Sunday, September 11, 2011

Nora's Crocodile Walkers in 2011

Dear Family, Friends, Loved Ones, and Colleagues,

I am asking for your help. Asking for nothing would be my fondest wish right now, but I simply can’t abide my life if I have not made efforts to help my own family. I hope you can offer some kind of financial support to bolster the great research happening today which is bringing a cure for diabetes a bit closer. For those who are interested to know more, please read on. I have tried to help someone on the outside of the problem appreciate a bit of the reality of life with diabetes.

Eight years ago our family experienced a profound transformation. We became a family with a type 1 diabetic child. Our first child, Eleanor, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes while she was still only two. Each day since then, each hour, has included some chore, task, reference, thought, or responsibility demanded of us by diabetes. Please do not think of this as an exaggeration, because if I err, it will be in making the demands less pressing than what they are.

And so we live. We focus on life with as much positive energy as we can. Nora does an excellent job of accepting her circumstances on most days. The rest of us do as well. Blood sugar checks number into the multi-thousands that have been endured so far. Daily shots have given way to the self enclosed delivery device called an OmniPod. This device still has to be monitored, though, and changed no less than every three days. This involves having a spring loaded needle inject the delivery line under the skin. It hurts. The insulin that we have put into the pod then gets gradually delivered into the blood as programming suggests. Who programs it? We do. The programming is based on experience and ever-changing needs of the user. Nothing is automatic; not really.

And so we plan. After eight years we are getting pretty proficient with our knowledge of food and its various carbohydrate counts. Nora gives herself more insulin, called a bolus, whenever she eats. This is based on the carbohydrates in the food. Again, formulas are used, but life is inexact. We still practice a refined form of guess work when needed. When the birthday parties, sleepovers, field trips, celebration dinners, etc. arise, we try our best to plan for it, or at least react well to what is being offered. Nora is growing and changing, and her insulin demands continue to change accordingly. She recently completed a kids’ triathlon, proving that her limits are still far on the horizon.

And we educate. Nora is older, and we all are slightly wiser. Still we find ourselves dealing frequently with misconceptions and ignorance about diabetes. Since Nora’s pod is sometimes visible she gets asked about it. She explains the situation quite well, but I wonder when she might get sick of saying it all. Well meaning people, both family and friends alike, still make comments that amaze me. Recently we were asked again if it is OK for Nora to have chocolate. I have heard someone telling another that she is not allowed to eat sugar. Others persist in these outdated assumptions that come from times when diabetes was not understood well, and its management tools were severely limited.

And we hope. Our lives are woven with the demands of type 1 diabetes. But the reason we ask for help and support is because we hope for a day when we can let go of that part of life. We hope to leave behind our diabetic lifestyle one day soon. Please help us to reach that important goal.

We are walking again this year on October 29th at Military Park, Indianapolis. The Walk for a Cure is a great day to bring together hundreds of people in one place to support JDRF and its efforts fund research. If you wish to donate, you can do so online by following the links I have listed below. You may also write a check payable to JDRF. Any size of donation is useful and appreciated, and all are tax deductible.

Please visit my walk fundraising page at the following link. This will allow you to make an online donation if you should choose to do so. Of course, it would be very exciting and helpful if you would want to join our walk team. Information is also at this link:

We are hoping to do well for Nora’s team this year, just as my wife Lisa’s cycling team efforts have been such a huge success, thanks to the generosity of others. Thanks for your time in reading this. You are part of the cure.

Andy Blythe,
Nora’s Crocodile Rockers, Team Captain

For further information, here are some truths that you should remember…
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic, debilitating disease affecting every organ system. There are two major types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which a person's pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone that enables people to get energy from food. Type 1 diabetes usually strikes in childhood, adolescence, or young adulthood, and lasts a lifetime. Just to survive, people with type 1 diabetes must take multiple injections of insulin daily or continually infuse insulin through a pump. Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder in which a person's body still produces insulin but is unable to use it effectively. Type 2 is usually diagnosed in adulthood and does not always require insulin injections. However, increased obesity has led to a recent rise in cases of type 2 diabetes in children and young adults.

Taking insulin does not cure any type of diabetes, nor does it prevent the possibility of the disease's devastating effects: kidney failure, blindness, nerve damage, amputation, heart attack, stroke, and pregnancy complications.

The Scope of Diabetes
• Nearly 24 million Americans have diabetes (7.8 percent of the population):
Diagnosed: 17.9 million
Undiagnosed: 5.7 million
• As many as three million Americans may have type 1 diabetes.
• Diabetes currently affects 285 million people worldwide and is expected to affect 435 million by 2030.
• In the U.S., a new case of diabetes is diagnosed every 30 seconds; more than 1.6 million people are diagnosed each year.

