Archive for September, 2012

Mr. Gino

So I swear this isn’t turning into a ballet blog, really I promise.  I will be getting back to the running and the fitness and the healthful life choices at some point, but I have to write about this guy – Mr. Gino.

As I wrote about earlier, we finally found a dance school that had the tools and the will to adapt a class for kids like my little Brooke.  You can read that post —>HERE<—.  Is the class a traditional ballet class with leotards, tights and hair up in a bun?  No.  The class is a mix of music and movement and expression that allow kids like Brooke to participate fully.  Midway through watching today’s class, I tweeted this:

Dear @BostonBallet adaptive class – I LOVE seeing my baby SO engaged in a dance class setting! THANK YOU!!! pic.twitter.com/0ZUb6FW0

(Click on the pic.twitter link to see the picture)

From the moment the class starts to the end, a full 60 minutes later, Mr. Gino has the kids in the class moving.  What had me absolutely amazed with Mr. Gino was that he got everybody, EVERYBODY to participate in the various activities the class went through.  This is a dance class populated solely with kids on the Autism Spectrum.  These are kids that, in a traditional classroom, can have a lot of difficulty participating.  But Mr. Gino got every, single one of them to participate fully.  At one point they had a dance circle where the kids formed a circle and one by one each child would go into the circle and do a 10 second dance riff of their choice while the rest of the group would cheer.  I was not convinced that every kid would go in, but sure enough, Mr. Gino got them all to not only get in and dance in their own special way, he got them to do it, one by one, in order and most importantly, with a smile.

This is a man with a special gift.  Thank you Mr. Gino for making Saturday mornings for my baby such a wonderful experience.

Brooke hugging Mr. Gino…and she doesn’t like hugging anybody but a very, select few.

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I was going to entitle this post “She believes her farts smell like roses”, but I didn’t really think that would be appropriate.  That being said, there are people out there, in the real world and in the blogosphere, that truly believe that, in a metaphorical sense of course…or at least they are trying to convince you that it’s true – that anything she writes or says is the one and only way to parent an autistic child.  I read a post recently that shouted, “You’re kid has just been diagnosed with Asperger’s  – Congratulations!!!”  It was part of a running theme about how wonderful it is when your child has autism, that an autism diagnosis is all Sunshine and Unicorns and Rainbows, and how we just need to focus on the positives of autism and how if there is stress in your life because of the effects of autism, it’s never due to the autism, instead it’s the parents’ fault for feeling stressed and not loving their child enough.  In a nutshell that there is nothing difficult about autism in and of itself; that any difficulty is because as parents, we don’t love our kids; that if we get angry at autism, that is wrong and we are not accepting our child, that we are rejecting our child; that if we blame autism for some difficult moments, we are failing our child…

…that autism can only be seen as Sunshine and Unicorns and Rainbows.


I’m a sunshiny guy.  I love rainbows.  I believe that somewhere in the multiverse, a la Max Tegmark,  unicorns actually exist and dispense “magic” from their horns.  I believe that our attitudes can shape our reality.  I believe in the power of positive thinking.  I believe in the incredible magic of a welcoming smile and an outstretched hand.  I’ve been accused of being Mickey Mouse-ish, Peter Pan-ish, PollyAnna-ish – and I plead guilty, guilty and guilty, with pride.

But here’s the thing: it’s not always Sunshine and Unicorns and Rainbows.  Yes, there are positive aspects to being autistic, no doubt, but there are negative ones as well – just like any other human condition (and I mean that in the are you human? then you have a human condition! way)

My Brooke has autism and along with the autism comes anxiety, sensory issues, scripting, rigidity, social difficulty, teasing by peers, dismissal from adults.  Her days can be and often are hard.  She picks at her skin, she makes unsuccessful play bids, gets overwhelmed by words on a page.  She panics when a baby or toddler cries, she avoids our kitchen whenever someone is cooking…the list goes on and on and on….

…but also with the autism comes a steel trap memory and perfect pitch – she can sing a song back to you after hearing it just once; rule based thinking is allowing her to learn and extrapolate the grammar rules of Spanish just from watching Dora the Explorer; a different perspective allows her to solve certain problems more easily that her NT-peers; what she sees often cuts through the bullshit image we put out there for the world to see, allowing her to see who we really are at our core…again, the list goes on and on and on…


I had a friend years back who always insisted that everything was fantastic; everything was great!!!  Even when the shit was hitting the fan big time, she would insist that there were no problems, no issues…in the words of Han Solo:

…everything’s under control…situation normal…everything’s perfectly all right now. We’re fine. We’re all fine here now, thank you. How are you?

This despite meltdowns happening all around her.  I finally stopped asking.


