The New Blonde-haired, Blue-eyed Girl

The New Blonde-haired, Blue-eyed Girl

Once upon a time, there was a blonde-haired, blue-eyed little girl who spent her days and nights in many ways. She dressed up as a potato. She rode through a pumpkin patch. She went along the ocean shore, talking to a starfish.

Each of these events was a story in itself, and each event was typical for the eight-year-old blonde-haired, blue-eyed little girl. And, it is almost certain that there were many more such “typical” events in her life.

But, one day, the blonde-haired, blue-eyed little girl was visited by an event that was not so typical, and it would change her life forever.

For a couple of weeks, she had been feeling sort of tired. It wasn’t like her toes were snoring while she was doing her tap dancing routine – although they did snore when she was sleep walking. It was just that she seemed to have less energy.

Except in the middle of the night. She was having some terrible nightmares, and she woke up several times, screaming and crying. She couldn’t decide if her tummy was hurting her, or if she had just broken her arm on an amusement ride. She just knew that something inside of her did not feel right. Each time, her mom or dad would hold her and soothe her until she fell back to sleep.

And thirsty? Boy, was she ever thirsty! For those last two weeks, she was drinking everything in sight. Every time she walked by the aquarium, the goldfish would hide behind the plants, in case a straw should suddenly appear in their midst.

That was when her mom decided it was time for her to be tested. She took the blonde-haired, blue-eyed little girl to see her doctor. When the doctor saw the results of the test, he decided that she should go right away to the hospital.

So, off she went with her mother to the hospital. But, first they went home to get jammies, in case she would need to stay overnight.

When they got to the hospital, it was a little scary, in a nice sort of way. All of the doctors and nurses were cheerful, but they gave her shots and put tubes into both of her arms. They attached a clear bag of fluid to one of the tubes. They used the other one to take blood samples for testing. But, she was feeling better, and she had more energy.

The blonde-haired, blue-eyed little girl knew that something pretty peculiar was going on when the doctor told her she would be staying for the night. And when her dad came into the hospital from work, she definitely knew that something was up.

In all, she stayed at the hospital for two nights, and her mom slept right in the room with her! How special was that?

When she was in the hospital, she learned why she had been so tired and thirsty. The doctor told her that she had diabetes. That meant that when her body needed energy, it used the food that she had eaten to find glucose, or sugar, just like everyone else. But, the blonde-haired, blue-eyed little girl did not have enough insulin so that her body could use that glucose for energy. That’s why she was so thirsty. Her body was using everything she drank to flush the unused sugar out of her body.

Since her pancreas was no longer making the insulin her body needed, she would need to have a couple of shots of insulin every day. They even showed her family how to give the shots, or injections, at the hospital.

Once the blonde-haired, blue-eyed little girl went home from the hospital, she had some new routines that were a part of every typical day. She had to prick her finger four times a day. This was so that she could put a drop of blood on her glucometer. That was a little electronic box with a computer chip that could measure the amount of glucose in her blood. And, every time, she would write the numbers into a log. That was a book to keep track of the numbers.

The way she ate her meals was now different, too. Before her hospital stay, she was sort of a grazer. She would not always finish her meals, because she would eat little snacks throughout the day.

Now, breakfast, lunch, and dinner had to be at set times. She also would have to eat a snack between meals and at bedtime. Everything she ate would have to be measured, until she and her family could figure measurements by looking.

That was because they had to keep track of carbs. Many foods are carbohydrates, and carbohydrates include sugar. So, if they knew how many carbs she was eating, and they made sure she was getting the correct amount of insulin from her injections, they could make sure that she continued to be a healthy blonde-haired, blue-eyed little girl. (That is, until she grew up to be a healthy blonde-haired, blue-eyed young woman.) It wouldn’t be long before all of this became second nature.

She also would know when to watch for low blood sugar. This would happen when she was active, and her body used more sugar than was usual. It almost seemed odd to eat or drink something to raise her glucose level, when high blood sugar levels usually were her problem. But that was all a part of having diabetes.

So, the blonde-haired, blue-eyed little girl’s life was changed forever. Finger pricks throughout the day. Injections before lunch and dinner. Careful meal planning. Diabetes was something that she would have to adjust to, but she knew that it would not get in the way of her typical activities.

Like wandering through a cornfield looking for a lighthouse!

“The New Blonde-haired, Blue-eyed Girl” is the last of the eight short stories in Blonde-haired, Blue-eyed Adventures, a collection of stories about my daughter’s adventures, written for her twenty years ago. This was written after she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, which occurred two month before her ninth birthday.  The book finishes with a poem, “Sweet Dreams.”

