though they were all part-time).  When I was in high school, my parents were very adamant about encouraging me to stay focused on school.  “Your job is being a student,” they told me.  So, this is the first time in my life that I am taking 40 hours out of my week to devote to something entirely outside of myself.  Yes, I guess you could say I’m gaining experience and developing my professional self, but these are 40 hours that I’m not spending on my personal self and my personal self wants to do all day long (which is basically read a lot of books).  I’m finding that when I come back to my room at 5:30 each night, I have little time and energy to spend doing the things I usually spend all day doing: reading, writing, talking to loved ones.  Let alone time and energy to do the things that NEED to be done: grocery shopping, laundry, dinner eating, exercising, etc.

In the midst of this sudden busyness in my life, I am desperately desiring rest.  Even though I know this is just the beginning.  I see so much more value in time than I did before.  Spending 40 hours working each week is forcing me to prioritize.  It’s pushing me to think about how I use my time.  It’s forcing me to spend my time well and use it efficiently, because there isn’t much of it.  Knowing that there is one day set aside for rest and worship is helping me work even harder and use my time even better.  Here is a quick quote from the article, and then I will continue about my internship:

Rest transforms work.  Taking a sabbath is a discipline, not a habit.  The Sabbath rarely conveniently lands on a day when you won’t have work to do.  Resting means an intentional effort throughout the week to get everything done before the Sabbath.  Because of my discipline, I’ve become a lot more productive throughout the week.  Each week, I feel like I’ve earned my day of rest.  Oddly enough, on the Sabbath, I actually crave doing work.  It causes me to look forward to doing work once again.

I am definitely looking forward to work on Monday already, even though I haven’t truly had my day of rest yet 🙂

BUT I am thankful for the weekend.  And to have Matt visiting me this weekend.  (insert happy girl squeal here)

 

Now onto the meat of this post:

I already gave a short synopsis of my first day here.  But that was just the beginning.  Instead of writing extensively about what I did each day this first week (that could take hours!), let me give you some highlights, reflections, funny moments, and things that stood out to me this week:

