Saturday, June 30, 2012

At this moment
Living in the moment is a good survival strategy so here is my moment. Right now Tom Petty is singing Free Falling outside my window. (His first time in Italy and he picks the Lucca Summer Festival 2012.) I had come back from teaching my free class for LIFE gym on the walls of the city. I had to go the long way around because the shortcut to my house was blocked off by the concert. I went out of my way to go by a stash of gossipy fashion magazines for me and my girl. As my favorite gentleman at the edicola/magazine store was closing up shop I saw him hold his head in his hands and stagger. I asked if he had a headache and he pointed to a bloody bandage on his leg. I ended up giving him a bioenergy treatment and he gave me a free magazine. The have to remember to go back tomorrow to see how he is feeling. As soon as I got home one of my students was waiting in front of my house to give me a photo of her husband who has MS and who wanted to be treated with bioenergy. His energy was all prickly which is always amazing to experience.

T finally got out of the house and I think it is thanks to the melissa tea that Jim Sparandeo, our naturopata, had her drink. She seems to be doing better and had her mood lifted by her tutor Lucia who came and paid her a long visit, despite being just walloped by having finished her high school exams from the Liceo Classico yesterday. Plus she bumped into her pal Natasha outside and so gave herself her LANTUS injection right there in the piazza with no problems so she could stay out longer.

At the moment, I'm looking up along with everything else.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Hot off the press
It is so incredibly hot in Lucca right now. The hot news of today is that Jim Sparandeo told us to give T some tea made from celery seeds and it had an immediate anti-inflammatory effect on her digestive track so she feels some relief. She has a ridiculous amount of swelling from the IV drip they gave her and she feels like a hot air balloon with a stomach ache.

 T has been checking out some blogs on kids with type 1 diabetes. This one kid she read about apparently ate two pounds of candy on Halloween without his parents knowing -- and he still had a lower blood glucose number than she had when she entered the hospital last week. I hope her edema will go away soon so that she feels more comfortable overall.

We feel like all of Lucca is cheering for us, but I think it also has to do with the fact that every time Italy scores a goal in the soccer match, the whole city roars in celebration. There are two mega screens up in Piazza Grande, but many folks go to their favorite neighborhood bar to raise a glass or drown their sorrows. We just scored again.

Go T go!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Bright & Early
This morning we got up really early to make the drive to the children's hospital in Florence.  We had a moment of panic when I recognized the word digiuna/fasting in Italian next to the appointment slip because we had already given T insulin and breakfast. The other mammas in the waiting room were nice and showed us that the tiny plastic bucket on the computer actually contained numbers written on pieces of post-its that were meant, I suppose, to replace an actual human being at the reception desk. Luckily T was able to take the tests anyway. The wait was long because most of the doctors are away on their summer vacations.

 It definitely seemed to lift T's spirits to see that she is not the only kid who does the finger pricks and the injections and meal management as part of her daily routine. I got to meet the doctor who barks at me on the phone every day and was surprised that she looks like Velma from Scooby Doo and could not be any nicer in person. Italian phone manners are . . . interesting. Also, I think I forgot to mention that while the Meyer hospital is excellent and huge, it is also full of mosquitoes. F said he hadn't seen so many mosquitoes in a hospital apart from movies set in the Victorian era.

The good news was that T's edema in her hands, feet, and face should pass and her glycemic values were excellent and under control. I had a whole cell phone drama trying to decide if I should go to work for a personal training session of a new client at the gym, but in the end she didn't want to work out in the heat anyway. Tonight we have a very exhausted, uncomfortable, brave person on our hands, but tomorrow, when we are all rested, things will go better. And we'll start putting photos back in this blog situation.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

