Monday, December 19, 2016

Greed, caterpillars and what's under my dress

Poor thing took one look at her shirt and was like "oh hell no" and flapped off.
Several weeks ago, for the second consecutive year, a clear plastic cup containing five worms and their poop came to Elaine in the mail. We were delighted. We'd paid around $15 for this delivery, which comes to about $3 per worm, which just goes to show that we are not very good at shopping for a deal.

Most people insist on calling these particular types of worms "caterpillars," falling for what I believe is a genius marketing ploy that helps alleviate some of the self-doubt you are likely to experience after spending $3 on one. After a few days of intense eating and pooping, they had quadrupled their size and they disappeared into their chrysalises. We transferred them into our meshy butterfly habitat, and about a week after that, we watched in amazement as one rumpled little butterfly wriggled its way out and sat stunned, dripping a grody red fluid and allowing blood to slowly expand and color its wings. We knew the rest would soon follow, but Elaine and I had an errand to run, so we hustled off, hoping to make it back to see more life unfolding. On our way home I commented to my 6-year-old that I was anxious to get back in time to watch more butterflies emerge, wasn't she excited too? And she said, "No, it's OK. I've already seen one hatch. I don't need to see more."

My first reaction was irritation: My beloved little girl is, how shall we say, one who likes to swim upstream, most especially whatever stream her mama is drifting down. The surest way to transform her into a foaming mess of urgency to get back and stare at chrysalises for the remainder of the day would have been for me to declare that I find butterflies unbearable. I assumed she was just claiming her usual contrarian stance. But then I noted her tone, and it was casual, not defiant. She really meant it. She had seen a butterfly hatch and she enjoyed it all right, but her level of enjoyment wasn't going to increase with subsequent viewings. All at once, I was filled with admiration.

Why did I need to rush back to see more? I too had seen the sight before, and there wasn't much likelihood that any part of the routine would become more spectacular. My daughter's serene response made me feel strangely desperate and ... greedy. Why did I want more?

I am always wanting more. I can become unreasonably despondent when a vacation nears its end. When I spot a bunny rabbit in our front yard, I stop everything to stare until it vanishes into the brush because one appreciative glance is not enough. I am reluctant to take my last sips of coffee in the morning because I know once the cup is empty I'll just be sad that I can't have more.

The spurt on the left is really into sunglasses right now.
I have identified greed as a factor when Brandon and I have casually batted around the idea of having a third child. Basically the only reason I'd want to have another kid is to get to have more baby. I love being a mom with a baby. But you only get to have baby around the house for a very short period of time, and then it turns into ... well, anyway, it just grows very quickly. I have no trouble at all getting pointlessly sentimental about its passing (forgetting entirely the sleepless nights, the never-ending torrent of spitup, the days without showers) and achieving a desperate longing to go back for more. At some point, every single parent has to be done having baby around the house, though. It's a dazzling spurt of marvelousness that does all kinds of crazy stuff to your insides, hard to say whether your heart or your brain is less recognizable when it's all over. Some parents layer in lots of spurts by having too many margaritas before they are back on the pill having bigger families, but it is dead clear to me that those parents have a far far greater capacity for sleeplessness and bewilderment love than I do. I know my parenting skill level (Intermediate), and if I were to try to spread my resources any thinner, everyone would suffer. But then I'll gaze at a photo of one of my babies, or find myself creepily trailing a new mom around Trader Joe's, and the greed bubbles up again. WANT MORE.

I think about greed a lot when I think about real estate. Brandon and I aren't crazy about the house we live in, and the reasons are totally stupid. It's not a cute house from the outside, and actually most of the inside parts aren't very cute either (although I of course think our stuff is cute). But it's big, by our standards, in fact it's maybe just outside the square footage that a deplorable housekeeper such as myself should be charged with. If there were more square feet of it, we'd need to buy more furniture to fill the spaces and we'd probably need to hire someone to clean up after us, which seems like a puzzling thing to aspire to (I am not backhanding anyone who pays someone else to clean their house; we have also gone that route and are well aware that it is both more effective and a lot more fun). The kitchen is unfancy but new, the yard is unlandscaped but big (and has a nice playset and a fishpond and loads of wildlife to delight the kids), and the bathrooms all need updating but are functional. So why do I find myself gazing longingly at schmancier homes? It's embarrassing to even admit it. By the standards of the vast majority of the world's population, we live like royalty. Would I be more fulfilled in a house with gorgeous bathrooms? Would my children be more wonderful? Would I have more time to do awe-inspiring things, would my relationships improve? Or am I just being greedy for more when I already have plenty?

