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I Wonder…

I sit here in my office tonight watching Brooke run back and forth on the runner, simultaneously running through every one of her scripts.

Both Jess and Katie are out tonight. I ask Brooke if there is anything she wants to do.

Would you like to watch a movie?

I don’t know.

Would you like to play a game?

I don’t know.

Would you like me to read you a story?

I don’t know.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, Brooke sometimes uses I don’t know as a polite way to say No.

And so we script and script and script.

After a while she takes a break to watch some of her favorite YouTube videos.

And I wonder.

***

I try to eat fairly well – lots of veggies, meat, full fat dairy, maybe less starchy food than I used to.

I don’t run nearly as much as I used to.  Truth is, the last year has seen very little running; but I do try to stay active – I kind of have to considering the business I am in.  No one wants to hire an out of shape trainer. 

Bottom line is I’m taking pretty good care of myself.

Why? 

As parents, we talk about wanting to see our children graduate from High School, then College.  We look forward to celebrating our child’s wedding to whomever they choose.  We anticipate a day when we will relive the miracle of parenthood by becoming grandparents.  Our child’s first adult job? His or her first promotion? The first apartment? The purchase of a home? All of these things we see years, decades before they actually happen.  

As parents, we are hopefully doing what we can to be there for those things.  A balanced diet and regular exercise, along with quality sleep, are our tools for getting there to be there.

But I wonder.

***

This morning, on our way to school, Brooke told me that she hopes to get married some day. 

You do?

She then went into a script about marrying someone you love but that isn’t your family!

And I wondered.

This afternoon I stumbled on to Brooke’s report card for this past term.  She is getting A’s,  B’s and C’s, but I’m not sure what that means in a sub-separate class.  

And I wondered.

This evening, as she runs back and forth on the runner, squealing and scripting, there is a part of me that wonders…

Will there be a high school graduation?

Will college even be an option?

What happens when she turns 22?

Will she be able to handle a steady job?

Will she be able to live independently?

Will she be able to pursue her dreams?

Love? Marriage? Motherhood? Are they in the cards she has been dealt?

I know things change over the course of time. Brooke has come a long, long way over the course 8 years.  A lot can happen over the next 6.

But right now, today, I know I can’t afford to not take care of myself…at least not for the foreseeable future.

I originally started to write this post as a call to arms to get those of you who might not be carving out the time to eat a little better and move a little better to do so.  I do think it’s important.  If we let ourselves go to pieces, who will take care of our little ones?  

But writing this evening has led me down a weird path.  Jess likes to call it the Rabbit Hole, where one thought leads to another and you end up overthinking things and getting lost.

Have I been staying healthy for things that may not come? Do I need to double down on staying healthy because those thing may never come?

Perhaps right now, I just need to put down my  mobile device, climb out of the rabbit hole and go snuggle with Brooke.

Dear Dr. Albers and Ms. Larsen,

I am writing to you in response to a story I recently read regarding a principal in your district.  I am sure that at this point you have read or heard about the Raw Story piece on Kimberly Taylor.  I am sure that you, just like me and every other parent of a special needs child, were horrified by the audio tape of Ms. Taylor embarrassing a child in front of the school and saying, “This is a retard.”  I am sure that you, just like me and every other parent of a special need child, were horrified by Ms. Taylor’s use of profane language, of the anger and hate in her voice, of her abusive and demeaning language.  I am sure that you, just like me and every other parent of a special needs child, were horrified to the point of knowing that Ms. Taylor does not belong in a classroom or Principal’s office.

Obviously something happened along the way though.  I can only imagine the political tightrope you as administrators must walk.  At some point, someone, a misguided friend of Ms. Taylor’s perhaps, brought enough political capital to a meeting with you and your boss and bought Ms. Taylor an insignificant one week suspension.

Here’s the thing  though – a one week suspension, for what is clearly heard on those audio tapes, is not even a slap on the wrist.  Her punishment was essentially a one week vacation – one that she obviously needed.  Her punishment sends a clear message to the parents of Hilltop School – that you see their children as “retards” and “animals”; that you are okay with putting their children in the care of someone who has no qualms about using not only abusive language but abusive tactics; that it’s okay if their children have to go to school every day afraid.

