"Diaversary"? What?

Some people with diabetes know (and publicly recognize) their date of diagnosis–affectionately called a “diaversary”. I had completely forgotten the month I was diagnosed, let alone the day, but after some digging and questioning I have established my own date of original diagnosis as January 16th 1999. Why should anyone care?

Great question! Personally I don’t have any use for another date to remember since I have a hard enough time managing a couple of birthdays and a wedding anniversary–but we have decided to begin Project 365 on January 16th 2012, on my 13th “diaversary”. 365 days later, upon successful completion of our project, I will celebrate!

In less than a week we will be headed for California–as you may know we are currently in New York. Sure, I am a bit apprehensive about the whole looming process we are facing and all of the uncertainty and danger and discomfort and legwork and filming and writing and promoting and editing and blogging and…I just can’t wait to be in the beautiful climate of San Diego. That is where we will begin climbing and that will be our “hub” for the first several months, so if you are in So Cal, be sure to check us out and get in touch!

I am a big believer in progression in the process of learning. What better place to start this monumental challenge than climbing where the weather is fine, the climbs are short and the grocery stores are close by! Better yet, Joshua Tree National Park is striking distance away and we will be spending a lot of time climbing there. Each climbing area is different from the next. Each has different challenges and different rewards so expect to see wildly varying terrain over the course of this adventure.

Gonna get some warm California sun!

Every day with our good friend diabetes, we face different challenges and different rewards–bottom line is that we have to trust our skill set. Know that we can handle whatever life throws at us with some grit and determination.



Use it or lose it.

Fitness is free. You don’t need health insurance to get it and it requires no prescriptions. You can find it indoors or out at all hours of the day. The catch is this–you have to get off your couch and put away your iPhone, detach from the twitterverse and go GET it for yourself. I read a lot of people clamoring for this or that–health insurance for everyone, cures, social overhauls. To be fair, I agree with many of those initiatives–but what about Occams razor? You know, the idea that the simplest solution is usually the best one? (Hint: this is one idea that spawned Project 365)

We have been conditioned to believe that intricacy and complexity are tantamount to quality. Thanks, technological marketing! We have been conditioned to think that truth about health can only come from a pill, or an injection or some scientific think tank–and so we neglect the simple, and the obvious.

Still not convinced? Watch this movie by a Doctor who did all the research to further reinforce this very simple truth: exercise is the most fundamental thing EVERYONE can do to improve their health. At the end of the day you may still be thinking that these simple, practical initiatives are no cure–and that is true. But if I as a diabetic, put my health first and prioritize my fitness–I can be far healthier than people without medical conditions who fail to do that.

This is your LIFE, not a medical publication. Look around, engage your brain and think for yourself! We as a nation are fatter, lazier and less motivated and ever before–and we keep finding excuses and pass the buck. Ask what YOU can do to improve yourself before asking what medicine or drugs can do to improve you. It’s not judgement, its a challenge!

Diet. Lifestyle. Exercise. Fix the simple problems simply before just medicating yourself into oblivion. You have the power! Use it!


Santa fail.

Today we had our first Type 1 climbing meet-up with our friend Fatima Shahzad. It was totally ill–and is the beginning of many more great things to come. It was the first time I have tied in and climbed with another T1 and it was totally wild. While I intend to post video and pictures and so on, I figured it would be nice to show you all exactly what we did not do.

Behold! The impostor!

For those of you who envision this type of scenario being “what we do” let me assure you, it doesn’t usually go like this. I mean, how could it? I don’t even own any red clothing…

Diabetics don't belong in the mountains

Thats what one fellow told me as I sat next to him looking up at Devils tower in Wyoming. He didn’t know that I’m a diabetic–or that I’ve stood on the summit of Devils tower twice in the last 3 years. Not going to lie, I kind of wanted to clock the guy. But I just smiled and walked away.