And I often think about greed when I think about being diabetic. The advancements in treatment for Type 1 diabetes have been such that I don't have to cut out sugar entirely from my diet. As long as I know where my blood sugar is and don't entirely lose my grip on my self control (a bite or two of frosted store-bought birthday cake isn't total suicide, but I'd pay for it if I Hoovered a whole wedge), my insulin pump enables me to give myself a pretty carefully calibrated dose that can help me navigate my weaknesses with minimal consequences. (My absentmindedness can be a liability, however. One of the worst highs I ever had was while we were entertaining friends on a hot day, and I was chatting away and casually snacking on chunks of fresh watermelon. Suddenly my head seemed to be filled with wet cement, standing on my own two feet felt like an athletic challenge, and I was having trouble following conversations. I bet all the other diabetic people out there are not surprised to learn that if you're going to enjoy a healthy snack of 14 pounds of fruit, you had better shoot up some insulin.)

This is the needle I use to insert my CGM sensor every few days.
Compared to the diabetics of a generation or two ago, I am living large. Many people, when they learn I have this disease, comment that I'm fortunate that it is so manageable, or they want to talk about the latest advancements in treatments. I don't resent anyone for exploring these conversation topics and I am definitely grateful for the treatments and my access to them, but I'm not comfortable with the idea that treatment is a satisfying end point. Perhaps I sound like a greedy, entitled sloth saying this, but managing this disease is a noticeably huge, stressful, expensive, 24-7-365 pain in the cheeks, and it involves a freighter of big nasty needles any way you slice it, and people are still dying from it. Treatment is not enough for me. Cure and prevent, cure and prevent, cure and prevent: Those are my most fervent hopes, the goals I hope current research is gunning for. I want the security of knowing my kids aren't at risk, and I want the luxury of being able to eat a huge wedge of disgustingly overfrosted cake if that's what I wanna do, or the freedom to cram unending fistfuls of watermelon chunks into my face without regretting it soon after. I want to get to sleep through one whole night without my pump, my CGM, or my blood sugar waking me up. I want to spend all the money I spend on treatment on spa visits (and perhaps bathroom enhancements) and not-sensible sandals. I want my abdomen to be free of scars and I want to be able to wear a dress without having to strap my pump to my inner thigh and then walk slightly bow-legged (if you're wondering if there is a remote control I can use to deliver my insulin, no, not so much -- I have to go hide behind a potted plant and reach up my own dress).

I have it good, I have it better than most, but I still want more.

Please click here if you'd like to donate to JDRF in support of my fundraising efforts.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Breaking News: Tragically unphotogenic suburban mom raises $12k+ for diabetes research

In May 2013, while sitting at a stoplight on my way to pick up my daughter from school, I got bitten by something. I had been thinking about raising money for Type 1 diabetes research, and I wanted to take on some kind of physical challenge to build it around. After considering my options for three or four seconds, I thought, I'll try to raise $10,000 over the course of a year, and during that year I'll run 12 half-marathons and use those as my pushes for donations. I guess it's a little odd that I concocted this scheme before ever having run a single half-marathon in all of my life. And also maybe a little odd since I knew (know) that asking people for money is not a strength of mine. But whatever. Once the idea was in my head, I started getting all obsessy and excited and thinking about it nonstop, and before I ever told another soul about it I knew I was committed. (And when I did tell other souls about it, starting with my husband and then on to parents and siblings, pretty much everyone was like oh for god's sake, we KNEW that time she fell off the bed as an infant and bounced on her skull was going to come back around and wreck her brain at some point.) (True story.)

The final statistics are these:
$12,432.23 raised
I'm putting that number in big red type because YOU KNOW WHAT I'M PRETTY FLIPPING PLEASED ABOUT IT. My family, friends, and friends of friends and family donated more than $12,000 to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation by mid-May 2014, so you met (and zipped past) my fundraising goal within the timeline I'd set.

In mid-May 2014 I ran my 11th half-marathon. I did not run the 12th one until October 19, 2014, so I did not do all the races I'd intended to do in within the timeline I'd set.

This person is doing a very unconvincing
simulation of running.
There were a couple of reasons I missed the race goal. One was that I'd started to have problems with my Achilles tendons. After a race I did in March, they were very tender and I didn't feel up to doing another race the following month. I managed to do one in May, but it was painful and I felt like my body was begging me to listen. That combined with the fact that the race schedule is all but bare in this region of the country in June, July and August (because of the heat) and the fact that starting in early June Brandon began traveling for work every week (so I was chasing the kids from 5:30am until 8pm every day without a break, freelancing after that, and averaging around 5 hours of sleep per night ... pretty intense exhaustion, and I didn't have the support system to mind the kids while I did longer training runs) meant I had to release my grip a bit and just ... accept. I was still proud of the fact that I'd done 11 races in 12 months, but I knew I had to do the 12th one before I could crow out loud that I DID IT.

So people: I DID IT. (Sort of.)