Raising kids is not easy.  There are highs and lows, strung together with everything in between.  Being the parent of an autistic child, of any special needs child for that matter, I believe stretches that range.  I tell people that Brooke has made me a better father, husband and friend; that the lows are just that much lower, but the highs can also be that much higher.  Along the way, I think I’ve learned to appreciate the little things that so many of our fellow parents of NT children forget to pay attention to.  Brooke has shown me the way.  She stops, she notices.  While others are whizzing through the world, she is taking in its incredible beauty.

But to claim that there is nothing negative about being autistic or being the parent of an autistic child is, in my opinion, naive at best and extremely harmful and dangerous at worst. The authoritative claim that family stress only comes from the parent and not from what autism can do in terms of anxiety to a child? Misguided at best, hurtful and quite possibly negligent at worst.  What happens to the child whose parents start to blame themselves for everything and decide they simply can’t take it anymore and either walk out, check out or in a truly desperate act, take their own life? – all because when they found out about their child’s diagnosis, they were told that all they had to do was remain calm and that any stress their child was feeling was a direct result of the parents’ behavior – that any problems their child was having was because of them and their inability to accept their child.  I’m not a lawyer, but that sounds like dangerously negligent advice to me, especially when dispensed as if it were the one and only truth, not just the truth for one advice-giver.

There is no one truth when it comes to parenting…any kind of parenting.

We are all on our own path – what works for my family may or may not work for your family.  In fact, what often works for me doesn’t work for Jess and vice versa.  Each person with autism is a unique individual that in some areas has more in common with other autistics than those who are not, but in some cases have such differences that as a layman you would swear there is no way they would have the same diagnosis.  If every autistic person fit into the same description and needed the same kind of response from parents and care-givers, there would be no need for an IEP would there?

Listen, if you are living by the “Everything is Sunshine and Unicorns and Rainbows” philosophy and it’s working, well then more power to you and I wish you well.  Amen! That is fantastic, but understand that you’ve essentially proven only one thing: that Sunshine and Unicorns and Rainbows work for you and your family. Different strokes for different folks…but I would urge you to really take a look in the mirror and see if there is something, anything, that you are refusing to see.  A life that only sees the positive is a life with blinders on, in my opinion, and in the end it cheapens the wonder of the highs.

But if you ARE struggling with your child’s autism diagnosis; if you ARE asking WHY and HOW; if you DO get angry and sad, sometimes at the same time; if you do FEEL stressed please, please, PLEASE don’t read these posts by the Sunshine and Unicorns and Rainbows crowd and then think of yourself as a failure, as a non-loving mom or dad – don’t believe for a second that the pain you or your child feels is your fault, is anybody’s fault.

It. Is. NOT!!!

I am not saying that you shouldn’t read the stuff by the Sunshine and Unicorns and Rainbow crowd, I’m just saying you should accept their philosophy as something that seems to work for them.  If you think it might work for you, well, go right ahead!  But if you try it and it doesn’t work, DON’T BLAME YOURSELF!!!  It reminds me of the churches that say if you can’t pray away whatever troubles you have in life, then you don’t have enough faith.  Sometimes faith alone isn’t enough, because that which troubles you doesn’t go to church.  Sunshine and Unicorns and Rainbows are not the end all be all authority on parenting autism and if it doesn’t work for you, despite what they may lecture at you with unyielding assuredness, that’s okay.

Struggling, asking why and how, getting angry and sad, feeling stressed are all normal reactions to life in general.  Every parent goes through those feelings, even parents of NT children.  If you’re having a hard time, remember that you are NOT alone; that there are places you can go to vent, talk and find support; remember that all parents struggle; we, as special needs parents, may struggle a little more; we may worry just a little bit more.  I would think that not worrying about the future, whether it’s tomorrow or when our kids turn 22, is a sign of denial.

Struggling, questioning, feeling overwhelmed and stressed are natural – it all comes with parenting, whether your child is autistic or not; and in my conversations with NT parents, their struggles are just as big to THEM as ours are to US.  Those thoughts and feelings are what instigate change and progress and hopefully move the conversation forward.

Did your child just receive an autism diagnosis?  This is what I will tell you – it’s going to be okay.  The diagnosis doesn’t change your child.  He or she is still the wonderful, beautiful being you have loved since birth.  His or her diagnosis will open doors, it will give you a starting point, it will give you tools, it will let you know where certain behaviors are coming from and will hopefully allow you to communicate better with your child.  The road will be bumpy; there will be lows, there will be stress, there will be anger and sadness…

…but just remember there will also still be sunshine, there will still unicorns and there will definitely still be rainbows – and those moments will shine brighter than any sun, be more magical than any unicorn and be more colorful than any rainbow.