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Spud
The Tiny Princess
Blue and Blonde Sprinkles
Jenny Comes Home from School
Smiles in the Pumpkin Patch
The Happiest of Birthdays
The Blonde-haired, Blue-eyed Starfish
The New Blonde-haired, Blue-eyed Girl
Sweet Dreams


Ken Gierke

Sweet Dreams

Sweet Dreams

Come sail with me on chocolate seas,
Beyond the coffee grounds,
Where gummy fish grant every wish,
And sweetness still abounds.

Now close your eyes, a sweet surprise
Awaits you while you sleep:
Fancy tales of licorice whales
Within the ocean deep.

With jellyfish in every dish
Of peanut butter pie,
And just a hint of peppermint
On every mermaid’s sigh.

’Cross seas so cold with marshmallows,
Like icebergs on the waves,
To tropic shores with toasted s’mores
Buried in pirate caves.

Through salty gales with toffee sails
We’ll search for tasty treats.
In far off lands, the muffin man
Will sweep you off your feet.

At stately balls in castle halls
Composed of gingerbread,
Pink bubblegum and sugarplums
Will dance within your head.

Then dawn will break as you awake.
Oh, how your eyes will gleam!
These words were said beside your bed,
Then came true in a dream!

“Sweet Dreams” is the final entry in Blonde-haired, Blue-eyed Adventures, a collection of eight short stories about my daughter’s adventures, written for her twenty years ago. This was written after she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.  For the longest time, I had wanted to write a bedtime poem for her.  She had just turned nine when I wrote this, but we still recited it together many times before bedtime.

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Spud
The Tiny Princess
Blue and Blonde Sprinkles
Jenny Comes Home from School
Smiles in the Pumpkin Patch
The Happiest of Birthdays
The Blonde-haired, Blue-eyed Starfish
The New Blonde-haired, Blue-eyed Girl
Sweet Dreams

Ken Gierke

I’m also posting this to Open Link Night #252 at dVerse

Sweet Magic

Sweet Magic

Can it be as simple as second nature,
a handful of grapes and you instantly
know how to bolus, dosing the insulin
while having a conversation?

Is it magic, when you automatically
correct a low after a gym session
with juice and crackers? Remember,
your body is not on autopilot.

And what about the tech? That first
pump was magic enough, but now
it sends texts to your pocket computer.
How’s that for magic?

And that device on your skin,
the one that reads your blood sugar
like a book, but between the lines,
sending data to that same cell phone.

If you were meant to have this curse,
how lucky are you to have a mind that adjusts
so easily, or to be alive in a time when
magic is becoming commonplace? Very.

I’ve written about my daughter’s “adventures in diabetes” before.

The prompt for Day 13 is to write a poem about something mysterious and spooky, or in this case “just the everyday, mysterious, spooky quality of being alive.”

Images – Insulet Corp. Omnipod (insulin pump) – Continuous Glucose Monitor


One Drop at a Time

One Drop at a Time

Who would notice that a tiny girl was even tinier?
Did you take weeks or months to get there?

But five pounds was ten percent, and that first test strip
was a like a klaxon demanding a visit to the hospital.

We didn’t have weeks or months. Blood sugar levels
through the roof meant a three day stay.

Three days to learn the ways of a new life, and an eight-year old girl
grew up faster than any child should have to.

Learning the ins and outs, the highs and lows
of glucose management, the threat of bodily harm.

Things that shouldn’t be second nature. Thousands of finger sticks.
Thousands of injections. Dosage by instinct.

The gift of technology and the learning curve
of an insulin pump, worn like a badge of honor.

Advances meant that your phone could monitor your pump,
but still those finger sticks that continued for seventeen years.

Until those three magic letters, CGM. A continuous glucose monitor,
inserted like your pump, with constant blood glucose readings.

It was a long wait, but suddenly your numbers are manageable,
the threat of complications is reduced, and we all breathe easier.

Someday soon, your CGM will be able to talk to your insulin pump,
and that tiny girl, now a woman, will have her artificial pancreas.

My daughter, Alyssa, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was eight-years old. Within a year or two she had her first insulin pump, but finger sticks to test her blood continued for each meal or snack, and any time symptoms of high or low blood sugar were present. The pump connected to a tiny tube, changed every few days, that delivered insulin beneath her skin. It would need to be disconnected/connected before/after strenuous activity, so she went without it for three years during high school athletics. She now wears a pump that attaches directly to her skin, so there is no tube, and, for the first time, she recently acquired a continuous glucose monitor (CGM). She has stayed relatively healthy over the years, and as a school counselor she has the excellent character to be an advocate for students with diabetes.  (I have a few poems written about our experience here.)

