It’s That Time Of Year…

Warm and dry weather has settled over south central Alaska promising the return of mosquitoes and tourists.  Late last week I killed the first mosquito of the season; it was one of the big, slow and noisy ‘over-winter’ variety but its appearance heralds the first batch of this season’s blood suckers which will be small, quiet and very hungry.  I’ve refilled the propane tank and will most likely setup the ‘Mosquito Magnet’ once the snow disappears.  For the time being it is providing me the fuel to grill on the front porch.  The kidz are reveling in getting out for daily walks with me; previously the roads were too icy and snow covered to safely walk.  I love being able to do at least half my daily 12k+ steps outside in the sunshine and fresh air!  Without question, we are into the winter to spring changeover.

Break up is my least favorite season up here as is true for many Alaskans mainly because water and the associated mud seems to be everywhere!  In this area our mud is composed mainly of gray/brown glacial silt which is extremely fine grained; it clings to the coats of my canine companions until it dries – normally, inside the house – and falls off.  I can tell their favorite resting areas by the accumulation of the floury, gray silt; while it cleans up easily there seems no end to the stuff during this season.  Not all that long ago this area was buried beneath glaciers which slowly retreated towards the Alaska Range to the north and the Talkeetna Mountains to the east grinding up rock as they moved; this explains the abundance of the material.  This glacial flour is also responsible for the clouds of dust lifted by vehicles driving on the unpaved roads; if it is windless this dust can hang in the air for minutes confirming its fine nature.  This also explains why auto manufacturers consider this to be an ‘extreme’ area in terms of vehicle wear and tear; coupled with the snow and cold the dust makes it really hard on mechanical objects.

As the spring intensifies so does the solar radiation; this, in turn, begins to heat the interior of the house with time.  Already it is unusual to awaken to an air temp in the master bedroom below 62.0° F (16.7° C); just a month back I would often arise to a brisk 58.0° F (14.4° C) or cooler.  The slow rise of the internal ambient air temperature is something I encourage in early spring but by late spring I’m already using fans to draw in the cooler early morning air, despite the high humidity, such that the afternoon temps on the second floor aren’t getting too warm.  Almost all my screens are back in place and I’ve even put up some light blocking shields in the master bedroom windows as it is remaining light until 22:45 and we will not see ‘Astronomical Twilight’ again until August 10th.  I would like to learn to sleep with the sun streaming in the windows but to this point I’ve not yet been able to make this happen.  Maybe with the passage of a few more summers..?

This will be the first year I’ll be added routines involving my 2017 R-pod travel trailer; I hauled it back here in September of 2017.  The winterization process was very straightforward and fairly simple; I expect the efforts required to get it ready for use this spring through fall will be equally easy.  With a bit of luck I’ll be able to load up the trailer, pack the kidz in the back seat of the Escape and do some camping in the Kenai Peninsula late April to early May.  With luck this should allow me to avoid the first of the real tourist crush but there’s still a lot of snow in portions of the Kenai so I’ll have to wait and see.  If I cannot get down into that area this spring I will do so come fall.  After all, I didn’t go through the epic journey of hauling the unit from central Montana to Talkeetna just to let it sit!

The moose which were almost ubiquitous just a few weeks back have largely disappeared.  I suspect this is a combination of a much decreased snow pack and the cows heading into the forest to birth spring calves.  This winter was hard on the local moose population as I’ve seen more reports of moose carcasses since February than during any other similar time frame since relocating up here.  There are the remains of a bull just about a half mile east of my place; a neighbor told me of the carcass last week.  It is common to share such knowledge amongst the locals as such situations can and do draw bears as they come out of hibernation.  Learning of the bull’s remains will cause me to alter my early morning walks with the kidz for the next few months; we’ll be walking primarily to the west.  Once the local scavengers have had time to degrade the remains it will again be fine to walk that area with the dogs.

And so the seasonal cycle is once again on display in ‘The Great Land’.  As with all things in life there are positive and negative aspects to this dance but in the long run I still enjoy the season’s shift and am looking forward to leaves again populating the branches of the birch trees and warm summer breezes.  Of course, there will always be the mosquitoes and tourists but that’s all part of life in magnificent south central Alaska… 

Almost Clear Back Roads

A look to the north on Riven showing mainly bare earth with the ubiquitous puddles.

Water Bound EBD

Qanuk contemplates a section of East Barge Drive inundated by snow melt; he is less sure on ice than Anana (my Alaskan malamute)

 

A Really ‘Good’ Good Friday!

Friday, March 30 2018 will definitely be a date I remember and will do so with both joy and not just a modicum of pride.  I had scheduled an A1c test at the clinic; it was about time as I’ve been getting them every three months since my initial diagnosis of late onset Type 2 diabetes back on May 24, 2017.  At that time I tested a ‘14’ for my A1c and a real time blood glucose test showed 375 mg/dL.  To say I was devastated would be the mother of all understatements!  However, after a couple of days of a ‘pity party’ followed by a few days of denial I finally faced this fact, started researching the condition and began making preparations to really change my lifestyle.  It began an honest odyssey during which I learned so much while experiencing the frustrations, joys and confusion almost any diabetic knows only too well.  But the fear of insulin dependence drove my efforts; in hindsight it was amazing what fear can do when properly channeled!