We are all on different paths, but we are all, ALL, in this together.

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If you follow along on Facebook or Twitter, you already know that I’ve started a campaign to capture Katy Perry’s attention and then convince her to donate one of her blue wigs to me to wear at this year’s New York City Marathon.  I started a petition on Change.Org to create a central location to collect your signatures.   If you have a moment, I’d greatly appreciate your signing the petition.  The link is —>HERE<— (or you can click on the image below).  I’ll wait right here while you go over and sign it.

Sign Here!!!


But that’s only one prong of my three-pronged strategy to get Ms. Perry’s attention.


Part two also involves you as well, if you are willing.  Members of Team Up With Autism Speaks and I are putting together a Twitter campaign to send a steady stream of tweets to Katy Perry (Twitter handle: @katyperry).  I have no idea how often she reads the tweets that are sent to her.  Based on what I’ve seen on her twitter stream, she receives quite a few tweets – that happens when you have 24 million followers.  Ideally, at any given point during the day, for the next 8 weeks until New York, somebody will tweet to Katy asking her to donate a wig.  Obviously I will be tweeting her on a regular basis, but the more people that do it, the more likely either she, or whoever runs her social media will see it.  If you are up to sending her regular tweets (or even just one tweet), maybe it could look something like this:

Dear @KatyPerry, please let @luau run the NYC Marathon w/ one of your blue wigs for #Autism #Awareness – http://tinyurl.com/c8hf476 #lightluaublue


Dear @KatyPerry, please let @luau run the NYC Marathon w/ 1 of your blue wigs for #Autism #Awareness – http://tinyurl.com/c8hf476 #luauisafirework

If you copy and paste either one of those two, you will use all 140 characters while providing her with a link to the petition, with hashtags for Autism and Awareness , which means that the tweet will pop up when people search for either one of those terms.  The link to Twitter is here:

Copy one of the tweets above and then click on the birdie!

The first coordinated Twitter-fest is tomorrow (Tuesday the 25th) at 10:30AM.  Hopefully if hundreds of people send her the same tweet at 10:30AM (EST), it might get noticed.


Finally the third prong of my strategy may or may not involve you – do you know Katy?  Somebody out there has to know her, right?  or at least someone who knows someone, whose uncle has customer who once dated a girl who is the sister of a guy who went to school with a girl whose aunt’s best friend’s son dated a girl who is one of Katy’s dancers?  Somebody, somewhere out there could let Katy know, right?  Okay, seriously though.  I’m trying to work through some people who work with people in the music industry, but if you know someone who knows her…or better yet, if YOU know her, I would love the opportunity to pitch my request to her.

…because I would look much better in this wig…

…than in this one!


So that’s it – my three pronged strategy: petition, twitter-bomb and finding somebody who might know somebody.  If you have suggestions on how better to reach her, please email me (runluaurun at gmail dot com) – I am open to any and all suggestions.

Don’t forget, 10:30AM tomorrow morning (EST).  I appreciate any and all help…even if it’s just passing this or the petition link or the tweet along.  Whether I succeed or not, I have a feeling that this will make a great starting point for my motivational speech the night before New York.

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Today I cried.

But they were happy tears…tears that have been a long time coming.


Five years ago I sat in a parking lot, with little Brookelette sitting in the back of the car, all dressed up in her leotard and tutu; her hair up in a bun; and I cried. I sat there in that parking lot, crying uncontrollably for a good twenty minutes. Brooke had just participated in her ballet class’s final dress rehearsal before the big academy recital the following two days. She hadn’t been able to follow along. Initially she had followed the instructions of the dance instructor, but very quickly decided she was going to do her own thing up on the stage. I was in the balcony recording it and felt terribly for the girl that was supposed to be her dance partner as Brooke started to run circles around the group.

To be clear, the moms that were there were not only understanding, but supportive. They all knew of Brooke’s diagnosis, and as I began to talk aloud of pulling her out of the performance, almost every one of them protested; but I couldn’t do this to the little girls up there on the stage. Yes, kids will be kids, and you never know what will happen when they get on stage, but I just couldn’t put my little one through the craziness of what those recitals are like and I did not want her to disrupt what her classmates had been working on all year.

After the rehearsal, I spoke to the instructor and told her I didn’t think my little one could handle it. Part of me was crushed even further when she agreed so readily. In retrospect, I don’t blame her.

After saying good-bye to the moms and the girls in the class I had gotten to know over the course of the school year, Brooke and I went back to the car, I buckled her in, gave her a snack, told her how proud I was of her, got into the diver’s seat and proceeded to cry…and cry…and cry.