Not surprisingly that comment stuck in my craw–because that is something the little voices in my head say at times when my situation looks bleak. On the other hand, the fact that statistically “I don’t belong” in the mountains is EXACTLY what has drawn me to them. That challenge is where the value of the outdoors is most dynamically demonstrated.

By nature I am a defiant person. If someone tells me that I can’t do something or scoffs at an idea that I have, I generally decide that that’s exactly what I must do. When I was diagnosed with type1 at age 16 the doctors and nurses looked at me with pity in their eyes. I was now a victim. I was doomed. I would have to stay within a short drive of hospitals and pharmacies and be a slave to my condition.

When I got out of the ICU and back to “normal” life I decided that I was going to show them! I’m not sure if they knew that reverse psychology would make me take better care of myself or if they just thought that I really was going to be tied down for the rest of my life, but I have to say that every time I complete a climb, I smile to think about the fact that I “don’t belong” in the mountains.

Challenge is a natural part of life–and much of the problems in our lives are created by our attempts to pursue less natural lifestyles. Nature built in challenges. We seek to eliminate them and prioritize ease and comfort. I know that I LOVE sitting on the couch and taking in several days worth of The Simpsons or  It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. This monkey on my back called “Diabetes” gets me to put down the remote and makes me rage against the limitations that feeble comfort would tell me to accept.

I am blessed to have diabetes. Yup, I went there. I know that is blasphemy to many, but I look at the things I have done in my life, the places I’ve been and the summits I’ve stood on and I know that I would not have felt the urgency to live fully NOW if I had not the uncomfortable needling of impending doom (aka diabetes).

Challenge is opportunity. Thats the driving message behind Project 365 and I have been repeatedly inspired by others who have built on similar foundations: overcoming personal challenge in order to take on objective challenge. So while I am planning my own opus I am inspired and blessed to have seen the guts and heart (in a totally non-cannibalistic way!) of others who have chosen the same path.
You may remember our friends Naomi and Ken—

and this video of the first all-disabled ascent of El Cap. Less than a year from now, we will be up there following in their footsteps, standing on the shoulders of giants.

If this doesnt light a fire inside, check your pulse.

Of gratitude and gravy

Everyone is happy enough to shovel food into their mouths during the Thanksgiving holiday but how much time during this season of eating and shopping (lets call it like it is, folks) do we take to really count our blessings? To whit:

I teach at a college. I have students of all ages. What do I have better to do with my time than a little impromptu social experiment? Every class, I usually allot about 5 minutes to giving the students an opportunity to talk about what is going on in their lives-just stream of consciousness type rants. Stories. Tales of the weekend. What’s new and fresh.

The one thing I have noticed from the “content” generated over the last several weeks is that better than 80% is negative. What happened that is bad, or really sucks.

Tonight, I asked what everyone is thankful for. No negativity allowed. A class of 11 people took over 25 minutes to answer that question. Might not sound like a lot of time, but when you’re standing there, arms folded staring at people, waiting for them to say what they’re thankful for, it seems like FOREVER!

Here’s the funny part–most of my students had really awesome things that they were thankful for. It’s not that they WEREN’T thankful, they just had to dig a little deeper to find the good stuff. One boy was thankful his mom beat cancer. Another girl was thankful her grandparents are healthy and are the motivation for her to stay in school and keep working hard. Another young fellow was thankful that he’s survived a gnarly car accident over the summer.

Ok, they weren’t ALL that deep–I did hear one expression of thanks for the “tight black pants that girls wear”…but you get my drift!

This holiday season when the nation is literally in turmoil and so many people are tense, angry, grim and ready to lash out we may need to dig a little deeper, but the GOOD is there. We all have a LOT to be thankful for and I am reminded of that on a daily basis. So rather than keep it to myself, I am going to focus my blog posts for the next 7 days on the blessings in my life that I have encountered from living the last 13 years of my life with diabetes.

I am psyched about this direction though, because I have said before (and will say it many more times) diabetes (like any challenge) is what you make of it. I’m looking forward to this!

