Sunshine and Mangos


IMG_6902(Mangos being substituted for rainbows.)


The thing about exchange is that not everything is perfect. Not everything is sunshine and mangos the entire time. If you just read the blog posts and look at the pictures, everything seems amazing. The dream life is that perfect picture of you and a gorgeous view with your flag or your best friend. But in reality, exchange is made up of every day moments, too. Moments where all you do all day is go to school and come home and then go to bed. Days where you have a cold and feel miserable.

My first night in Brazil, a little more than four months ago, I thought that I had made a terrible mistake. The lights were off, it was dark outside, I was tired and jetlagged, and I was definitely not very happy at that point. I was wondering just what I had gotten myself into. Everything was different. My room was small, it was hot and humid, I didn’t really understand my new host mom, wifi didn’t reach my new room, the mattress was lumpy, etc.IMG_5196

Of course, since that first night, life has been pretty good. I have lived the dream. I have plenty of those perfect pictures. I was lucky to get a great first host family.

My first host mom, Virna, and myself

My first host mom, Virna, and myself

One of the policies of Rotary is that each exchange student will switch host families at least once, and the Rotary exchange students of Natal, Brasil, are no exception. The switch happened just before New Year, and I was again lucky enough to go to my first choice house. The exchange students here switch families amongst ourselves, and I went to Eric from Finland’s first host family. The setup of this family is exactly the same as my previous host family: a mom and me. My new mom’s name is Nelly, and her son is doing his exchange in Newton, Iowa. (What’s in Iowa? Apparently he’s pretty bored. Poor kid.)

Veera, Virna, and Claire

Veera, Virna, and Claire

The reason Nelly was my first choice is primarily because of the location of her apartment. My first host mom lived in one of the best spots in the city, in my opinion. Near public transportation, school close enough to walk to, easy access to beach, mall, athletic club, etc. Nelly lives about fifteen blocks down the road, in the same part of the city, with all of the above applicable. Plus, she is a really nice person. All of the exchange families are really nice here, so I really couldn’t lose on that front.

The switching of families went off without a hitch. The letting go of Mom One (as I’ve taken to calling Virna, to make it easier for all those involved) was not so easily accomplished. I still think of Virna as my mom. I think of Nelly as my mom. This makes conversations complicated.

Eric, Nelly's first host son, Nelly, and me

Eric, Nelly’s first host son, Nelly, and me

Nelly is great. She is very spontaneous. She doesn’t speak a word of English which is really forcing my Portuguese to get better, because with Mom One I could ask her for words in English during conversations. I now know the words for all sorts of random things because Nelly will see something and stop and make me repeat it until I have it memorized (speed bump is lombada). She is loud. She talks a lot. She blasts music in her tiny apartment at ten at night. She has a tiny apartment with a hammock in the main room that I have quickly fallen in love with.

I was very melancholy my first few weeks with Nelly. My first night at Nelly’s house mirrored my first night at Virna’s. I was sad, thinking I was crazy, and wondering just what I had gotten myself into. I missed Virna. And it was all the harder since I knew Virna and her new exchange daughter Veera had a standing invitation to come over and spend the night whenever I wanted to. They have a guest room which they have basically dubbed as “Claire’s room.”

I have taken Virna and Veera up on this standing invitation. Nelly didn’t have any plans for New Year’s Eve, and Virna’s family did, so we went to the Yacht Club and watched the fireworks as they were set off over the main bridge that leads into the city. I stayed the night, and then Virna told me to stay another night, so I did. Before leaving Nelly’s apartment, she had told me that if it was summer vacation and that if I wanted to stay at Virna’s for a week, she didn’t care. All I had to do was let her know what I was up to.

IMG_6792At this point I was feeling very comforatable at Virna’s, and not at all comfortable at Nelly’s. Of course I wanted to stay for a week at Virna’s house, but there was a little voice in the back of my head telling me that I just needed to get used to Nelly and everything would be fine, and that even though Nelly had told me that everything was fine with her if I hung out with Virna and Veera for a few days, I was a bad exchange student for not even trying to have a relationship with my new mom. So even though Virna told me to stay another night, I told her that I needed to go back to Nelly’s house. It just about killed me to go back, but I did. I told Virna this and she hugged me for about five minutes. I think she misses me just as much as I miss her.

That being said, Nelly has become such a great mom to me. She had to get used to me just as much as I had to get used to her. She’s never had a daughter before, and she is used to loud and expressive children, just as she is herself. She told me that she worried about me the first few days because she thought I was really unhappy and upset with her because I was so quiet, but now she knows that I am generally pretty quiet.