It was probably one of my lowest moments as a parent ever. Had I let her down? Had I sold her short? Did I make the right decision? Over the next day or so, I took the video I had taken of her and made a “Brooke’s Big Recital” movie. I still can’t watch it without crying and so I don’t anymore. It hurts too much.

Flash forward a couple of years. We are talking to someone who runs a dance school and they mention that they would love to have Brooke in the school and they’ll even put in an aide just for her. I am so excited. This is just what she needs, right? With the proper support, she can dance just like all the other little girls in her class.

The dance instructor is absolutely amazing…the aide, not so much.

The “aide”, it turns out, is someone who was to be in the class regardless, and she has absolutely no clue as to how to work with my baby.

That’s okay, I think, I can give her plenty of pointers as to what works best with her!

My heart sinks as I watch the “aide’s” eyes glaze over as I try to explain how best to keep Brooke focused on the class and how best to redirect her. She could not care less. She has no interest in working with a special needs child. Honestly, I don’t like her, but I do not hold it against her. Some people are not wired to handle kids like my little one. The school should have put someone else in.

Despite the incredible efforts of the instructor, after several months of watching Brooke get lost in the class, I pull her. Again it is unfair to her classmates; it is unfair to the parents who are spending an exorbitant amount of money to have their children in the class to keep Brooke in.

Again, I sit and I cry.

All she wants to do is dance. Why isn’t there a place for her to do that?

At the beginning of the following school year, I meet a mom on back to school night. Her daughter is in Brooke’s class. We chat for a little while. I tell her a little bit about Brooke and her autism and even mention the whole dancing thing. She pauses and then mentions the Boston Ballet. I nod. The Boston Ballet always seemed to me to be the serious school – the place where future lifers went. She then mentions a program they are developing for those on the spectrum. My interest is piqued, but I’ve been burned before.

I tell her that I will definitely check it out…

…and then I don’t. I’m not ready. And for that I will kick myself for quite a while. Brooke doesn’t mention dance for a little while, but then starts asking again, “when will I be going to ballet class again?”

Oh, boy!

Finally, this summer, I decide it’s time to explore this Boston Ballet thing. After speaking with the mom from Brooke’s class and then the person in charge of the program at the school, I am convinced. They say all the right things – they’re working with Children’s Hospital, looking for parent input, using their 10 year experience of running an adaptive class for those with Down’s Syndrome. I am so hopeful.

There’s a tryout/placement class in August. Despite the dance saga being my baby, I let Jess go. She is home from work on two weeks vacation – there will be other classes I can go to, I am sure.

It goes fantastically and I am envious. A week later we get Brooke’s placement. Again, Jess goes to the first class and then the next. She sends pictures, tells me about how awesome Mr. Gino is and how well Brooke is doing…but I want to see it for myself.

In my head I still see the defiant kid sticking out her butt at the rest of the class:

Today I got to go to Brooke’s class for the first time this year:

She’s dancing…she’s moving…

…she’s performing for the class…

but most importantly…

she’s happy!!!

…and so today I cried and I cried and I cried some more…but it was so different from that day 5 years ago. Thank you Boston Ballet. You have healed what has been an open wound on my heart and soul for the last five years. To watch my baby dance so freely, so happily is pure joy. Thank you.

Okay, I’m off to go cry a little bit more.

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So after this, I promise no more Boston 13.1 posts…well, not this week anyway.

Last Sunday I committed one of the cardinal sins of running – I ran a road race in a brand new pair of shoes; they still had that brand new smell to them as I slipped them on Sunday morning right before the race.  Why, you ask?  Why did I do something so phenomenally stupid?  Well, ever since Sugarloaf, the Green Mountain Relay and my subsequent Plantar Fasciitis, I’ve been transitioning off my Kinvara’s and back to my Vibram Five Finger shoes, specifically the Bikila’s.  Every Sunday for the last 10 weeks I have been taking out a small group of Team Up with Autism Speaks runners for a long training run; in my Bikila’s, which were getting smellier, smellier with each passing week.

It didn’t matter that I was washing them after each run – for whatever reason, they were permafunkdified…big time.  It got to the point that 2 weeks ago after taking the group out for one last run, I kinda grossed myself out in my car on the way home.

It was time for a new pair.  I meant to go on Monday so I would have a chance to break them in at some point.  I had found that with the VFF’s, I generally needed one short run to break them in.  Monday turned into Tuesday which rolled into Wednesday.  Late that afternoon I finally got myself to the store and picked up a brand new pair (on sale no less for $59!).

And then they sat in my closet.  This was the second week of the kids back being in school, which, for me, is always the craziest time of the year.  Suddenly, it was Sunday morning and I hadn’t broken in my new shoes.  I was going to have a car full of people on the way to the race so I left the stinky shoes at home and brought the new pair.

