Dear Santa, will you please take this diabetes away?

I’ve posted this six previous times on this blog, the first being in 2009 best I can tell. Hey, when something’s good, enjoy it again. Merry, merry, happy holidays.

Dear Santa,

All I’d like this Christmas is for you to take this diabetes away. I’m so tired of it already. All the time stabbing my fingers for blood and guessing when my sugar’s too high or too low.

Now that I’m in menopause I can barely tell whether I’m sweating because I’m losing estrogen or because my blood sugar’s crashing at 50 mg/dl!

And, can we talk… I mean the constant figuring out how many carbs are in a ravioli or bread stick or that fried calamari that will be at the company Christmas party. Some days I just want to lie down and shoot myself. Please, please, Santa, would you take this diabetes away?


Dear Riva,

I’m very sorry you’re having a tough time during my favorite season. I only want people to be singing carols and drinking eggnog and feeling good cheer. Unfortunately, it says in my contract that I’m not allowed to interfere with life’s natural occurrences. So here’s my suggestion: although you’ve already opened your holiday gifts, go back and look under your Hanukkah bush for the gift in having diabetes.

You may have to spend a few days looking, so why don’t you schedule it for the week between Christmas and New Year’s while you have some down time? Then you can start the new year fresh.

Best wishes,
Santa and the gang

Dear Santa,

A gift in my diabetes? What are you, crazy? Meshuggah? Thanks, but no thanks!


Dear Rabbi,

I seek your wise counsel. I wrote to Santa to take away my diabetes, but he wasn’t helpful at all. Surely you who have studied the Torah and represent our people who have suffered throughout history can help me with this awful diabetes.

It’s such a strain, Rabbi. I have to test my blood sugar when I really want to be lighting the sabbath candles. I forgot all about the High Holy Days this year because I was so busy counting carbs in the Challah, bagels and honey cake.

Rabbi, please, what solace can you offer me? What words of wisdom? Surely you would tell me to just forget about this diabetes thing and go shopping, right?

Please write soon,

Dear Riva,

Santa and I just returned from the Caribbean, and he told me about your difficulty. He said he told you to look for the gift in your diabetes. I concur with Santa; there are many gifts to be found in diabetes, if you look. For one, my child, you won’t have to drink the traditional Manishewitz holiday wine anymore. The Counsel all agree that it is much too sweet. Bring out the Chardonnay!

When Santa asks you to look for a gift in your diabetes, he is not saying this because you are not Catholic and he is not bringing you anything, although this is true. He is speaking like our brothers the Buddhists, who profess that there is a gift in everything if you look for something positive that it can bring into your life.

Let me tell you a story, my child. My own Aunt Sheila had diabetes, and after she stopped kvetching, she went to a spa and learned how to eat healthfully. She shopped along Rodeo Drive and bought a cute little jogging outfit and started running. On her jog along the ocean she met her fourth husband, Marvin, and they’re very happy. They just moved into a $6 million mansion in Jupiter, Fla. — right next to Burt Reynolds! Everyone’s plotzing! The house was in foreclosure so they have even more money to decorate!

Darling girl, find a gift in your diabetes, because to be honest, since you’re not orthodox, and all I have are these great wigs I got on sale from my cousin Schlomo, I’m not bringing you anything, either. And really, it’s not very pleasant to whine.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi, Local Union 107

Dear Rabbi,

I thought about what you and Santa said and have decided to become a Buddhist. I picked up the Dalai Lama’s book, “The Art of Happiness.” He says, “Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” I told my friend Joe I like butterflies, and I like the robe, so these aren’t bad gifts.

Joe said the quote meant that we are the source of our happiness, that happiness can only come from inside us, regardless of what happens in our lives. Hmm, I said, maybe I need to learn more. So I booked a flight to Tibet.

Now if only I didn’t have to drag all this damn diabetes stuff with me…. ohm… ohm… oy.

My new treat: a protein shake for lunch

I am not one of those people who enjoys drinking my meals. So when my friend told me that for the past few months she’d been making and enjoying a protein shake for lunch, I thought, yuck not me. But, I am now among the converted.

I tried it largely because many days I do a version of intermittent fasting. I make a cup of coffee when I first wake up. Yes, tis true, I put cream in it, but I sort of don’t register this as breaking my fast. Some will argue, but so be it. That cup of coffee with cream around 8 am fills me up until around 10:30 or 11 am. And here’s something interesting: It’s not that I’m trying not to eat, I’m literally just not indulging in the habit of breakfast, and so find I’m not hungry those first few hours of the day.

So, most days I eat my breakfast – yogurt, a half slice of cinnamon coffee bread (I make myself), a spoonful of almond butter and two spoonfuls of tahini – around 11 am. That means I’m once again not hungry at the proverbial lunch hour. Instead around 2 pm I have an edge of appetite and make myself a protein shake. It’s just perfect to fill that little hole in my stomach with something filling, nourishing and tasty. There are a zillion protein shake recipes online. Take a look.

My shakes (only been doing it a few weeks) are a variation on a theme. Typically, I use a third of a banana, to keep the carbs low and add some berries, which are already low in carbs. I add a few spoonfuls of plain greek yogurt, a cup of almond milk, the green in the picture above was made green by adding some red Swiss chard, (you can add any green veg that doesn’t have a strong taste, many use spinach), then, while the serving size appears to be one scoop, I’m using half a scoop (after all, I am not protein deficient) of my Plant Fusion vanilla protein powder, 4 ice cubes (the ice cubes add heft) and I blend it all in a blender my mother likely gave me when I moved into my first apartment after college.

There are a lot of protein powders out there. I bought this one I’m using above in Whole Foods but I see they also sell it on Amazon, which is the link I included above. I bought PlantFusion because I read all the nutrition labels of all the choice, and this one seemed to hit the trifecta of low carb, healthy ingredients and price.

When I told my friend I was making using that old blender my mom gave me, she said, “Why don’t you get a Nutribullet?” Whereupon I replied, “Why should I? This is doing all I need!” The defense rests.

So if you’re tired of what you’re eating for lunch, or you’re experimenting with different ways of eating, you might consider trying a protein shake for your breakfast or lunch, whatever suits you. My prejudice of not wanting to drink a meal has disappeared. It’s so tasty, satisfying, filling and nutritionally sound. It’s been a wonderful discovery for me, and I don’t see that stopping anytime soon.

When in the void, what to do

As the year winds down, good and bad, I wanted to post this poem. When it was first sent to me, it spoke to me. I found it beautiful and true. No matter what we do, actions great and small, I do believe the world speaks to us if we can be quiet enough to listen.

I have talked a lot over these past 20 years. How many words I’ve uttered on stages, and from behind lecterns, around the world in an attempt to uplift others with diabetes, and the health professionals who tend us. All the words I’ve written that look back at me in three books and hundreds of articles. It’s all good and I am proud.

Still, greeting this moment, this ever present, every changing moment, I wait quietly as the song that is my life falls down into my cupped hands. This is particularly poignant for me as I reflect upon the current stream of my life with the passing of this year.

Please Dexcom, fix this

Why is it at least 50% of the time I put on a new Dexcom G6 sensor, I get this message? I follow the instructions, yet this pops up way too often. What’s happening? And beyond whatever is happening, this not knowing whether or not my sensor will work, I notice increases my stress level. As if type 1 diabetes did not already require 24/7 hyper vigilance.

Of all the things people hope the G7 will be – that the sensor is smaller, thinner, more accurate and gives you a farther range, I’m hoping this screenshot above will be history.