Also, I can now see why it’s a good thing to switch families. Virna is Brazilian. Nelly is Brazilian. With Nelly, I’ve been exposed to a completely different part of Brazil than I was with Virna. With Nelly, I’ve been receiving an education on Brazilian Rock, gone to Mass once, gone to small markets and restaurants, seen what public healthcare looks like, met a huge huge huge extended family, and have gotten insight to another Brazilian’s view of politics. Life is good and I am very happy.



Yesterday I went to Mass with Nelly. Nelly is very Catholic. In her apartment she has a shrine to the Virgin Mary and her dead mother. She goes to Mass at least once a week, and many times more. I went with her yesterday to see what a Brazilian Mass looks like. I don’t know what an American Mass looks like. I went to a Mass once in the Vatican, and that is about the extent of my Catholic education. When everyone stood, I stood, and when everyone kneeled, I sat. I didn’t feel completely comfortable kneeling and Nelly didn’t say anything so I figured I wasn’t too disrespectful. It was kind of funny, because she was really insistent that I do some things, like crossing myself, while in the next minute she told me to take my phone out so I could take a picture. I had kept my phone away, not wanting to be disrespectful. In the long run, in it didn’t matter, since my phone ran out of space so I couldn’t take any pictures anyways.



I like the food so much better here at Nelly’s than at Virna’s. Neither one of them cook, but Nelly’s maid makes more variety and also makes enough food to last for the days when she doesn’t come so Nelly doesn’t go to restaurants all the time like Virna. Not to mention the fruit. The fruit here is the same that I had at Virna’s: mango, papaya, pineapple, guava, so on. The fact that it’s the same doesn’t make it any less of a treat. Furthermore, unlike at Virna’s, Nelly makes concentrate for juice herself, while Virna would just buy it at the store. This makes the juice all the much better. I have also learned the joy of having orange juice minutes after it was squeezed.IMG_6909



After mentioning to my parents and friends back at home for several months that I was considering playing basketball, I have finally signed up. I have never played basketball in my life, except for messing around with friends in driveways.

Nelly is a member at a nearby athletic club called AABB. I have become her dependent, and have joined the basketball practice they have three times a week there. Veera from Finland, Virna’s new host daughter joined basketball at the same time that I did.

I know absolutely nothing about basketball, but so far it’s been super fun since I’m running around and doing drills that the teacher has to literally help me do step by step and playing pickup games, etc. This is the first time during my entire exchange that I’ve joined something that I’m actually really into, and it gets me out of the house more. AABB is maybe ten or fifteen blocks down the road, so I’ve also been walking to and from the club. As far as I know, we won’t be playing games against other teams, but they have pickup games every Saturday and Sunday that I’m planning on going to, and I’m perfectly to mess around with other people knowing that I’m terrible. The practice is coed, but so far there has only been one other girl other than Veera and myself.


Tchau for now!

Battling Blood Sugars

Exercise is going to kill me. I mean, it’s good for you and everything, but it’s still out to bite me in the butt because blood sugars are so hard to manage, and I can’t ever seem to find a pattern.

So my school is on a block schedule, and therefore every other day I have dance class for an hour and a half. I love dance class. I am not exactly what you would call coordinated and it takes me a million practices to get something right, but it is a really really fun class. Right now we are learning the choreography to a swing dance that we are performing in a couple of weeks, and earlier this week I was low in the middle of class.

Oh, and one quick thing! It’s really hard for me to tell if I’m low when I exercise, so when lacrosse season started again I put my CGM (continuous glucose monitor) back so I could get an idea of when I was going low. Usually the CGM doesn’t get readings fast enough, especially when I’m dropping quickly, but something is better than nothing.

So I was low earlier in dance class this week. I realized I was low when it was taking me longer than usual to get the steps down, so I tested, and sure enough, I was 56 mg/dl.

So today I had dance class again and I didn’t go low during, but I went low immediately after class had ended. So I was sitting in AP Lang eating my lunch and waiting for break so we could go to lunch, and of course I forgot to bolus, so when I tested after I felt crappy near the end of class I was 286 mg/dl. Lovely.

I pretty much rode at that blood sugar during the whole last period of the day and it was with that blood sugar that I started lacrosse practice. I gradually went down to levels within range throughout the practice (I checked my CGM practically every five minutes) and then, of course, at the end of practice I was low. I wasn’t feeling low (the whole exercise and can’t feel your blood sugars thing), but I knew something wasn’t right. But I was already late for my clarinet lesson so I just jumped in the car and drove and stuffed a granola bar and some oreos into my mouth on the way there. Just a basic assumption that I probably needed to dose. BTW, I wouldn’t follow the example I set.