They felt good going on, but I knew from moment one exactly where the blisters were going to form – it was now a question of how long before they became unbearable.

Within a half mile I could feel the hot spots.  The blisters were coming and they were coming fast.  By mile 3 or 4 there they were…and so I faced a decision: do I continue to run like this, knowing that the blisters were only going to get worse, or do I take off my Bikila’s and go barefoot?

Barefoot running has always had an appeal to me, but to that point, the farthest I had run with naked feet was 5 miles, and those 5 miles really put a beating on my soles.

What to do? What to do?

4 to 5 miles in I couldn’t take the burning sensation anymore and off came the shoes…and to my surprise, the ground felt great!  Something I didn’t know before Sunday, the streets along Revere Beach are much smoother than those in my neighborhood.

I proceeded to finish the race barefoot.  I would finally put the Bikila’s back on for the final 2 to 3 miles of my 22 miles that day because A.) the finish chute was littered with pebbles and glass (though I did do it barefoot for quite a while) and B.) when Jess texted me that she was fading, I went into race mode and ran as fast as I could to get to her.

What does this all have to do with the title of this post?  I guess it’s a long, drawn out way of me saying that we are all stronger, we are all tougher than we think we are.

Before Sunday I had never run more than 5 miles barefoot – on Sunday, I did 16 miles and today (all this week actually) my feet are fine.  Before Sunday, Jess had never run/walked 13.1 miles, but when push came to shove, she did it.  So many Team Up With Autism Speaks Runners went a distance that they had never gone before.

We all have it in us to push beyond the boundaries we think surround us.  Sometimes those walls are very real, but more often than not, what we think is just beyond our reach is just waiting there for us to push ourselves just a little harder, stretch a little bit futher, dig a little bit deeper.

We all have it in us.

Heck, I’m even thinking that a barefoot New York City Marathon isn’t totally out of the question!

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“…over the next two decades, 13 states could have [obesity] rates above 60 percent and 39 states could have rates above 50 percent. Mississippi is on pace to have the highest obesity rate at 66.7 percent…”
-September 18, 2012|By Dawn Turner Trice, Chicago Tribune reporter

I posted the article this quote is from yesterday on my Facebook page. I said something along the lines that I found these numbers to be incredible, as in unbelievable, as in it simply isn’t possible. Yet there they were. We are on track to having a quarter of our States with a large majority of their population obese, not just overweight mind you, obese; and nearly 80% of our States with a majority of their population obese. Two-thirds of the population of Mississippi on their way to a twilight riddled with preventable disease.  The most frightening part? Colorado would come in as the most fit State in the Nation…with a 45% obesity rate. FORTY-FIVE PERCENT!!!

Despite what appears to be heightened awareness, the vast majority continue to live in denial…

This is insane!

In response to this flabbergasting news, I hear a lot of people talk about government mandates – having the government take over what we eat or drink a la Mayor Bloomberg’s decision to rid New York City of over-sized sugary drinks. Part of me wants to jump on that bandwagon. If people aren’t smart enough to take care of themselves, well then someone has to take care of them, right?


Although the government should take on some role, maybe from an educational position, or, a bit more radically, making healthy choices available in areas of low access, no amount of government intervention will correct the problem until we, the people, decide we want to make a change.

If there is one thing I have learned over the last few years of being asked for and then giving advice for healthy change, it’s that until a person is ready and willing to change, it ain’t gonna happen.  Too many people want instant change; transformation in a bottle; abs and buns of steel in a pill.  It takes work – not just at the gym, but in the choices of the fuel we choose, and if we ain’t ready and willing, change ain’t gonna happen.

I can tell you that we are shortening our lives, but if we aren’t ready and willing, it ain’t gonna happen.

I can tell you we’re increasing our cost of health care, but if we aren’t ready and willing, it ain’t gonna happen.

I can tell you that we are killing our sex drive, but if we aren’t ready and willing, it ain’t gonna happen.

I can tell you that we might not be able to stand at our child’s graduation, but if we aren’t ready and willing, it ain’t gonna happen.

I can tell you that we might not be able to dance at our daughter’s or son’s wedding, but if we aren’t ready and willing, it ain’t gonna happen.

I can tell you that we might get diabetes or cancer or suffer from heart disease, but if we aren’t ready and willing, it ain’t gonna happen.

I can tell you that due to our obesity we could lose a foot or a leg, but if we aren’t ready and willing, it ain’t gonna happen.

I could tell you that we are setting OUR children up to follow in our footsteps…




…does that at least stop you for a moment? Does that make you think, maybe, just maybe, this report doesn’t have to be true? That we don’t have to condemn our children to a life of diabetes, heart disease, stroke and amputations? Is that what we want to leave our children? Is that what we want to be our legacy?

