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Archive for July, 2012

Bitter Sweet

I just got back from the bookstore. Brooke has been a bit of a mess for the last 48 hours because she had been unable to find one of her favorite books. It got to the point that bedtime last night got a little hairy. This afternoon, while hanging out in the den, she started crying. I asked her why she was crying and she gave me one of her scripted answers. I dug a little deeper and she said she was sad that she could not find her book. I became determined to find it. After 20 minutes of tearing the house apart, Jess made the ingenious suggestion that I take Brooke to the bookstore and buy another copy…the $7 would be money well spent.

And so we went to the bookstore.

And we picked up a copy of her book…that is, after the nice, well meaning info desk lady helped us find it.

“You do know this is a little kids book, right?”

Yeah, believe me honey, I KNOW!!! “Yeah,” I simply sighed.

“I mean REALLY little kids.”

I suppressed my flash of anger, calmly took the book from her and went off to go pay.

Brooke could not have been happier and she began reading her book in the car and asking me questions about it:

Is it so wrong that as happy as I am that she has her book and is reading, that a part of me is bitter too that the book is this:

I know we all go at our own pace…we all do…but sometimes it’s hard to remember that.

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Vigil

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Even as I am having a completely inane conversation with this mom I just met I am watching. She has no idea where her child is or what her child is doing, and the truth is, that is okay. Her child is 9, maybe 10 years old, and despite being a bit of a spoiled brat, can handle herself just fine with all of the other kids here.

Meanwhile, I am watching, half turned away from the droning mom, half listening to what she is saying, fully aware of where Brooke is, what she is doing and gauging the immediate potential pitfalls that surround her.

Brooke starts to move toward another mother and her baby, I take a step away from verbal diarrhea mom before Brooke moves in a different direction. I relax my shoulder and nod at some senseless question the yapper has asked. She says, “right?” with a lilt at the end, unawares I have no idea what she has asked me, but thinking I must be in total agreement.

I finally excuse myself as Brooke starts to wander off to a new location.

“So good to see you, thanks for listening” she says, “I feel much better about that situation.”. I nod again. I have no idea what she is talking about.

***
Katie wants to show me something.

“Look,” she says, “watch me do this.”. She dives under the water to perform some sort of gymnasticky move, but I am only half paying attention. I am watching Brooke as she bounces through the water in a different part of the pool, weaving her way in and out of the crowds of kids.

Each time she bounces particularly close to another child, I can feel my body move slightly toward her, at the ready to help facilitate conversation or diffuse inappropriate behavior.

“Did you see it Daddy?” Katie asks as she pops out of the water.

“Very good,” I say, not sure what she did or how well she actually did it.

“How would you rate it?”

I pick 7 because it gives me an opportunity to ask her to do it again to see if she can do it better, never mind that I didn’t see it the first time. She looks disappointed.

“Do it again,” I say. This time I fight the urge to turn my head toward Brooke the moment she goes under the water and watch as she does a perfect underwater somersault. She pops back up.

“How was it?”

“A 10 baby, definitely a 10.”

She beams with pride and says, “now watch this!”

The moment she goes back under water, I frantically scan the entire pool for Brooke. It takes me less than a second to find her, but it is the longest sub-second of the day. She is working her way to the edge of the pool to go down the slides.

“How was that Daddy?”

“Pretty good Kat! Listen, I’m gonna go over and make sure Brooke stays in the line for the slide, okay?”

“Oh-kay,” she says, making no effort to hide her dissatisfaction.

***
I envy parents of NT kids sometimes. Sure, they have their worries about their children, but honestly, when I’m at the pool or the park or a birthday party or any place with a plethora of children, I see them turn off their Kid-dar (closest thing I could come up with for Kid Radar). They fall into deep conversation because, well, they can. Their children can navigate the social seascape with little or no problem.

Meanwhile, I watch. I always have one eye on Brooke, and if I need to take my eye off for more than a second, I am fighting the urge to turn back. I can’t give my older daughter full-attention for Christ’s sake. Even when Brooke has a playdate with an NT friend, I feel I must be paying attention to every word, every action.

