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.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

In which I am sappy and tiresome

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!

We recently passed the one-year anniversary of one of the least-favorite days of my life. On July 19, 2012, a bunch of people came to our house in San Rafael, California, and took all our stuff. The weirdest part is, we actually paid them to do it, despite the fact that we really didn't want them to do it at all. The other weird part is that according to our detective work, they then took nearly all the boxes and hurled them off a cliff somewhere, ran them over with tractors, left them out on the surface of the sun, and then flung them back into a truck (many of them upside down, because apparently the three words THIS END UP were far too syllabic to be comprehended) before depositing them on a  doorstep 2,800 miles from where they'd started. With most of the contents destroyed.

There were a lot of things that did not go into that truck. My sister and her family. Our friends and their children. The smells of sage and eucalyptus and fog and jasmine and dusty, scrubby hillsides. The taste of the tomatoes and the cherries and the asparagus. The impossibly, sometimes infuriatingly stable weather. Views that are so incredible they are almost painful to take in. The bakeries. All the people we recognized every day but did not actually know. The bigness of it, the choices -- all the places to explore and play and eat and go that were right at our fingertips. Our lovely little house with all its precious memories.

Brandon and I agreed that leaving our home and our lives in California was exactly like the worst breakup ever. We were in love with her, desperately, but it just wasn't meant to be. We couldn't make the life we wanted with her. She was not a cheap date, and she was keeping us away from our parents. We couldn't raise our kids the way we envisioned because both of us were working and commuting. She was super hot, but she was aloof and refused to change for us. We had such incredibly good times with her. It was excruciating to let go.

Once we did, we compared everything to her and, predictably, she nearly always came out ahead. We talked about her too much and probably hindered our new relationships by seeming a little needy. I would forget what was wrong with her, and fantasize about running back. It was dreadfully annoying that we no longer had her, but a lot of other people still did. In the first half-second after I woke in the morning I would be confused about where I was and what life was surrounding me. I would stare at pictures and feel like the center of me was getting sucked down a drain.

This is all very melodramatic, and I loathe writing this way -- I much prefer to be flip and ridiculous. But relocating our family so drastically from a place we really did love was an incredibly difficult thing, much more difficult than I'd anticipated, and there wasn't much about it that was particularly funny. It didn't help that we were trying to figure out how to survive with a colicky, sleepless baby for our first three months here, and that I was saddled with a nasty case of post-partum-itis. Brandon commented (in concern) that he never saw me laugh anymore, which is an unmistakable sign that I was in a pretty deep well since I mostly can be relied upon to laugh at the stupidest things, including farts and bad TV.

People ask, how do you like North Carolina? And I honestly can't find fault with it. The challenge is not learning to like this -- it is letting go of that. This is a very pretty place, and the people are lovely. We haven't had a bad experience here yet. It has been a joy (and a lifesaver) to be so close to all the grandparents (a 2.5-hour drive); we've traded visits and shared holidays and our children know and adore all of them, as well as my (other) sister and her family. Our neighborhood is wooded and gorgeous, and our neighbors themselves have been beyond welcoming and kind, in a way that mostly eluded us in California. 

It is hard to believe it's been a year already. Some of the sting has worn off, though I have to admit that sometimes hearing the wrong song at the wrong time can bring it back (seriously, the breakup analogy just doesn't quit). The other things that did not go on that truck are, unsurprisingly, what has saved me. Brandon and Elaine and Oliver, my running shoes and my favorite recipes. The emails and phone calls from my sisters, my parents, and my (now mostly remote) friends. Impossibly loud farts from my baby and my 5-year-old asking things like, "Mommy, how did the world become the world?" Fortunately, all those things are what actually comprise my happiness, and they are coming with me everywhere.

Sorry for the sap. I promise I'll go back to being flip and ridiculous in the near future.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Barely escaping with my life from: Canada geese

I dragged them out of bed at 4:45 am and they greeted me at the finish like this.
It is inescapable that there are at least three challenges involved in what I'm doing here: running 12 half-marathons; raising $10,000 for the JDRF; and writing about all of it. This third part is the challenge that sneaked up on me. I love to write. But one problem is, I don't have any time to do it. I spend all day running around after two spazzy kids, and then I put them to bed and I work (freelance editing) until I go to bed. And the second problem is, it is really really hard to write about running and make it interesting. "I lifted my foot and propelled it forward. I lifted the other and ..."