The prompt for Day 3 of NaPoWriMo is to write a poem that involves a story or action that unfolds over an appreciable length of time, perhaps focusing on imagery, sound or emotional content. I think I’ve got that covered.

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mid-night reading

mid-night reading

numbers flash before my eyes
digital signal from a drop of red

correction, new message
delivered back to the source

all of this on autopilot, my mind
elsewhere, but right here

poke her, prod her
in the unfaltering trust of her slumbers

bringing unease at the thought
of yet another vulnerability

Hold a child’s trust in your hand, and you will know what it’s like to be a parent.
But you cannot always be a guardian. You can only hope that such faith will always be well placed. Such are my thoughts at 2 am, during a mid-night reading.

My daughter was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes when she was eight years old, and this was written in 2004, when she was ten. I would check on her when I got home from work after midnight. That would mean a finger stick to test her blood glucose level – the reading visible on the test meter – followed by settings on her insulin pump if her level was low (which would happen while she slept).
She is now 25, and very fit. In her desire to stay updated on her levels without constant finger sticks, she now has a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), which stays in her side with a tiny insertion and sends a reading to her phone app. It does just what the name says. I’m proud of her determination and the fact that she serves as an excellent role model as a school counselor.

I have a few poems written about our experience here.

This poem was brought to mind when I read Insulated, by Iain Kelly.

Image source:

sweetness of honey ~ haibun

sweetness of honey

sweetness of honey

From the time my eight-year-old daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation has been a resource and source of inspiration for my family. Offering education about blood glucose management and group events that bring together children and young adults who do not have to feel conspicuous in their special needs; providing a support network of parents who can offer insight and advice regarding the many challenges facing our children; and offering genuine concern for each new child diagnosed. These are the resources provided by JDRF.

The goal of JDRF is to find a cure for diabetes. The numerous fundraising events held by each chapter throughout the year that allow it to provide these resources also allow it to underwrite major research in medication and technology aimed at finding a cure for this deadly disease. One of those events is the Walk to Cure Diabetes (now JDRF/One Walk), and the Western New York Walk raises several hundred thousand dollars each year. Our family team, composed of friends and relatives, participated in the Walk for eleven years. It seemed only natural to support a cause that is so close to our hearts, and our team was able to collect over $60,000 for JDRF. One day, there will be a cure.

sweetness of honey
irony of stinging bee
blossom’s surprises

This haibun is my response to Frank Tassone’s #Haikai Challenge #48: Causes.

Shadows Dark

Shadows Dark.jpg

Shadows Dark

So dark in the darkness
that when you woke you spoke
of something wrong
longing to haunt you
with a secret spelled out
in an unnamed pain, strangling
sweetness and innocence
as if they meant nothing.

They wait, still, even
in the light of day, your will
the only thing slowing
their advance.

This probably is not to prompt for Day 8 of National/Global Poetry Writing Month (write a poem in which mysterious and magical things appear), but there it is.

It was after midnight, and I sat in the kitchen reading the paper after a late afternoon shift at work, when my daughter entered the room as frantic and scared as any eight-year-old girl could be. Something was wrong, but she couldn’t name it, couldn’t even describe it. I soothed her and stroked her temple until her eyes closed and she fell asleep. She had no memory of that night terror the next morning, and it was the only one we were aware that she experienced. She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes a short time later, with blood glucose levels through the roof. Like any child experiencing extreme challenges, she had her ups and downs, but eighteen years later she keeps its effects at bay.

Image source: Tarantula Nebula, Astronomy Picture of the Day

NaPoWriMo 2018

Für Elise

Für Elise

Für Elise

What good is an arrow in the heart of a child?
Or her leg. Her fingertips.
Any circumstance can seem random.
The outcome? Not so much.
Will you hear her whimpering in the night?
An organ does not care what note it goes out on.
Consider 20,000 finger sticks. That is a small part of a life.
Roget’s Thesaurus gives seven choices for injection.
One would be sufficient, but it’s never enough.
Organs can be replaced, at a cost.
Limbs don’t have that luxury.
Is her vision of the future cloudy or clear?
Plenty of things could go wrong.
Thinking there is no right answer is one way.
Management has a voice, but it must be exercised.
Make it a positive note.

I am so proud of my daughter. Diagnosed at eight years of age with type 1 diabetes, she has been determined to not let that stand in her way. She was always active as a child, continuing into adulthood. There have been some hard times, but she has maintained a positive attitude. Now, as a grade school counselor, she understands that each child is unique, with an insight that comes from the experience of her own challenges.

The five word prompts for The Secret Keeper’s Weekly Writing Prompt #111 are right, arrow, hear, child and good.
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