False alarm
Last night T's feet, hands, and face were swollen and the medical contact that I call at the children's hospital in She went from weighing 33 chilos to 42. Florence told me that we should go back to the emergency room because she couldn't help us over the phone. Although we knew it would lead to even more people yelling at me in speed of light Italian, we decided not to take her last night because we were concerned that the  five hour wait in an emergency room would do more harm that good. Today she was even more swollen and she was screaming in pain for what turned out to be internal cuts on her rectum.  We got the important diabetes doctor of Lucca to call ahead for us to the emergency room and we were seen right away. It turned out not to be her kidneys as we feared, but a reaction to the foreign insulin that in most cases abates after a week. (NOPE, I MISUNDERSTOOD. IT IS EDEMA FROM THE FLUIDS SHE RECEIVED AND SHOULD RESOLVE ITSELF IN A WEEK.) I'm stressed that I missed work again, but I can't imagine how I would have taught today anyway because between the midnight blood test and the getting up early --there isn't much energy left. One of the nurses kept shaking her head, but it turned out she just couldn't get over how American's write the number four. She kept muttering something about how it should be a nine drawn like that and peering at me like she could divine other lost cultural secrets of the crypt. Tomorrow we have to wake up very early to take her back to Florence for an important blood test.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Piu' di una lavata di capo
Today I got yelled at for the most ridiculous things.

 I got to the doctor's office at 8 AM even though he was not due to show up until 9:30. I was first. Twenty minutes later and older gentleman popped his head in and said good morning and asked if I was first for the doctor. Ten minutes later that same thing happened again. I only vaguely was aware that they were two different gentlemen. Then a woman and her son came in. When the fourth patient showed up and said the infamous Italian doctor's office line: Chi e' l'ultimo/Who came in last? -- there was a big scuffle. The woman thought she was second because no one else was in the room but me when she entered. The older men both thought they were second because I was alone in the room when they came in separately and then ducked back out separately. I tried to stay out of the fray until they all started insisting that I clear things up, which I couldn't because the two older men were now identical to me in my mind and lost all of my ability to speak Italian. Everyone glared at me. The doctor showed up fifteen minutes late. In the end, he entered T into the computer system with a certificato di esenzione so that we can get her medicine for free.

The medical person on the emergency diabetic telephone line barked at me this morning and this evening when I had to call to read her T's blood levels. I always try to explain who I am and why I am calling, but it is slowly dawning on me that maybe I am the only one who ever calls this number and so she always knows it's me or my number is showing up on a screen somewhere.

I went to the pharmacy because I thought that they told me to come back today, but I was wrong. Then we were out of needles and so then F had to go back to the pharmacy. Then we figured out why T has been screaming with pain in the bathroom and F had to go back to the pharmacy again.

The office staff of T's school yelled at me as well, but I had my fairy godmother bidella/custodian named Marta with me so that was less horrible. T got amazingly good grades given everything she was going through. One of the ladies told me that because I had gestational diabetes I should have been more aware that this was happening to T.

Aside from being yelled at I cried about four times for no specific reason. In front of people and in response to the question: How's your daughter doing? I did manage to teach a class to two bewildered female students without barely saying two words or looking them in the eyes. Therefore, I had to explain why I was being so weird and so I cried again.

People are just coming out of the woodwork to tell me that they were just about to tell me that something was wrong with T lately, but that they never ended up doing it. There are also a lot of people telling me not to beat myself up for not knowing or bringing her in to the doctor sooner and an equal number of people shaking their heads at me and clicking their tongues.

The good things were that Natasha and Caoimhe visited T and that Carlo and Adonella visited me. I got to give Adonella this stunning, hand-printed cashmere scarf for her birthday.

Sex & the City (without the sex)

 T is doing better. She has some roundness in her face again. Her numbers are better. She does the injections all herself and the blood tests. She pricks her finger ten times a day to do the tests and puts a needle in her belly or her thigh five times a day and she is still able to crack funny jokes and steal good moments for herself. She is super bored because we have been stuck in the house, but she is too weak to go out. We eat when she can eat and what she can eat. Every day she seems more back to how she was probably before February. The most impressive thing is that she still appreciates little blessings like that she gets excited to be able to eat as much broccoli or cauliflower as she wants because they don't effect her blood levels. She is amazing.

