Wordless Wednesday (Autism Awareness Day 2013 Edition)

April is Autism Awareness Month, and today (April 2) is World Autism Awareness Day.

I started off this morning watching the sun rise behind the Autism Speaks puzzle piece as I finished my Charity Miles run:

edited AS sunrise

And I ended the day at Florida’s Old Capitol, waiting for the sun to go down so the blue lighting could convey its message. As I waited with families, some affiliated with Parents In Action, who have children on the autism spectrum, I heard about Asperger’s, service dogs for children with wandering issues, 13 year olds who still have meltdowns and who are difficult to restrain because of their size, teachers who take the time to pore over children’s records in order to best educate them, and disabled vets who take on new roles as learning assistants for children with autism. I had barely scratched the surface before we had to part ways. In the midst of all those details, I heard love, the kind that every parent has for their child, the kind loaded with hopes, fears, and prayers. And as always I found families willing to educate me about their journeys with autism. As people come to work tomorrow morning in Tallahassee, I am happy they will see our Old Capitol all dressed up in blue. And I hope awareness and acceptance will have gained just a tiny bit more purchase on the stretched-thin agendas and hearts of our civic leaders and fellow Tallahasseeans.

blue old cap

 (I also really encourage you to read Diary Of A Mom’s post about today’s significance.)

crafty spices

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

From Magic Mike To The Bottom of The Barrel: My 2012 Favorites (A Mama Kat Prompt)

After a long drought, I just may make it to two weeks in a row with Mama Kat prompts. She made it easy (and irresistible) this week via a template: 2012 Favorites (inspired by MomSmack)!

Here goes.

Favorite 2012 Movie:  The thing is, as much as I love movies, I don’t make it to them very often.  To start things off on an unpredictable roll, let’s go with the one that was the most funMagic Mike!

magic mike

Favorite Album: Gosh, I haven’t bought an album, on vinyl or digital, so I’ll have to pass on that one!

Favorite Song:  The last (and cooldown) song on my running playlist is “I Won’t Give Up” by Jason Mraz. Something about this song reminds me of my daughter. It’s the line, “How old is your soul?” I love it.

Favorite Tweeter. There is one person I look for every day on Twitter. I know that what I will find will entertain, encourage, or do a little of both. So unless you’re a Lara Spencer fan, just trust me on this and follow @washingtina. She rocks.

Favorite Blog. How, oh how in a world chock full of incredible bloggers do I answer this one? I think I’ll reward Diary of a Mom for all of those super-early wakeups that she does in order to write for us (I know she’ll say she does it for herself too but……) about parenting, life, autism, and being true to yourself.

Favorite TV Show. Holy heck I am feeling shallow here with the Magic Mike intro and the reveal of my favorite tv show. I love My Fair Wedding with David Tutera. I love it most at 2 a.m. when I’m supposed to be sleeping and I am drifting off to the sound of him rescuing some poor inept bride from her bargain gown and putting her into the perfect couture gown; when he’s blowing off the industrial hall venue and migrating everyone to an opulent seaside setting. I love it when he makes that bride’s dream “his” for the duration and truly invests himself in the process.

Favorite Instagramer. This is a challenge because I just got on Instagram. That said, one instagramer I followed on Facebook before I had it as an app is “tifthegirl.” I met Tiffany when her husband was studying film at Florida State, and her picture-a-day for a year project that was posted to Facebook never failed to capture my attention.

Favorite Moment. Crossing the finish line of the Boston 13.1 race in September as part of the Autism Speaks team.

AS finish

Favorite conference. I went to an interesting conference in Baltimore in June related to Health Care Quality. I would be lying if I didn’t admit that one of the highlights was my extracurricular non-conference activity of getting together super early with my friend and PRS Fit teammate Ann Brennan. What a treat!

PaulaAnn

Favorite viral video. Here’s the thing. I am a huge fan of Bottom of the Barrel Comedy on Youtube and they’ve done plenty of viral videos (I met many BOTB members when they were FSU Film students). But a lot of them may not be appropriate for a mom audience. For that reason I am embedding one that is technically not from 2012 but is the best I can do for a PG13 audience. Little Chef has had over 343,000 views:

So there you have it. Magic Mike, Wedding Overkill, Kids Running Amok in Kitchens. Maybe it’s a good thing my word for 2013 is direction.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

2013: Getting Out Of The Box Sooner

I have seen some interesting prompts for 2013 goal setting and visioning.