  1. I learned that I am a very efficient worker! I have been given various projects to work on from a number of people in the communications department, so at times I feel like I’m being thrown something from every direction every minute.  But it keeps my day interesting and fun!  One task I was given this week was to update some acknowledgement letters.  When people donate to JDRF, the chapters send out thank you letters, acknowledgement letters, etc. to honor those gifts.  There are dozens of different types of letters: donations for walks, for galas, for golf tournaments, for memorial gifts, for online gifts, etc.  I was given each of these documents and told to update them with JDRF’s current messaging and core mission.  I emailed them back to Sara (the woman who sent them to me), and when noticing how quickly I edited the first ones, she immediately sent me more to work on!  And then more again!  I met with her on Thursday, and she told me she was very impressed at how well I did with so little instruction and how quickly I did the job.  Yeah, there were a few things she had to edit further, but “very good job.” 🙂
  2. People talk fast and have lots of questions!  I’ve had the opportunity to sit in on a few meetings and conference calls, and let me tell ya, people come prepared and they come ready to ask their questions.  And there I am, sitting on the edge of my seat (while everyone else seems to be leaning back… something I haven’t quite caught onto yet), frantically scribbling down notes.  I am continually impressed by all the work these people at JDRF do everyday and how efficient they are!
  3. So much updating.  A lot of the work I have been doing this week revolves around a Q&A document that is used to answer the most commonly asked questions to JDRF from the public via the info@jdrf.org email address.  The 60-some page document is about half an inch thick when printed (not joking) and needs some serious updating.  Some questions are no longer relevant, others need to be added, and some just need to plain be deleted.  And the entire thing needs to be organized into new categories.  It’s insane.  But, it’s work that needs to be done.  I spent most of Thursday reorganizing questions, reformatting, copying, pasting, and hyperlinking like a crazy woman.  Boy did I feel accomplished when I was finally finished.  Next week will consist of actually tracking down the updated answers to put into the new document.
  4. Intranet is really cool.  So JDRF has an intranet called OnePlace.  It’s basically a site that houses all the information that a JDRF employee would need.  Resources, documents, updates, need-to-knows, etc.  I could spend hours perusing this site.  There’s videos, logos, press releases, news responses, so many cool things!
  5. I write a news segment – all by myself!  (Sort of).  Every day, T1D in the News is posted on OnePlace for JDRF employees to see and it is also distributed to a list of email subscribers.  T1D in the News is a document consisting of what’s new (that day) in the world of diabetes: in research, awareness, everyday living, fundraising, etc.  Before I arrived, T1D in the News was Paige’s responsibility.  Because Paige has recently been handed a lot more additional responsibilities, she is delegating T1D in the News to me!  Basically, every morning I search the Internet for news on a variety of terms: type one diabetes, JDRF, insulin pumps, blood glucose, etc.  I read through the articles, decide which ones are relevant and reputable, and compile a list of the 9-15 articles or blogs that I think will be most important for others to know.  I then compile summaries on each article or blog and place that under the link.  This creates one whole document that is then posted on OnePlace and distributed to its subscribers.  It’s a really cool, fun process!  There’s so much news everyday about type 1 diabetes to which I was absolutely oblivious.  And there are so many diabetes bloggers out there!  The online community for people with diabetes is impressive.  Seriously.  I’ve spent a few hours just searching around on the different blogs out there, and it’s so fun to read… I’ve even discovered some cool products and books for people with diabetes while I was at it!  It’s been a lot of fun getting to start my morning reading about what’s new for type 1 diabetes.
  6. It’s fun to dress up for work every day.  And it feels so good to put on yoga pants at the end of the day.  Seriously.  If any of you reading this know me, you know that I always like to look nice.  When I entered college, I didn’t own a single pair of sweat pants.  I wore jeans everyday.  I wear skirts, I wear dresses, I wear jewelry.  So naturally, it’s really fun for me to dress up for work.  But at the same time, I have never been so relieved to change at the end of the day.  I get up to my room between 5:30 and 6:00, and the first thing I do is put on a t shirt (a comfy free one from JDRF, by the way) and yoga pants and head up to the rooftop to unwind.  I never thought I would enjoy loungewear as much as I do now.
  7. I am now a true NYC commuter.  I read on the subway!  I’m not glued to my iPhone app telling me how many more stops I have.  I know the order of the stops on my commute to work.  I have conquered the subway!!!
  8. Office kitchens are wonderful.  Free coffee and tea whenever I need it?  Yes please!  …and sooooo many flavors…. 🙂
  9. People (other than my Facebook friends) read my blog!  While Paige was showing me how to search for blogs for T1D in the news, I noticed that my blog came up!  I giddily pointed it to her, and she commented, “Oh yeah, I’ve been reading it!  Back when you posted a while ago, I was doing T1D in the News and found it and sent it to all the comm department, like ‘Hey! Guys!  I think this is our new intern!'” …oh my gosh.  I’m gonna have to make sure this blog is a bit more well written if people in the comm department are reading it!  In addition, I was emailing chapters today to gather feedback about their TypeOneNation Summits (a conference event that JDRF chapters put on), and one point person emailed me back saying she read my blog!  So cool!
  10. I don’t feel out of place having diabetes.  While there aren’t gobs and gobs of people working for JDRF that have diabetes, there are two others in my department that do.  Kady and Brian.  And there’s the other two SWD interns, Hannah and Jenni.  And even though not everyone I interact with has diabetes, they at least understand it.  They don’t look at me funny when I pull out my Dexcom, pump, or meter.  Or when I pull a juice box out of my purse.  It’s totally normal.  It’s comfortable.  It’s great.
  11. There are always 50+ tourists outside my building because of that darn bull.  Hahaha but seriously!!  Every morning when I get off the subway, there’s a crowd of tourists taking pictures by that bull!  And every evening when I open the door to leave the building, there is still a crowd of tourists taking more pictures with that bull.  It’s like there’s a continuous flow of people who want to take their prized photo by it and…behind it… I guess I’ll just get used to it.
  12. Conveniently, there is an ice cream truck right outside the building right around lunch time.  Yum.  Hannah, Jenni, and I went outside today to enjoy the weather, and we got some ice cream!  Photo below 🙂
  13. Cubicles are boring if there aren’t any decorations.  I didn’t know I would get to have my own little cubicle this summer, so I brought absolutely no photos, inspirational quotes, or anything to tack up on the walls.  Consequently, my cubicle is quite drab.  I’m gonna have to liven it up soon!!
  14. I have never used email so often.  So I always thought that I was an avid email checker.  I am notoriously quick for emailing people back.  But geez do people email a lot at work!  There are so many emails back and forth between people: can you do this, can you look at that, just a reminder about this, oh, and don’t forget about that too.  SO much communication.  Outlook is such a life saver.
  15. Co-workers are fun to talk to.  Kady likes to ask about Matt, Paige talks about books she’s reading and fun things to do in the city, and Brian talks about riding his bike all over the city.  It’s fun!  I feel like I have new friends and not just people I work with.  Paige even suggested a book called Breakthrough: Elizabeth Hughes, the Discovery of Insulin, and the Making of a Medical Miracle.  I started reading it and it is fascinating!  I hadn’t really given much thought to what living with diabetes was like before things like shots, pumps, and meters were invented and available.  A man named Frederick Allen treated people with diabetes by essentially starving them, keeping them on a strict diet of often 400 calories or less.  And that was just to help them live maybe a few months or years longer than the prognosis: one year to live after being diagnosed.  Talk about humbling and inspiring gratitude.  This book is making me thankful and awe-filled with each page.
  16. My days go by quickly!  As I mentioned earlier, I have been given many different projects from a number of different people this week.  It definitely keeps me busy and before I know it, it’s 5 o’ clock!  Let me give you a glimpse of what I’ve been working on that makes my hours speed by:
    • T1D in the News every day
    • Updating acknowledgement letters
    • Proofreading and editing Volunteer Spotlights
    • Reorganizing 60-some page documents like the Q&A… oh boy.
    • Sitting in on meetings about Speakers Bureaus, Young Leadership Committee (YLC), and Type One Nation Summits
    • Creating surveys, emailing chapters for feedback, and putting said feedback into spreadsheets
    • Researching competition online
    • Looking for new diabetes blogs to add to our list of regulars to look at for T1D in the News
    • Getting familiar with JDRF’s website and the discussion groups on typeonenation.org

So much to do and so much fun!

