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It’s been a rough, tough couple of weeks here.  For those that don’t follow me or Jess on Facebook or Twitter, we received news earlier this week that Brooke has in fact been suffering from brain seizures.  Jess and I were, despite preparing ourselves for the possibility, completely rocked.  The news from the neurologist was followed up just hours later with more difficult news from Brooke’s neuropsych (or as Jess calls him – Dr. Dreamy).  Her verbal IQ had taken a frightening tumble over the last year, dropping her into the bottom one percentile of her peers.

Yeah…Jess and I walked out of there a complete mess.

That was Wednesday night.  Thursday went by in a complete blur.  Jess stayed home to prepare for Brooke’s team meeting at school, while I drove her around to attend to those preparations.  I just wanted to get to the end of the day and go to sleep.

Sleep didn’t help.

I woke up this morning just as distraught, just as angry, just as stressed.  So many of you have sent words of love and support and offers of connections to doctors.  Up until today, that had been my lifeline – I can’t thank you enough.  I know there are people out there who say that social media has made the world a colder, less inter-personal place, but after what you did for me and Jess Wednesday night and yesterday, I could not disagree more.  Like I said, you have been my lifeline.

But then something else happened today.  Instead of running angry as I have for the last several days, I decided to run comfortably; to purposely run at a slower, steadier pace.  I kept my pulse in the high 120’s and just glided for 5 miles before turning up the pace a little.  It was meditative, contemplative, reflective.

At the end of the run I took my usual “#AutismStreaeks Day Fill-In-Blank” photo.  The sun was behind me, which I hadn’t realized, and created a burst across my face in the photo and it struck me – even the darkest of nights must eventually give way to the sunlight.

...even the darkest night must eventually give way to the sun...

…even the darkest night must eventually give way to the sun…
#AustismStreaks Day 46

 

Brooke will get through this, as will Jess, Katie and I.

Thank you for being our sunlight.

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On the way out of the grocery store today with Brooke this afternoon, I watch a father trying to coax his 20-something year old, 6’2″ son with what appeared to be autism into the store – the father was gentle and obviously skilled after however many years of having to do what he was doing, but he was still having extreme difficulty convincing is son it was time to go in.

I could not help, but for a moment, feel anger – not toward the father or the son, but to the situation and whatever deity put them in that situation.

I know children seldom grow into the expectations parents have of them – Lord knows that A) in some ways, my life is completely different from what my dad envisioned for me and B) my own children have already changed (not for better or worse) what I envision for them as adults – but I can’t imagine that this father, some twenty plus years ago thought that he would be doing what was required of him today.  I imagine he foresaw his son leaving for school or taking a job and living independently.

Autism and other debilitating disorders do that – they don’t just change the dreams we have for our kids, they can crush them.

Brooke was brushed more lightly than others with autism.  She does not have Asperger’s, but she is verbal and she is socially motivated.  I see a kid that wants to be part of society, wants to contribute…someway, somehow.

Maybe my long-term expectations are high; maybe they are unrealistic…

…maybe part of the reason that I got a little angry this afternoon was that I was afraid that I was getting a glimpse of the future…

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So I was all set this morning to write about why I think I’ve been getting sick this winter, but instead this proud husband would like to share some pretty cool news about his pretty awesome wife.

This guy is now married to an official, genuine, actual Huffington Post Blogger!

After writing one of her best political pieces recently, Jess decided she would submit her post to Huff Po.  She had high hopes they would print it, but felt that it was probably a long shot.  Last night she got the news that her piece was live!

So proud of you, babe!

Check out the post by clicking —>>>HERE<<<—.

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Throwing Out the First Pitch at Fenway on Autism Awareness night.

Eck. Mariano. Pap. …Luau.

That could’ve been me on that list if only my father had put a baseball in my hands when I was little. I’m not particularly gifted athletically, but being left-handed, all I really had to do was get the ball over the plate and I’m sure I could’ve been a major league pitcher, even an all-star reliever…

…ok, probably not.