After a week without ever feeling the air touch my face, (minus one morning of shopping therapy that I permitted myself after these stressful days with my heroic daughter) finally I went out with my girlfriends. This is the group that I always dreamed of having my whole life. We are an equal foursome. My three partners in crime are each amazing in their own right. We got dressed up for each other or for ourselves, depending on how you look at it. They brought my girl a present and then they took me out for wine and made me eat even when I said I wasn't hungry. I love them more than words than can say. We took turns confessing all of our trials and misadventures since we were last together and made more noise at the bar than all of the loyal soccer fans who had turned out to watch Italia vs. Inghilterra in the big match tonight. We ended the night at the only big chain bookstore open on a Sunday night, where I convinced them to buy 50 Sfumature di Grigio/50 Shades of Gray so that I could figure out why a book that is so vile is also one that I can't actually put down. It took me 26 years to recreate that feeling of belonging which I knew during the few months in high school where I was part of a group of four girlfriends. It was a short-lived high that I have missed so much, I can't even tell you. When I came back home tonight, I felt like maybe I will even be able to wake up early and go to the doctor and the pharmacy and the f-ing middle school and get everything horrible done that needs to be done because I will know for sure that I am not alone. When I told them that we were like Sex & the City without the sex, they laughed and laughed.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Yesterday, as we were being dismissed from the hospital, they told me that I had really screwed up. When they gave us the instruction to go to the health office/asl as soon as possible, they meant that minuto and not after we got back to Lucca. We might have put T's possibility of getting her month's supply of insulin at risk. Then I thought to call Amelia, our pharmacist. She was away at a training course, but her parents at the pharmacy rushed to help us. They talked to the head of the Diabetes department and when I got to Lucca they sent  my newest miracle-- Lara -- who works with them, to go to the pediatrician with me. I had asked Bianca who works at the provincia when the asl was next open and she told me that the head person there said we had to meet with our family doctor first. I have spent about thirty seconds with our family doctor since we have been in Lucca and did not even remember what he looked like. I told Bianca in an irritated tone, one I would suck back into my cheeks this instant if I could, that they must be mistaken and had a minor meltdown. But of course she was right.

 Lara was so great that she actually took me over to the doctor's office twice. It is bizarrely comforting that his name is DiDio/of God because a better recommendation than that is hard to find. Once she walked over with me in the steamy heat only to find out that he now had a new summer schedule. She told me to call her when I was about to be called. I got there an hour early and was first. Moments later a man with whooping cough was dismayed to find out that I had beaten him to the punch. He got his revenge by coughing all over me in the waiting room. Lara came and the doctor got us into the Italian system by which we will not have to pay for the medicine. I love Lara.

This morning I got to the asl bright and early, encouraged by T's new improved blood levels. They told me that they could next do the paperwork for me on July 30th. Thank god the receptionist who also has diabetes was in a rule breaking mood and the official on call was a woman who I remembered finding out was named Anna ten months ago. Anna got it done!

I was so rattled by the whole thing that I stopped by Massimo Pretty Hair on the way home to get a hug from Federica. Gabriella walked me over to the pharmacy. Lara got our medicine ready and Dottoressa Elvira and her husband Federico gave me a ton of encouragement. T's numbers have also been good after breakfast.

I was told that we have to call the hospital every single day to read the diary of blood levels to someone. I called the number and was told it was only for emergencies. I dialed the next four extensions that I was given and finally just called the head of the department who took the information and gave us T's new dosages for the day. So far so good. Serena came by to look at our pile of paperwork and give me a hug. Later one of T's classmates, Chiara,  is going to stop by for a brief visit with her mom Paola. Jim Sparandeo and Zoran Hochstatter are back on call too. Thank God also for them.
alti e bassi
T had been losing weight for some time, but I thought it was a growth spurt. She was drinking more and more water, but it is really hot out. Her eyes looked bleary and watery, but she had been having trouble sleeping. No fever, no sore throat, no cough. I started to wonder if she wasn't a bit anemic. Every time I asked her how she felt she said she was fine. Finallly, I made an appointment with a doctor. Then I canceled the appointment and made one sooner. Then I canceled that and insisted she see us that same afternoon. By the time we were seen by the doctor she told us that we had to go to the emergency room. I remembered that my boss had had a bad experience in the Lucca emergency room with her baby. I called my friend Serena that is a doctor and she recommended that we go to the emergency room in a small town near by because the pediatric department was better organized than the one in Lucca and the one that she knows in Pisa was swamped that night. By the time we got there T was having difficulty breathing.