But here is why this post has taken me a dreadfully, soul-suckingly, lay-awake-in-bed-at-night-and-feel-like-a-failure long time to write: What was, to me, an important part of my accomplishment has become a ghost. My personal fundraising page -- which shows how much I raised and all the people who donated and all the incredibly, humblingly kind and supportive words they lofted and which was basically my own little cave of joy -- is gone. JDRF changed the host for their online fundraisers, and when they did that they deleted all the existing fundraising pages. They sent out a single email announcing the change 10 days before they enacted it, but the way it was worded I didn't understand that it pertained to me (and in any case the email did not explain what you should do if you had an ongoing -- versus a single-event -- fundraising challenge and wanted to preserve your page).

I'm keeping my hands folded in my lap and my face neutral while I share this info. (How is she typing with her hands folded in her lap? What are her toes doing?) It is between me and my ego whether I am going to be dragged down by the fact that I cannot prove to anyone else that I did it. I got the JDRF folks to send me an Excel spreadsheet that shows all my donations and who they came from, but the personal notes are gone and the little essay I'd written about what I was doing and why is gone. When I discovered that my page no longer existed, I was dragged down for sure. Devastated actually. At first it really and truly felt like my accomplishment had been taken away from me, like all the work I'd put into this idea and the ring of people who I felt were holding my hands and cheering me on (AND, most importantly, showing me that they too think the world would be a better place without Type 1 diabetes) had been detonated. I didn't sleep that night. My chest was a hot tangled mess of sadness and fury.

But I have taken some deep breaths and regained my composure. I am hoping that all you heart-swellingly, mind-bogglingly generous people who donated to my fundraiser know how important this effort was to me and how much your show of support made me feel like a huge balloon full of sweet air bobbing around over the treetops. There is not an absolutely logical connection between your donations and my conviction that this disease will someday become extinct, but somehow one deepened the other. Every day, hopefully each of us does at least one or two nice things that we maybe don't ponder too much (holding a door, smiling at a stranger, picking up something they've dropped) and we don't necessarily ever know whether the gesture created a ripple. I don't know how much time any of you put into deciding whether to donate when I asked, but you made very big ripples, lots of them, and they gave me that light, bobbing feeling again and again for a whole year. If I could walk without limping right now, I'd probably be entertaining the idea of doing the whole thing all over again.

I look vaguely like I'm trying to scare someone - ?
A few words about my final race: It completely chewed me up and spat me out. It is the only one in which I ever slowed down. Both of my Achilles (or the muscles surrounding them) cramped up repeatedly, and at 12.5 miles my left one seized so badly I couldn't even move myself out of the way of the other no doubt irritated runners. I was frozen, doubled over, clutching my leg and feeling frantic when a hero cop came over, helped me to the curb, and stretched me for several minutes. I managed to run (it may have been a bit of a mincing stride) the final .6 mile, crossed the finish, and was shocked to see that my time was still decent by my standards. If not for the stop, this would have been a personal best by at least a couple minutes. I had had this idea that for my 12th race I wanted an "I DID IT!" photo as I finished ... and what you see here is what I got. It slays me. I am such. such. such a dork. I wanted to look cute and joyful. I look awkward and ... just sort of weird. The Real Me simply will not be subdued.

So I am closing this little chapter. It was such an exciting and rewarding one for me, and joyous in that I owe any feelings of success to the support of other people, some of whom are within my tighter rings of community and some of whom came from further away. I know I and all those people have helped nudge science a little closer to a cure and prevention for Type 1 diabetes.

Now for tomorrow's stoplight.

Monday, April 14, 2014

How I Became the Perfect Parent

If you have come here looking for information about donating to the JDRF in support of my fundraising campaign, please click here, and if you want to read my manifesto about why I'm running 12 half-marathons in 12 months, click here. For those of you who are wondering, I have only two races left to run, and I am embarrassed to have fallen woefully behind on blogging about my races. To be blunt, my brain has been a little preoccupied by my family recently -- hence, the following post.  Thanks for reading, and donating if you have or will! 

In general, I am a fan of being a parent. It is absolutely common for me to gaze at my children and feel as though I am floating weightless in a garden-scented bubble bath while angels are plopping toasted marshmallows into my mouth and fairies are massaging my toes. They fill me with that much joy.

It's a hot mess of perfection around here.

Except lately, when I have had a six-year-old. We are starting to hear rumblings of the kind of girl-on-girl psychotic social behavior that we foolishly thought we had another half-decade to prepare for. We are starting to feel shriveled and foul-smelling under the weight of a disdainful brown-eyed gaze that burrrns. We are starting to hear a patronizing tone of voice and a level of resistance to our wisdom that is so convincing, even I am being won over to the idea that I am an idiot.

Where did I go wrong? I'm not going to be one of those moms who blames everyone else for my child's misdeeds; I'm here to take responsibility and figure out how I can improve. But the confusing thing is, I'm pretty sure I'm a perfect parent. I'm not just making it up as I go along -- I've done my research. I've read a good number of parenting books and a really outlandish number of highly opinionated blogs in my quest to not ever use my common sense as a parenting tool. I know all these other people can tell me how to parent. I've listened. Which is why it's everyone else's fault if I've done anything wrong.