But as a kid, I used to dream about being a closer. Coming in at the end of the game, bases loaded, no outs, my team desperately clinging to a 1 run lead in the bottom of the 9th…the crowd going wild…

9 pitches. 9 strikes. 3 outs. Game over.  The clubhouse erupts as the ballpark goes silent.

Okay, okay, at age 42 I still have those dreams, but it’s a little late for me to pick up a baseball.

***

Recently however, I’ve picked up a new way to become a closer.

As you may recall, last November, at the New York City Marathon, after finishing my 26.2 miles,

I ran back to mile 23 to wait for my girl Jersey and run her in.

As spent as my legs were, it was an absolute thrill to help her get to the finish line of her very first marathon.

Look at the huge grin on my face

A week later I hopped in as a bandit at a local half-marathon.  After finishing, I intended to run home. Part way there, I was spotted on course by a friend who had just read my race recap of New York.  She asked if I could run her in.  Who was I to say no? and then on the way home, I saw another reader and I did it again.

Not long thereafter I received this message from a dailymile friend:

Hi,

We met at the Run to Remember, just briefly. I’m a big fan of your blog. While I was out on my run today I had a crazy idea/request….Would you consider running me in the last 5 -10 miles of Boston next year?

It will be my first marathon. I’m really excited to run it but I know I will be pretty beat at the end. And it would just be super cool to have one of my local running heroes help me achieve this goal.

Crazy, I know; I’m basically a total stranger. So, what the scoop? I’m on the Dana-Farber team and will be running a slow 11 min pace (possibly slower). I would gladly make a $100 contribution to Autism Speaks for your kindness…

I figured the worse you could say was no, and that’s not so bad.

Thanks!
L

How can I say no?  Especially since she’s offering to make a donation to my favorite charity!

And so it seems that I may have found a new way to become a closer.  Barring an unexpected trip on Patriots Day, I plan to run L in to the finish, helping her over the last 9-10 miles of her first marathon and then run home (a good way to get one of my 20-milers in before Sugarloaf).  It may not be quite as riveting as watching Mo or Eck or Pap break the hearts of the opposing teams, but it is pretty damned satisfying AND it helps one more person achieve their goal of 26.2 miles.

Maybe this is the start of a new trend/business venture/charity fund raiser – Luau’s Closers for Charity.  On race day, we guarantee we will get you to the finish line!

Who’s with me?  Do you need a closer? Do you want to be a closer?  I do need to start raising funds for Team Up! with Autism Speaks for the New York City Marathon this November!  You name the race – for the right donation, I’ll be there to bring you home!  Email me!

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At this time last year I was nervously laughing at my friend Doug, who was trying to convince me to follow through on a promise to run the Vermont 50 with him.  I had made that promise during a moment of idiocy, immediately regretting my words the moment they flew out of my mouth.  There was simply no way he was going to convince me to run such a ridiculous distance.

However, as the date drew near, he turned the pressure up.  In another moment of idiocy, I acquiesced, signing up for my first ultra-marathon.  You can find the long story —>>>HERE<<<—, but the short story is after covering the 50 miles in a little over 11 hours, I immediately cursed Doug out, essentially saying I would never do something so stupid again…

…30 minutes later, I was thinking, “you know?  if I actually trained for this thing, I think I could run this baby in a little over 9 hours.”

Yeah, I know…nutty.

So my plan this summer was to run long miles in anticipation of tackling the Vermont 50 again – this time, fully trained.

***

Sometimes, plans change.  It turns out that the Boston Autism Speaks Walk is taking place on the same day as the Vermont 50.  No matter I how fast I run, there’s no way I can be in two places at the same time.  I weighed the decision for no more than a split second.  The choice was and is clear – as bummed as I will be on September 30th, 2012 that I will not be running the Vermont 50, I will be walking proudly around the race track at Suffolk Downs, helping to make the world a better place for my baby and those like her.