I could not believe my eyes when the hunky trainer Giovanni was standing in front of the hospital like the San Michele Arcangelo. I called out to him and he happened to know a woman in red suspenders who carries the lettino/stretcher to bring in emergency patients. Thanks to him T was seen instantly. Half an hour later there were ninety other patients in the emergency room. They diagnosed T with diabetes and said that she was in a state of acidosi. Later I found out that with further delays she could have gone into a coma. How did she get so skinny so fast. She had lost three chili in less than two weeks. I could kill myself for being so distracted with my messed up ankle.  Our friend Carlo who is a dentist came to the hospital to advocate for us. My friend Bianca came to give me a pack of kleenex and a hug. F went home to pack us a bag and drive to the children's hospital in Florence. The best in all of Italy, practically. T and I went in the ambulance with a siren and everything. Luckily, T fell asleep. They couldn't get her flebo bag to work in the ambulance and there was a big delay. Two nurses came with us and they were all very kind.

At the children's hospital she was put on saline and then insulin and twelve hours later her face stopped looking so skeletal. F and I shared a tiny single mattress on the floor of her private room. We didn't sleep and they checked her blood almost every hour. The next day I started to feel ill and they took my blood pressure and it was really low. An hour later I was on the floor, moaning and all of the previously kind medical staff were looking at me like I was making a dreadful scene. Our friend Fabio came and got me and drove me home where I took a sleeping pill. The  next day my friend Gabriella's husband Antonio drove me back to Florence first thing. We started to get lessons on how to test T's blood before and after her three meals and two snacks plus once at midnight. We all learned how to give the insulin injections. I knew she was my real hero in this world when I saw her give herself the injection for the first time. She had many times told me in the past she could never be a nurse, but you wouldn't know that from seeing her in action.

We tried to beg for food for her because she kept saying she was starving, but the dietitian was very strict. And very Italian. For some reason she can have focaccia con nutella for breakfast, and was horrified that T likes to have potatoes in the morning and that we often mix our vegetables into the pasta without serving fagiolini on its own dish.

If we ever doubted that we could establish new deep friendships in a short time in Italy, my cell phone memory shows the proof that indeed our friends are the true kind. I spoke with Serena, Bianca, Carlo, Adonella, Gabriella, Antonio, Anna Maria, Paola, Fabio, Melissa, Christina, Patrizia, Gemma, the other Fabio, Deborah, Giusy, Jessica, Federica, Amelia, T's orthodontist, and several of T's friends sent messages of love.

It is really hard not giving her what she wants to eat when she wants to eat when clearly she is so very hungry. It is horrible seeing her down and joyful seeing her rally. It is scary to be sucked back into the health care system that I have worked so hard to be free of. I am so grateful for my daughter and for everyone who has helped us in these last five days. It can only get better from here. In Italy we have not had to pay a cent for the excellent care she has received, although tomorrow the bureaucracy kicks in and we'll see the other side of that coin. I am especially glad that with all of the numbers we have to keep track of some of them lead to some truly loyal, loving friends that mean it when they say let us know if we can help..

Friday, June 15, 2012

Belly time

My boss Gemma gave me an energy treatment and immediately afterwards my tendon was fifty percent better. Today she is going to treat me again. Luckily the only other person in Lucca who does what I do professionally can help me when I need healing. I am still going crazy not being able to dance or jump, but at least I can do the mat work section of my own Metamorfosi class. Today I have a double to teach, the last one of the year at Happy gym where I will probably only have my loyal student Patrizia, and the one on the walls for all of skeptical people who don't know me and have never heard of this method. When I have full mobility this is still daunting, but today . . .  Sigh.

