Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Their Stories Leave With Them, Unless

As I turned into the parking lot of the church today, an ending felt at hand: this funeral would be the final gathering for my friend Norm, the last of the official celebrations, and though we'd still speak of him at the Y, still honor his favorite chair, in time other people and activity would fill the space that he once took up on this earth.

But of course he occupied a large part of many hearts, and I'm sure that others find, as I do, that memories flow easily this week. Norm sneaking out of his chair to unplug the vacuum cleaner while I was using it. Pulling me off to the side (while I was vacuuming) to tell me I was made for bigger things. The story of sponsoring a girl's tuition to art college, just because he noticed her talent.

That these memories live in me and in others is reassuring, because Norm and I had held several conversations around the idea of collaborating on a book of his stories. A war vet and successful businessman, he had some tales to tell.

"People will like these stories," he'd say to me, and then, "What up, yo?" a non-sequitur of slang that I could never quite answer with anything but a laugh.

I never doubted his appeal. Seemingly mild-mannered, the man could surprise you. He'd carefully park his Astor Martin in the handicapped space at the Y, but rev that thing up on the highway. He'd pull out his saxophone and play a tune when a business deal closed with success. When I directed him to the best corned beef in town and the store later stopped carrying it, he talked to the owner, leveraging his power in the food industry.

"You notice it's back on the shelf now," he'd say with a wicked grin.

It wasn't but a month or two ago that Norm approached me again about the book. He really wanted to get his stories down and I was willing, but he didn't call. A couple of weeks ago he took a fall; this past Saturday, he suffered a massive heart attack and died.

Norm's stories, some, went with him. Those that didn't should be shared. It's a reminder to get stories while you can, write them down, even, and when the time comes for the final chapter, turn back to page one and start reading again.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

161 digits and $425 for diabetes

You came through, peoples--you responded to the challenge and gave lots of money toward our goal of 6K. Your reward is here: a recitation of 161 digits by the boy himself.

Not bad, huh? It was a happy Pi Day indeed, with pi and actual pie and a party, to boot. Amazingly, the insulin dose at lunch today came out to 3.14; it's like the calculator knew.

If you didn't have a chance to give, there's still time to do so. Visit my JDRF page. Much appreciated.

And a hearty thanks to all donors who stepped up to the pi plate!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Theo's Pi Challenge (time-sensitive material)

UPDATE: Pi Day is here, and we're thankful especially for the 11 people who stepped up to the pie plate and donated. Look for a video of Theo's recitation of 150+ digits within the next 24 hours. And no, it's not too late to give! Theo worked on a few extra digits just in case. 


As you've read here before, my older son and I are riding thirty miles through Wisconsin to raise money for diabetes research, in honor of my younger son, who has type 1.

And as you know from reading here, you get the raw deal from me. No cover ups. On facebook, I posted the video you'll find below; here you'll get the full story.

Because there are two of us riding, we must meet two fundraising goals, totaling 6K. And while the cause is important to us, it's difficult to ask for money. Sometimes I just want to tell people what we're doing, but the telling naturally tends toward a request. And sometimes I want to turn people over and shake the change from their pockets, because life with diabetes is hard. And researchers have been making steady progress that deserves more money to continue. (Never mind that Theo is dead set against an artificial pancreas; he might change his mind down the road.)

Each of us have been working toward raising the 6K. I'm the manager of this operation, handling the marketing, thank you letters, and coordination of family efforts. Greg is planning a hymn sing to raise some cash. And he's watching the kids tonight while I work concessions at a Bob Seger concert (proceeds from our booth are divided among the accounts of the riders).

But I'm most proud of the kids. Simon, a gifted artist, has been selling his comics at school for a buck a piece. It's tough for him to draw attention to himself, but he met the task and is keeping them coming by offering a new comic every Monday. The response from his fellow students has varied from jealousy that they can't sell their own comics (we received special permission from the principal) to a kid who paid Simon twenty bucks of his own money and asked that he receive just two issues. (He also promised he'd cure diabetes. He was frustrated when he said this, like, why do all this fundraising stuff? Just cure it already.)

And Theo's doing his bit, too, as you'll see below. The other day he looked at some postcards I made to advertise our campaign and he said, "Mom, for the bike ride you're all emotional and stuff, but around here, we're just like, har har, diabetes." Which about sums it up--life lived with diabetes is travelling down the road with blinders on, because there's so much management just to keep him alive. But when the time comes to talk about it, and draw attention to the disease, you face what you're up against. It's good to do every once in a while. Every 30 miles or so, you stop and take in your surroundings, good and bad. Then you get back on the bike and keep going.

Check out Theo's challenge. It's only good for a few days, though you can donate all the way through til summer. If you're so moved, donate at (rider Amy Scheer).

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Value of Problem People

At the opening of the animated film "Wreck-It Ralph," the villains of various video games sit on or float above folding chairs and come to terms with the anti-hero status imposed upon them. The mantra of Bad-Anon is "I'm bad and that's good. I will never be good and that's not bad. There's no one I'd rather be than me." As Ralph will discover, bad guys have a vital role to play in shaping their virtual worlds.


In "I Am Bruce Lee," Jon Jones, a UFC world champion, muses on the meaning of Lee's famous fighting philosophy of "honestly expressing yourself." Gentle and soft-spoken, Jones says, almost apologetically, "I actually feel as if I'm helping people as I'm punching them in the face. I'm beating weakness out of them. I'm making them a better person." The camera cuts to Jones's elbow, then his knee, in an opponent's face.


"It is quite perplexing," writes Nassim Nicholas Taleb in "Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder," that those from whom we have benefited the most aren't those who have tried to help us (say with "advice") but rather those who have actively tried--but eventually failed--to harm us."