I have seen several suggestions that we create a “word for the year” such as this post and any number of boards on Pinterest, such as this one from Mary Nelson-Huffman, whose word is “grow.”

The image most representative to me of my 2012 is my square wreath:

cropped wreath

It’s square because it sat in the box (the wreaths are sent to us every year on behalf of my in laws) for three weeks before anyone liberated it and hung it.  A three weeks where I thought hubs was going to do it because he said, on a day when he was industriously doing yard work, “get out the hook so the wreath can be hung” (said hook was dutifully gotten out). A three weeks where my teenager who was dying to have the house Christmas-y was “doing homework” and didn’t want to hang the wreath (not that homework isn’t important). A three weeks where hubs (about a week into the three) said, “seems like if you wanted it Christmas-y you would have hung the wreath.” Eventually he hung it and said, “the wreath is square.” Indeed.

It has been a year where I did not achieve my only written-down goal of running a 5K in less than 30 minutes, but adopted a new goal in February of running a half marathon for Autism Speaks. The half marathon has been run (in September). The 5K goal is getting transferred to 2013 (not the first transfer of this goal) and the wreath is square.

I don’t regret the delay in reaching the 5K goal that resulted from the training change-up involved in working toward the half marathon goal. I do regret the square edges on the wreath and the multitude of other things that I have let go over the year. The cluttered house; the cluttered office; the Executive Director who kept poking his head in, looking at the clutter (I moved offices right before vacation and came back to many fires to put out) with what I interpreted as “why can’t she get her sh*t together” disdain; the failure to delegate what could be delegated and to just handle what couldn’t as opposed to procrastinating.

If it’s true that “outer order brings inner calm,” then I have nowhere to go but up.

To digress a bit, the best “framing your 2013 resolutions” post I saw was (not surprisingly) from Leadership Freak. Entitled, “Beyond Typical S.M.A.R.T. Goals in 2013,” Dan Rockwell in his typically insightful way asked:

How do you want to think and feel about yourself when 2013 slips away?

– Does your behavior and attitude make you proud of yourself?

– How can you enhance your strengths and minimize your weaknesses?

– What can you do for you?

– How can you help others?

What contribution will you make to the way others think and feel about themselves?

– What can you do to make the future bright?

– How will you bolster self-confidence [for others]?

– How will you let others know they matter?

– How will you make others feel they belong?

– How will you help others work with others?

I can’t tackle all of these questions tonight in one post. But I’m going to let them simmer. I’m going to hope they give you some food for thought as your 2013 gets underway.

Honestly, if I had any guts at all I would share the “kayak” dream with all of you. It’s super-personal and airing it via my blog could hurt me professionally. (But I’m more than happy to share one on one/privately.) In brief, the “kayak” dream told me I’ve missed one particular boat in my life. And that leaves me the challenge of choosing the next boat, the next trip, the next destination.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And maybe that does leave me with a word of for 2013: direction.

A word, direction, and a plan to hang a round wreath for Christmas 2013.

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Then The Blue-Haired Gorilla Happened

If you follow my blog at all, you know that I love to use my blog as a platform for worthy causes.

In addition to blogging, I enjoy adding “causes” to the reasons I run. In fact, when I made my Badass Army 2012 Resolution, I customized it by adding this statement: 

I will actively seek out and promote fitness opportunities that do good for causes I support.

Back in July, I started seeing posts on Facebook (and tweets on Twitter) that stated that the miles run, biked, or walked by the individual posting had helped causes through Charity Miles. For example:

When I participated in the Boston 13.1 for Autism Speaks in September, our team learned more about Charity Miles and how the app can be used to raise support (via corporate sponsorship) for various causes via the simple acts of walking, running, and biking (25 cents per mile walked or run, 10 cents per mile biked!

Once I returned to Florida, I began using Charity Miles for all of my workouts. Then I came up with a plan. I would do a workout for each of the Charity Miles causes, and blog about that cause that week (if you’re a blogger, you may be familiar with the hunger/desperation to come up with topics!).