In the end, it’s all about priorities, and what is more important to a parent than his or her children.

***

The Vermont 50 isn’t going anywhere (unless of course the Mayan Apocalypse occurs), but maybe my ultra-marathoning friends have a regional Fall 50-miler they could recommend?  Maybe in October?

If you are not running the Boston 13.1 Marathon with Team Up! with Autism Speaks, please consider joining us on September 30th as a member of Team Umizoomi for the Walk (as soon as Jess gets the Team Page set up, I will post the link of the Run Luau Run Facebook Page).

 

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Last Saturday I had the honor of attending the Boston Autism Speaks Walk Awards Dinner. It was an evening filled with inspiration and hope. While there I spent some time talking with Erica Giunta, head of the Massachusetts chapter of Autism Speaks. She was excited to tell me that Autism Speaks and the 13.1 Marathon Series had teamed up to make Autism Speaks the official charity of 13.1 Boston. For the September 16th event, Autism Speaks has pledged to field 400 half-marathoners. Each of those runners will commit to raising at least $500, meaning that we will raise at least $200,000 for research, advocacy and awareness programs.

This is where you come in.

I am NOT asking you to donate.

I am NOT asking you for money.

I want YOU!

YOU!!!

I want you to come cover 13.1 miles with me, where we will start at historical Suffolk Down race track and “dash through East Boston, Revere, and Winthrop, take in a stunning view of Downtown, and smell the salt air of the great Atlantic Ocean! The Boston 13.1 Marathon is (also) WALKER FRIENDLY. The course will remain open for 3 hours and 30 minutes (16 minute/mile pace).”

We are all touched by autism – whether it is ourselves, a family member, a neighbor or friend. If you haven’t been touched by autism, chances are you will – and soon.

I was inspired in listening to Autism Speaks President Mark Roithmayr Saturday night speak of a generation of children who are growing up with the understanding that kids like my little Brooke are “just one of the guys,”; of high school basketball and football players who were coming up to him simply to ask, “what can we do for so-and-so”; of college kids who were packing auditoriums to hear him speak on a Thursday night (I don’t know about your experience, but my Thursday nights in college were generally spent in the fraternity basement).

There is a generation of kids who are growing up with awareness, knowledge, compassion.

“Just one of the guys.”

It made me realize that there were in fact, many girls at Brooke’s school that really do just look at her as one of the girls. Yes, they know she’s different, but they just don’t care. They like her and she likes them. In fact, this morning at drop off, a girl that was in her class LAST year came up to her to give her a pink teddy bear for Valentine’s Day. Brooke hasn’t had a play day with this girl since last summer, yet this young lady thinks enough of Brooke that she felt compelled to give her a Valentine’s Day present.

This kind of awareness, this kind of comfort would, in part, not be possible were it not for the awareness efforts of organizations like Autism Speaks. In turn, organizations like Autism Speaks would not be successful were it not for the incredible efforts of you. Yes, YOU.

***

Whether you are an experienced marathoner, an avid walker or just a getting off of the couch, I would like to invite you to join the Team Up! with Autism Speaks Team. They make fund raising easy.

2012 Team Up! with Autism Speaks benefits include, but are not limited to:

  • Race Entry (which means you don’t need to worry about the $65 – $100 entry fee)
  • Team Up! with Autism Speaks Runners Tank or Long Sleeve, and an Autism Speaks dri-fit hat
  • Pre-Race private team dinner for you and a guest, location TBA
  • Customized fundraising page
  • Team Up! Facebook Page
  • Virtual Coaching by a certified running Coach Chris Fales
  • Fundraising Tips and Opportunities
  • Dedicated Autism Speaks staff
  • Race Day Cheering Section at Mile TBA
  • Race Day Team Up! Tent for pre and post race usage
  • Team Handbook- In a PDF form and downloadable for reference at anytime.