A little red car

We watched “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold” by Morgan Spurlock yesterday. I felt like a complete punter–if THAT’S how movies are made…well we might be SOL. Flying in corporate jets, big business meetings, attorneys, tens of thousands of dollars, millions of media impressions and colossal advertising campaigns–and the list goes on. While we don’t have any of those strings attached (they do come with benefits, of course) we have the authenticity of being completely backed by people who believe in what we are doing and in US to tell OUR story.

I am beginning to realize what a privilege this is–not just because of the most incredible and unexpected generosity, but because all of YOUR belief in who we are and what we are trying to accomplish. Making Project 365  is about more than simply entertaining people–this is about changing the lives of people with diabetes.

This is a message to kids who are currently eating whatever they please but soon, that rug will be pulled out from under them and they will wonder if they can ever be in control of their lives again. Their parents, at this moment, have no idea about the challenges of living with the disease–or the corresponding triumphs. But sadly they soon will.

Diabetes is what you make of it. This is a challenge to everyone to make the obstacles in their lives stepping stones, not roadblocks.

Diabetes happens to be my challenge, and one that I have special connection to illuminating for the benefit of others–but what person could not benefit from a simpler, healthier and more natural style of eating, and playing? Has anyone’s Dr told them that they need to watch their consumption of fresh air–that they are eating too many greens and that their cholesterol is just too low?

The “simply natural” initiative is not the end all be all. We aren’t trying to get people to throw away modern medicine–we DO want people to take more responsibility and control of their own health. Do more for yourself rather than relying on medicine to fix it for you. We DO want people to be skeptical of medicating the sh*t out of themselves without first balancing their diets, stress levels and weight etc.

Ok. Rant over. Here is what I am posting to say today–THANK YOU.

We have a TON to be thankful for. Since we don’t want to waste your contributions on advertising, we are taking a different tack:

We are literally keeping our contributors right with us all throughout the project. Your support got us here–we are counting on it to bring us full-circle.

We want to emphasize the importance of simple conservation–IE not “going green” by BUYING a bunch of new junk when you can get more use out of what you have, if you take care of it. Its odd how much is sold to us every day using the word “sustainability” rather than “non-disposable”.






















So THANK YOU for helping us tell this story:

Martha Richert (thanks mom!), Kizzie Suriel, Manny Suriel, Scott Johnson, Ken Start and Naomi Baumol, Maria Qadri, John “Jack” Kimmel, Alan and Lee Paton, Daniel Dunn, Scott Toro, Jon Martini, Janette Wing-Pazer, Nancy Moskowitz, J.A. Neitzel, Marek Petrik, and Allison Steinberg

This is your film-your story too. We still have a long, hard road ahead of us–and we need your continued support and motivation to make this happen. The Little Red Car has a LOT of room for more names…help us bring more people on this incredible quest!

Occupy diabetes

Do more with less; that’s essentially our message. You don’t have to be rich to be healthy. Good health and simple living is for EVERYONE. And it begins with each individual seeing what they can do to take better care of what we are each given at birth. Some of us got dealt a different set of cards–I didn’t ask to have diabetes and neither did anyone else with that condition. However, once the rules of the game change, we have to re-tune our perspective and step up our own game.

Everyone is occupying everything. Everyone is pissed about something. At the end of the day no matter what “percent” you associate yourself with or what income bracket you wish you “occupied” there is little that each person can do to change society.

Stay with me now. I am not saying we are all helpless (read: f*****d).

What I am asserting is that I can change myself–and as part of society, there may just be a loophole that we can squeeze through to create a larger change IF we focus on smaller changes first! It’s not sexy and idealistic enough to be covered on the news and Facebook and Twitter feeds but out in the vertical world, there are no breaks for the wealthy or sympathy for the poor.

There is simply, simple life.

Unplug. Walk away. There is no sense in shouting into deaf ears. The only sound that deaf ears will ever hear is silence.

Less shouting, more DOING will create a silence so overwhelming that no one will be able to turn away.