Lisa soars!
Check it out:

Lisa (center) had like 6 costume changes!

Hungry girls (pre-pizza)

Lovely Alma
Last night we went to see Lisa's beauteous bollywood and belly dancing exhibition at a restaurant hotel kind of in the middle of nature. Who stays there and who can find that place is a mystery. Lisa is the mom of three, including T's friend Caoimhe, and that is her real midsection. I have used no photo-shop whatsoever. It was a double whammy because our friend Alma was also dancing in the show.  Speaking of bellies, they pre-fixe menu of pizza and bruschetta might have been okay, but the waiters were shocked and dismayed that that we were vegetarians and insisted on putting chicken livers on my plate and spicy salami on T's to the point where I had to insist that they take my whole plate away and start from scratch. I guess liver is considered a vegetable here?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

If I get too tired to explain this later, it is an master chef/photographer holding a smurf/puffo because it has the colors of the soccer team of Italia.

More end of the year joy
They made toe caps out of water balloons. Don't ask.

Talent, talent everywhere

Sunday night we went to hear Melissa's talented kids sing, play the drums, and chant about pirates while swishing percussion instruments respectively. I am not even being a little bit biased when I tell you that they were the highlights of the whole three hour, seven million degree extravaganza. Natasha had a star moment and really moved people with her angelic singing.

We also enjoyed all of the explicit songs sung in English by the young people, who, I like to think, had no idea what they were talking about.

There was this one young man with his girlfriend who helped him both to chain himself and then to unchain him as he sang about liberation. It reminded me a lot of that movie about the Doors with Val Kilmer.

IT was

a long, long

long show.
 Then we went to Anna's house for a dinner up in the hillside filled with artistic people and soccer enthusiasts. It was one of those nights that I always dreamed of before we moved here: a house out of a design magazine, the best prosecco ever, and lots of people who are passionate about painting, fashion, food, wine, and music.

p.s. Now I'm miserable because it turns out that if you flip your foot over the wrong way and your ankle doesn't swell up it does not mean that you are lucky; it means that you tore your peroneous tendon and also that the last thing in the world you should do is jump on it. Too late. I have 11 more classes to teach this week.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

La fine della scuola:)
Our T has officially survived the equivalent of seventh grade which is no small feat wherever you are. Here in Lucca making it through la seconda media is paramount to the Hunger Games with some mean competitors in the arena, untrustworthy point people, and enough summer homework to make one insane. At some point we have to go to the post office to make a mandatory "donation" to the school to re-register her for next year and then there is an assigned day to pick up her report card and to get the new extensive book list. Third year of middle school is much more difficult because next summer T will have to pass a series of oral exams (in Italian, obviously) in order to graduate. Those should be fun times. . .

Back to the joy of the present. T got out one hour early and immediately fled to her go-to-girls Natasha, Giorgia, and Caoimhe -- all of whom speak English and throw a mean water balloon. F made them pizza for lunch. I don't know what they're up to exactly, but it involves running up and down the stairs shrieking and also using the computer. There is bound to be a sleepover of epic proportions involved.

After all the worrying I did about not having work this summer, I have plenty of work until August when we are going away for vacation anyway. Thanks to Tony who recommended Allimax, I have not gotten one mosquito bite, and thanks to Derma Sol sun protection, which is good on preventing sun spots if you remember to reapply,  I think this summer will be a huge improvement.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Could be worse
Let's see. . . T got a horrible stomach virus that had her knocked out of circulation for Monday evening through Wednesday afternoon. F and I had a lighter version, but it still was not fun.

 T went back to school just in time to get her summer homework assignments and I made it through teaching all of my Thursday classes and sighed with relief.  When I was walking past the railroad tracks on my way home, practically weeping with exhaustion, a car made a sharp turn and scared me and I started. When I looked down the soul of my sneaker was facing up. I felt like Mrs. Potato Head with the foot piece put on backwards. I got home on adrenalin, but then once I got the sneaker off, I saw that it was all bruised looking. I went into a panic because today I had a bunch of classes lined up including my first Tonificazione class on the walls of Lucca.