I know I don’t.

The habits our children pick up from birth to 18 come primarily from us, and once those habits are programmed into their brains, they are very, very difficult to break. Does that mean there’s no hope for a 30 year old woman with a lifetime of bad habits?

Heavens no!

But it is way more difficult for her than if she had been brought up with good habits all her life.

Change is hard, but it’s easier for our kids – and once those good habits are learned, the foundation of healthful living is set.

Do you know where it starts?

It starts with us. Yes, the government can help set some standards; they can do what they have to do to make healthier choices available to us; they can help educate the population about healthful eating; but in the end, it comes down to you and me.


Just like every vote counts in an election, what WE choose to do over the next 20 years, 10 years, 5 years, 12 months, 6 months, 4 weeks, 7 days, 24 hours, 60 minutes, 60 seconds, can make a difference.

Nothing sets a better example for our children than our own behavior.

Nothing, NOTHING, convinces a company to change their ways better than our wallet.

Are you ready and willing?

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I often talk about how a race can be a metaphor for life in general – the highs, the lows, the laughter, the tears.  I often draw parallels between the difficulty I face during a marathon and the difficulties Brooke faces on a daily basis – the conclusion always being that if Brooke can fight through her day, every day, on a lifetime journey, then I can suck it up for three and a half hours over the course of 26.2 miles.

But Boston 13.1 brought a new metaphor to light for me.  As I hope most of you know by now, Jess tackled Boston 13.1 on Sunday as well.  She ran/walked it.  You can read her recap on her blog.  I could not be more proud of her.  She did it on absolutely no training whatsoever.  We had a little talk about it the other night – she said she felt like a fraud because she thought all of the “You Did IT!” praise was misplaced, comparing herself to someone getting through a workday with a hangover – self-inflicted difficulty.

But I saw it a different way.

Here’s the thing – Jess handled Boston 13.1 the same way she has taken on life as the parent of an autistic child; she did it with grace and a sense of humor.  When a lot of people would have packed it in (and the organizers of the race were literally packing it in as she passed mile marker 12), she kept going, and this is where the metaphor comes in.  When we, as parents of autistic children, find out that we are on a different path, we discover that we are not trained for the unique position we find ourselves in.

Much like Jess felt toeing the line on Sunday, we can feel overwhelmed, undertrained, and all alone when we first hear our child’s diagnosis.  But if we have the courage to cross that starting line, to move forward, and we manage to keep our sense of humor about us, we discover that we are, in fact, NOT alone; that there are so many others who are running the same race with as little training.

Is it a harder path? Sure. You will never convince me that being the parent of an autistic child is just as easy as being the parent of a neuro-typical kid.  BUT, are there at first unseen blessings along the way?  Absolutely.  I would argue that Brooke has made me a better father to my kids, a better husband to my wife, and a better friend to my friends than I would have been had I not suddenly found myself on this path.

The number of Team Up singlets on Sunday was both encouraging and disheartening.  I would never wish the harder path in life on anyone, but it was so heart-warming to know we were all there together.  And just because the path is harder, doesn’t mean that the path is impossible.

My wife proved that yet again on Sunday – it says so right on the picture.

So proud of you, babe!

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Morning run.

Bike ride to work.

Walking the dog.

Do these sound like fund raisers?  Well, they can be.

And it is seriously that simple. There is a fantastic little app, available on both iPhones and Android devices, called Charity Miles.  It allows you to be sponsored during whatever walking, biking or running activity you take part in.  The best part is that you are not limited to one or two charities to choose from.  You can choose from nine charities that are varied in what they do:

You simply start the app, swipe to the charity of your choice, press start and go.  For each mile you walk or run,  you earn 25¢ for your charity of choice.  For every mile you bike, you earn 10¢.  It may not sound like a lot, but it adds up.  If every runner at Boston 13.1 had used the app, nearly $5000 would have been raised simply with swipe of a finger.  In the short time I have been using the app, I’ve raised enough money to fund nearly 5 hours of autism research.  Think about how much you move throughout the day.  Whether it’s your morning run, walking the kids to school, biking to work, walking the dogs three times a day…every step can count; every errand can be a fund raiser.  The only work you have to do is the work you were already going to be doing!

Charity Miles has $1,000,000.00 to give away.

One.  Millions.  Dollars.

That’s a lot of dollars.  Their goal is to give it all away by May 31, 2013.

Food, school supplies, Parkinson’s research, conservation, housing, inclusion…whatever your charitable cause may be (and of course, if you have no preference, I’d say go light blue!), you can help each of these charities earn a chunk of the millions dollars simply by moving you body.

