Thursday, July 12, 2012

FFL12: Before

* This post will be split into 3 parts: before the start of the conference, during, and after.
Welcome to part 1: before. Enjoy.
There are TONS of photos and this post may load slowly.
Please also note some of these events might be slightly out of order...
So much diabetes. So hard to remember.*

**Author's  note: Something got messed up with the formatting of this blog post, and I'm too tired and frustrated to figure it out. I apologize for some of the broken links and the weird look of the font as you scroll farther down. Whatever... I just write it, not design it.** 

I arrived a couple days before the official start of the 13th annual Children with Diabetes: Friends for Life Conference (here forward called FFL). This was my second year in attendance, and I had many people and activities I was looking forward to. For the most part, I knew a lot of my friends from the diabetes online community (DOC) would be there - both those I have met before and those I have only "hung out" with online. Essentially, I was squeeing all over myself on my way to the airport. I was wearing my You Can Do This (YCDT) t-shirt, and my excitement was hard to contain.

Sunset somewhere between Texas and Florida
I don't know if I've ever previously shared my flight experiences on C's Life before, but let me tell you I rarely ever have a flight that is on-time - typically I'm delayed, rerouted, or rebooked. For the first time EVER, I made it all the way to Florida without any hitches. I had a brief layover in Texas where we experienced a couple thunderstorms but nothing really of note (the flight home is an entirely different story to be chronicled in part 3). I also got to watch the sunset from 33,000 feet which was nothing short of spectacular.
The Marriott World Center
I got to the hotel (Marriott World Center) close to 10pm after promptly losing my shuttle ticket 2 minutes after I bought it (he let me ride anyway). That I knew of, none of my friends were at the hotel yet so I decided to take advantage of having a tv and room to myself. If you remember, last year I had bedbugs. So before getting anywhere near the bed, I stripped everything off it and thoroughly investigated for any creepy crawlies. Nothing moved, so I got in it.

The Marriott World Center
The next day was a rather special one, so I spent the time making myself look pretty. Then I went down to the lobby, grabbed a squishy chair, and read a book while waiting for everyone else to show up. Time moves rather slow when you're waiting for your buddies to come in. After an hour, I went back up to my hotel room and watched Muppet Treasure Island until I got a text message. Kim, Sara, Shay, Chris, Dayle, Brian, and Melissa had finally arrived!

Ze bloggers hanging out in the hotel lobby
(Photo credit: Jeff Hitchcock)
After some unpacking, milling around, and screeching excitedly across the lobby "Hi, I know you from the internet! Give me a hug!", we decided to meet some other folks at lunch (Jacquie and hubs Bob, Jess, Josh, Scott Strange, KellyMartin, and his almost-wifey Amanda, and Simon the Aussie). We went out for beer and pizza (I had a Diet Pepsi and salad as the originals were not gluten-free and the whole "not drinking" thing). Simon let us all know, and quite loudly, his disgust for Dr. Pepper ("filth", if I remember my adjectives correctly). We had quite a few laughs and just all around a really fantastic time. 

Afterwards we went back to a condo some people were renting and filmed part 1 of a two part Just Talking podcast, hosted by none other than Spartacus (or Chris - whatever you want to call him). It was a really good time. Although I had listened to a few episodes before, I had never been on the show. It was fun to hang out with friends, giggle, and record the whole thing. 

Green bracelet declaring Diabetes Awesomeness
(Photo ganked from Kerri. Thanks, dude.)
Eventually, we worked our way back to the hotel where we registered for the conference and got to put on our super cool green bracelets that let everyone know we were the ones living with diabetes (and in my case I also had a yellow one that told everyone "WATCH OUT! SHE CAN'T HAVE GLUTEN! TAKE HER TO THE 'SPECIAL FOOD'") and then out to a tapas restaurant where we met up with even more friends - Sarah, Kerri, and Ginger. If you're keeping track - this is somewhere close to 20, almost all of us with only partially functioning pancrei.

The tapas place was called Tutu Tango. It was an artsy, fun little shop featuring local artists and musicians. The night we were there they had someone making balloon animals. And it was my birthday (remember from earlier - a 'special' day?). So I got a balloon crown. It was pretty fantastic. I wore it for the entire evening... even when we spent a couple hours in the hotel bar. Needless to say, it was the best birthday I can remember having. I spent it with 20 of my best D-friends in Florida. It was another late night, which resulted in a smash-the-alarm-clock morning.

Happy birthday to me!
(Photo credit: Scott Strange)

The next day was another laid back one. Shay and I started the day by creating some diabetes art with LeeAnn Thill. This is where you take your "diabetes trash" (only "safe" trash can be used - no sharp objects or bloodied ones) and create some masterpieces. Then the rest of us celebrated the day the colonies declared their independence from Britain by filling out gobs of surveys regarding adults with type 1 diabetes. Apparently, we were helping contribute to some research something-or-other. If Kerri and ScottKJohnson (I have to say his whole name) tell me to do something, I do it. For the most part. I didn't do any dancing to Elmo (the real dancing will come in part 2). I also spent a good chunk of the afternoon squishing the cheeks of one adorably chubby baby (pictures of him to come in part 2). I started the day in a red, white, and blue dress and then for some reason felt the need to change my clothes two more times throughout the day. Yes, I am a girl. 

This celebratory day wound down with a brief meet-up by the pool as the sunset, making for some absolutely beautiful photo opportunities. Then... it was time for our weekly DSMA (diabetes social media advocacy) chat. Like the dorks we are, we grabbed our wireless devices (laptops, iPads, tablets, phones, etc) and headed down to the lobby for the largest group chat held in DSMA history (I may have just made that up). I was the perfect way to end the final night before the conference actually started. 

Chillin' by the pool pre-DSMA

DSMA: Dweebs 'R Us
For part 1, this is where I leave you. Enjoy the photos and stay tuned for Part 2: During the FFL Conference. More photos and shenanigans will follow - I promise. When it comes to spending a week with 3,000 other people who know and understand exactly what it's like to live your life every single day, it's a feeling hard to describe. In the following 2 posts, I'll try my best put you there with me. It was a sense of belonging. A sense of lifelong friendship. A sense of family. These are my people. For one week a year having diabetes means you are a part of the club - not excluded from it. It's a feeling that can't be recreated.  

"A friend who is far away is sometimes much nearer than one who is at hand." ~Kahlil Gibran


  1. Great pictures and retelling. Looking forward to parts 2 and 3!

  2. Thanks for sharing your photos. I enjoyed all the smiles!

  3. happy belated bday, love the crown! great pics too. :)

  4. fantastic post and Thanks for sharing this info. It's very helpful.
    B&B in Jaipur

  5. Wow! We really did a lot before the conference even started!

    Still think your crown was somewhat questionable ;)

  6. I LOVE THIS POST!!!! The pics totally rock, and I enjoy feeling like I'm there again by reading your play by play :)

  7. Yay, brings back some great memories. I love your sunset pictures and all the DSMA ones too. Yay!!!!