So there you have it.  A few tidbits of my first week working full-time as a communications intern for JDRF.  I’ve had a blast so far and have been so encouraged and built up along the way.  Looking forward to the next six weeks of turning Type One into Type None (which, if you think about it, would put JDRF out of business if accomplished… ironic?)

Enjoy your weekend!  I know I’ll enjoy mine 🙂  Looking forward to a weekend with Matt in the city!

Until next week,

-Amy  (Enjoy the photos below from my time so far in New York!)

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View from the Top of the Rock

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While taking a food tour of Greenwich Village, I saw this man across the street playing the accordion.

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This also happened on the Greenwich Village food tour… mmmmm Molly’s cupcakes 🙂

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The view from The Markle’s rooftop… where I like to spend my evenings after work.

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Ice cream break with Hannah (and Jenni, taking the photo)!

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Freedom Tower.

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Strand Books.  This place goes on forever…

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The Jacqueline Onassis Reservoir in Central Park.

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On Top of the Rock!

Turning Type One Into Type None

Today was my first day working for JDRF, and if I’m being completely honest, I loved every minute of it.  The people are kind and friendly, the work is enjoyable and meaningful to me, and I feel very comfortable after just one day in the office.

Hannah, Jenni, and I arrived at JDRF this morning at 9:30.  We were greeted by Jennifer O’Neill, the National Manager of Learning and Development.  She gave us a very brief tour of one of the two floors (14th and 15th) that JDRF uses on 26 Broadway.  Let me tell you: this place is a MAZE.  I’m going to have to wander around the next few days just to get my bearings about what’s what and who’s who.  When we came to the 15th floor, we split ways.  Hannah and Jenni will be working in the marketing department, while I will be in the communications department just across the hall.  While I wasn’t expecting to be separated from my friends so soon, it turned out I had nothing to be nervous about!

After meeting Kady, my boss for the summer, I was shown to the cubicle next to her, which will be mine for the summer!  Complete with a welcoming postcard from the office, t shirts, and a folder stuffed full with information about JDRF and how the communications department works.  Everything from JDRF’s mission statement to specific style and usage tips on writing about diabetes.  So many details to learn!  It almost felt like the first day of school all over again – you see your classroom for the first time, meet your professor, and get handed the syllabus that is chock-full of information.  I love it.  Seriously.

(Pardon the iPhone quality photos)

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After meeting everyone in my department (Paige, Brian, Lindsey, Emily, Ann, Jody, and a few other names that I can’t remember!), Kady gave me my first little project.  For about an hour or so, I took some feedback provided by various chapters about a particular outreach event and consolidated it into a spreadsheet to make the data more organized, accessible, and able to be analyzed.  A pretty nice, easy-going project to get my first morning started!

At noon, the communications and marketing departments hosted a welcome lunch for the three of us interns.  Jody treated us all the some delicious Middle Eastern food: yummy pita bread, hummus, veggies, falafel, and chicken.  The hour-long lunch went quickly, as I was meeting and having good conversation with a number of different people!  We talked about books, biking, and living in the city, to name a few.  Everyone was so friendly and eager to get to know us; it was very encouraging and welcoming.

After lunch, the three of us got our pictures taken for our ID badges: it’s official.  And after that, Jody took us to meet the President & CEO, Jeffrey Brewer.  I was not expecting to have the privilege of meeting the CEO on my first day!  While it was a brief introduction, I was honored and excited to meet him.

After finding our way back through the labyrinth of cubicles, I relaxed for a little bit before heading to the conference room for our two-hour HR orientation meeting with Jennifer.  It was actually kinda fun!  We were given ANOTHER big folder of information (actually kind of my secret guilty pleasure… I love information.  I get giddy when I get handed a big packet of things to learn.  Weird, I know).  For the next two hours we went over JDRF’s organizational goals, the basic facts, the lingo and common acronyms used around the office, the dress code, LOTS of paperwork, and some helpful tips about working in the office.  It was a very helpful, informative two hours.  I officially feel oriented 🙂

…And now to read through the pages and pages of paperwork… (Again, secretly excited for this!  I’m a bit of a dork.)

After the meeting, Kady told me a little bit about the various outreach projects I will be helping her with this summer.  I’m so excited!  I began working a little bit on updating some files to include the language that JDRF is trying to focus on: Turning Type One Into Type None.  LOVE IT.  JDRF’s goal is is not only to find a cure for type 1 diabetes (T1D), but to progressively remove the impact of T1D from people’s lives until they achieve a world without T1D.  Such a clever and effective tagline.  It’s really exciting to see the changes in JDRF unfold!  I’ll be working on a variety of things this summer, all of which are new and exciting.  I can’t wait to go back tomorrow!