Anyway that little preamble is my way of hopefully making it clear that I take keeping this blog updated seriously. For those of you who have donated to my efforts, I do most definitely feel like I at the very least owe it to you to prove that I am doing the part I committed myself to, and that it is occupying a lot of space in my brain (not to mention schedule). Otherwise, you might assume I talked a big game and made a big noise about all this running and nonsense, I waited until the donations rolled in, and then I went back to popping bonbons. Which of course is what I was doing before.

What was interesting about this run was the lessons learned. There were three that I can think of.

1. You are never too old for your mommy to save your butt.
Right after my last race, I started to panic because I won't be able to run one in July -- every weekend is spoken for, and even if they weren't, there are basically no half-marathons scheduled anywhere near me that month (I can't imagine why). (Oh right: Everyone in the southeastern United States is holed up indoors, with the windows closed and the A/C blasting, and a Zip-Loc baggie of ice cubes stuffed in their underwear for good measure.)

So I needed to double up in June, and the best option I found was just outside Atlanta on June 23. I started to look for a cheap airfare. None was presenting itself, and the 6 1/2-hour drive would be to much for me to do alone and also too much for our family to do with our screamy, car-hating 1-year-old, so I started to think I'd just have to suck it up and cough it up for a not-so-cheap airfare. And then I mentioned my little puzzle to my mom. "I'll drive down with you," she said simply, not really stopping to think very hard about it. "I'd be happy to." She lives outside Charlotte, which is squarely between Chapel Hill and Atlanta, so it wasn't the most illogical solution in the world.

So last Friday, as soon as Brandon was finished working, we threw our things (in this context our two children are being classified as "things") in the car and roared off for the 2 1/2-hour drive to Charlotte. On Saturday, my mom, Elaine and I piled into my parents' Jetta and tooled the 4 1/2 hours to Lawrenceville, Georgia (leaving Brandon and Ollie in Charlotte with my dad). On Sunday, my mom and my 5-year-old got up at 4:45 am, fumbled their way into some clothes, and drove me 30 minutes to the race start. A couple hours later, they met me at the finish, and then off we set to return to Charlotte, only this time it took 6 hours because we sat for 90 minutes with our engine off on the highway just outside Lawrenceville in the nastiest traffic snarl imaginable. And then in Charlotte my husband and I stuffed our two children back in the car, and back to Chapel Hill we went.

All those hours I spent in the car with my mom, she drove. I kept offering, she kept refusing (I am delicately choosing not to wonder if I have some sort of reputation behind the wheel). So she drove well over 11 hours in the space of two days. When she was not driving, she was energetically and uncomplainingly delighting my 5-year-old. Reading to her, drawing with her, saying, "You are kidding me!" with absolute conviction to every single totally-not-shocking announcement Elaine made ("Nana, one day? I saw this bug. And it was black").

2. It is just a little bit fun to be a medium-sized fish in a teeny tiny pond. 
The setting for this run was gorgeous, around a thickly wooded lake that was gently exhaling mist in the early morning. The weather was impossibly, sweetly, beautifully mild: around 70 degrees, with none of the thunderstorms that had been predicted. And the run itself was tiny. All of the signs for the route were hand-lettered in magic marker on posterboard. There were 28 runners doing the half-marathon (those of you who've done longer races know that this meant I was running totally alone for nearly all of the race, without another participant anywhere in sight). There were no chips on our bibs; our times were recorded by hand as we finished. And I finished fourth. I ran just a little bit faster than usual, but certainly nowhere near the speed of typical fourth-place finishers. I got to pretend like I was a hot shot, just for a fraction of time. I liked it.