I have to manage my sugar every day. Every waking minute. Sure, it’s a battle but I am not focused on the problem. I am choosing to focus on the solution. I have a hard time constantly blogging about my diabetes because I am not FOCUSED on my diabetes and I don’t want it to consume me (more than I can help it)

I sometimes feel like I am a lousy diabetic because I am not loud and proud enough about it (although I have created quite a stir with my blue Friday painted nails and such). Maybe that makes me an arrogant poseur. I just want to be normal and when I’m climbing or talking about climbing, I don’t feel like I’m defective. I feel alive and free and its AWESOME. I know that I have to suck it up (my condition) and LIVE or else I may wind up limbless and blind having spent so much time preoccupied with what I DONT have that I miss the opportunities staring me in the face–and I want that same freedom for everyone!



Sausagefest 2011 (part1)

So most of you who are faithful readers will remember our friends Ken and Naomi from our climbing video. In case you’ve forgotten, have another look at it. In fact even if you remember, take another look. Its good to be inspired and these two are all about that–as you will see when they meet up with us out on the road during Project 365!

So this weekend we headed out to do a little climbing at our home gym, and our only sponsor so far–The Inner Wall— a small family run gym in New Paltz NY which is near and dear to me since I have worked there over the years and I actually began my “illustrious” climbing climbing career by flailing about on their walls. We got a good burn in at the gym and then headed out to eat–I had to get a dose of meat since we went to Stef’s job at Billy Joe’s to eat and everything there is fried and/or fatty. I have been continuing my downsizing of meat in my diet but every weekend there seems to arise some need to eat out and the meat is tough to avoid.

We headed back to Ken and Naomi’s place and prepared to get schooled in the art of meat curing or “charcuterie”. We are learning that being more involved in your own food (cook it yourself, to start with) and producing it, when possible, is one way to stay more conscious of what you are putting in the tank, so to speak.

We made a bunch of sausage and some tasso. We drank some wine and I discovered that I become very merry after two sips–I am a cheap date! We took in some “Always Sunny in Philadephia” and an incredible sunset. (video below!) We already have planned a second sausagefest before we hit the road!

Wanna see some sunset pictures? I got a chance to break in the new lens given to us by Stefs brother, Manny (thank you!) and turns out it shoots some great pictures when its operated…coherently.

Curing gravity

Diabetics don’t belong in the mountains. Too far from medical care. Hospitals. Doctors. What if you have a hypo while you’re climbing and you fall?

When you tie in and begin climbing, you relinquish almost all of the talismans held up against ‘what-if’ scenarios and are forced to rely on yourself. Instinct. Decisions. Accountability.

Here’s the reality of the situation: Diabetes is what you make of it. If you make it into an anthropomorphised boogey-man then it will always be lurking, waiting to strike you down. If you make it an insurmountable challenge, it will put your success always just out of reach. If you choose to OWN your diabetes and make it work for you–it will. Its a powerful motivator for me.

As a climber, I don’t seek to cure gravity–I simply accept it and play by the rules. I do the same thing with my diabetes and the results have been excellent. I feel like there is an underlying concept at work here that I can help others grasp or at least re-evaluate, and THAT is why we are making “LivingVertical: Project 365

I feel like we can make this film and meet people where they are at. I don’t think everyone should or will become a climber. I do think that everyone can watch a film and follow our journey and be inspired to the point that they take something away from it that will help them be more proactive about their health–naturally. If what we are doing can help even one child with diabetes refuse to be defined by and limited by this condition then this will all have been worthwhile.

I have seen a lot of stuff online about research. A lot about potential cures. I’m glad that people are hopeful for the future–but what about NOW? What are we doing to overcome this condition while we wait?

I’ll come right out and say it: diabetes is a gift. Go ahead. Call me any name you want–but having this condition is day to day accountability and feedback about our health.  Most people pursue ease, comfort and convenience in their lives and as a result, no thought is given to their health until something goes wrong. Until hospitalization. Until doc puts them on medication. Until a relative dies at a young age.

