Imaginary Friends? No they are Family!

Yesterday, I opened up my Facebook account and saw a friend sharing an article from Kerri Sparling, of Six Until Me .  Kerri was discussing “Those Online People” and shared a conversation she had over a coffee.  It was about whether the connections made online were “real” friendships or not.

About 10 years ago, I ventured into the world of the Internet.  I ran across a website aptly named .  They had a support list for parents of children with diabetes.  I signed up and immediately was in a world where people got it, they lived it, and they understood how I felt. I was no longer alone. They had answers to my questions or at least a shoulder to lean on through the tough times.  Their support has never waivered after all of these years.

In the beginning, when I spoke of these people, I didn’t know how to refer to them.  They were my online support group.  They were people that I had not met and yet they were people that I spoke with on a daily basis.  I wondered how others would react if I called them “friends” but they were more than that so to not call them friends seemed to devalue them. 

Over time, I realized that they were not my “online friends”.  They were not my i”maginary friends” as others who were struggling with the same concept would often say.  These people had become my family.  They were there in my darkest hours.  They were there on the sunniest of days.  There were disagreements.  There were victories shared.  We watched each other’s children grow.  We shared in the milestones of all of our children with diabetes and without. We laughed with each other and we cried.  We were there for each other through funerals, divorces and marriages. 

After a period of years, I was able to begin to put faces and voices to many of the members of my diabetes family.  We traveled to various locations and were invited into the homes of these great people.  We went to conferences and expanded our relationships. 

I was recently asked why I go to the Friends for Life conferences.  It was suggested that they were boring and not necessarily worth the money.  I was shocked to the core that someone could think such a thing but then I realized that they had not walked were we had.  They did not understand that FFL conferences were not just about learning–they have amazing speakers and interactive sessions that always allow me to take home something new.  These conferences are a family reunion.

Its as much about learning from the amazing array of speakers that they have as it is about catching up with old friends.  I enjoy having a glass of wine with the friends who have helped to get me this far in life.  I like chatting and catching up with the people who were there for me when things were going wrong and I wanted to just hide under a rock and call it done.  I love seeing the children who were only babies when we first “met” and have grown to be amazing, inspirational young adults.

The diabetes online community has brought together some incredible people.  Together we have somehow managed to bring out the very best in one another and create some amazing changes in the world of diabetes. 

I hate diabetes and like everyone else, long for a cure.  I love the family that diabetes has brought to us however.  Their warmth, their kindness, and their unwavering support truly make them “Friends for Life” or as I have said before, my diabetes Family. 

A Tribute to an amazing school…an amazing family

Its not often that you really think of a school as a family but in so many ways, my son’s school was just that–part of our family. It all started back in 1998.  My oldest son’s aunt desperately wanted me to enroll him in a French as a first language school.  I was a little skeptical to say the least. I am as English as they come.  My French is limited to high school and knowing how to conjugate the verb etre. I wished I had learned more but my own insecurities kept me from going any further. 

I called up the school and was worried because rumors were abound that the school would be closing. My call was answered by the principal and my concerns were quickly put to rest.  My son completed their preschool program and as we headed into kindergarten, I again had questions. I am an English speaking girl as I said.  My children’s father comes from a French background as did most of the community we were living in but what if my kids decided that they wanted to go to English post-secondary schools? Would they be able to function? Again my concerns were alleviated and I was shown that the “French” students often performed better than their English counterparts in English programming. 

I began to feel that I had opened doors for my children and not closed them and so I began to relax.  I got to know more of the staff through a variety of activities and soon was involved with helping out in a variety of ways. Just as I was relaxing, a blow hit our family–my youngest son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and given twelve hours to live.  The school had been worried about him earlier.  He had looked pale when we had gone to various events throughout the late fall and early winter.  They were there with support and kind words when we returned from the hospital with our new pal “diabetes” in tow. 

As my youngest son grew, he too went to this school.  They worked to ensure that he fit in.  They supported me as we fought for accommodations and help to make the lives of the staff and my son easier and safer.  When my youngest was in kindergarten, we asked some of the staff to support us in a walk we were doing as a family for the Canadian Diabetes Association.  They generously opened their wallets to us. The next year however things were very different. This time they refused to support us.  They wanted to do their own walk! Would I arrange it? 