My boss Dino had proudly showed off to me that he bought a huge sound system to plug into the outdoor electric source at baluardo s. regolo. We did a test run with my ipod and we almost blew the ceiling off the gym. As it happened today, I was too achy to go home between classes so I limped up to the baluardo and sat for an hour avoiding ants  on the bench until people showed up. All 25 of them. I should never have called my class Metamorfosi because people flock to Tonificazione and it is the exact same thing. Sorry to ramble. I'm typing with my ankle on a pile of frozen peas and I've been drinking. Wine. So as you could predict, there was no current and no music. I did the worst Italian comedy routine ever invented and people seemed to both like the class and to have not noticed that I had a twisted ankle.

Me and my elastic hand puppet. Times are grim.

Today, however, was recycling day for kids in Piazza Grande:
Recycling bureaucracy for little people. It was cute.
Tomorrow, thank goodness, is T's last day of school. I plan to do nothing. Zero and also zero which is Italian for zero.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Inside Jokes - Lucca Style

Me & Adonella

Matteo doing his thing.

Saturday night was a huge success because a real fancy Italian woman admired by footwear and because I understood almost all of the jokes that my friend Federica's brother Matteo Cesca told during his comedy routine in piazzina San Carlo for his sold out show. He talked about what it's like in the waiting room at the doctor's office and what it's like finding the right checkout line at the supermarket. He is really good and had the crowd roaring. He even got a gig at the Summer Festival on July 13th, which is very impressive.

He ended the show with an anecdote about how five Chinese tourists with cameras came over to look at poster of him which is sandwiched between those of Laura Pausini and Duran Duran, both of whom are coming here to perform at the Summer Festival. They look at him and then the poster and then at him and then the poster, then they asked: "Can you take a picture of us?" Sfigato.

Gotta make the doughnuts. . I mean bagels.

We had a lovely day with fellow American expat Rebecca and her son Gianni. They are from Connecticut and had a craving for NY bagels and brunch so F delivered big time. Rebecca makes beautiful jewlery and I might know just the person to host a party for her to get her introduced to the right clients in Lucca. In fact, Adonella, whose design sensibility is impeccable, stopped by and bought a pair of earrings straight away and graciously offered her terrazza for a jewlery party in a few weeks time.

On Sunday we went to the beach with my friend Bianca at Torre di Lago.
Me - pale as Casper
T asleep with the shadows of her exhausted parents over her. Very Harry Potter.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

The Mago of Oz
Tonight we saw T's third performance of the Dream of Carlo Collodi at her school which was done up all fancy for its 70th birthday. There were student ballet dancers, and hip hoppers and classical musicians along with sword fighters and balloons, and television monitors arranged as though we were on some weird episode of Big Brother/Grande Fratello. It was surreal to say the least.

I didn't know tonight was a big deal. Until I saw the balloon grapes.

Real friends sit in the audience for the encore performance.

What ever happened to a plain old parent - teacher night? Where are we?

After swallowing some pine nut, basil and ricotta pasta whole, we raced back out to the Giglio Theater where we went to see T's friend Natasha's little sister play a poppy flower in the Wizard of Oz. It was the Hard Rock Cafe meets the House of Blues version as it was accompanied by a very good quartet of musicians from the high school on electric guitar and other stringy electric instruments. You have got to see the footage to believe the amount of work that these kids and their crazy, crazy teachers and sewing parents did to get these kids into costume and moving in unison. The amount that the two Dorothy's had to memorize was staggering. The first Dorothy was a high soprano and kind of timid and the second was more balls to the walls. They were both very good.

 The show started with three men in suits giving speeches. That is how every event in Italy starts.

Which one was the tin man?
Did your school auditorium look like this?
They take their end of the year shows a tad seriously here.

Mommy pride!
It was worth keeping the little pink roses alive for forty eight hours to see the look on little Sofia's face. She had a fever when she got home from school and slept for four hours and then made it through the whole show. She was the only poppy who really sang and did the hand gestures.