Through all my reading, I have become enlightened to quite a lot of things. For instance, one of the biggest faults of American parents is that we are too permissive. We don't set enough guidelines for our children, we let them get away with murder, we don't take a stand against reckless, irresponsible behavior and disrespectful attitudes. Those are some of the reasons why our kids are so screwed up. They also are totally screwed up because we drive them too hard, we "helicopter parent," we don't give them enough free time and freedom to make decisions and mistakes, and we don't give them enough time and space to just be children. Because I have taken all that wisdom to heart, I know exactly what to do. Or not to do. The best solution seems to be to not do a thing, because one thing is certain: American parents are doing everything wrong.

I have also learned that I must give my children plenty of positive reinforcement. Praise, praise, praise when they make the right decision, because negative discipline (time-outs, lecturing, scolding, expressing any form of disapproval when they royally blow it) is not only ineffective but will also quickly harden my child's wiring into that of a serial killer. Except that I must be careful not to praise too much. I praise Elaine as sparingly as possible, ideally not at all, because I know that overpraising will make my kid a clingy, unable-to-self-direct, unimaginative follower. It's better to merely observe and reflect upon what she's doing, so she can form her own judgments and confidence about her accomplishments. So when my daughter paints a heart-melting portrait of my family holding hands in front of a white-fence house with a smiling sun overhead, I DO NOT do what is natural, including and especially if my impulses guide me to say something stupid such as, "Oh what a beautiful painting! I'm going to hang it up." I merely glance at it briefly and make a neutral comment such as, "That house has four windows," or "You drew something." This is crucial in my crusade to demonstrate for my child that humans do not naturally admire things or experience positive feelings of any sort.

I am extraordinarily careful not to comment on my daughter's appearance, since I know this will drill into her head that people are interested in her only if she's considered attractive, and also models for her that the best way to judge someone is based on their appearance. I will admit that this got a touch awkward recently when she tried on a dress I sewed for her (no small accomplishment; I am not a naturally gifted seamstress). As she twirled in front of me, I stared blankly until she finally said, "I think it fits ...?" and I replied "Good, then" before stalking off in silence, content in the knowledge that I had again masterfully navigated parenting.

It wasn't all that hard for me to withhold excitement about the dress, though, thanks to the fact that Elaine had chosen for it a fabric that was very pink-intensive. I am well aware that I must resist my daughter's impulses to surround herself with pink. She doesn't know (but I do) that pink, objectively speaking, is for weak-minded females who are waiting around for someone to do their thinking for them. If I allow her to wear pink all the time, play with pink toys, color with pink crayons, I'm obviously dooming her to an accomplishment-free existence. In order to make it clear to her that she must think for herself, I ignore her tastes and preferences, and I do not buy anything pink.

I feel like this is the right place to point out that I have selflessly stopped grooming adopted a very natural beauty routine as part of my campaign to demonstrate that it's what's on the inside that counts. I haven't blown my hair dry in years. I haul out my mascara not more than a couple times a week. My lipstick hardens and starts to smell weird before I ever use up a tube. My nails are chipped and my cuticles are like gravel. Inspired, my daughter races home from school every day and tears her clothes off on her way upstairs. Within 32 seconds or so, she'll be happily teetering around on one of my pairs of stilettos (she is forever unearthing ones I forgot I had), glamorously bedecked in one of a large number of shimmery dress-up frocks of hers. She is so cosmetics-obsessed that she has been known to compose entire songs whose lyrics consisted only of the word "makeup" repeated over and over. Determined to prevail on this one, I have stopped wearing clothes and shoes altogether.

One of the very first things I learned about parenting is that giving kids choices is the only sure way to get them to cooperate. Giving them choices lets them feel empowered and confident. It is a great way to manipulate them into doing what you want, without issuing threats. E.g., instead of saying "Wash your hands and sit down for dinner or I will dismember this dolly," you can say, "Would you prefer to wash your hands and sit down for dinner, or have me put your favorite dolly down the garbage disposal?" No threats, just a choice. Thankfully, my children are brilliant enough to detect the nuances of this method; they are able to differentiate the empowerment of having chosen not to watch a dolly get butchered from the belittlement of being threatened by the prospect of doll butchering.

I have also learned that if you are not wearing your baby/toddler, or did not wear him or her, you've missed an unrecoverable bonding opportunity, which will leave the two of you permanently emotionally estranged. But, and this part is important, if you use(d) a Baby Bjorn to do your baby-wearing, you have done even worse. You tortured your baby. You dangled them by their crotch, in abject pain and facilitating permanent hip damage, while you toodled about not giving a thought in the world to anyone but yourself, which is what all mothers are doing basically all the time. I was dismayed to learn this last part after both my kids had outgrown our Bjorn, which is stained and threadbare thanks to the countless hours my cooing or snoring infants spent in it.