After work, Hannah, Jenni, and I went right next door to Stir, a diner with some really good, reasonably priced food.  We ate, talked about our first days, what we’re excited about, and the craziness of our blood sugar levels throughout the day.  (Both Jenni and I had lows in the middle of the night, and Hannah was low this morning going to work).  It really is nice to be friends with other people who have type 1 diabetes.  There’s an instant bond and connection that comes with meeting someone else with T1D.  For example, Kady (my boss) also has T1D.  When she saw my continuous glucose monitor (CGM) she told me that she has an extra charger in her drawer in addition to tons of sugary snacks in case her sugars go low.  She said I was welcome to use the drawer if I ever needed it.  It feels great to be working somewhere that so easily understands who I am and what I need.  I don’t have to feel ashamed or out of place talking about blood sugar levels, middle-of-the-night lows, or bolusing for lunch.

Let’s just say I’m pretty content with life right now.  This summer will be full of experiencing and learning new things!

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Tomorrow is the big day!

Tomorrow I begin work with JDRF in New York City.  AH!

While this week has been full of sight seeing (see my Facebook album for photos!), exploring, gaining confidence in my surroundings, and making some new friends, tomorrow begins a whole new adventure: working.  And yes, working will be a wonderful adventure!

This past week was jam-packed.  I gradually gained some independence from my parents as I began finding my way around the city on my own.  We took a few walking tours, as well, which helped SO MUCH.  One around Midtown and another around Greenwich Village (this tour was a food tour… om nom nom!).  For a while I thought I would have to rely on my iPhone app, City Mapper, for every single step I took and every subway train I rode.  But I’m finding that I’ve become very familiar with my area and the basic directions around town.

I did a practice run to JDRF during rush hour this week, and it went so well!  It only takes me about 20-25 minutes to get from The Markle to JDRF.  Which, by the way, is in front of the giant bull statue that some of you may recognize from the movie, Hitch.

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I am so excited!  And also completely nervous.  I can’t wait to see what I learn this summer during my time with JDRF!

I also got to spend some time with Hannah and her mom at The Chirping Chicken on the upper West side.  It was delicious!  Our moms enjoyed talking with each other, as they obviously had something major in common: a daughter with Type 1 who will be living on her own for two months.  We had a great lunch and conversation about diabetes, the struggles and frustrations that come alone with it, and how we live with it.

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Something Hannah’s mom said stuck with me.  She said something to the effect of Type 1 Diabetes being one of the only chronic diseases where if something goes wrong (your sugars go high, you have a severe low, etc.), the question everybody asks isn’t always, “Are you ok?”  Instead, the question is often, “What did you do?”  or “What didn’t you do?”  What did you do to cause your sugar high, what did you do to make your sugars go so low.  Did you not give enough insulin?  Did you give too much?  Are you sure you checked your sugars?  Did you count those carbs?  There is an immense amount of shame that seems to sneak into diabetes.  We with Type 1 Diabetes slowly and subtly begin to take a lot of the blame for the crazy things our bodies do all on their own.  Yes, we need to make sure we’re counting carbs and giving insulin and checking our sugars.  Yet, no matter how perfectly we follow the rules, our bodies are never fully in our control.  We can behave perfectly, do all the right things, and STILL our numbers might creep up to 180 or plummet down to the 60s.

My dad brought up the quote of Albert Einstein: “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

We, as diabetics, often do the same thing over and over again: check before eating, give insulin for the meal, take sugar tabs for a low, eat before exercising, etc.  Unlike the insanity that Albert Einstein describes, our insanity comes from doing the same thing over and over again and expecting our numbers to behave predictably!  Yet every time, our bodies remain to be incredibly unpredictable.  It’s a struggle.

I have often struggles with feeling ashamed of imperfect numbers.  When my sugars go low, sometimes I even avoid pulling out a juice box or sugar tabs for fear of being looked at funny or interrupting what’s going on around me.  Or when my sugars go high when I’m with friends for a movie night, I eat all the junk food with my friends anyway, even though I know it’s a better idea to wait twenty minutes or so.  I like to hide my diabetes.  I don’t want people to think my numbers are out of whack.  It’s easier.  Yet so dangerous, and much less healthy.

That’s why I am so happy to have Hannah and Jenni here with me in the city, not just as co-workers, but as friends.  We’re all in the same boat!  I think by spending more time around them, I will become more comfortable being open about imperfect numbers and crummy blood sugar days.  We’re all here for each other!

Speaking of my fellow interns 🙂  While at the Chirping Chicken, Hannah and I talked about the idea of having a combined blog among the three of us interns this summer.  Each of us are blogging individually, but we thought it might be interesting and different to have one blog that we all post on.  Maybe with prompts related to diabetes that each of us respond to, or the plights of eating out with diabetes in a city like New York.  It’s a rough sketch, but you may be seeing another blog from us in the future 😉

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So as of today, I am officially living in New York City by myself.  My parents left this morning, and I have been on my own since.  Thankfully, I have Hannah and Jenni in town, and I also met a new friend at The Markle: Courtney!  She is from California, but is staying here for six weeks while she takes part in a musical theater program.  Her parents took my parents and me out to dinner last night at Gradisca, a little (or so it looks from the outside) Italian restaurant right across from The Markle.  While it looks like a teeny tiny restaurant from the outside, it goes on and on as soon as you step inside.  It was a wonderful evening getting to know a new friend and enjoying delicious Italian food together.  I’m beginning to feel comfortable and at home here!