3. Canada geese, deer and frogs do not give a shit about runners. 
Owing to the setting (lake, woods), I saw a bit of all three. Well, a lot of the first, since Canada geese tend to hang out in groupings of no less than a zillion. And it's just a little bit intimidating when they have crowded themselves across your path, and they all look up when they hear you coming and turn their zombie-ishly expressionless black faces toward you, and move precisely not one inch (while, apparently, continuing to void their bowels -- those things poo an astounding amount). You wonder if anyone would hear your screams, if you know what I mean. The deer, they just keep languidly munching the underbrush next to the path as you huff past, literally not even looking up. And the frogs, well ... there were at least three that were freshly squished on the path, presumably by runners one, two and three. Flattened frogs on a pedestrian-only path are a little depressing, and also baffling (why don't they move it?).

And there it is. I'm 25% of the way through my races, and 33% of the way to my fundraising goal. I feel constantly inadequate in my efforts to show my gratitude to everyone who has supported me, by donating, by forwarding and reposting my information, by acting like what I am doing is worthwhile and appearing to hope I succeed. Thank you.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

In which I did not barf

A common piece of advice you hear thrown around is: Listen to your body. It sounds like great advice, and I think its underlying meaning is usually something along the lines of "don't ignore screaming pain" or "call a doctor if you get short of breath on your way to the fridge" or "start going to bed earlier if you are becoming so exhausted that you fall asleep midsentence while reading to your daughter during the afternoon" (this has actually happened to me. Not very long ago).

But here is the thing: it is super-easy to go deaf to most of the voices that represent your physical needs. In my case, I got noticeably good at the deafness after having two kids. When you're pregnant, and giving birth, and then raising the little nutcases, it becomes impossible to accommodate all your body's requests and demands, no matter how reasonable they are. Just for example, when you are pregnant, your stomach says things like "Let's not eat anything at all for several days now" followed almost immediately by "Let's eat everything in sight, maybe we could get our hands on that partially eaten donut our colleague just pitched in the trash can" and then (this one is very popular) "Let's barf, a lot and all the time, in response to nearly all smells, sights, thoughts, motion and any movement of air, even when we are completely empty let us heave violently and try to barf anyway." Your hips say "Ow dear lord OW, we don't stretch laterally, we're not designed that way, you're going to have to remove the baby some other way because it's not passing through THIS gate." Your feet and back say "We cannot accommodate the needs of a whale, you suck, we are going to complain incessantly until you do something about that ridiculous appendage out front." During childbirth your entire body says "Let's die now, that really seems like an attractive option, no matter what the means it has to be less inconvenient and excruciating than this other business."

Clearly, you can't fulfill all those requests, no matter how urgent they seem. You ignore them, push past them, stop talking or thinking about them, because if you didn't you would achieve spectacular levels of misery and no one could stand to be around you. Mostly you have better things to do. You are distracted by exciting prospects, or you simply can't be bothered to slow down for yourself. Or, as on that last count, the childbirth one, Western medicine is in your corner, if you want it there (I found it to be a very welcome companion after a couple of days).

Anyway my point is: This deafness, I think it is now my friend. Yesterday morning my knees complained, my toes hurt, I had a headache. But I didn't wallow in any of it. I instead thought about other things. In my head, as I chugged along for 13.1 miles, I read through all these incredible comments people put on my JDRF page, telling me I can do it. I tried to imagine what it will feel like when I have done it. I spent a lot of time thinking about money and how hard nearly everyone works for it and all the stress it can cause, and how shockingly awesome it is that people will part with some of it when there is little chance that they'll get any tangible reward or gain for doing so. I also thought a lot about food and coffee, because I wanted some of both.

Until the first 30 minutes after I finished the race. Then I mostly thought about barfing. I graduated from the place where you hope you won't to the place where you wish you would so you can feel better. I tried pacing, I tried to sit still, I sought shade, I wandered away from my wonderful husband and children, trying to find a space where the nausea was not. And I did it. I pushed through that too, I won! Once that last voice had gone quiet, the endorphins and the adrenaline took over, and I was excited, I am excited I am doing this.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

FAQs re: Sex and my drug problem

I suppose I should be clear about something. There are no frequently asked questions. If you must know, there are no infrequently asked ones either. No one has asked me any questions. But I feel that if I manufacture a din of noise surrounding this blog and my fundraising project, I can project an illusion of legitimacy that will cause bank accounts to magically start leaking in my general direction, to the tune of $10,000. (I must pause here to say that I have been floored, absolutely floored by the generosity of the donations I have received so far. Sometimes people's wonderfulness amazes me, and this is one of those times.)