Most importantly, I know that it is very important to teach your children to be self-sufficient. That is why I have empowered them to use the remote control unassisted, microwave themselves mugs of boiling water to make herbal tea, and hoist themselves onto the counter to get the chips and cookies on top of the fridge. This gives them a great sense of independent achievement and, conveniently, leaves me free to spend all day learning how to be a perfect parent (thanks, Internet!) and, of course, blogging and Facebooking so that everyone else also knows how perfect I am. You're welcome.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Reasons Why You Don't Like Me

Look! Another picture of my kids!

If you have come here looking for information about donating to the JDRF in support of my fundraising campaign, please click here, and if you want to read my manifesto about why I'm running 12 half-marathons in 12 months, click here. Thanks! 

I am not always a likable person. I am moody, I'm too opinionated (and have a special gift for voicing my opinions at really stupid times and in the wrong way), I'm snobby about certain things (serve me a cup of crappy coffee to see this in action), I am cynical, I talk way too much and don't listen enough ... OK, this little exercise is starting to bring me down. I'm not billing it as a comprehensive list of my dislikable characteristics, so settle down if you're panicking because your complaint of choice didn't make the cut.

I am certain there are other mistakes I make or habits I have that rub people the wrong way, some of them not news ... and others, well, sometimes I am stunned by how easy it is to piss people off, or at least annoy them. Lately I have found myself musing about what I must look like to anyone who's glanced my way in the last few months, and what kinds of things I do that cause people to sprain a rolled eyeball and instantly zip past whatever it is I'm honking about.

1. Most of the non-fundraising stuff I post on Facebook concerns my children. I learned a few years back that this irritates a lot of people. For the life of me, I do not understand why. I get it that kids aren't important to everyone (there is a general but not-absolute correlation with who has them; even among parents there runs a certain current of "it's not cool to be totally smitten with your kids"), but if you can't understand or respect other people's focus on them, you and I probably aren't going to go far as friends. And when I ask myself why I post about them, here is what I come up with: My kids are the most dynamic, amusing and (to boot) physically interesting -- OK, cute -- things in my life right now, and they are super-important to me. So I think about them a lot, and I don't feel the least bit apologetic about that. And I believe Facebook is supposed to, in some way, reflect what's going on with me. Isn't it? Or is it only supposed to advertise what is envy-inducing in my life? Ackh, I get all mixed up. 

A few years ago, a freelance writer that had done some work for me added me as a friend on Facebook. I was dismayed to learn that most of her FB activity ... did not intensify my respect for her, I'll leave it at that. Still, I managed to observe calmly. Until the day she posted something to the effect of, "You know what bugs the crap out of me? Parents who feel the need to chronicle every last thing their kids do on Facebook. Not that interesting, folks!" Though I don't broadcast every last thing my kids do (or anywhere near), I thought someone flat-out stating that she is not interested in her friends' kids was a pretty eye-opening statement. I tingled with relief as I unfriended her. I encourage you to do the same with me if you are disgusted by posts about my kids.

2. I have stated publicly that Type 1 diabetes is a pain in the butt, and that I'd like to be rid of it. The family and friends I interact with in 3D will attest (unanimously, I'm pretty sure) that I don't waste a lot of time complaining or even talking about diabetes. I test my blood sugar every hour or two, and I often subsequently have to either give myself a bump from my insulin pump or drink a juice to get my numbers where they should be, so Betty does generally make her presence known at some point during any social engagement. But I can do any of those things without breaking stride or stopping a conversation -- literally. In my efforts to raise money for diabetes research, however, I have stressed that diabetes is a life-threatening disease, that it's a tremendous inconvenience, and that lives would be improved if it were eradicated. And it turns out I have stepped on toes by doing that.

Denial is not always a bad thing. Most Type 1 diabetics and their loved ones -- including me and my loved ones -- survive by surrounding ourselves with a bubble, inside which we continue to march through our lives while managing the disease to the best of our ability. "To the best of our ability" is a caveat with the density of a dying sun in this context, by the way. Obsessions about amputations, blindness and so forth are banished from the bubble. We fold the disease into our daily existence (we have no choice), we do not dwell on its shitty aspects (I think the reasons are obvious), and we do not while away the hours fervently wishing to be rid of it (there is currently no way to be rid of it, so this would be as wise a use of energy as wishing a genie would pop out of our milk bottles).

What I stupidly didn't anticipate is that when a person -- even another diabetic person -- takes a pin and pops those safety bubbles, it just pisses off the people who were using them. Tons of my friends and acquaintances, and quite a few people who are separated from me by two degrees or more, have made incredibly generous donations. But most of the people I know who are more intimately acquainted with the disease have (passively) declined to contribute. I was confused as to why until I learned, secondhand, that one of them thinks I am wasting my life dwelling on my disease. No, I'm not, and I'm discouraged to hear that it may seem that way. I manage it very carefully (so far I have suffered no permanent collateral damage), and I love my life, but I still want to fight the disease, for myself and for the current and future T1Ds (especially kids). I feel like if I consulted a marketing expert, they would advise me that trying to convince people to pass their donations through the wall of the "it's no big deal" bubble would prove fruitless.