One other reason I am beginning to feel so at home already: I went to church at Redeemer Presbyterian at The Salvation Army just around the block tonight.  I went to the 5 pm service, and holy cow were there a lot of young adults!  I sat by myself and didn’t really start any conversations with people, but I felt so peaceful ending my week in a room full of believers.  It was just what I needed.  There is even a “community group” just for people who are in the city for summer internships!  Bingo!

While this summer is a big transition, and it is these transition seasons that are often so emotionally difficult for me, I feel at peace knowing that God is just as much with me in this city as He is when I’m at home in Cleveland or at school in Canton.

As Oswald Chambers said in My Utmost for His Highest:

“Yet there is no circumstance of life in which we cannot abide in Jesus.”

This summer will be one full of the adventure of new experiences, the heartache of missing home and loved ones, the insecurity of being in a new city, the joy of learning, and yes, the peace that comes with abiding in Jesus.

And with that, I’m ready for tomorrow – I’m comin’ for ya, JDRF!

Only 36 hours in… already a whirlwind!

After only being in NYC for a day and a half, I already feel the need to blog, or I will forget everything!!

What a whirlwind.  We arrived yesterday around 2 pm, when I checked into The Markle and moved in my things to my new room on the 14th floor.  The Markle is a residence run by The Salvation Army for women who are living in the city for either education or employment.  There are women here from many different countries, backgrounds, and ages, and I am so excited to get to know some of them!  The Markle provides so much: two meals a day, a rooftop view, a workout room, lounges and study areas, and a VERY friendly staff.  I have enjoyed meeting Denise especially.  She is the security guard on duty for the night shift.  She is lively, spunky, and so kind.  Here is a view of the outside of The Markle:
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My roommate, Ami, is from South Korea.  She is studying English so she can apply to an American university later on to study 3-D animation.  While communication has been a little difficult, she is very sweet and told me how much she loves Disney, Pixar, and Dreamworks.  She even gave me a little “move in” gift from her country!  Check out the cute socks:

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So, anyways… after settling in, I was a bit overwhelmed.  It suddenly dawned on me that I would be spending the next two months in this new city.  This new city that seemed absolutely humongous, while each city block seemed like its own little world in itself.  So many stores on each street, so many people, so many things to look at it!  To put it simply: I was not at ease quite yet.  Actually, I was pretty terrified.  Transition times are always stressful for me, and this is probably the biggest transition I have made in life so far.  It has felt chaotic, stressful, and slightly terrifying at times.  But I have gradually felt more at ease over the past day and a half.  Mostly thanks to my parents being here.  I cannot imagine being thrust into a big city, left all to myself to figure everything out.

As my parents and I walked around the blocks surrounding The Markle, I began to feel slowly at ease.  I made note of the places that caught my interest, trying desperately to remember every one.  This proved impossible.  There’s about a dozen on each street that caught my eye!  We ended up eating dinner at Good Stuff Diner, which is open 24/7.  I ordered the Good Stuff Burger, and yes, it was very good!  Sitting down to eat gave me some time to get my bearings and take in my surroundings.

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I keep reminding myself that God is with me wherever I go.  Even in a city that seems overwhelming, distracting, and anything but calm.  God’s peace is always with me.

After having some time to adjust, my first task was to buy a Metro Card.  I needed to master the subway system!  My first ride was from 14th St and 8th Ave to 59th St Columbus Circle – Central Park!  It wasn’t as intimidating as I thought!  I’m sure it will be a different story come rush hour… with everyone hustling and bustling about.  But for the most part, I was able to follow the signs and figure out where I needed to go.  My parents and I walked around Central Park for a short time.  We only made it about a tenth of the way up.  The place is HUGE!  I plan on exploring it a lot more later.  We saw a carnival, baseball games, kickball games, SO MANY runners and bikers, and many, many people enjoying the outdoors.

I cannot wait to spend more time in Central Park, enjoying the gem of a place in the middle of such a gigantic city.  I plan on walking, biking, taking pictures, and just enjoying the beauty of it.

Wednesday!

Today was a bit easier.  I’m actually itching to go off on my own now!  (Which I successfully did at the end of today!  Yay!)

I took advantage of The Markle’s workout room, where I ran on the elliptical for two miles, all while looking out the window at the Empire State Building.  Now that’s motivation to work out.  Afterwards, I went up to the rooftop to cool off, as it was pretty chilly today.

I spent most of my morning relaxing in my room, writing my aunt back, who was so sweet in sending me mail for me to receive when I arrived!  Thanks Jean Ann!

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Afterwards, I ran some errands with my parents, which included visiting Trader Joe’s and the West Side Market… shout to you Clevelanders reading my blog… this West Side Market is pretty cool, but nearly as cool as ours 😉

After errands, my mom and I saw Newsies off Broadway!  We ventured around Times Square for a short half hour before heading to the theater.  We saw some policemen on horses, taking advantage of a photo op (more like selfie op) :

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And even Morgan Freeman!  (Or so Mom thought… it’s just a wax statue)

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After the little bit of exploring, we made our way to the theater for Newsies!  It was a GREAT show.  The dancing and gymnastics that the guys did was phenomenal – it was quite the entertaining performance.