It is so tiring. I’m so tired. Tired of watching, tired of listening, tired of not being able to take part in inane conversation, tired of pretending to be paying attention, frantically trying to piece together bits and pieces of a conversation into something coherent.

***

The only time I don’t is when she has a playdate with either one of two of her friends who are also special needs kids. They get each other, like REALLY get each other. When her friend L comes over, I feel perfectly fine letting the two of them play alone in the play room or in Brooke’s room, because, well they play. The same with her friend D.

***
Last week I spoke with another dad. His child is much older than Brooke and swims at the deeper end of the Autism pool. His child has very few words. Were she neuro-typical or only mildly brushed with autism, she’d be getting her drivers license this year. There is no rest for him or his wife. I could sense his constant vigilance even as his voice conveyed defeat and weariness.

***
A lot can happen in 5, 10, 15 years. Between advances in science and changes in societal views, the world could be a much different place for Brooke when she reaches driving age than for that dad’s daughter, but I know I will still be watching…I will still be weary…I will still only be half listening…

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Sometimes I’m just a shadow of myself…

I wrote this post on Sunday night…hence the weird time references.

***

Some days I feel like a fraud.

Who is this guy?

What the hell is he talking about? 

Does he even know what he is saying?

Today I was overcome with the sense that I’ve been faking it for the last 15 months – ever since, well,  Boston 2011…hell, maybe even before then; that I’ve been nothing but a shadow of something that once was…a shade.  I thought I had rallied hard for 12 weeks at the beginning of this year for Sugarloaf 2012, but looking back I wonder if I really did.  When I came up short at the finish line, instead of being driven to work harder, I simply wanted…

…to stop.

There were commitments though – there was the Green Mountain Relay in June, where I tried to live up to my billing as one of the faster runners on the team and proceeded to puke throughout my first leg and then get passed by a one legged middle aged woman in my second leg.  The overall experience was a lot of fun, but quite honestly, between my puking sessions during my first leg, I was pretty sure this was it for me with running.  I’ve got two more running commitments on the calendar, both related to Autism Speaks – the Boston 13.1 Half-Marathon in September and then the New York City Marathon in November.  After that?  I have no clue?  I must admit I am enjoying the group runs I am leading for the Team Up with Autism Speaks runners on Sundays, but I still haven’t begun my training cycle for New York…time is ticking.

After Sugarloaf, I tricked myself into believing that I just needed to take a week off from running to let my body recover, never mind that I had a 200-mile relay the next month I should have been training for.  The week turned into many weeks.  I’d throw in an occasional run to tell myself I was still running, but the runs became less frequent and much shorter.  They started to feel so insignificant that I stopped logging them.

I just stopped.

Any runner who has religiously logged their miles will tell you just how important that simple act of logging the miles is.  It gives substance to what we have just done.  It gives us a place to go to re-live miles run but also inspires us to add more.

I stopped logging my miles.

I just didn’t care.

I stopped writing regularly too – if you go back through my blog posts, you will see large gaps in time after Sugarloaf…maybe even before then.

***

We all need a break now and then, but this felt different.  This feels different.  Believe me, I still want to make my way back to Boston, to toe the line in Hopkinton.  I still want to run 40 to 60 to 80 miles a week.  I just don’t have the drive anymore.

And because of that, I’ve felt like a fraud as of late.

And it’s creeping into the rest of my life.  I feel like I’ve been mailing it in everywhere, that I’ve given up on whatever dreams I may have had as a younger man or even that man just a few years younger than me.

I want, I want, I want…I just don’t have the drive.  I can’t get out of neutral; even when I do manage to get it into drive, I end up just spinning my wheels goings nowhere.

My weight has come up 10 -15 pounds (depending on the day), my legs have slowed, my hair has suddenly greyed rapidly (though it’s still there), I’m tired and I’m weak.

I know what should be done.

I can see myself from when this blog first started looking at me through time in disbelief, wondering What the Frak is happening to you, man???