The other thing I should mention is, this has nothing to do with sex and I don't use drugs (unless you count the ones to treat the SFD). But I know how people are -- who doesn't want to read about someone else's sex and drugs? Most especially the sexiness and drugginess of a suburban mom. I wanted you to click through. It worked. See?

Anyway I fancy myself a psychic and I'm pretty sure I've picked up on some questions that are running through the minds of the kind people who've given any attention at all to my half-marathon challenge and my fundraising efforts. Since everyone is too shy to approach me with them, I'm just going to go ahead and jump to step 2, where I open myself up like a book.

1. Wow, you're going to do a lot of running in the next year. How impressive that you are such an elite and gifted athlete. Tell us when you first realized your gazelle-like build was designed for running, and please explain what tragedy of human error kept you out of the Olympics. 

I am such a gifted athlete that I meticulously avoided nearly all physical exertion for close to the first quarter-century of my life. I didn't want to risk an injury, or maybe a sweat stain, while my physique was still so young and tender. Ok haha funny. The point is, I'm not a naturally athletic person. I have short legs, an impatient mind (my biggest enemy on longer runs is not physical fatigue but rather mental boredom) and blood sugar issues -- cough! -- that can mess with my ability to push myself. Though I've been a pretty active person for most of my truly "adult" life (I lived in California for 13 years; it requires more willpower to sit still there than not), this is still a steep challenge for me. Like a lot of stay-at-home moms (I do still work, but I'm a freelancer so it's all at home), I've turned to exercise to provide me with an escape and a few little slivers of time that are for me and only me, when I can visualize Big Thoughts and wonder what I would do with them if I had the time. I had been wanting to do some diabetes research fundraising, and one of those Big Thoughts came while I was running a month or so ago, and ... I lost sight of rational thought.

2.  What is your least favorite part of running? 

Dead squirrels. I am a new resident of North Carolina, where behemoth, behaviorally challenged squirrels outnumber humans by a factor of 57 to 1. I live in a wooded area where there are no sidewalks, so I run in the street, and I swear on some days it's like a steeplechase event to avoid slipping on the scores of flattened squirrels. I saw one get hit once, too, which was horribly upsetting.

3. Back in 1997-'99, when you lived in Chicago and were broke, it's been rumored that you used to put away a massive box of Hot Tamales on a regular basis, like maybe every day at work. They cost $1 at Walgreen's, it's been said. Also that you used to eat a lot of bagels. Tell the truth: Did you wear out your pancreas?

Thanks so much for asking this. I know it confuses a lot of people. The term "diabetes" gets thrown around a lot in the media and in big pharma ads and in political debates, and in general the implication is that it is a problem caused by Americans' refusal to follow basic guidelines of self-care, such as not sucking on a stick of butter for dinner and washing it down with 64 oz. of high fructose corn syrup.
Unfortunately, the distinction between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes is often lost. I know that Type 2 has been linked with certain lifestyle choices, such as a poor diet. That is all I'll say about that, because I'm not an expert on it (visit the website of the American Diabetes Association for a lot of good info on Type 2). What I can tell you is this: I did not wear out my pancreas in order to achieve Type 1 diabetes. It was a victim of SABOTAGE. By whom? Why, by my own body, of course. My immune system went all paranoid schizo and got destructive. It mistook the insulin-producing beta cells in my pancreas as a threat, a virus perhaps, and decided to vanquish them. Most people can eat massive boxes of Hot Tamales all they want; hopefully you are one of them. Go ahead and try it. You won't get Type 1 diabetes ... at least not from that. (Visit the website of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation for more details.)

4. Do you ever fantasize about saying, "I used to have diabetes?"

I do. I have lurid fantasies about that. I also fantasize about long and luxurious nights of sleep, during which I am not woken up by my continuous glucose monitor (CGM) buzzing to alert me to hyper- or hypoglycemia, or by a general sense that my brain and body are slipping into a deep dark hole (hyperglycemia, which my CGM sometimes misses -- it's a highly imperfect technology -- and which is the condition that occasionally causes diabetics to expire during the night). I fantasize about being able to wear sundresses without having to strap my insulin pump to my thigh (I believe it looks like I'm carrying; you can detect an outline of it through most fabrics, and I wonder how many people are extra-nice to me because they don't want to become a statistic). I fantasize about pounding an entire huge box of Hot Tamales (see question #3) or a humongous glass of lemonade on a hot day. I fantasize about having a smooth abdomen that is not riddled with scars and scar tissue from all the needles. I fantasize about my grown children having dim, confusing memories of Mommy fiddling around with a lot of syringes when they were younger and wondering how to ask me when I kicked the heroin habit.