That’s why I did a workout on September 27, 2012 that was dedicated to the ASPCA:

But then the potential for this happened:

Read about how the loser of the #teamluau vs #teambecca October Charity Miles Throwdown for Autism Speaks has to run the difference in miles in a blue-afroed, Autism Speaks jerseyed gorilla suit get-up here.

And I couldn’t resist joining in to help some of my favorite people with a favorite cause.

(But I do feel a little guilty about the diversion from Plan A – I actually sent Luau a DM on Twitter that said “somewhere out there an unvaccinated puppy just shed a tear” – I will get back to you, ASPCA, I promise!)

And then the decision had to be made about which team I would be on, #teamluau or #teambecca?

I am a HUGE Luau fan. After all, he convinced me sight unseen to divert (I see a diversion theme here…) from my 2012 goal of running a 5K in 29:59 or less (the long run training probably actually helped that goal actually but that’s for a different blog) in order to train for a half marathon. When forced to make a decision, and noting that Rebecca is a) from Florida like me (yay!) b) someone I didn’t manage to meet in Boston (not sure how that happened) and c) a fellow mom (like me), I decided I needed to throw my miles in with #teambecca (she’s on the right in the billboard below):

Which gets me to this:

First of all, check out Charity Miles.  You can read Luau’s post explaining it all. Or you can watch this video:

Secondly, if you have been wavering about where, when, and how to start (or resume) a fitness routine, why not use this as your motivation?  Pick a cause you love and go for it. Of course, since the Charity Miles Autism Speaks throwdown is still on for the rest of October, feel free to tweet your miles with #teambecca (or heck even #teamluau) if you are on Twitter!!

Lastly, I guess this quote is more pertinent to the Nature Conservancy Charity Milers:

“The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

But let’s extrapolate to running, walking, biking for autism:

“The creation a thousand ways to help Autism Speaks is in one mile.”

Why not add yours to the total?

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Boston 13.1

A week has gone by since I ran my first half marathon, the Allstate Boston 13.1 for Autism Speaks. Whereas I usually feel like I could write hundreds of words about pretty much any workout, that has not been the case with this event. I can’t decide whether to start with the people who motivated me to do the race in the first place; the coach and fellow runners who supported me through the eight months of training, the families for whom autism is a part of each and every day who were among my biggest incentives, or the race day itself, a day that was so autumnally perfect that it almost defied belief.

This experience started on February 14, 2012, when I was the first person to comment on this post by Luau:

In retrospect, there was zero doubt that I would participate in this race from 10:15 a.m. on 2/14/12 when I made this first comment to 7:00 a.m. on 9/16/12 when I started the race. But there were steps along the way …… talking it over with my spouse since there would be a commitment of time (to train) and finances (to travel to Boston). Fortunately, the timing was in my favor because it was Valentine’s Day and I asked for his support of this effort as my gift. (It worked!). There were fundraising steps (as a member of the Autism Speaks team I agreed to raise at least $500), including the comment contest that brought in 278 comments (there were two winners and I came in third, but I really appreciated everyone’s willingness to help me out!). There were also literal steps – thousands of them as my training progressed. My training was transformed in April when I began training with Jeff Kline (Coach PRS) of PRS Fit. Along the way, there was one truly awful run but that was outweighed by progressively stronger and longer training runs the last six weeks that helped me feel utterly prepared for my race.

As race weekend approached, I ran the last of my long runs (14 miles) and started tapering. I flew in to JFK Airport on the Friday prior to the race, spent Friday evening in Connecticut with my good friend Audrey, and drove up to Boston on Saturday, September 15.  I got all my gear (my Autism Speaks team tank, a tech shirt, a dri-fit hat, and my all-important race number) and returned to my room to organize myself prior to the team dinner.