***

I should call a frakkin’ Wah-mbulance, believe me, I know.

By most standards, my life is pretty good.  I need to shut the frak up.

***

Yesterday (Saturday) my friend Maddy posted on dailymile that she had run a marathon – not an official one mind you, but wanting to make sure she could still do one, she went out and ran a little over 26.2 miles.  The part that absolutely killed me was that she did it in 3:24.

Right…that’s 1 minutes slower than what I had considered my gutsy run at Sugarloaf – my second fastest marathon ever, and she just cruised around town and did it just to see if she could.  It both depressed and inspired me.  To show you just how much of a badass Maddy is, I will tell you that just a couple of hours ago (Sunday evening) she posted that she had run another 20 miles today (in 2:40). She is a bad. ass!  (I can’t hate her though…she’s a total cutie-pie!)

Maybe this was God sending me a message?

I don’t remember the last truly long run I did.  It may well be that Sugarloaf, way back in May, was my last long run over 13.1 miles (of course if I had been logging my miles I’d be able to tell you!).  Maybe the running gods were trying to remind me through Maddy that the feeling of speed and strength and generally all around badassness comes at a price, that price being miles, dedication, desire, drive.

It all comes back to want and drive.

Right now I’m sitting on a whole crapload of want but I’m staring at an empty roll of desire.

***

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I originally was going to write this post for special needs parents. Then I decided that maybe I should include siblings and grandparents. That led me to cousins, extended family and friends….in the end, this post is for everyone, anyone…any person who is loved.

Are you loved?

I can pretty much guarantee, whoever you may be, you are…there is someone out there who loves you…your parents, your children, you family and friends. Long lost connections…someone who looks back through time…

Somebody loves you.

And because of that, you owe a debt.

***

Yesterday I wrote about how the pandemic of inactivity was killing us, causing 1 in 10 deaths worldwide. Putting that on par with smoking and obesity, that means that at least 30% of all deaths in the world are relatively preventable…that 30% of all deaths are the results of a slow suicide.

But Luau…

I can’t quit smoking.

I’m too big and can’t change my body.

I’m too tired and depressed to be active.

Bullshit!

Would you want your child, or your spouse, or your mom or dad to slowly take their own life? Would you buy those excuses from them?

No, no you wouldn’t.

***

There is a wonderful website called the “Oxygen Mask Project”. It was created by two Special Needs Moms to inspire other Special Needs Moms to help them help themselves, because in their own words, “To care for others, you have to take care of yourself as well.”

As is so often the case, what is good for the Special Needs Community, is just as good for the rest of society.

We owe a debt that can only be repaid by taking care of ourselves to all those who love us, because in the end, isn’t that what life and happiness is all about…Love?

Without it, what’s the point?

Repay your debt daily…30 minutes at a time.

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What would you say if I told you there was a preventable pandemic that was the cause of 1 in 10 deaths around the world.  That’s right, 1 in 10.  10% of all deaths – WORLDWIDE.  That number puts it on par with smoking and obesity.  It causes coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, breast and colon cancers.  It’s something that lurks in your den, your office, permeating your life.

It is everywhere, but unlike smoking which has been shown to be as, if not more, addictive than heroin, this killer can be easily dispensed.  In fact, if we were able to reduce its presence by just “even 10% to 20% worldwide…it could save between a half-million and 1.3 million lives each year. This could also raise global life expectancy by almost a year.” -Matt Sloan, CNN.

1 in 10.

That’s a lot of death.

So what is this killer that is everywhere?  According to a series of studies released in British medical journal The Lancet, that killer is inactivity (read the studies here —>HERE<—).  That’s right.  Sitting around on our asses, staring at the boobtube, picking our noses and mindlessly doing nothing is killing us slowly in awful ways – heart disease, diabetes, cancer.

So what can we do to reduce, if not eliminate the effects of inactivity?  The answer is simple really – move.  That’s right, MOVE your body.  I am partial to running, but it really doesn’t matter what you choose to do to get the heart pumping and the blood flowing – run, jog, walk, swim, bike, make love, jump rope, play tag, wrestle, climb a tree, gymnastics, get chased by the police (but don’t get caught), CROSSfit, jumping jacks, dance, play Wii or XBox Kinect, anything…anything for at least 30 minutes a day.