5. You mentioned that you're a new resident of North Carolina. What do you think of the way people park their cars there? 

I've been wondering when someone would ask me this. Yo, people here do not know how to park a car. They are completely flummoxed by the mazework of white lines that are all over the place on the pavement in parking lots, and they seem to respond by instantly throwing the car in park and fleeing as soon as they realize they're surrounded by them. A few special people take the time to carefully, oh so carefully make sure their car is squarely straddling a white line before they depart. Others partake in some kind of contest to see how tightly they can get it in, parking as closely as humanly possible to the car in the slot next door (usually mine). They neatly roll their tires on or over the white line on the passenger side and proudly stride away from that 3/4 inch gap that DOES NOT ALLOW ME ENOUGH ROOM TO PUT MY BABY IN HIS CARSEAT. I hasten to say that the people I've actually interacted with in NC have been awesome in nearly all ways. Maybe all these innovative parkers have drifted up from South Carolina or something.

I am certain that as time passes, other questions will be asked more frequently ... or asked. I shall answer them in the order they are received.

Monday, May 27, 2013

And here it goes: The Runs

** If you're already ready to donate, you are (one of) my hero(es). Click here. **

WHO: Me, Alison Aves, mom of two, haver of Type 1 diabetes (T1D, aka juvenile diabetes, aka insulin-dependent diabetes, aka SFD or stupid, um, freaking disease)

WHAT: Raising money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF)

HOW: By running half-marathons*. A lot of them. Twelve over the course of a year**.

WHEN: May 2013–April 2014

WHERE: Mostly in North Carolina, although I won't rule out events more far-flung

The cause of Type 1 diabetes is unknown. Unlike Type 2 diabetes, it is not associated with obesity or lifestyle factors such as smoking cigarettes or a poor diet. Susceptibility is believed to be rooted in genetics, but scientists have not nailed down the genetic abnormality nor what triggers the immune system to go haywire and destroy the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas (why do so many people develop it as children, but my body pulled the trigger at age 29? Big mystery. Why is there such a low coincidence of family members having it? Another big mystery -- no one in my family does). There is nothing I could have done to prevent myself from developing it -- and there is nothing I can do to lessen the probability that my children will develop it.

That is why I'm doing this. I'd love it if someone developed a cure, but I'm far more interested in scientists figuring out how to identify tomorrow's T1 diabetics and prevent them from developing it. I honestly cannot imagine the enormous burden on children and teenagers who have this disease, and on their parents. Once your pancreas has permanently and unapologetically excused itself from duty, managing your blood sugar requires around-the-clock vigilance 365 days a year. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) makes you feel pretty terrible in the short term and can result in seizures, coma and (inconveniently) death. Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) slowly and quietly leads your body toward nerve damage (and resultant amputations), blindness, renal failure, heart disease ... and also (still inconvenient) death.

T1D cannot be managed with diet and exercise; that is why it is alternately referred to as insulin-dependent. No matter how religiously you exercise, control your diet, check your blood sugar, meticulously calibrate the amount of insulin you are taking, you are never guaranteed positive outcomes in the short or long term. This disease is deadly. Being responsible for all of that in my own body is troubling, but the specter of assuming responsibility for it in the futures of the people I love more than anything in the world is unimaginable.

1. Donate. Please, please support me by making a contribution to the JDRF on behalf of my campaign Any amount would be incredible. I expect to be doing most of my runs alone, and running 13.1 miles with only your thoughts and possibly a decent playlist to keep you company can be a trifle boring. BUT. If I am running knowing that friends, family, acquaintances, and perhaps also total strangers are behind me, that you think what I am doing is worthwhile, and that if I DON'T run I will be letting down people who coughed up actual cold, hard cash on a bet that I can do this -- I will run. I can do it. I will do it. Because I'll look like a tremendous loser if I don't.