That is horrifying.

But here is the even more horrifying thing you and your colleagues have done – you have sent a message, not just to the parents of Hilltop School, but to every parent of every Special Needs child everywhere.  In this age of Social Media and the Internet, information travels at the speed of thought.  You do not live in a bubble and the policies you set forth regarding your Special Needs population, as vile as they are, let other administrators and principals know that, at the very least, you can get away with this kind of behavior with nothing more than a one week suspension.

Is that how you want to be remembered?  Dr. Albers and Ms. Larsen believe that a child’s dignity, a child’s humanity, a child’s innocence is worth one week.  We present the Albers/Larsen Policy.

Truth is, I don’t think the administrators in my district would tolerate this kind of behavior, but I know that I am lucky to live where I live.  I hear constant horror stories from parents in other towns of administrators and principals who stonewall families; denying services for as long as they can.  YOU, Dr. Albers and Ms. Larsen, have given them new ammunition; at the very least you’ve given them permission to take their frustrations out on the very kids they are supposed to nurture.

There is but one way for you two make this right – you must fire Kimberly Taylor; completely – no alternate job with Haverstraw; you must cut ties with her and never, ever allow her into a classroom again under any circumstances.  Additionally, you need to hold accountable the person or people who chose to give Ms. Taylor a measly one week suspension instead of firing her in the first place.  If those people were you, then resign, but only after firing Ms. Taylor.

There is nothing wrong with a principal who uses a firm hand and tough love.  Abusive behavior is neither of those.

Make this right.

Sincerely,

Luau

Kimberly Taylor is the principal of Hilltop School and can be heard in an audio recording saying the following to students in her charge: 

“It’s important you’re on your best behavior.  If someone falls in dance, don’t laugh because I will rip your [expletive] out of there. It’s important not to embarrass yourself. Your family take pride in yourself. I will embarrass you, you all know me, if you don’t give a [expletive], neither do I.”

“‘Cause guess what; everyone knows this school is for kids that have behavior problems, so it will be a normal thing if we drag you down and pull you out.”

 “This is a retard. How embarrassing, a disgusting embarrassment, get him the hell out of my sight.”

Amy Albers, Ed. D is the Assistant Superintendent of Student Services in West Nyack, New York.

Julie Larsen is the Assistant Director of Student Services in West Nyack, New York.

Oomah

I was a fairly young man when I lost the last of my four biological grandparents.  In fact, it was 17 years ago today that my Grandpa Wilson passed away, leaving me without a grandparent…

…or so I thought.

Each of my parents’ parents were unique in their own way, and I would like to think that I carry with me and channel a little bit of them on a daily basis.

My Grandma Hattori was a small, gentle woman who had the amazing ability to taste something once and then go home and duplicate it perfectly.  Though technically untrained, she was probably the best cook I ever knew.  I would like to think that a small part of her lives every day in my kitchen…

My Grandpa Hattori was was proud man, who, fortunately for me, kept nearly all of his hair until the very end.  By the time I really got to know him as an older teenager, he had grown his hair out to shoulder length…a stark contrast to the buzzcut he had sported through the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.  As a Japanese man who lived through World War II, he very easily could have looked at his half-gaijin grandson and wanted nothing to do with him.  Instead, through me, he saw a world coming together, a future of peace.  I laugh every time I think of him because back in 1988, he said to me in, “you represent two worlds coming together as one.  You will be President of America someday.” Though my behavior in college has pretty much made that an impossibility, I do like to think that he inspired me to carry with me a more worldly perspective – one that looked beyond one’s own house, town, state, country or ethnicity.

My Grandma Wilson was, for so long, the glue that held the Wilson Clan together.  She was glamorous, elegant and sophisticated and always brought a touch of class to every occasion, but I think it was her athleticism I was lucky enough to inherit.  Living in South Florida, she would start every day with 50 laps in the pool.  That dedication to health and fitness still guide me today.