As the dinner approached, I found myself feeling inexplicably anxious about meeting the people who I felt I had come to know relatively well via social media. Up until this weekend, I had been batting 1000 for meeting people in real life who I had first met on social media — in that the “IRL” meeting confirmed all the warm, fuzzy, and our-senses-of-humor-match intuitions that led me to invest in a social media relationship. To go back to my husband’s first reaction (remember Valentine’s Day 2/14/12?) of “but you can run 13.1 miles right here in Tallahassee,” I felt more like a 6th grader attending a new middle school after just having moved to the town; I was nervous. Which led me to procrastinate going down to the dinner and (I thought) miss an opportunity to mingle with all the people who I wanted to match a twitter handle to a real face and voice. When I was in line for my food (pasta, of course), I did find/meet Luau, Jess, and “Jersey” and ended up joining them at their table. That was a real blessing because race day flew by with less opportunity to chat. I also met Ann Marie, another twitter acquaintance, and Beth Clark, who I had just started interacting with on social media but turns out to have a love of things Bronx and NY Theater (and autism support) so that was pretty darn fabulous too. (And thanks to Jess for the best compliment of the weekend which may sound completely wrong out of context but I think we were talking about my theater choices when I ended up in New York after the race and we were talking about Avenue Q, which has “racy” content. Someone said, “If you’re easily offended, it’s not for you,” to which Jess said, “if she were easily offended she wouldn’t be here.” (For someone (me) who spends a lot of time feeling very thin-skinned, that was the ultimate pat on the thick-skinned back!).

Equipped with the all-important cow bell,

I returned to my room and met up with my friend Jacqui, who had driven down from New Hampshire to do the race with me. It definitely helped to have someone along for the experience who had run a marathon before (Boston, actually) and was able to keep the tone light. We both turned in pretty early since the race started at 7 a.m. and we had to drive to Suffolk Downs.

The race started at 7 a.m., and we took off through the horse gates. I remember Jacqui saying “Lucky Seven” as she went through Gate 7 and saying about my gate (8) “Eight is Enough.”

After the horse gates, we were truly off! I have to hand Luau kudos for his mid-stride photography skills (the blue afro is part of his fundraising approach – read more about the blue afro here (and sign the petition to convince Katy Perry to donate a blue wig for his NYC Marathon run here):

One of my concerns pre-race had been that I had never done a run this long without music (or an audiobook). I almost always listen to something when training, but never listen to anything when racing. I wasn’t sure how I would handle the lack of that electronic/audio security blanket. Turns out there was so much activity along the course (people cheering, other runners approaching due to the out and back (and a little loopy) nature of the course) that the lack of music wasn’t an issue; I really think I would have missed a lot of the race environment if I had been plugged in.

There was also the issue of heart rate. Being a bit anal about all of this, and knowing that my coach wanted me to stay at Zone 2 with 3 minute surges into Zone 3 every fifteen minutes, I had taken the time the night before the race to meticulously write down the time intervals for these surges upside down and big enough to hopefully see without digging my glasses out (they’re right above the QR code):

That part of the plan tanked when a) my Polar stopped recording my heart rate a half hour in (and had to be reset), and b) it was clear that Zone 2 was not happening for any of the 13.1 miles. Adrenaline, a new/different terrain, you name it – I was never going to get down to Zone 2 without crawling or sleeping. But I do know from observing my HR monitor that I stayed pretty consistent the whole race, and hopefully that means something good.

I have always admired runners who write race reports with incredible specificity – identifying particular details at named mile markers, such as what their heart rate was, how their breathing was, what they ate, etc. That’s not me.  If I had to pick five specific things about my experience on the course they would be:

1) The first 5 miles really seemed to fly by (relatively).

2) Although I had my own hydration and nutrition with me, there were a lot of water/gatorade stops. That, and the volunteers handing out strawberries. I didn’t want a strawberry but I think that fragrance will always trigger memories of this 13.1 in my head.

3) There was a neighborhood that started around the 8 mile mark — I could see the 9 mile marker right across from the 8 mile marker so I knew that I would loop around and encounter it in a mile; for some reason that was mentally a relief.

4) My left foot. My left foot has had a very subtle “something” (stiffness?) for a few weeks now. It seemed especially notable on Friday as I was flying up for the race. Maybe my hypersensitivity to it had to do with my nerves about the race. I don’t know. Throughout the whole 13.1, it was always “noticeable” — I just wanted to get through the race without it getting so bad that I could not finish on my own terms (which meant running even if my running is slower than some walkers).