3. I run.  All right, all right, I'm taking Chad Stafko's bait. He recently wrote a seriously snit-fomenting op-ed for the WSJ that basically hated on runners ... for being runners. (I have to pause to unwillingly admit that even I, for reasons not easily explained, find those "13.1" and "26.2" stickers irritating.) I'm not linking to his piece here because I'm of the cynical mindset that Mr. Stafko probably does not care about runners one way or the other; his piece was most likely written for the purpose of generating controversy and (ding ding!) page views. Whatever Stafko thinks, though, there have been enough comments on the subsequent analyses of his post to make it clear that there is, in fact, a segment of the population that was deeply relieved to feel that he had finally voiced what we've all been thinking: Runners are damned annoying! They are narcissists! They have nothing better to do! Well. I just had no idea, and I don't even know how to defend myself against this line of thought. Though I must ask myself, is walking as controversial?

4. I am trying too hard. I am posting and reposting about my races and about my fundraising. I have stated bluntly that I need as much attention as possible while I'm doing this, and I've begged everyone to share my posts or my JDRF page so that as many people as possible will chip in. I have used a number of different tactics -- whining, bribing, joking around, pleading, trying to sound smart -- in obvious attempts to manipulate everyone into going pinwheel-eyed and reaching for their credit card. I am not even attempting to seem cool. Do you think I seem cool? Did you ever? See -- I had nothing to lose in the first place.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Everyday Struggle of Overcoming Persistent Vegetative Laziness

If you have come here looking for information about donating to the JDRF in support of my fund-raising campaign, please click here, and if you want to read my manifesto about why I'm running 12 half-marathons this year, click here. Thanks! 

Facebook is of questionable value for a person like me. It did (has done) wonders for me as far as keeping me from completely losing touch with what many of my friends have been doing with themselves during the last year-plus. It did this by creating humongously long lists (fancily referred to as "news feeds") of their career accomplishments, social summits, luxe vacations, massive celebrations, athletic feats, warm family moments and smart, witty political observations. Lots and lots of these news headlines were illustrated with photos of my gorgeous friends, wearing gorgeous clothes, standing with other gorgeous people in gorgeous places, being remarkably consistent in not having any ungorgeous wrinkles or zits or half-closed Forrest Gump eyes or any other indication that they are in fact ordinary human beings. Conveniently, I was able to access this list while my butt was glued to a glider in a dim room, hair unwashed, wearing the same pajama bottoms as I'd worn for most of the day before, a certain sensitive part of my anatomy blistered and bleeding thanks to my refluxy baby using it as a soothing mechanism, unsure of the last time I'd brushed my teeth.

Maybe there is a very fine line between a good thing and a bad thing. These days -- now that I'm a little better rested and more closely resemble the average Slightly Frazzled Mom of Young Children that you often see changing diapers on her tailgate in a parking lot or absentmindedly shoveling Cheddar Bunnies into her toddler's mouth while she stares at Ok! magazine headlines in the checkout line -- these reminders that everyone else's life is more impressive than mine are less searing. They generally don't make me long for things I don't have, because I'm pretty content with what I do have (a husband who is way too good for me, two continually heart-swelling children, loving parents and siblings, health insurance, a roof over my head and all the chocolate I could ever want). There is a part of me that wants to excel, that wants to be one of those moms you hear about who wrote a dissertation while her kids were toddlers, who wrote a bazillionaire-making novel while her kids slept, who became the head of the local nonprofit while also being a creative and loving and always-present parent. 

But the scandalous truth of my existence is that I am, by nature, lazy and perfectly satisfied with mediocrity. I won't lie: If I have an extra 30 minutes at night, I don't use it for anything productive. I make a beeline for the TV and catch up on Modern Family or Cougar Town. I do Words with Friends plays. I scroll through more gorgeous pictures of my gorgeous friends. Sometimes I do all of these things at once (is lame-ass multitasking an accomplishment?).

Sometimes Facebook's Handy List of All the Ways Everyone Else Is Better Than You causes me to have a brief spasm of wanting to be super-awesome too. But thanks to my persistent laziness, these spasms are generally short-lived, and before long I'm back to feeling grateful that my husband just filled my wine glass and that Trader Joe's chocolate non-pareils are so delicious. Last spring -- maybe we had exhausted our supply of wine and non-pareils, I really can't recall -- I was seized by an apparently tenacious case of motivation, which was not actually inspired by Facebook and which led to me making a somewhat out-of-character commitment to raising money (something I am historically dreadful at) while toying with the limits of my physical endurance (also antithetical to my established skill set of not-much-doing). I have to admit that I have so far not once regretted that decision -- I'm continually gratified by my little project. The one problem is that it has made it more challenging to find time to practice my impression of a terrestrial manatee, but I am bolstered by the knowledge that a year goes by quickly and I'll be back at it soon.

