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Friends for Life Frenzy.

Bringing Birdy to the Friends for Life conference was awesome, because I was finally able to introduce my bonkers Birdzone to my friends in the diabetes community.  (And by “finally,” I mean in a way that counted.  When I brought Birdy to the conference when she was two months old, it barely counts, because she was more in the “burping and pooping and sleeping,” which she’s still into, but in a different capacity.  Except the “sleeping” bit. She’s not really into that.)  This year, my daughter was part of the party.

This year’s Friends for Life conference was different, for me.  With my mom and my daughter traveling with me, my perspective was skewed, seeing the conference through my own eyes (as an adult T1D PWD and faculty member), my mother’s (the parent of a grown-up CWD), and my daughter (the kid of an adult T1D PWD – holy acronym).  I watched as my mom worked to find her footing, immersing herself into a large network of other parents, even though her own kid was now grown.  I watched my daughter reintroduce herself to some of my favorite people, like Scott and Christel, and hug them fiercely.  I saw how Friends for Life could touch the lives not just of people living with diabetes, but for the people who care about the people living with it.  Because they’re also living with it.

As part of the conference team, I was responsible for co-leading several sessions, including the impact diabetes has on dating, a discussion about pregnancy, one about parenting, and a session on social media and the diabetes online community.  These discussions always serve to reignite my passion for connecting with other people who have diabetes, and talking about ways to improve our collective experiences.  (That, and they’re fun.)  More on these talks later, as I unpack suitcases and reclaim the parts of my brain that smash words together.

It’s a busy conference – lots of running around – and the breaks are brief and coffee/glucose-tab fueled.  There are so many people there that I want to talk to, and so many that I want to give huge “thank you” hugs to.  Running from session to session, with stop-overs at daycare to bring Birdy to the bathroom and then drop her back off with the other little kids, I felt like there wasn’t ever enough time to do or see it all.  I wanted to slow everything down, but the week rushed by at an incredible pace that left me hoping for ways to stretch hours into days.

It’s sometimes too much, trying to find words to describe how this conference has changed my life over the years.  I knew I wasn’t ever truly alone, but sometimes diabetes can capture you in a cage of isolation, making you feel like even small changes are too big to make.  But then you look around, right?  And you see the sea of green bracelets on the wrists of people whose pancreases are the same as yours, holding tight to family members with orange bracelets, and becomes more than diabetes.  It’s more than insulin.  It’s more than meters.

On Thursday night, at the FFL banquet, Scott and I were honored with the Friends for Life award, recognizing our work on our respective blogs, and also in helping to bring the “adults with type 1” track to life for the conference.  That night, I couldn’t figure out what to say.  Even now, a few days later, I still don’t know, other than a “thank you” that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface.  But I do know that those awards stand to recognize not just individuals, but what the DOC has done and changed over the last decade.  Every voice matters, and every story heals.  For me, sharing these stories has been part of the prescription for good health.  Being part of this community has improved the way I manage my diabetes, and I am forever grateful.

Our lives are all different, from those without diabetes, and even within our own diabetes community.  In a week at Friends for Life, we learn that our differences can be empowering.  And our sames can be uniting.

“Mawm, I wuv confwences,” Birdy told me, spinning the orange bracelet on her wrist.

I touched her orange one with my green one, and she smiled.  “Me too, love.  Me too.”

15 Comments Post a comment
  1. Ivy #

    It was so nice to see three generations together at the conference. I hope Kyra finds her own group of “greenies” who she can run to, eat with, hug, and have “confwences” with as an adult if she wants to. We parents of T1s see the adult T1s thriving and it’s just good for the soul.

    07/15/13; 11:12 am
  2. Erin #

    I’m 15, and this summer will be my last as a camper at Clara Barton Camp. I’ve been upset lately because I thought I would have no way to connect with other PWDs after camp. This post took away all my worries, so thank you! I’m glad you like it so much, and I definitely want to go to an FFL conference next summer!

    07/15/13; 11:15 am
  3. I loved your sessions (but you know that already.) I loved meeting Birdy and I loved jumping up & down with her before the banquet and then hearing her say “you’re fwiendly.”

    07/15/13; 11:17 am
  4. I cannot WAIT to (hopefully) go next year. I keep saying this, but I just had a teeny tiny taste of it when we were together in February (or was it March? I can’t keep up these days.) I chuckled when you said that you brought Birdy when she was 2 months old.. I thought to myself, “Man, I could’ve done that!” But then I looked over at both of my crying babies and thought … “Nah, I made the right choice this year.” LOL Next year, though. Maybe by then, someone will be brave enough to keep both of them for me ;)

    07/15/13; 11:34 am
    • Two two-month-olds is a much different circus than one. But if you come next year, I promise to be your personal nanny, for at least one of the kids. Providing that Birdy stays home, that is. If she’s there again … watch out!! ;)

      07/15/13; 11:46 am
  5. Glad it was a fantastic experience for you and your daughter. Glad also that you received some well-deserved recognition. Congrats!

    07/15/13; 11:59 am
  6. Reading your report, and all the others, makes me want to attend next year. Is there a list I need to get my name on? I’ve been looking for something like this for 70 years.

    07/15/13; 1:11 pm
  7. Jeanette Collier #

    Congratulations on your award and sharing your FFL experience with us. I wish we could have gone – my 12 year old T1D son was in a travel baseball tournament and he’s the number one hitter this season so they really needed him. I think I just bragged :)

    07/15/13; 5:16 pm
  8. Laddie #

    Thank you for everything that you and Scott have done for all of us with diabetes. I think that his was the first blog I ever read and yours was the second. Or yours was the first and his was the second. But both of you have enriched my life and I thank you.

    07/15/13; 10:58 pm
  9. Ben #

    Reading articles about this really helps inspire me. I feel like I want to attend the next event. My sister suffers from diabetes and I think I’m going to bring her with me.

    07/16/13; 12:56 am
  10. I had a moment to tell Scott, but never had a chance to tell you, but I’m so so so proud of you two and everything you have done to get the Adult Track up and running and the big success that it is. Thank you so so much for all of the hard work you put in to make the conference so wonderful for us. You are my hero.

    It also struck me last night, as I was thinking over the week, that I so wish my mom could have met your mom all those years ago. I think they would have really hit it off and gotten a lot of support from each other. And then it also struck me that while they went out for coffee and bonded, I could have been your babysitter. *sigh*

    07/16/13; 8:27 am
  11. Debbe #

    It was sooo Awesome to meet all of Kerri’s friends at Friends For Life. Thanks for your immediate friendship! A truly great group of people that I am thankful to have met.

    07/16/13; 7:16 pm
  12. This was an interesting story to read Kerri. 3 generations of a diabetes family. I’ve never thought about that before. Thanks for writing.

    07/29/13; 1:07 am

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