2. Tell people you know about this crazy person who is doing this crazy thing ... Please forward my information -- a link to my donation page on the JDRF website, or a link to this extremely thin-on-content-so-far blog -- to anyone you think might possibly be interested in T1D research. Or anyone who might possibly be interested in watching a suburban, middle-aged mom of two permanently destroy her knees in that pursuit.

3. Cheer me on. I have (just barely) started this blog. It is not going to be exclusively about running or diabetes (two things I personally find uninteresting to write or read about). But I will keep it updated with information about my fundraising and about my runs, and please believe me when I say it will be of immeasurable value to me if you get on there from time to time and say "Woo woo go get 'em!" or "I'll be sleeping while you're running haha!" or "I always knew you weren't playing with a full deck!" or whatever it is you think I should hear.

4. Or join me. Running with a partner is so much more enjoyable. As I choose my events, I'll update the blog, and if you want to outfit yourself with a bib and meet me at the start of any of them I would think it was so wonderful. I don't intend to run super-fast though and if you show up for the exclusive purpose of dusting me I'll think you're kind of mean.

Ok, I have to stop writing and typing and thinking and fretting, and just post this letter and launch this idea and get going on it already. I already ran the first half-marathon on May 19; the next is in five short days. To have a prayer of reaching my fundraising goal ($10,000), I need to push off the dock. Good luck to me.

* I feel the need to provide a two-part disclaimer. The first is that as of this writing, I have already done one of the half-marathons, back on May 19. I had to do one before making my campaign official, just to make sure it wouldn't completely (or at least instantly) kill me. The second part is: If my knees or some other part of my physical being seem to be veering toward a road of permanent malfunction, I reserve the right to revise my goal. I won't do *nothing*, but I may do shorter runs (though more of them).

** See first disclaimer. If something happens (illness? injury? cancelled events?) that makes it impossible to complete all 12 runs in 12 months, I'd ask for an exception to lengthen the duration a bit.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

One down!!

I did it! I ran my first half-marathon. It totally sucked!

I'm only half-kidding. The night started off with my blood sugar refusing to settle down and waking me up a handful of times. The little baby is sick and woke us up on and off through the night fussing. And then the older one, the five-year-old, did something she has not done since infancy (I am not kidding): she woke up at 3:45am and never went back to sleep. So, the upshot is, I had had less than 4 hours of sleep. When the race started at 7:00, I had been awake continuously for over three hours already.

Between that, and no running partner, and no headphones, I was pretty uncomfortable most of the race. The first three miles, my legs were protesting even the *idea* that they might eventually be warmed up. The last five miles, I was experiencing something I've never felt while running before, basically Jell-O legs. In the miles in between, I was just tired and impatient.

But you know what: I still did it. I didn't have to stop, and I achieved my goal of finishing in less than two hours. The rest of the day didn't have much going for it; the baby was really miserably ill and spent the entire day sacked out in a burning little heap on Brandon's chest, waking only occasionally to fuss and gaze glassy-eyed and unseeing at whatever was in front of him. It was so heartbreaking to see a usually chatty, smiley, very active little baby suffer so much.

Anyway, I think I could do my challenge. My knees are pretty pissed tonight, but I've felt decent today all in all, other than worrying.

Twelve half-marathons in one year? Is it just entirely stupid?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Bawwwk, bawkbawkbawk

Here I am, hiding behind time.

So I did it. Last night I finally bit the bullet and registered for a half-marathon ... this weekend. Yes, I am that big of a chicken that it took me this long to actually commit, six days before the event. And it was sort of like when you stand at the edge of a freezing cold pool, trying to force your body to hurl itself in, and then you look down and realize that not only is the water freezing cold but has a crust of dead bugs floating on top. I looked down and realized that not only is it a half-marathon that I will be running without a partner, but headphones are not permitted.