By the time I got to my clarinet lesson (rush hour is a killer) I actually felt low so I drank some juice and ran inside. And then at the end of the lesson my CGM alarmed telling me that I was 179 mg/dl. Sigh. When I got home I was in the mid 200’s mg/dl. So I dosed and then waited until 9:00 to eat dinner.

I wonder what people who don’t have diabetes worry about.

Oh, and I found this really funny picture on Facebook so I thought I would share it.

Random picture that I think is funny so I thought I would share it. I like Facebook.

Random picture that I think is funny so I thought I would share it. I like Facebook.



Claire Montgomery

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Claire Does Lacrosse

The American Cancer Society has The NFL on their team…

Screen Shot 2013-10-19 at 8.17.15 PMWhy doesn’t the American Diabetes Association?

I find myself at a loss. While watching the Broncos game last Sunday (if you haven’t guessed already, I’m a big Broncos fan,) I was somewhat overwhelmed by pink. It was everywhere. And I mean everywhere. Every single player, referee, coach, and announcer had some form of pink on his body.Screen Shot 2013-10-19 at 8.17.00 PM

And I am somewhat conflicted. I have two feelings: Holy cow you know you got it big if the NFL, of all things popular, is basically advertising for you. So The American Cancer Society has got to be receiving some pretty heavy donations right about now. My second feeling was why not diabetes?

Screen Shot 2013-10-19 at 8.18.20 PMDon’t get me wrong… I think it is absolutely fantastic that the NFL is able to do so much good by raising ‘pink awareness’. But I am wondering why it is always Breast Cancer, and not some rare form of cancer that nobody has ever heard of, or even why not just cancer in general. And what if the NFL were to team up with other associations to raise awareness about other horrible diseases. Like Alzheimer’s, for example. Or maybe even Diabetes.

But then I was thinking about that and feeling terrible because it is possible to live with diabetes. With cancer, the death threat is more prominent. But it doesn’t mean that I don’t want diabetes to be ignored. Diabetes is my reality, and I’m sort of done with it. I want a cure.

Why cancer? And why Breast Cancer specifically? Maybe other medical associations should get their head in the game. And while it doesn’t have to be as big as the NFL, per say, maybe something should happen. Like just putting the word out.


Claire Montgomery

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Who is Jay Cutler, anyway?

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Who is Jay Cutler, anyway?

Hi guys. So I am sitting here in front of the Broncos vs Giants game. Manning vs Manning. Go Peyton. And yeah.

And that made me think of one of the Broncos previous quarterbacks: Jay Cutler. Apparently he’s now the quarterback for the Chicago Bears right now. Or something.

But Jay is diabetic. (I’m on a first name basis with him.) He actually got diagnosed when he was with the Broncos, so the whole Colorado diabetic community got their hopes up thinking we would get some serious representation. Didn’t happen. And then he left the Broncos. chi_u_cutler01jr_576

And now I just read an article about him talking about diabetes, who is now apparently growing a mustache to raise awareness for men’s health.

So is this just Cutler getting older and wiser and deciding to give to his community, or is he trying to make up for it? I went into write this article and was going to be pretty mad at Cutler, but now I’m not sure. Maybe I’m just mad that he’s with the Bears, but I like Manning better so I’m not really affected.

So I guess it’s really a congratulation to Mr. Cutler here for getting his act together and talking about diabetes.

But still, go Broncos!

I Have Low Blood Sugars When I Ski

Who knew.

So after a couple of weekends of taking ski lessons at Copper Mountain I’ve deduced that I always end up in my 20s after my first run. And being 20 mg/dl is just scary. And my goal is not to have Ski Patrol come rescue me (even my mom says that they are hot). So what do you do? I hate being high, and I hate being low. But at this point in time I am guessing that I should send myself high in order not to go low. Any suggestions?

I already carry candy in my pocket: jelly beans and Smarties. The first time that I was low and skiing my dad freaked out so now whenever I go skiing my pockets are weighted down like I’m carrying a bowling ball or something. Which brings me to my next point.

For all you skiers, always bring something with you. That really should be common sense, but I just want to get out there so I can say that I’ve said it. I carry candy, my lunch, my tester, an extra lancet, and a shot with me. All in my pockets. But seriously, if you need something on the mountain, you wont be sorry that you had all of that stuff with you.