This is how it works:

This is Gene’s (the founder) story:

Gene’s Story

It’s a free app, paying you to do what you were already going to do.  The more people who do this, the more money our charities earn, the bigger impact we have.

So if you run, walk, bike, skip, shuffle, dance or moonwalk your way around your neighborhood or to and from work, take a moment to download the app.  You’re going to do those activities anyway, why not get paid for it!

And who knows, you might end up in a cool email like the one that arrived in my inbox early last night:

Luau Earns Style Points
With Team Up With Autism Speaks
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Team Player!

Dear Team Charity Miles,

Meet Matt “Luau” Wilson.  Yesterday, Matt joined 260 teammates from Autism Speaks to run the Boston Half Marathon.  Luau had coached this team all summer.  So when race day came, there was no holding back.  Out came the Big… Blue… Afro!

But Luau’s style points don’t end there.  After pacing one of his teammates to a P.R. (personal record), Matt ran back onto the course to shuttle in the next teammate he could find. Then he did it again… And again… And again… Until he personally ran in all 260 teammates.  All in all, Matt ran over 22 miles– nearly a full marathon!  Way to go Matt!  Way to be a team player!

Also, congratulations to everyone else on Team Up who helped raise over $175,000 for Autism Speaks yesterday.  Just goes to show you how a small group of people can have a big impact.  Or, as we, like to say, “Changing the world is a team sport!”

In honor of Matt and Autism Speaks, wear something blue while you do your Charity Miles this week.  Tweet out the #GoTeam hashtag and you could win a free T-Shirt!

All the best,


Copyright © 2012 Charity Miles, All rights reserved.
Every Mile Matters!
Our mailing address is:

Charity Miles

320 West 38th Street

New York, NY 10018

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Holy cow!  Where to start?  I’m not even sure where the beginning really is on this one.  Is it months ago when I met with the folks from Team Up With Autism Speaks?  Is the when I began leading a training group every Sunday morning 10 weeks ago?  Is it last Saturday night when I got up in front of 220 Team Up Runners at the pre-race dinner for a pep talk?  The whole thing is just a little overwhelming, so maybe I’ll start in the middle.


I could feel the pain coming on.

You know, that little wet, burning feeling.  I don’t know where it happens for you, but blisters almost always start either just above my heel or near the front of my arch.  I had committed the cardinal sin in road racing – wearing footwear for the first time in an endurance event.  Last Wednesday or Thursday I had completely grossed myself out with my old Bikila’s.  They smelled so freaking bad and that was AFTER I had sent them through the washing machine…TWICE!  It was time for new ones, and considering that I would be pacing my dear friend Jersey during the race, I didn’t want  her to have to deal with my smelly shoes.  So, I went and bought a new pair; and then they sat for 4 days.

Yeah, I know, brilliant!

And so it was just a couple of miles in that I started to feel it coming on.  I tried to ignore it.  I tried to focus on my Garmin.  My friends Doug (from Really Not A Runner – even though he is) and Sassy had joined Jersey and I and my primary goal was to get Jersey to the finish line at just under 2:00.  We were clipping along at 9:00/mile pace, which translates to about a 1:58 half.

Sassy, Jersey and me early on, pacing smoothly around 9:00 per mile.

Me and Doug, who was in a showdown with Jersey – winner take all.

But the burning was growing.

I kept pushing it to the periphery.  I had a job to do: get Jersey to the finish in under 2:00 and then shuttle in the rest of the Team Up with Autism Speaks Runners.  We were having a fabulous time cheering other runners on.  I kept checking in with the Team Up runners we would pass, letting them know I would see them at the end.  We caught up with Paula from Perspicacity.  She had decided months ago that her first half-marathon was going to be Boston 13.1 with our Team.  We exchanged a quick hug and continued on.  I knew I would see her at the end.

Sharing some pavement with Paula from Tallahassee.  You can also see Superwoman Rebecca from Orlando just to the left of Paula’s ear.

As we made the turn onto the beach just after mile 3, I realized that I had two choices – either leave the footwear on and end the day with some monstrous blisters or take the footwear off.  I wasn’t sure what to do.  The farthest I had run in my attempt to rid myself of plantar fasciitis was 5 miles, and although the barefoot running had cured my PF, it wasn’t easy on the skin of my feet.  After trying to suck it up for another quarter mile, I threw caution to the wind and off came the shoes.

Surprisingly, it felt really good!  The pavement along Revere Beach is nice and smooth and the 9:00 pace meant I wasn’t pounding my feet either – a perfect combination for running with proper form!