We have the constant reminder that what we do with our bodies–what we fuel them with, how we maintain them–matters A LOT. If we can accept the rules of the game we can win. I don’t expect to ever cure gravity. But I know that if I play by the rules I will stand on some incredible summits and see beyond the buzz of daily life.


I know that there is room up here for you too.


Ok. So in other news, we at LivingVertical have been doing our part to raise some awareness of diabetes through our activities–we participated in the big blue test (if you haven’t yet you should too!) and shot some video of our afternoon out climbing to share with everyone–so watch this space to see how we have been “sticking it” to diabetes this month! Here are a few pictures to whet your appetite…


We have been blessed with unseasonably warm weather–being able to climb in shorts in November is pretty incredible! The leaves are hanging on a little longer too, as the weather has delayed their dormancy…



We decided to climb a route called Alphonse–one of my absolute favorite routes at the Gunks, NY. I have climbed it many many times and I always wanted to get some shots on this one from below the roof. If you rappel down from the top of the cliff, the triangular roof seen here in these photos holds you out, so you are effectively DANGLING in free space. It is a SICK perspective!!!


Trevor, came out with Stefanie and I to help us get that shot, dangling on rappel that I have been dreaming about for years. I look forward to showing you the video(s) that resulted–let me just say that it was absolutely worth waiting for this day–and to be able to make these films in recognition of Diabetes Awareness Month while participating in The Big Blue Test, well, that was just icing on the cake!


Keep watching our blog–lots more climbing and blue to share!


It has been a blog-less weekend as we lost power in the Northeast and cold temperatures were just the beginning of the miseries. I definitely tried to save the food that was in the fridge and freezer–with limited success. I have been trying to eliminate or greatly reduce meat in my diet (still going well) but I’ll be damned if I just throw away perfectly edible meat! So I have been parceling it out, to at least get some use out of it.

The power cut out Saturday afternoon and came back on Monday morning, during which time an epic struggle for survival occurred (on a microscopic level) as virulent bacteria overcame all odds to infest my turkey burgers.

I didnt discover this fact, however, until I was actually excited to cook and eat them (last night). As I opened the plastic packaging, I recoiled in horror. It smelled like a dirty fart. I went back in to try again and see if maybe I was over-thinking the situation. As I smelled it for a third time, it occurred to me that if I had to question the normalcy of my (as yet uncooked) food smelling like a rectum, that the answer to my question was really a lot simpler than I wanted to admit. So I trudged out to the garbage and discarded it.

Stephen, 0 Botulism, 1.

Oddly enough I had some Tilapia that had also thawed as the freezer failed so I moved it into the snowbank outside (the “walk-out” cooler) and once the power came back on, I cooked and ate it all. I didnt want to eat 4lbs of Tilapia all in one go, but it was better than having to throw it away. We’ll call that one a draw.

Stephen, 1 Botulism, 2

Now my turkey sausages, those were fine. I assumed (correctly) that they had enough preservatives in them to weather all but a sauna session without bacteria being able to gain any traction. I broke down and had one last night in place of the “ass-burgers” and even though its not a pretty win, it still goes down as a “W” in my playbook.

Stephen, 2 Botulism, 2

I have to say, having the bulk of your foodstuff being plant-based proved very advantageous in this situation because very little actually got wasted. I think that the”ass-burgers” were the only casualty.

Stephen, 3 Botulism, 2

(for the win!)

Aside from playing grab-ass with microscopic particles infesting my freezer and watching “Puss in Boots” (MUST SEE) this weekend gave us a chance to really narrow our focus as we are opening up a new chapter with “LivingVertical: Project 365”.

I am going to focus on that in the next blog entry–since that whole deal merits more explanation. For now, lets just say that I am totally psyched and I know we are going in the right direction. This whole thing boils down to deciphering a road map for a foreign land in a language you’ve never seen before. The only way to calculate where you’re going is to feel your way through it, a little at a time and turn around when you come to a dead end or local villagers who seem to mean you harm…