My Grandpa Wilson was the last of my grandparents to leave us.  A somewhat fiery man in his youth, he had mellowed quite a bit by the time I got to know him.  I remember him falling asleep in front of the TV, telling his off color jokes and making the best hamburgers you will ever taste (I’d like to think my hamburgers are pretty close facsimiles).  Of the four grandparents, it’s Grandpa Wilson’s voice that I can still distinctly hear.  Not only can I close my eyes and hear his voice, I hear it when I tell really dumb dad jokes to Katie (to which she rolls her eyes). Every time I hear or use a pun I can’t help but think of him (one of his favorites: “What’s two-thirds of a pun?  P-U!” cue the groans).

On January 7th, 1998, I thought I had been left grandparent-less; that I was now the second, not third generation of my family.  At that point, I had been dating Jess for a year. We would get engaged the following September and wed in June of 1999.

Even before our wedding, I can’t tell you exactly when, I knew I had gained a new lease on being a grandchild.  Jess’ grandma June, better known to all of us as Oomah, embraced me as one of her own almost immediately.  The first time I met her, was in Tampa Bay, Florida.  Jess and I had flown down to escape the cold weather of New York City.  At the time she lived in a community that had a pool that Jess and I spent almost all of our time at.  On that first night I was introduced to Oomah’s Cucumber Salad.  Upon my first bite, I looked up and insisted that she give me the recipe.  She simply smiled and said, “we’ll see.”

She needed to make sure this young man her granddaughter had brought to visit was worthy.  On the last day of our visit, she gave me the recipe.  It is, by far, one of my favorite dishes of all time.

She would eventually move north to live with her daughter in Western MA, for which I am very grateful.  It meant that not only would Katie and Brooke get a real chance to know their great-grandmother, but that I too would get to spend some regular quality time with my grandma.  Over the last 17 or so years, through countless occasions, we would always find time to sit, just the two of us, and talk.

We would often talk about the kids, or Jess, or my job or Jess’ job, but I always savored the moments when she would talk about her own personal history.  Oomah was a fighter, a pioneer.  She did not lead a typical life.  As a young woman, at a time when such actions were unheard of, she left a bad marriage, taking her kids with her.  She had a quiet strength, but your knew that if she needed to, she could bring a storm down upon you.  She also had a wonderful self-deprecating sense of humor.  Oomah’s singing voice, well, let’s just say it left something to be desired, but she knew that.  She would say that when she sang to the babies, they would fall asleep as a method of self-defense.  She passed that strength, sense of humor and individualism on to both of her children, who then passed them on to their own kids.  Each of Oomah’s four grandchildren are unique, strong, funny individuals, all of whom I admire very much.

I would like to believe that not only through my hours of conversation with Oomah, but also through the relationship I have with my father-in-law, Jess and her three cousins, that I too carry a bit of Oomah with me on a daily basis.  I hope I can emulate her strength and humor throughout the rest of the time I have on this planet.

Oomah passed away Monday night/Tuesday morning, almost 17 years to the day I lost my Grandpa Wilson.  Even though her health had been in decline and we had prepared ourselves for this, it still hurts.  The finality of when our loved ones pass through that doorway is heavy.  I take solace in knowing that some of Oomah’s spirit lives on here in this plane of existence, through her two children and their spouses, four grandchildren and their spouses, eight great-grandchildren, and I am sure many, countless others who were touched by her gentle strength and grace, and hopefully through me.

I already miss youOomah.  Thank you for seeing me, accepting me, and loving me as a grandson.  I am forever grateful.

IMG_0870

Oomah on our wedding day – 1999

 

 

IMG_0868

Thanksgiving with Oomah and the girls – 2013

 

Dear Theo,

First off, I would like to congratulate you on signing Jon Lester.

However, I am here to tell you, you’ve made a grave mistake.  I understand why you would think that this signing is one more step in the right direction of getting the Cubs that elusive World Series Championship – a little over 10 years ago you signed another horse of a pitcher to the Red Sox.  That signing paid off immediately with the Red Sox’s first World Series Championship in 86 years.  The situations of that 2003 Sox team and the 2014 Cubs are different, but you’ve laid down a similar foundation, between a new manager and a big time pitcher, both of whom have proven they know how to win.

But I wonder if you and your team truly realize what, or more specifically, who brought the World Series trophy to Boston a decade ago.  It wasn’t a big time pitcher like Schilling or Lester.  Truth is, you could have signed this person, who is responsible for 7 Championships in the last 18 years for 1/10 of what you signed Lester for last night; someone who might have delivered the first of three or four championships as early as 2015.