And then invite a friend.

I have gone on and on about the obesity epidemic that this country faces (2/3 of Americans are overweight, 1/3 are clinically obese) and how simply getting healthy could help resolve our health insurance cost issues, but this inactivity pandemic is just that, it is worldwide.  Do your part to help ease the financial burden of preventable diseases – get up, move and drag someone with you.

You’ll thank me afterward.

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Summer is in full swing now and that means one thing to many people – it’s sandal/flip-flop season.  But many of us suffer from dry, cracked, calloused heels  and feet that just look plain fugly.  Personally, I wear flip flops all year round unless there is an excess of 3 inches of snow on the ground, but that doesn’t mean I don’t suffer from the same heel and sole issues as the rest of you.  Men won’t say it, but we suffer from this problem just as much as women do.

So what’s a person to do?  You want to wear flips flops or sandals, but nothing seems to work to get your heels and soles soft & smooth.

Lotions & moisturizers?

They seldom live up to what they say they will do.

A pumice stone?

That’s a lot of hard work, and honestly, I’m not convinced that they actually are rough enough.

That metal shredder egg thing?

Only if you wanna risk shredding your feet.

Some people like to cover their feet in moisturizer, then cover that with vaseline and THEN cover that with a sock.

I can see how that would work, but what a mess!

There’s the whole fish thing…

But that’s just plain weird.

Of course, you could always go to the salon for a pedicure –

But that can get pretty expensive if you need to go every week.

No, none of these things are as effective and as inexpensive (free) as what I recently discovered to be a cure for rough feet.  I can’t believe it took me 42 years to realize that this product was readily available just about every where in the world with free access to just about anyone.  And though we have already paid for it in a sense, there is no extra cost involved in using it in this fashion.

Put simply, it’s our streets and sidewalks.

Three runs and 10 miles of running bare foot later, my soles and heels are as smooth as they have ever been – a little dirtier maybe, but as smooth to the touch as a baby’s bottom.  You can do it too!  For free!  The only cost to you is your time spent running – so really you’re saving even more because you’re killing two birds with one stone…AND you’re saving money on shoes (or not having shoes) at the same time!

So if you have some sole and heel issues, don’t waste your money on products that don’t work or your time in a snooty salon – take off your shoes and get out there and run!

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So the latest uproar I’ve heard today involves this:

Yeah…this is real.

Yup, that’s right, THAT is an automated mashed potatoes & gravy dispenser that can be found in 7-Elevens around the world (for whatever reason they are particularly popular in Singapore).

Here’s what it looks like in action:

As you know, I am a huge proponent of living a healthful lifestyle – I believe in daily exercise, eating right and getting plenty of sleep.  Those three things are the legs of the stool that I believe you can place your goals for a happy life upon.  You would expect that I would find this mashed potato dispenser to be an abomination, a crime against humanity waiting to happen.  Many of the 7-Elevens that offer this product, bundle it with a soda that is bigger than your head, all for the low, low price of about $2.  After your tub of instant mashed potatoes & gravy and your barrel of colored sugar water,  I am sure you will have taken in the recommended intake of sodium and sugar to last you a week.

If this comes to America, the fat will simply get fatter…and fatter…and fatter.

I should be outraged.

I should be angry.

I should be writing to my Congressman.

But you know what?

I say bring ’em. Bring ’em here by the thousands.   Put them in every single 7-Eleven in this country.  Place them in a prominent place in the store so that those who “need” their mashed potatoes and big gulp don’t have to walk as far or burn any more precious calories.  I say decorate them with flashing lights and even give it out for free for the first month to get people hooked on the sodium/sugar delivery package.  Hell, even offer curbside service so that people don’t have to actually exert themselves to get this over-sized package of empty calories.

Why do I want this?

Because I believe in Natural Selection.  Do you?

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