By the next A1c in late August I saw a 6.0 and was ecstatic; across the next seven months I saw a 5.8 and, most recently, a 5.7.  I was pleased no end with these results as was my wonderful doctor (Dr. Joan).  As an aside I’ve always been distrustful of physicians in general and especially those espousing ‘western medicine’.  I believed far too many were in the practice only for the money and were willing pawns of ‘Big Pharma’.  I also believed most followed the ‘disease de jour’ concept and, if allowed to run enough tests, would always find a malady that had to be addressed.  Dr. Joan is none of these!  She is a warm, knowledgeable, caring and understanding physician who honestly listens to what I share with her.  I’ve never spent less time than 15 minutes in conversation with her at any of my appointments!  This is so refreshing after experiencing the ‘assembly line’ practice of so many doctors.

I expected Friday’s appointment to just be a blood draw and A1c test but it had been maybe four months since I’d seen a provider and I was encouraged to schedule such an appointment.  As luck would have it Dr. Joan had an opening just a half hour after my appointment for the A1c so I signed up.  During the exam I was weighed, had my feet examined, had my BP/pulse measured and answered a number of health questions.  When I saw Dr. Joan she was very pleased with the results.  She told me I had ‘healed myself’ regarding the late onset Type 2 diabetes and could now stop my daily blood glucose testing and just monitor as I saw fit.  I can also decrease my A1c testing to just twice a year.  The icing on this cake is the fact I have now halved my daily dose of Metformin HCl and, if my next A1c is 6 or lower, I can cease taking the medication all together! My BP measured 122/82 mm Hg which was very good given I had been seeing 160/115 mm Hg readings a year earlier when I was first diagnosed with severe hypertension.  While the medications I take helped the fact I exercise daily in the form of counting my steps and I’d worked hard to lose weight were probably the main drivers behind this decrease in my BP.  I’d shown a loss of another ten pounds across that four month period which meant by the clinic scales I had dropped almost sixty pound in the preceding year.  As Dr. Joan told me most patients my age only lose such large amounts of weight via bariatric surgery, so shedding so many pounds was remarkable in and of itself.

She was very interested in just what I was doing to have turned around my health situation so dramatically in a year’s time.  She knew about my 12,000+ daily steps but I filled her in regarding my low carb lifestyle – I eat between 95 grams and 60 grams of carbs a day and almost all are my ‘good’ carbs – and we talked about my learnings.  I shared I’d discovered I could indulge myself once a week with some ice cream with chocolate sauce without negatively impacting my blood glucose or my slow but steady weight loss.  I reiterated my ‘bad’ carbs were anything containing either starch or fructose.  The latter means my selection of fresh fruit is very limited but I do love the strawberries, blueberries and raspberries I can consume.  Sadly, any breads, rolls, crackers, potatoes, corn and similar are just plain ‘off the menu’.  But I’ve found a wonderful pasta substitute in ‘Miracle Noodles’.  Although a bit pricey they are an amazingly delicious pasta substitute and the firm also markets a variety of rice using the same component (shirataki noodles) with the same almost no calorie or carb content.

We also briefly touched on my depression which is now just a distasteful memory.  I’m still taking 50 mg of Sertraline (Zoloft) daily and will probably continue to do so for the foreseeable future.  Along with some counseling this combination appears to have vanquished the depression although mine has a history of coming and going in cycles.  Because of this I’m not about to proclaim I’m ‘cured’.  However, if taking the daily Sertraline prevents a re-occurrence, or even mitigates the intensity and duration if it does reappear, then it is well worth the cost.

Given all the aforementioned it isn’t difficult to see why I felt this past Good Friday was really a ‘GREAT’ Friday.  But more importantly, I discovered that I can take control of my physical situation and affect sweeping changes for the better.  I learned that diabetes is different for almost everyone and hence the only way to manage the condition is by putting in the required effort up front to do the research and then to meticulously monitor one’s dietary intake across months while doing daily blood glucose tests.  Sure, it is a long and often frustrating process but in doing so one will learn so much more about their body.  But perhaps most importantly I discovered I could ‘cure’ myself of a condition which affects millions of people and causes a myriad of negative side effects like increased chance of heart attacks, vision problems, foot issues and weight problems.  I had no idea I would get to this point; back in July or August of 2017 I figured I’d be testing my blood glucose level almost daily for the remainder of my life and always be concerned about my next A1c.

So if there’s anything I’d like a reader to take away from this piece it is simply this; “You are never too old to affect sweeping lifestyle changes!”  It is possible to incorporate such changes for the better and actually make them a part of one’s life.  Sure, I will never stop regulating my carb intake and I have to steer clear of those pesky starches and fructose containing foods but if one can view making such a commitment as a pledge to a healthier lifestyle it eventually becomes acceptable.  Of late I’ve told a few folks that getting that late onset Type 2 diabetes diagnosis in May of 2017 was probably one of the best things that ever happened to me; most cannot understand how I can make such an assertion.  It is simple to me; doing so forced me to seriously examine my lifestyle, face up to my situation and dedicate myself to making sweeping lifestyle changes which have allowed me to lose weight, shape up, eat healthier and feel so much better.  So who says ya can’t ‘teach and old dog new tricks?’…