I will add one more “benefit” if you are a Boston local. If you will be running your first half-marathon at 13.1 Boston, or just need some inspiration to get out there, I will organize weekly weekend long runs in the weeks leading up to the event. 7 months is a long ways away; plenty of time to get yourself ready for what is sure to be a fun-filled, inspiring day.

If you are an out-of-towner, what better excuse to get yourself up here for a visit? You’ll get to see New England in the early Fall, you’ll get a great run in, you’ll raise funds for a worthy cause, and best of all, you’ll get to have dinner with me the night before the race…okay, well, maybe that last one is not such a great excuse. Regardless, whether you decide to dine with me or not, I want you here.

You love to or want to run/walk.

You want to help.

On September 16th you can do both.

Join me by registering join the Team Up! with Autism Speaks Team—>>>HERE<<<—.

Experienced runner, novice runner, walker or couch potato – I. Want. You!

If you cannot join me but would still like to help, please consider donating here --->>> http://events.autismspeaks.org/boston13.1marathon/runluaurun

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I got a text from my buddy Jeremy B last night that “we four made the cover picture for the vt50 in ultrarunning magazine!!”

He was kind enough to send me a phoneshot of the picture.

from left to right - me, Jeremy B, Doug and Jeremy D.

I couldn’t not share!

Have a great day everyone!

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Some things, some opportunities only come around once in a lifetime – an opportunity to travel to a far off land; a chance to go all the way to South Africa to run Comrades; an intimate moment with J. Lo…oh, wait a minute, that’s fantasy, not opportunity. Sorry.

Anyway, as I was saying, sometimes the stars align just so to allow you to grab the bull by the horns and really, REALLY live.

One such opportunity presented itself this past weekend, allowing me to take advantage of the circumstances of my life.

As you may recall, about two months ago, I put it out there that if you put us over our fund raising goal for the Autism Speaks Walk, I would run my next marathon with blue hair.  You did.  On the day of the walk we found ourselves 1¢ over Jess’ stated goal.

One.

Frakking.

Penny.

But a promise is a promise and so because you fulfilled your end, I dutifully fulfilled mine.

If you are new to Run Luau Run or haven’t stopped by in a while, you can find the process of me Lighting It Up Blue and going from brunette to blond to blue—>HERE<—.

I then ran my blue haired marathon two weeks ago in New York and had both my slowest and most enjoyable run ever.  The video is —>HERE<— the race report —HERE<—.

The blue hair has been a lot of fun.  It has brought a lot of attention to autism awareness; it has made me easy to spot; it has definitely been a conversation starter.  It has served its purpose and run its course.  The blue has started to fade away and my roots have become more prominent (did I just say that? my roots? really?).

Could I go in for another touch up?

Sure.

But I would be ignoring the wise lesson I learned from Elmo when he told me the story of how he saved Christmas and almost lost it again – that having Christmas every day takes away from the true spirit of Christmas – instead, carry that spirit with you throughout the year.

And so it is with my blue hair.  A month of blue hair to spread awareness was a wonderful experience.  Now, it is time to carry that spirit with me (and you!) throughout the year.

***

Which brings me to this past weekend.  An opportunity, a chance to do something I always wanted to do as a kid and as a young man, but never could because of one reason or another…when am I going to again have longish, blue hair that needs to be taken down…

…and so I give you Goodbye Blue:

A nod to Movember:

Happy Movember!

But the wife wouldn’t let me into bed until I shaved off the ‘hawk and the ‘stache.

Clean Shaven

At least I have the pictures to prove it.  Thank you everyone for helping us raise the funds for our walk. I hope you will continue to “light it up blue” in spirit with me throughout the year.

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Why do you run?

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I Am

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There are all kinds of different reasons to run – health, sanity, competition, escape…

One of the reason I run is because I am a stay-at-home dad. No, I don’t run a business from home. I am not a dad who lost his job and is temporarily at home. No. I am a homemaker, I AM a stay at home dad.