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After Newsies, we met up with my dad, who had been Cross Fitting.  We ate dinner at The Markle, and BOY do they feed us!  I will definitely eat well this summer, that’s for sure.

I then decided to venture out on my own to find a coffee shop with internet.  I stopped at Caffe Bene, where I had time to journal, reflect, and spend some time with the Lord before heading back to The Markle for the night.  One thing is for sure: I am definitely going to intentionally build time into my schedule for time like this.  Time to reflect on my faith, what God is showing me through my crazy time in the city, and time to center myself on the peace that He offers me.  I don’t know how I would survive without it!

Tomorrow will start out with a trial run to work during rush hour: Yay!  I’m going to make sure I know how to get to and from work during the busy times of subway traffic… that way I’m not overwhelmed on Monday when it comes time to go to JDRF for my first day of work!

PS: all this walking around the city is doing a number on my blood sugars!  Thank goodness for my CGM, because it beeped a few times, alerting me that I was low.  I’m thinking I will have to decrease my basal rates so I’m not constantly sipping down juice boxes and chewing on sugar tabs.  This summer will teach me a lot about sugar control, too, that’s for sure!

Until next time 🙂

-Amy

 

 

 

 

Students with Diabetes Conference… What a Weekend!

Well gosh I don’t even know where to start. Today is Tuesday, June 10th, and I am moving to New York City. Even though I haven’t been home since Wednesday afternoon, I feel like today will be the day when it really hits me: I’m not coming home until August. Yikes! But I am so excited about my summer at the same time! This weekend, Matt and I went to Tampa, Florida for the Students with Diabetes Leadership Academy and Conference. Spending the past four days with over 100 other Type 1’s gave me so much encouragement, community, and strength, that I wish I could have a weekend like it every month. It gave even more meaning to my internship with JDRF this summer than it already even had. Check out the Ellen-style selfie some of us took with Nicole on Sunday: Image Before I go into a very long post about all the awesome details of my weekend, let me give you some highlights… This weekend, I:

  • Met all the other interns that received positions at various companies this summer (JDRF, Novo Nordisk, etc.)
  • Met Nicole Johnson, former Miss American and current leader of Bringing Science Home and Students with Diabetes, the organization that brought this whole weekend and internship experience together!
  • Met many influential people in the diabetes community: comedians, a medical librarian, medical salesmen, a biomedical engineer, and a Certified Diabetes Educator.
  • Experienced Dale Carnegie Training in preparation for my internship experience and future.
  • Met TONS of wonderful other Type 1’s and some of their significant others who also came along, like Matt.
  • Learned how to view diabetes with a sense of humor.
  • Gained a lot of insight about diabetes and relationships.
  • Heard all about the bionic pancreas!!!! Expected FDA approval by fall of 2017!
  • Spent the evening out in Tampa, visiting the beach and the Hulk Hogan restaurant.
  • Went to a fun pool party with everybody at the conference!
  • Participated in research for Students with Diabetes.
  • Learned about diabetes service alert dogs! (I want one).
  • Gained really profound insight on being a leader from Tye Manor.
  • Had to say goodbye until next year ☹

So yeah. Crazy busy weekend, but full of so many wonderful experiences and opportunities. Now onto all the fun details ☺ Forgive me if this post is disjointed and scatter-brained… and possibly super long. I’m really just trying to get down everything we did this weekend. What I’m learning is that I need to journal at the end of the day, no matter how tired I am, because that’s how I will have these memories to fully look back on and relive!

I got to Tampa with Matt on Thursday morning for the Students with Diabetes Leadership Academy and Conference. And let me just say… this weekend was probably my favorite weekend of 2014 so far! Matt and I arrived fairly early to the conference, so we had some time to spare. We enjoyed the Tampa sunshine and walked to a nearby mall, just a mile away from our hotel. It was nice to be there earlier than all the others, because it gave Matt and I time to talk a little bit about what we expected this weekend to be like… which, in all honesty, we had no idea what to expect!

So then came the evening. Matt and I went back to the hotel, where we officially met the other interns that will be working at various diabetes companies this summer. Two other girls, Hannah and Jenni, will also be working at JDRF in NYC with me this summer. I am SO glad I got to meet them and form friendships before arriving in the city. After the meet and greet, we all went out to dinner at Ciccio’s, where we all (interns, Nicole, and many of this weekend’s speakers) ate together, shared stories of sugar lows and silly questions from strangers, laughed together, and listened to some inspiring tips from a few of this weekend’s speakers.
Out for dinner: Image Here are all the interns: Image And here are the NYC interns!  Jenni, Hannah, and me. Image After a long, tiring, but really exciting day, I went straight to bed in anticipation of what Friday would bring: leadership training and the official start of the conference! Friday began with some yummy breakfast early in the morning, followed by a session with Dr. Donna Petersen titled, “What does Public Health have to do with it?” Many of the interns this summer have a variety of majors: sociology, psychology, nursing, community & public health, and music, to name a few. I was one of the few Community & Public Health majors, which came as a little bit of a surprise to me. But when I think about it, we all have Type 1 Diabetes in common, and we all have a different way to make a change in our diabetes community. These internships, no matter our majors, will give all of us a stepping stone to do so. Ok so rabbit trail done. Back to the public health session. It was really fun to listen to Dr. Petersen talk about public health, even though I have heard much of what she shared in my classes at Malone. Here are a few tidbits:

  • Health is a physical, mental, and social well-being, not merely absence of infirmity or disease.
  • Public health is what we do together to create conditions in which people can be healthy.
  • Half of what creates a community’s health is the individual behaviors people choose.
  • Public health is a goal and a profession.