The Cost of Diabetes
• Diabetes is one of the costliest chronic diseases.
• In 2007, diabetes accounted for $174 billion in health care costs in the U.S.
• Diabetes accounts for 32 percent of all Medicare expenditures.
• The nation spent $11,744 annually on each person with diabetes in 2007 compared to $2,935 on each person without diabetes.
• Americans with diabetes incur medical expenses that are approximately 2.3 times higher than those incurred by Americans without diabetes.
• U.S. hospital stays related to diabetes totaled $58.3 billion in 2007.
• An estimated 22 percent of hospital inpatient days in the U.S. were incurred by people with diabetes in 2007.

The Harm Caused by Diabetes
Damage to Many Organ Systems: Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, adult blindness, and non-traumatic amputations. It is also a leading cause of nerve damage.

Increased Heart Disease Risk: People with diabetes are two-to-four times more likely to have a heart attack or stroke than people without the disease.

Shortened Life: Diabetes kills one American every three minutes and is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. Life expectancy for people with diabetes has historically been shortened by an average of seven to 10 years, and the risk of death for people with diabetes is about double that of people of similar age without diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes, 2004; KRC Research for JDRF, Jan. 2005

For more information, visit the JDRF web site at or call 800-533-CURE.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

For the love of beautiful women.

I don't know when I learned about beautiful women. Like most boys, I suppose it must have started with my mother, who, as you may assume, is a beautiful woman. She is crippled now in multiple ways from illnesses including rheumatoid arthritis. Her mobility is so limited that her hair is nothing but a matted nest of tangles that will probably have to be cut free and left to grow again. But through all of this pain and loss of her former self, my mother has retained the essence of her beauty. She still can and does express her love for me and my children, for a dog, or perhaps a fallen bird. She loves still. And this capacity to love is the source of beauty.

I have met many beautiful women who have the sort of socially coveted beauty paraded across media outlets like an incessant pageant with rotating princesses. Their beauty often becomes tarnished as soon as the first conversation begins. From their beautiful mouths and betwixt their luminous, equine teeth what should issue forth? Insecurities, defensive and offensive darts and barbs, vulgarities and cruelties, elitism, racism, any of the contemptible isms. What is there to gain from speaking further with such a woman? There are enough people in any life who will worm their way into your circles, people you never invited, yet people still who become necessarily linked with you. Why would any sane person choose to add another of their ilk into the pack? When a woman churns poison and sprays it out through her mouth, her beauty loses all of its magic.

There are many beautiful women in the world. This is the great part of the message. They are married and single. They are born of all races and from all countries. Culture, heritage, orientations- all are introduced and accentuated by her true beauty. They are women whose spirits deliver bursts of love and energy like the morning light filtered through a sun catcher. Women such as these aren't trying to impress yet still their beauty is compelling.

Believe in this. It is real, this beauty that women possess. It is not so rare as you might imagine. This kind of beauty will be found where there is kindness and sincere laughter. Where there is compassion, caring, and joy for life, there, too, lives this beauty.

Don't take me to mean that I believe in flawless and shimmering beings. The spirit is so, but the lives we lead are far from flawless. Women who are beautiful can drink and be inked. They can be pierced and fierce. The beauty of the spirit illuminates the visible stage production that the world is allowed to see.

To any who read this, I hope you know the truth contained in this little rambling. You beautiful women in my life, thank you for being you. To those I have yet to meet, I hope you have someone like me who can see your true nature and be knocked happily breathless whenever you enter the room.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What Gordon Ramsay has taught me about restaurants

I really enjoy watching Gordon Ramsay's cooking shows. When he releases his fury into the faces of prospective top chefs, restaurant owners, cooks, and hapless managers, he breaks our social structure and gets away with it. But what I have learned from the shows isn't about yelling and cursing. What follows are a few notes on food and eating that Chef Ramsay has taught me.

"It's Raw!" If undercooked food is leaving a kitchen, send it back, then leave the place for your own safety.

"It's Disgusting and Dirty." Dirty plates, utensils, glasses, etc. are also a great indicator of a place you don't need to be eating in. Run away.

"Is the crab cake made with fresh crab?" Apparently everyone from the chef to the server will lie if you ask this question. If you're not in a restaurant situated on a bay or ocean, you should probably assume the crab cakes have been frozen. What a shame.

"This Risotto looks like baby vomit." Risotto, apparently, is difficult to cook properly. Not sure I would feel good about ordering it.

"Scallops" Oh my. So many bad scallops tossed into trash bins- it makes you wonder if anyone has ever cooked them before.

"Pasta" Make it fresh. End of discussion.

Finally, if you ever cook something to be served to others, taste it before it gets served. Taste it, and do it over if it isn't right.