I ran my sixth race on October 21, the Bull City Race Fest half-marathon, and it was a blast. I had a personal best time, which was pleasing. A friend was doing it too, so I had a buddy to ride with early in the morning (though his cheetah-ish pace precluded any notion of us actually running within eyeshot of each other) and we had another family to goof off with at the impressively huge actual fest at the end. (There was a BEER TENT with a mind-boggling line. It was 10am. I stuck to the free water bottles and packs of pretzels.) I will be running my seventh this Sunday, the Raleigh City of Oaks half. I'm tickled to report that so far my feet, knees and hips are still game. My black toenails aren't pretty, but they aren't wildly painful, and I can just be grateful that sandal season is behind me.

My main goal is not awesomeness; I just want attention, and lots of it. I'm touched that people read these posts, and am at a loss for words to describe how all of those donations (59 so far, totaling just under $7,000) affect me. But I still have $3,000 to raise, which is a lot, and I generally ascribe to the theory of "throw enough stuff at the wall, and something will stick." If I get people to look, or read, or roll their eyes or laugh or whatever, they might decide to chuck a few dollars into my hat, or to let their (also generous) friends know that my hat is wanting. I hope each and every person who has donated has faith that a cure and prevention for Type 1 diabetes will be found, and that they have sprinkled a little awesomeness on themselves by being part of that.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Thanks for not making me look dumb

If you have come here looking for information about donating to the JDRF in support of my fund-raising campaign, please click here, and if you want to read my manifesto about why I'm running 12 half-marathons this year, click here. Thanks! 

Recently I had a privately awkward moment. I was trying to think of ways to shake a few thousand more dollars out of the tree. There had been a lull in donations, and I was facing the prospect of running one of my races without having received a single donation in over a month. It was a sucky prospect, because if I'm doing my races but no one is donating, I'm just a foolish person who's running all over the countryside for nothing. I am standing on a stage, performing a monologue in front of a completely empty theater. I am scrambling around in a restaurant kitchen, cooking and plating a feast that I am setting on tables where no one is sitting.

Hard not to feel a bit ridiculous.

It presented an interesting question, which I probably should have thought about sooner: Why exactly am I running? What is the connection between running 12 races (of any length) and raising $10,000 for diabetes research? Couldn't I just spend a year begging people to donate? Sell them on the merits of eradicating this disease, without spending all the time and money (and sweat) I'm spending on these races? Does anyone really care whether I run 12 races, or 3 races, or none at all? 

Perhaps not, but I couldn't do one without the other. Many friends and my husband can attest to the fact that while I was pregnant with my son, Oliver (born in May 2012), I became increasingly frustrated with all the complications I was having, most of which could be blamed on Betty (my totally-not-affectionate nickname for diabetes). I had had a miscarriage in June 2011, which I also held Betty accountable for, though as with most miscarriages it is impossible to precisely pinpoint the cause. All three of my pregnancies cost us a crapload of money, even with decent insurance, because diabetic pregnancy is so risky (to both the baby and the mother) you require an extraordinary amount of careful monitoring and testing and counseling and the birth itself is quite an ordeal (the risk of stillbirth is higher than in the general population). The anguish of miscarriage was compounded with insult on the day I received a large bill for the D&C procedure that followed the discovery of silence in my belly.

Anyway, I began to proclaim that after Baby No. 2 was born, I wanted to turn my attention to raising money for diabetes research. I wanted to fight in a way more broad-reaching than fiddling with my insulin pump and eating whole grains. And I was planning ahead: If my children, heaven forbid, eventually develop this disease, I want to feel like I did whatever I could to prevent it. I don't want to be saddled with the guilt of feeling like I spent years just sitting around, staring at them and hoping for the best.

So why the running, then? Along with having a second (sleepless, colicky, high-maintenance) baby and moving across the country, a major change in my life last year was that I stopped going into an office to work. I am at home, momming nonstop during daylight hours. (I do about 15 hours of freelance work in the evenings every week.) A noticeable side effect of this change -- all three changes, actually -- was that I lost my shit. I slid quietly and quickly down a suffocating hole of depression, and though a handful of people were peering worriedly at me down there, no one could do much to help. That's how it goes.

At one point I announced to my husband that I needed to find a job, any job, serving fries at a drive-thru would work just fine -- I needed to have something I could turn to that would let me decompress from feeling lonely and unrewarded and ineffective as a parent. Meanwhile, my casual morning runs were getting a bit longer. I was thinking of training for one half-marathon, though I had little confidence I could do it. A friend invited me to do a 10-mile race with her, and I did it -- and not only was it a do-able challenge, I loved it. I felt like I had accomplished something that day. It was like a little treat in my back pocket that I could take out and nibble on when I started to feel directionless. I wanted to do more, but I needed to make the reward a little more tangible. I don't quite know why, but I needed a theme, something that would give some kind of cohesion to the project of habitually running races.