Years ago, Jess and I decided that we wanted to have one of the two of us taking care of our children during the day. Fortunately, one of us made a salary that would allow us to do that. It wasn’t me – my salary at that time would have put us in a studio apartment in a bad neighborhood.

And so my journey as a homemaker and stay-at-home parent began.

That was over 10 years ago.

In very short order, I gained a new respect for the millions of women who had given up careers (voluntarily or not) to raise their children and take care of their homes. Homemaking is not an easy gig. I was quickly accepted among the moms I would regularly cross paths with – for which I was grateful. Not every stay at home dad is readily accepted into the stay at home community.

Still, despite the acceptance of the moms, and the feigned/ignorant jealousy of my male friends, I knew I was still a strange man in a strange land, an oddity, a curiosity (years ago, a store clerk, unable to wrap her brain around the fact that I was a stay at home dad insisted, INSISTED, that I must be a nanny).

To the moms, I am a nice guy who works hard (and isn’t it sweet), but I can’t ever share what they share. I didn’t carry Katie or Brooke inside me for 9 month. I can never know the emotional ups and downs nor the emotional bond mothers have with their kids. I can’t share in the more intimate conversations they will have with each other because, well, I’m a guy.

To the dads, I am an enigma, a riddle. How does this guy do that? But I don’t share the burdens of salary and employment that they do. I cannot know what it means to be the sole bread-winner – “the man” of the house.

It is a lonely place – a toe, if that, in each world, but not fully accepted, respected nor understood by anyone in either.

The truth is, as a stay at home dad, the economy scares me as much as the next man, but I have the added insult of knowing that my skill set is over 10 years out of date. I cannot suddenly be “the man” should Jess lose her job. Go back to school, you say? When, is my response. Were Brooke your typical child, I might be willing to bring in a baby sitter or a nanny or put her in after school care, but she is not. Move, you say? So that we don’t have to depend on Jess’ sizable salary to live in this neighborhood? Where, is my response. Were Brooke typical, we might have moved long ago, but, as much as we complain about the school system, unfortunately, it is still one of the best in the nation, IN THE NATION, for children like Brooke. No, we cannot move without putting Brooke’s future at stake.

It is depressing to know that I cannot cleave the chains that bind us to our situation and location. Despite all the good I know I do – and believe me, I know – I know my chosen vocation raises eyebrows, and at times leaves me feeling powerless…

***

Which is why running is so important to me. Through running I can exert my strength. I can look at 80 – 90% of the men on the planet and say, “I am stronger, I am faster, I am better at something than you.”

It is a male thing. A man thing.

But it is not for them, those other men, that I run.

No, it is for me.

It is to remind myself that I am still a man…still strong…still capable…still powerful…

I am…

…still a man.

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how do you see yourself?

Running is/isn’t easy.

Running a 5K is/isn’t easy.

Running a marathon is/isn’t easy.

***

Over the last three years I’ve made many friends in the running community – runners of all shapes and sizes, skills and experience.  Physically, for some, running is a natural gift; for others, it is a concerted daily effort.  For some, running is easy; for others, not so much – but surprisingly, it doesn’t always break down along the “physically gifted/not so gifted” lines.

Running is a physical activity that taxes your muscles, heart and lungs.  The faster you go, the harder your body must work – your muscles burn, your heart beats faster and your lungs strain to keep up with the demand for oxygen.

But what if I told you that running is more mental than anything else.  What if I told you that being a “good runner” was more about what’s between your ears instead of how strong your legs are or how much blood your heart pumps or how much air your lungs can take it.

Running comes down to two things – discipline and joy.  Do you have the mental discipline to put one foot in front of the other and can you find the joy in each one of those steps.

If you can consistently do both, happiness, particularly in how you see/feel about yourself, is not too far behind.

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