For example, one time during our ski lessons we skied down to the bottom of Resolution bowl on Copper Mountain. For those of you who don’t know, Resolution is the only lift were you aren’t at a base, or can’t ski down to a base. So if the mountain looses power, you’re stuck. And guess what? Just as we got to the bottom of Resolution, the whole entire mountain lost power! I know, right? CRAZY. And for some weird reason Copper decided that Resolution was going to use reserve power LAST. That’s right, LAST. So everyone else in the class was starving, but my brother and I had our lunches in our pocket, so we weren’t starving. I know that I wasn’t low, but what if I had been? That right there is a really good reason to have sugar with you right there.

So anyway. I’m asking for suggestions on what to do to stop being low on the mountain when I ski. Suggestions would be very helpful. Thanks!


Claire Montgomery
Type 1 diabetic, Diabetic blogger, Diabetic skier

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Skiing With Diabetes

So. I ski. I suppose it’s not that surprising, but I live in Colorado, so of course I ski. Stereotypical, huh? My grandfather rented out a house in Steamboat for winter vacation so all of my aunts, uncles, and grandparents (and my immediate family) came up to Steamboat to hang out and ski. Fun, right? But I’m sure that you’re all very surprised that skiing can get very complicated when mixed with diabetes (intense sarcasm). It’s like running for me. Really. I’ve had a crazy couple of days.

So you think I would go low, right? Well, I did, but I also went high. While I was there I skied for a total of two days, and on the first day I had some really low blood sugars. On the second day I had blood sugars that were in the 400 range. Not really perfect. And it makes it hard to find a pattern. And on the first day, when my blood sugar was low, I was in the 30’s. That’s the lowest I’ve ever been before, and it really scared me.

So I guess I am asking for advice, so please comment. 🙂 I’m going skiing in a couple of weeks so I will be sure to try out some ideas.


Claire Montgomery
Type 1 Diabetic, Diabetic skier, Powder shredder

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Racing, Cross Country, and Diabetes

So. I ran my first race about a month ago. It was a 5K, or 3.1 miles, if you didn’t know (like how I was).

My coach was really nervous. And I admit that I was too. Not too nervous about the running part, but about the running with diabetes part. And if you’ve been following my progress so far, then you know that it wasn’t really going perfectly. I’d say less than perfect, in fact. So she had me run with a spot runner. Or someone who would run with me so if I just happened to faint, people wouldn’t remember me only until the race hadn’t finished, if you get my drift.

Mr. Southerns. He runs marathons. And his son is in my high school’s cross country team. Bingo.

Are you following me so far?

Race day. I was SUPER nervous. Like, beyond nervous. Like, I sort of wanted to throw up nervous. I was so nervous that I managed to make my blood sugar spike about an hour and a half before the race, and then plummet about forty five minutes before the race. Smart. Exactly what I needed. Way to be, Claire. (That’s my new catch phrase, by the way. But sorry, I’m rambling.)

I managed to get my self to about 150 and steady. And I was still really nervous. I just might mention my nerves about half a billion more times.

And we started. And I went. Let my explain my running style. That day, when I didn’t feel that good, I ran like the equivalent of an uncoordinated elephant. But like I’ve said, that wasn’t my best day.

After every mile, he gave me this gummy thing that had sugar in it. Or a lot of carbs. Or something like that. I’m not really sure what it was. But I didn’t like it. I ate it anyway. It worked to keep my blood sugar up, but it had this horrible sugary aftertaste that left me wanting to throw up. Not good when you’re running your first race.

After about mile two and a half, I sort of wanted to sit down right there, throw up, and die. But I didn’t. I kept going. And it was hard. (Warning to all folks who are thinking about doing cross country. It’s hard. But the reward is great.)

I stopped maybe three or so times to test, and I can’t exactly remember, but I think that I was 150 mg/dl pretty much all the times. So whatever Mr. Southerns was doing with his stupid glucose gummies was working. Not that I liked them. But then I’m repeating myself again.

I finished. My time was 32 minutes, 44 seconds. I was the slowest person on the team. But I ran my first cross country race!! That in itself is a huge achievement for me. There is the small side effect of me wanting to puke afterwards, which I never did, but then again, I finished the race with type 1 diabetes.

A HUGE shout out to Mr. Southerns, the guy who ran with me! Thanks so much!


Claire Montgomery
Cross country runner, Type 1 diabetic, Nearly puked but didn’t

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