Very cool reminder of what I have been learning in school, before I go off to my internship!

After that session, Nicole Johnson led a mini session about remembering our values. As we all are going off this summer to work for large companies, Nicole stressed the importance of remembering our purpose in life and what we value. What we hope for our lives. We should always keep our values and purpose important in our minds, because if we don’t, they are easy to lose track of. So to help us identify what it is we value in life, we were given five sheets of paper. On each sheet of paper, we were instructed to write four things. On one sheet, four memories we never wanted to forget. On the second, four items we most value. On the third, four goals we have in life. On the fourth, four people we cherish. And on the fifth, four places that are most important to us. Between these five pieces of paper, there were twenty things I had listed to be most important or valued to me. Among them were Malone University, maintaining meaningful relationships, my parents, my health, my faith… And yet here is the tricky part.

Nicole wanted us to cross off five things. Ouch. But I did it. I reluctantly crossed a line through five things I had just written down as important to me. That was hard. But she wanted us to do it again! And again! Until only three things remained. I was left with these three things: 1. My Bible/journal (from my item list) 2. Have meaningful, challenging, encouraging, honest relationships (from my goal list) 3. Stay healthy (from my goal list)

In other words: my faith, my relationships, and my health.

While this activity was very challenging and not entirely realistic (I crossed my parents names off my list, but I still value them closely), it was very illuminating and a perfect reminder about why I want to live my life. As I go off into this internship, my goal isn’t necessarily to move on up in the professional world, but instead to live out my faith through my vocation, to acquire and maintain both new and old friendships with others, and to stay healthy! Thanks, Nicole, for the reminder ☺

Later that morning, all the interns went through Dale Carnegie Training on how to present ourselves. Lots of helpful tips on communication! We then heard from Martin Wood (fun fact: youngest medical librarian!), who spoke about applying leadership principles to our careers and diabetes. After lunch, we heard from Tom Boyer, government affairs employee for Novo Nordisk and politics extraordinaire. He spoke about the important of internships, professionalism, and even reading the newspaper! Who knew 😉 After Tom Boyer, we wrote elevator speeches and practiced them to each other as if we only had 60 seconds to tell a potential employer/investor/connection why we do what we do and how they can help us! So many important things that day in so little time… and I hardly wrote down the details!

After a break on Friday afternoon, a hundred people came flooding into the hotel for the start of the conference on Friday evening. While there had been about 20 of us interns participating in the Leadership Academy, there would be over 100 people attending the conference! So after check-in and registration, and conference officially kicked off! We played fun get-to-know you games at our tables and learned about each other, how long we’d had diabetes or maybe known someone with diabetes, and had lots of silly fun together! And by silly fun, I mean skits. You see, each table was given a prompt that had something to do with diabetes. Ours was “If glucose meters could talk… medical devices come alive.” We had about one hour to put together and practice our skit, and after dinner we would all come back together and take turns presenting our skits, competing for spot as winner… Our skit of the talking glucose meter came in second place!

After the “Diabetes Showcase,” as this competition was named, we listened to Jim Turner, a comedian and actor who has Type 1. He shared his experiences as a Type 1 through a medley of stories: serious, sad, hilarious, crazy, and ridiculous. Yet through every story I found myself thinking, “Yep. Been there before!” It was Jim Turner’s session that helped me see for the first time that every single person in that room with us had experienced similar things. And we all can see diabetes with a sense of humor. We can all see it as something we deal with together. Something we can help each other with, laugh with each other about, and cry with each other about. It was a real sense of community.

And that was just the beginning! Then came Saturday! Mike Lawson kicked the morning off with more comedy. We created diabetes memes with funny punch lines that likely wouldn’t make sense to anybody outside of the conference… but were hilarious to us. Again, it gave me a sense of lightheartedness and community among these hundred or so people that I hardly knew 24 hours ago.

After Mike came some break-out sessions. I attended one about diabetes in the workplace, which focused on the insurance maze that every diabetic has to wander through. I then attended a session about diabetes and romantic relationships. Matt and I attended this one together, and WOW did we learn a lot. Not only did we learn a lot from the session, but we enjoyed getting to know other couples that have experienced what we have. My friend and fellow intern, Hannah, was there with her boyfriend, Alex. It was encouraging to see Alex come all the way from Texas to spend the weekend learning about diabetes with Hannah! And then we met Miles and Brooke, a couple from Boston. Miles has Type 1 and you can tell Brooke cares the world about helping him. It was heart warming to see her ask so many questions and be so engaged, when it technically isn’t her burden to bear. But that’s what being in a relationship is about… sharing. And there’s some pretty intense sharing that goes on in a relationship with someone with diabetes ☺ Image Matt and I had so many good conversations this weekend, especially following that session. About what it’s like for him to help care for me, how I want to be cared for, and how we can help each other through it all. I am SO thankful for this weekend. Image After the relationship session, there were vendors to explore with supplies for sale, people to meet, t shirts to buy, and free things to win! It was after the vendor expo that my mind was REALLY blown.