We continued along our merry way, cheering runners we passed, all the while keeping our pace around 9:00.  Around mile 4 I saw Jess coming the other direction.  She was walking the half.  I jumped through the park that was between us and gave her a big hug, telling her I would be back.  I ran back to my charge and we continued on.  This barefoot thing was working out great.

Since we had started near the back of the pack, even at miles 5 and 6 we were passing other runners.  I would give a word of encouragement to every Team Up runner we would pass.  Through the turn arounds I got to see the runners I had trained over the past 10 weeks.  Every single one of them looked great.  All of them were smiling.

Between mile 8 and mile 9, Jersey began to fade.  Her spirit was there, but on this day her legs began to rebel.  Any experienced runner will tell you that there are days you have it and there are days you don’t.  Sometimes we can battle through the pain; others, the pain is just too much.  Sassy was on a mission to hit sub-2:00 as well, and we told her to go.  She would finish in 1:58.

Jersey and I took a little walk break.  It wasn’t her lungs, it was her legs.  We had banked enough time that we still had a shot at sub-2:00.  The next 3 miles would be a mix of run/walking.  She was determined.  I kept an eye on the Garmin.  Approaching mile 10 I said we needed to make a decision of whether to go for it or let it go.  Jersey is from, well, Jersey and she wasn’t gonna go down without a fight.  We needed to pick up the pace, which we did, but ultimately her legs said no.

I changed gears on her.  Sub-2:00 wasn’t in the cards this day, BUT her previous best was a high 2:04.  I knew we had an excellent shot of beating that.  I started doing the math.  If we could walk/run the next 2 miles at a certain pace, she was gonna come in around 2:04.

We hit mile 11.  I shortened the the distances we walked.  Even as we walked I kept my legs in a running motion, trying to pull her along.  As we got to mile 12, I said to her, “you can do anything for one mile.”  She was hurting but determined.  She kept pushing.

With a half mile to go, I shouted at her, “no more Mr. Nice Guy, let’s go!!!  How pissed are you gonna be if you miss this PR because you walked!  LET’S GO!!!”

She kept going…the clock was ticking…tic, tic, tic.  The finish line came into view.

Push, push, push.  The clock said 2:05:something but I knew we had at least a minute because we started so far back.

Tic, tic, tic.

We made the turn into the chute.  Jersey has broken into a dead run.  I tried to avoid the broken glass and pebbles that littered the ground.  On last turn in the chute, I yelled, “go get that medal! save me some beer!!!”.

Jersey’s PR was 2:04:47.  She would cross the finish line in 2:04:44.  A PR by 3 seconds.  Any runner will tell you, a PR is a PR is a PR!

I turned back to start part two of my job that day, shuttling the rest of the Team Up runners to the finish.  It was poetic that the first three runners I paced in were Roberta, Jana and Mark, followed closely by Kara, four runners who attended just about every single one of my Sunday training runs.  I was so proud of them!

What fun it was pacing people in!

Still blue afro-ed, still barefoot.

The absolutely amazing thing was just about every Team Up runner had a smile on their face.  Even after covering 13.1 miles, most for the very first time in their lives, there was a huge smile.  There was one woman who was crying, BUT it was because she knew she was A) doing something she had never thought she could do and B) knew her son was waiting at the finish line for her.  I told her that it was okay to be crying.  I started to well up as she turned the final corner for home.

The pebbles and gravel in the chute finally got to my feet, so I slipped my Bikila’s back on as slippers and continued to pace runners in.

Still blue afro-ed, but no longer barefoot with Dave from dailymile

After 5 miles of shuttling, I got a text from Jess.  She was fading.

I caught up to her at around mile 11-ish – Garmin said I ran low 7’s coming for her.  She told me she had never been so happy to see a blue afro.  I gave her a hug, told her she was doing great and we walked.  We were soon joined by her cousin John (who unexpectedly ran a PR!!!) and his girlfriend, then by our buddy Doug, then by Jersey and our friend Judith.  Over the last mile we were escorted by EMS and some State Police.

Jess crossed the finish line and then I finally did the same.  I was (and am) so proud of her.

The final numbers?  Almost 22 miles, 16 of which were run barefoot, 3:40:55 and a whole lot of love.

Next stop: New York City.

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As of 8:45 PM, September 14:

Which means:

I will be running the 2012 New York City Marathon with the Katy Perry Blue Wig.  Thank you to all who have donated to my cause.  I am blessed to have you in my life.  For those who would still like to give, please consider giving to Jess’ Boston Walk page – her company will match donations made to her page dollar for dollar.  The link is —>HERE<—.

Because you beat the deadline by a full day, I will be wearing this for Boston 13.1 on Sunday:

Thank you again!  You are amazing! I am blessed to know you. I am lucky to have you. I am humbled by your friendship.

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