Friday, April 15, 2011

Late Night Frog Watch

The family just made the bold trek into the night wilderness for a frog watch. This is real, for city-folk and doubters, and is pretty close to how it sounds.

The watch took place at Eagle Creek park in Indianapolis. About twenty people arrived as night fell upon the learning center building. A presenter called Frog Dawn gave us all the low-down on frog life and lore. She also is an excellent mimic of frog calls, which makes her parents either very proud or very smug for naming her Frog Dawn. She has a friend who presents at the park, too, called Hawk Dawn. She does not imitate hawk calls. Her parents? Confused.

The youngest of our family, the one who has the spooky talent of wrangling lady bugs from unknown places, she captured the only frog of the night. Perhaps she is some sort of animal medium. She was quite happy to be hunting frogs as well as staying up quite past her bedtime.

Fun was had by all. And I am sure it beats out TV and video games.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Dog's Life

If your dog could only speak one word, what would it be? This question was posed to me recently by a brilliantly funny friend who always keeps company with brilliant dogs. My dog, I suspect would have a single word similar to the one that got Ralphie in trouble in "A Christmas Story." Yeah, the one that wasn't fudge.

It isn't so much a question of his manners or civility. He just is mostly on the edge of exasperation with us humans in his life. He doesn't do calm very well. Most of his breed are this way.

He, my dog, is a Pembroke Welsh Corgi. This means he has one burning desire in life- to bring into one confined space, all living creatures. We do not comply with his wishes.

He has a list of things that annoy him, or, rather, his people have generated a list. It grows constantly. The fact that he is nearly 13 does not make him more agreeable. So, without further meandering, here's the list (annotated).

BICYCLE PUMP, simply touching it, because offensive noises will ensue
DOORBELL, disembodied herald of visitors must die

In case you think he is always grumpy, there are things which make Conner happy.


See, all very well balanced.

Good boy!

Friday, February 4, 2011

No More Ice-Breakers

For the last several days, I have been busting, cracking, shoveling, melting, tossing, cursing, stomping, and begging the three-inch-thick layer of ice lain upon my world. My hands are blistered and trembling. And after all I have done, there is still more ice, mocking me. Yes, it mocks. It groans with sarcasm as I approach it with my garden shovel.

We'll see who laughs tomorrow when my new employees arrive to finish the work. Who have I hired, you ask? Well, well, WELL! Let me clear my throat!

Asashoryu, having not much else going on, is on the way to spread salt upon the ice and stomp it into unrighteous bits.

These Irish Cloggers are also en route from parts unknown. Well, unknown parts of Wisconsin. They are sure to break up the bigger parts of the sidewalk.

Finally, the stompiest solution to my problems, if the first two can't cut it....

If Savion Glover can't break up the frozen waste that is my property line, then I give up. Nature, you win.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Stupid Life of Boys

As the Midwest, and especially Indiana, is gripped by the icy clutches of this year's winter, I can't help but recall winters of my youth. We were young once, and stupid. I found myself today describing to my daughter what it was to bumper ride at the bus stop on icy mornings. She agreed I used to be quite stupid.

If you can't guess by the name, a bumper ride consists of grabbing onto the bumper of a car which stopped at the bus stop corner, then holding on to slide as long as you dared until you had to let go. No one was ever hurt, but the possibilities of injury now stagger my adult mind.

After buying another sled as well as a snowboard earlier this season, I remembered the equipment my brother and I used on our snow and ice hills. We careened on cardboard, tobogganed on trash can lids, and sliced on aluminum siding. Our parents had, in fact, bought actual sleds for us, but many of our friends had to do without, so we got used to the fun of improvisation. Never did anyone wear, nor even own, a helmet, pad, or piece of actual protective gear. There were more than a few icy chutes of a hill streaked pink from someone's split lip or newly rearranged dental alignment.

And we kept going. The rule in our neighborhood was simple. You went in when, and only when, no one could understand you anymore because your face and mouth parts were too numb to respond. By then you trudged home in some sort of exhausted, trance-like state, famished and beaten, but Mom still looked at the clock as if to say, "back already?" When the jeans came off, they stood on their own by the door, infused with ice.

As I fell flat on my back yesterday for about the ninth time, I started to complain to myself, but then I remembered, this used to be what we called fun. Nothing was broken, and to someone watching, the falls were probably funny. So I went back chopping the ice in the driveway wondering how much longer my hands would work. Did I suddenly turn ambisinister, or had the cold and fatigue finally beaten me again? I dropped the shovel and started to ask someone walking by what time it was, but they couldn't understand me. I figured then the work was done.

If someone grabs your bumper by the bus stop, don't worry, I've done it lots of times before.