WHAT. Why? Something about insurance? Makes exactly not one bit of sense to me. But I will be running my first 13.1 miles with no one to talk to and no tunes to help distract me. It will be between 90 and 120 minutes of me counting the strides until I'm finished. I sure hope there are some people doing this run that have strides worth staring at, or are loudly having conversations about their personal tribulations that I can eavesdrop on, or that it is OK with those around me if I start singing Dead Milkmen songs to myself while I run. Because otherwise this is going to, um, suck. 

I originally was going to start drawing attention to myself and my goal before running any halfs at all. But then (bawk bawk bawk) I decided I should probably at least try running one before asking a lot of people to pay attention and uh, commit money to my goal. I felt fantastic after our 10-miler a few weeks ago, and since then I've done a couple of runs that were over 10 miles and I felt pretty good afterward. But I do need to try doing an event by myself (if I'm doing 12 half-marathons in a year I'm quite sure I'll be doing most of them without a running partner) and make sure it doesn't crush me mentally (bawwwwk bawk bawk), and also just confirm that there is not some magical amount of exertion between 11 and 13.1 miles that renders me a puddle of half-congealed custard for several subsequent days. I'm a mom with a couple of small kids that relentlessly challenge me physically and mentally every single day. I really can't afford (nor can my husband) to choose to do something that will put me on short-term disability for a few days every month. Bawkbawkbawkbawk


Wednesday, May 8, 2013


I am having a post-baby mid-life suspended-career crisis.

There is just a tiny bit of forethought to this, but only a tiny bit. Last year, as I was flailing through my pregnancy, with my hugeness and the baby's hugeness and my constant doctor visits and a bunch of little physiological glitches on top of the ones typically associated with pregnancy and the increasing discomfort of wearing my insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor (CGM) and 15 finger sticks a day ... I decided that diabetes is, in fact, a big frigging deal. In the seven years since I'd developed it, I'd mostly adopted an attitude of "it's not that big a deal, you just have to manage it" but this had evolved into a "for the love of god managing it is beyond exhausting and frustrating and discouraging and expensive and time-consuming and frightening (when the well-being of your unborn child hangs in the balance) and imagine if I didn't have insurance? or if I were a child? or I didn't speak English well? or I wasn't bull-headed enough to inspect all my medical bills carefully to uncover those thousands of dollars' worth of incorrectly processed claims and make all the calls to straighten them out? ... or, and I feel I take a risk by even thinking/uttering/writing this thought ... what if my children end up burdened with this?"

I'm not a scientist and there's little chance I will find a cure for diabetes or help figure out how to identify people who are at risk for developing it and stop its onset. The best I can do is try to help the scientists who are doing those things get it done.

I could be an "advocate" or an educator. I've thought about radically switching career paths and becoming a nutritionist to help people with the daunting task of figuring out how to feed themselves after they develop this disease. A few years back I was offered a job with a well-respected diabetes magazine. But there is something in me that shrinks from those possibilities. I think it's that I don't want to have this disease at the center of my universe. It is, regrettably, an incredibly large part of my life, but I don't want it to head the list of things that define me. I don't want to have to think about it more than I already do. I don't want to have to talk and read and obsess about it constantly.

So there is fund-raising, but here's the little snag with that: I'm terrible, absolutely terrible at asking people for money. For anything. Even if I deserve it. Even if they owe it to me. In this case, nobody owes me anything and most of the people I'm asking for money don't stand to benefit directly from handing any over. (And I hope they never will.) I feel like I have to do some sort of something to make it clear that this is a really important commitment to me, and also to prove that I'm not wishing for a cure for diabetes so that I can sit around on the couch and cram marshmallows into my face all day long. I'm living a pretty good life with and despite this disease. But I'm hoping that my little tiny stunt -- 12 half-marathons in one year -- will keep people interested enough that they'll forward my info to a small handful of other people and everyone will give a few dollars and eventually it will not seem as though I am just some crazy broad who is running her joints into a pulp because of some narcissistic conviction that anyone gives a damn.

That was your cue.

Monday, May 6, 2013


Here it is. This blog. Which I am going to do something with, as soon as I have the time. I am going to make it a place that is worth visiting. I am going to use it to document my ill-advised attempt to be a fund-raising diabetic hero. I am going to be funny sometimes. I am going to try but fail to be funny other times. I will not write only about running, or about diabetes, or about my children, or about my neuroses. I will be interesting and urgent and compelling.