Well as you know, the Ecole Notre Du Cap Diabetes Walk became an annual event.  I quickly labelled them “the little school with the big heart”.  A student body that was never more than 50 students each year raised well over $1000.  By 2010, with the $2214 they had raised in June, this little school with the incredible heart has raised close to $20,000.  The thought of their generosity and how it sustained year after year despite the changing of students and some staff still brings tears to my eyes.   

This year I once again watched students show up on walk day donning t-shirts that they had been given years before.  They were showing their support. It wasn’t about raising enough to get a t-shirt or whatever other trinkets companies like Medtronic and Stutt’s Pharmacy provided.  It was walking for my son, for their grandparent, for a loved one, for people with diabetes in their area.  I was honored to roll their coins and total their pledge sheets. I was proud to hand them their prizes and their “Thank you” certificates from the Diabetes Hope Foundation. It was my pleasure to send on the cheque with this year’s donation. 

This was a walk done by friends. No–it was a walk done by family.  As the school year came to a close, so did our time at Ecole Notre Dame du Cap.  We moved out of the community that my children had called home all of their lives. We are lucky to still be in an area where my son can continue in the same French as a first language program but leaving our family behind has been hard.  We will see them again as they come to our new area and we return to theirs.  No matter what the distance between us, they will always be with us.  As I have read many times and have learned over the past few months more and more, some friends come into your life for a little while and fill a purpose but some friends come into your life and forever leave a print on your heart.  Ecole Notre Dame du Cap, its staff and its students have definitely left a print on our heart. They have shown us generosity, kindness, and love while providing my children with a wonderful and well rounded education. 


Diabetes Walk for Hope…Part one

First let me appologize. My blogging has been pretty spotty lately.  June is always a terrible month for me. I am super busy with commitments for my childrens’ schools.  This June we have had the added pressure of a move and an uncertain moving date so my life has been thrown into an even greater state of chaos than normal. 

Admidst the chaos however, there is always a bit of consistency.  That conisistency is the incredible flood of emotions that always takes place during and after my son’s school annual diabetes walk. 

For those who don’t know, my children go to very small schools. My child with Type 1 diabetes has about 50 students in his school from kindergarten to grade 8.  Each year these students go out and raise money with one thought in mind…diabetes. For some this means that they are walking for a family member and for others it means that they are walking for my child.  No matter who is their inspiration, their efforts reduce me to tears every year. 

As I walked through the halls of the school on walk day, the first tears began to swell.  I had been grumbling about the lack of sanity on my part for taking on such an ambtious job in the walk t-shirts for this year. They were very labour intensive and I do not have a lot of spare time at this moment in my life. Someone suggested that this was a waste of my time because the kids would only toss their shirts in the drawer, never to be worn again.  I knew better.  This walk proved it once again. You see each year when our kids walk, you see a variety of walk t-shirts strolling through the halls of the building. They have various walk t-shirts on that they have earned over the past seven years.  It warms my heart to “see” their support. 

They don’t do this for the prizes.  They never know what they will be getting this year.  T-shirts are given out based on how much money they earn and they don’t get their shirts until the last day of school (it helps with students like my own son who forget to get all their money from their sponsors on time).
The tears began to flow for real when I started to open the bags of money and read the sponsor sheets.  We live in an area of high unemployment and retirement.  The school now sees two or three children from one family trying to all collect the same monies. Despite all of that, there were still amazing amounts raised by children from all levels. Kindergarden students who have never been a part of this event raised amazing amounts of money.  Older students walking for their family members sent me to even more tears. 

As I look forward to moving on with my life, I look back at this school and the tears flow like never before.  They have been so very, very good to us in so many ways.  They have been more than a source of education. They have been a family who were there for us every step of the way.  They have made a huge difference in our lives and saying “see you again another day” this Friday will be one of the hardest days I have had in a very long time!  I have been so very blessed to have know the staff and all of the students who have wandered those halls over the past 12 years.