We listened to Ed Damiano from Boston University talk about the bionic pancreas. It was hard to sit there and listen to him demonstrate the bionic pancreas that can do everything my real pancreas cannot without choking back tears. The amount of time, work, and energy that he has put into this device is unbelievable. The clinical trials, the people involved, the improvements in technology… it was all so impressive. And here he was in front of me, showing how one small device can not only sense your blood glucose, but can automatically give you insulin or glucagon based on what it senses about your blood glucose and what it knows about how your body reacts. AMAZING. This device spends 24 hours “learning” the patient, and becomes more and more accurate over that time period. The clinical trials showed unanimous improvement among the participants, with the tightest control I’ve seen.

And to think this device could be available in the fall of 2017…. WHAT!

The thought of not having to second guess what I eat or what insulin I give or what my number is before walking to class… it’s almost unimaginable, yet here it is.

“The ever extensive bridge to the ever elusive cure.” Speechless.

After Dr. Damiano spoke and demonstrated, Scott Scolnick, a salesman from Tandem, came up and spoke about his experience as a participant in the clinical trial for the bionic pancreas. Not only is Scott a Type 1, but he is also a major foodie. In other words, he ate EVERYTHING he could during the five days of trial to try to prove this bionic “gizmo” wrong, only to find by the end of the week that this machine might actually be a miracle. It’s amazing. Scott ate some of the craziest things a diabetic could eat, yet his blood sugars hardly spiked and when they did, they came down within one hour instead of half a dozen. Simply amazing.

Joe Solowiejczyk (say that five times fast) concluded the sessions on Saturday with some more humor and down-to-earth tips on living with diabetes. He was SO funny. We had us all write down the three most important reasons we take care of ourselves, the three reasons that makes us NOT want to take care of ourselves, and three ways we deliberately choose not to take care of ourselves (in other words, how we “check out” of diabetes). Joe had a great sense of humor and helped me see how, yes, diabetes can really stink sometimes, and yes, we all choose to ignore it sometimes, but taking care of ourselves is the most important thing we can do for ourselves. He shared funny stories of when his designated “diabetes depression” days where he pulls out his Ben and Jerry’s, watches sad movies, and instructs his friends to call him on the phone to tell him how courageous and inspiring he is. He said, “Sometimes, we just need it.” All in all, I was reminded by Joe that taking care of myself is ultimately one of the most important things I can do for myself, and yes, it gets tiring, but I can make it fun with the help of those around me.

And with that emotional afternoon, the session for Saturday were through! We were all on our own for dinner, so Matt and I took the opportunity to have some alone time and went out to dinner. We went to the Hulk Hogan restaurant just a mile or so from our hotel and ate on the water. It was beautiful. We talked about the bionic pancreas, about our relationship, about our favorite speakers, but mostly we just enjoyed the sunshine and the yummy food. (I had DELICIOUS shrimp). After we ate, we walked out on the pier and took some pictures, looked at the water, and just enjoyed our time together. We walked on the beach and Matt stepped into the ocean for the very first time! (And to think this boy had hardly been outside of Ohio before this weekend… the things he does for me… hehe). Image Image ImageImageImageImage Upon returning to the hotel, we went to the pool for the SWD pool party! I got to chat with Nicole some more and have some good conversation about my honors thesis that I want to start working on next year. I talked to her about ideas I want to research and how I can get started. Throughout the weekend, you see, SWD was conducting research. I participated in an interview, a survey, and an A1C test, all in return for some Target gift cards! Woo hoo! Image I am SO grateful to have Nicole in my life. She is an inspiration, a helping hand, and so loving. Image After our chat, we enjoyed the pool and the company of everybody around us. It was a great, relaxing end to a busy, emotional day. Sunday went quickly. Breakfast, a session on diabetes advances and technology, and one more on leadership form Tye Manor, who gave me a lot of inspiration and motivation. Let me share you his L.E.A.D.E.R.S.H.I.P acronym:
L: Listen to understand, not to respond.
E: Energize – “Don’t just make the horses drink, make them thirsty.”
A: Action – “Things may come to those who wait, but only what’s left from those who hustled.”
D: Develop a purpose – purpose will sustain you when life gets hard, it will push you forward no matter the circumstances.
E: Enable people to do their best
R: Reach out and reach back – focus on making a difference, not a dollar
S: Self-control
H: Handles human relationships well – assume positive intent
I: Integrity
P: Positive

And with that, the SWD conference was over… so much, yet so quick. There was so much I did not include (like our 9 pm flight home delayed until 1:30 am… yikes)… yet I’m sure this was still overload for some of you to read. So THANK YOU. Thank you for reading this, and thank you especially to those who were with me this weekend. It was an inspiration, motivation, and encouragement for me that will last a lifetime!

Here I come, NYC!