That’s right, 2015!  Even with the acquisition of Lester and Joe Maddon, I don’t think that anybody is picking the Cubs to win it all that soon.

So who is this person?

Allow me to tell you a story.

***

In 1995, I was teaching at a small school in New England.  As fun and satisfying as that job was, it simply did not pay well enough for me to pay off any of my student loans from college.  After much soul searching, I took a job in New York City, starting January of 1996.  Coincidentally, this was right after the Yankees had finally made a playoff appearance after over a decade of mediocrity.

Who won the World Series that year (1996)?

The New York Yankees.

Who would go on to win 4 World Series championships in 5 years from 1996 to 2000?

The New York Yankees.

Shortly after the Yankees 2000 victory, my wife and I would move out of the City and out of the State of New York.  The Yankees would wait nearly a decade before tasting season ending champagne again.

***

In late 2003, a colleague of my wife approached her about taking a position in another city.  We weighed our options.  We now had two children and we’re fairly comfortable living where we lived.  After some talk, the company made an offer she couldn’t refuse; we packed our bags and moved to, you guessed it, Boston.  That March (2004) we moved into our house.

My girls were 3 and 1.  An avid sports fan, I was determined to raise my children fans of their local sports teams – that meant the Patriots, Celtic, Bruins and…dear Lord!!!…the Red Sox.

People, both local and out of towners, tried to wave me off the idea.

“You’ll only suffer heartache!”

“You’ll wait your entire life for nothing!”

“Don’t do this to your children…think of the children for God’s sake!!!”

Yes, it was tough; a tough, scary (down 0-3?) 7 months before we were finally able to taste the bubbly and celebrate a World Series championship.  Over the next 10 years, the Red Sox would win 3 Championship trophies.

***

So whaddaya say, Theo?  I’m willing to offer up my services residence to the Windy City.  I’ll gladly take 10% of what you offered Jon Lester – 6 years, $15.5 million, with a team option of $1.5 million for a 7th year.

5 years in New York, I brought 4 championships; 10 years in Boston, I brought 3.  Give me 6 years in Chicago, and I can almost guarantee at least 2 World Series trophies if not more.

Whaddaya say?  Clock’s ticking.

***

Dear Ben (Boston’s GM),

I’m willing to take a hometown discount – 6 years, $13.5 million.  Call me!

***

To the other 28 GMs around the league,

Feel free to get in on the bidding.

***

Don’t you want to experience this feeling:

mlb-trophy

I’ll be waiting by the phone,

Sincerely,

Luau

Connection

fingers_touching

With the onset of middle school, I had to finally give up walking Brooke to her class every morning.

***

We stop at the bottom of the hill, some 50 yards from the entrance to the school.  We give each other a kiss on the cheek and then do something we call the “rollers” where we rub our cheeks together.  I watch, every morning with my breath held, as a little piece of my heart goes running up the hill and off to school.

***

For those of you who have been here from the beginning, or who have an autistic child, you know that Brooke’s attempts at play bids are clumsy and awkward at best, often leaving the recipients of those bids unsure of what to do.  Different kids react in different ways, but often, they will simply look at each other and move on.  I don’t know if Brooke is totally aware of how things are playing out or if she is blissfully ignorant – either way, it hurts to watch as a parent.

***

About halfway up the hill is a girl, by the looks of her from 25-30 yards, I would guess she is in 8th grade.  She is obviously waiting for some friends to arrive on the buses that are beginning to pull in.  Brooke veers toward her.  My already held breath turns into a ball of lead in my sternum.

***

Lately, Brooke has taken to making faces at people.  She will put her thumbs to her temple and stick out her tongue and squinch up her face.

***

I see the hands go to her head, elbows flaring out.  Though her back is turned to me, I can easily tell she is making faces at this girl.  ‘Oh crap!’ I think to myself…

…and then the girl makes a face back.

…and then Brooke bows to her.

…and the girl bows back.

…and then Brooke heads into school.

***

This has been played out on almost a daily basis.  Sometimes, if we are early or late, we miss her, but whenever we are on time, it is the same routine…the same connection.