If I were doing these races without doing the fund-raising, I would feel sort of silly and self-indulgent. And if I were trying to raise the money without "singing for my supper" (a term a dear friend recently used to describe my efforts), I'm not sure I'd have any way to actually get people's attention. The races are a challenge, but they are something I can do, and once I've done one it's done, and I can know I did a good job at it. You cannot objectively say any of those things about parenting. Raising money is a challenge, but it also is something I can do, and once I've raised each dollar I can't undo my success and un-raise it, and I doubt anyone would look at it and go, "Well you did a crappy job of raising it though, look how messed up it is." Similarly, not things you can be assured of in parenting.

Anyway. The solution I came up with for shaking the dollars out of the tree for my fifth half-marathon was to throw cookies at it. (I offered to send homemade cookies to the first and last donors ... and then just decided to send cookies to everyone who donated this round.) This proved to be a startlingly effective tactic, and once again I was shocked at, impressed by, and positively swollen with pleasure thanks to so many people's incredible generosity. The race itself was no fun; I am horribly sleep-deprived right now, and I feel like the picture I've posted here tells the story pretty well. I look determined and unthrilled, and like my attention is turned inward, which it was because I was having to draw on my very deepest reserves of determination and pain resistance to keep toodling along. But at least I did not, and do not, feel ridiculous.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

A nerd at the speed of ... a running nerd

If you have come here looking for information about donating to the JDRF in support of my fund-raising campaign, please click here, and if you want to read my manifesto about why I'm running 12 half-marathons this year, click here. Thanks! 

 Picture this: You're running along a lovely mountain road. It's early morning; the weather is gorgeous, the world feels quiet. You're sweating a bit because you're in mile eight of a half-marathon, and many of those miles have involved quite a lot of climbing. You hear a clicking noise behind you, not a particularly loud one. Crickets? No, too rhythmic for that. An approaching car in need of a tune-up? No, too quiet for that. And then, in a blur, a runner passes you. She is tearing. Running as though she can fly, running like a gazelle, like a cheetah, as though she can suspend gravity. And the noise -- she is snapping her fingers. Like, while she runs. Wtf?

Ok, there may be a slight dichotomy between how I would like to appear while I'm running, and how I actually appear while I'm running. Only one part of the preceding narrative has anything to do with the reality of the race I ran on Saturday, from Boone to Blowing Rock, NC. Well, the parts about "lovely mountain road" and "quiet" and "climbing" -- those are true. But also what is true is the snapping part.

This route was just spectacular. And the weather was just perfect. And my playlist, which I'd hastily thrown together in the day or two before the race, was just awesome. I had expended a significant amount of energy on anxiety in the weeks leading up to the race because I was terrified of the amount of ascents (totaling almost 1,500 feet). I was sure I would have to walk, or barf, or quit altogether (or perhaps all three, in that order). My sister guessed that maybe I'd psyched myself up so much for the race, anything short of total misery was bound to feel like bliss -- she's probably right. All I know is, I positively enjoyed that half-marathon. Relished it. I experienced a couple of distinct endorphin rushes, when the perfection of the scenery and the clean mountain air and the fact that I was not dying and the beat of a new song on the playlist combined and I just couldn't stand it ... so I'd start snapping. It was the only thing I could think of to do besides cheer or stop for a quick dance break, which would have been weird, obviously. *cough*

I didn't pass very many runners -- I was keeping my pace nice and moderate so I wouldn't burn out during the climbs. And I'm pretty sure those I did pass would not use terms such as "cheetah" or "fly" or "suspend gravity" to describe what they saw. Also not "blur." Perhaps they thought, "So that is what a controlled fall looks like." Or, "Oh dear, another runner being chased by a bear." Maybe, "I wonder if that lady thinks there are free donuts at the end." And almost definitely, "What kind of an insufferable dork snaps her fingers while she runs, as soon as I get a chance I'm going to body-check her face-down into the ditch."

I owe many thanks to the people who've donated to the JDRF to support my fundraising. When I am not thinking hard about snapping, I really do spend quite a lot of time mentally scrolling through the donor list, rereading the supportive comments, thinking about what might have spurred each individual to put any chunk of change down after I asked them to. Is it because they'd like to see me cured of this disease so I stop talking about it? Because they don't like what they know about the disease, and would like to know that they, their children, all their loved ones never have to worry about developing it? Because they were touched by someone else who has or had Type 1 diabetes, and this is a tribute to that person? Or does it have little to do with diabetes, and more to do with just wanting to give me a little round of applause for the physical challenge I've taken on? Could it be just mindless generosity? "Someone I know is trying to raise money, which isn't usually fun -- sure, I can throw into the pot."

Whatever it is, thank you.