I have no idea who this girl is, but whoever you are, thank you.

…just excuses

I could blame it on my focus on getting my personal training and boot camp business up and running.

I could blame it on my studies for a nutrition certification.

I could blame it on the weird pain I’ve been suffering through in my left foot.

I’m sure if I really thought about it, I could find a lot of reasons.

But if I’m going to be honest with myself (and with you), I have to simply admit, I haven’t been motivated.

I have a half-marathon next weekend, a full marathon and a 100-miler in October.

Bay State (the marathon) was supposed to be my attempt to return to Boston.  Ghost Train (the 100-miler) was supposed to be my attempt to go sub-24 hours.

After watching my social media feed back in April, as many of you ran a glorious Boston Marathon, I got excited.  I got psyched.  I was pumped at the prospect of running a competitive (for me) marathon and getting myself back to the starting line in Hopkinton.  With the added 10 minutes allotted to me because of my impending age bracket change, I knew I had it in the bag.

I bought new shoes (Go Mebs).

I announced my plans.

I pulled out my calendar and worked my way back from October to determine my base building runs and then my Bay State specific runs.

I planned it out.

My early morning runs.

My late night runs.

I was going back to Boston…

.

.

.

…and then I wasn’t.

My calendar began to fill.  Early morning runs became a problem.  With 6AM clients, 4 to 5 days a week, I was already getting up at 4:30AM to prepare.  Late night runs became a problem for the same reason.  You can’t give your clients your best on only 4 hours of sleep.  I was studying at night.  My feet were (are) suffering from an undetermined ailment.  The list could go on and on.

Honestly though, those are just excuses.  The fact is, as excited as I initially was to run both Bay State and Ghost Train, that motivation abandoned me at the first hurdle I faced.  Perhaps I really didn’t want to run, I merely wished I could.  We make priorities in life in part because there are only 24 hours in a day.  We make choices.  Maybe it a day was 30 hours, I would have found the time…maybe…probably, the results would have been the same.

At this point, if it isn’t obvious, I will not be running Bay State in an attempt to qualify for Boston.  I may still run it, depending on my feet, but it will be simply to enjoy a long run through the town of Lowell, MA.  Ghost Train is out of the question.  Attempting to run 100 miles on zero training would be foolish.  As for Boston 13.1, which happens next weekend, I am not sure.  Like Bay State, we’ll see how the feet hold up over the next week.

 

…of course, if you aren’t a runner at heart, I hope that you’ll understand as well.

I have a friend who recently took up running.  She built up slowly, using the Couch to 5K program.  I would see her about once a week where our girls were enrolled in a weekly program.  She’d tell me about her progress, new distances, new paces.  I would give her some strategies to overcome barriers, both perceived and real.  To help her stay with the program, she had signed up for a local 5K.

One week, while asking for some pre-race advice, she prefaced her question with, “I know it’s only a 5K and that must seem really silly to you but…”

I stopped her.  I told her something anybody who ever seeks advice from a long distance runner should know:

You never, ever have to preface a question with, “it’s just a 5K”.  You never have to qualify any of your running questions to us.  We’ve been there.  We know the trepidation.  We know the uncertainty.

And just so you know, we still feel it today when we toe the line for a 100-miler or a 5K (if we are running for time).

My point is this – we all run and it doesn’t matter if you run 3.1 miles, 50 miles, 100 miles or farther.  There was a time, when I first started on this running journey, that 13.1 miles might as well have been 100 miles.  The thought of the distance was staggering.  Anything with the word “marathon” in it (half, full, ultra) all fell in the same category and all seemed equally absurd.

Come race day, it doesn’t matter whether you finished first, DFL or anywhere in between; it’s not whether you finish quickly or slowly – ultimately, it come down to whether you enjoyed yourself and are satisfied with your performance.  Sure, there are always exceptions to the rule – certainly there is the occasional ultra trail runner who seems to think they’re a goddess of some sort, and therefore can look down on the more casual runner, but those people are few and far between.

If your butt is off of the couch, your feet are pounding the trail or street, your quads are burning and your lungs working; if you are running, then you are one of us.

Welcome to the warmest, coolest family outside of your own.

*if you aren’t a runner, then please, come join us!

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