5) My thought process at the Ten Mile Marker. When I got to the Ten Mile Marker, I literally thought, “Oh, all that’s left is a 5K.” That is such a big change in mentality for me. It felt great to know that I had run more than 13.1 miles before, that I would be doing it today, and that I was so close to knocking a goal off of my list.

(I finished in 3:09:03.)

As I was thinking over how to close out this post, which has turned into a novel, I ran  across my horoscope for today. It said:

“You have a talent for choosing the right people to hang out with. That doesn’t mean they are always easy to be around, though. Your friends will be mentors, motivators, and reality checkers.”

(Holiday Mathis)

One thing I did “right” was entering into a coaching relationship with PRS Fit. I had to give up things I enjoyed (like the boot camps that involved stadium climbing) and my “regular” Tuesday night interval group. Early on, Coach Jeff pointed out that “what I had always done clearly had not worked” (as it related to running a faster 5K). Being coached made a huge difference in my conditioning level and my mental preparation.

The other “right people” who were along for this run were the donors who contributed toward my fundraising for Autism Speaks. Over the last few years, I have asked for a lot of support for many causes. I try my best to reciprocate but I am pretty sure in this situation much more was given than I can ever repay. I love this image of a heart held aloft, because everyone who contribute (whose names are incorporated into the image) “held me” financially and morale-wise. I can’t thank them enough.

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

The List, Part Two

Last week I wrote this post, with the intention of modifying the “coming soon” part after completing the Boston 13.1 for Autism Speaks. The revised post is below:

This post is starting today, and, if everything goes according to plan, will be capped off next Sunday by a confirmation from me that I completed the Boston 13.1 Run as an Autism Speaks team member. I don’t plan to write a full post next Sunday (a rarity in the three years I have been blogging weekly) because by that evening I will have run the race in Boston and made my way to New York City. I have roughly 60 hours in the City and plan to squeeze in every moment of BigApple-ness that I possibly can.

On February 14, 2012, I read this post and announced to my husband that evening that the best Valentine’s Day gift he could give me would be an endorsement of my running the Boston 13.1 on September 16. He wisely said yes (not that a “no” would have been anything to me except a minor hurdle!) and the planning began.

There are many reasons why I chose this race, in this place, on this day. I documented three of the biggest reasons in this April, 2012, post. As the precursor to running the race, I want to dedicate each of the miles.

Mile 1:  Mile 1 is dedicated to the Florida State University Center for Autism and Related Disabilities. CARD’s First Words Project provided assessment, support, and services to our family when my son was young and taught me about the pre-verbal developmental signs that may indicate a child has an autism spectrum disorder. And they answered my zillion questions, not to mention empathizing with my spiraling-out-of-control anxiety.

Photo credit: FSU Autism Institute

Mile 2:  Mile 2 is dedicated to the HollyRod Foundation. Admittedly, most of my impression of the HollyRod Foundation’s work on behalf of Autism has been gleaned from reading Holly Robinson Peete’s tweets, and her open letter to Rapper 50 Cent. Those tweets and that open letter were enough for me to know that a) she loves her boy and b) she uses her fame in an articulate and focused way to help others with Autism. That’s enough for me.

Mile 3:  For Thomas. Read his mom’s posts about autism here.

Mile 4:  For Kidlet.  Kidlet is the son of friends. He watches Carl Sagan’s Cosmos on Saturday mornings and he has Asperger’s Syndrome. Of course he rocks.

Mile 5:  For Kyan. Kyan is the son of Mary Foley, who is the Chairperson of Jacksonville, Florida’s, Walk Now for Autism Speaks. Watch the 2 minute video on Mary’s “Why I Walk” post, and I guarantee it will be two minutes well spent.

Kyan

Mile 6:  For Josef, Cher’s son. Cher and I only know each other via Facebook, even though we live in the same town. Josef is 8 years old and has autism; his mom has been so supportive of every single one of my efforts related to autism.

Josef

Mile 7:  Mile 7 is dedicated to Delirious Mom, conductor of her self-described “Crazy Train,” and her daughters. Read about her experiences being the mother of twin girls who have autism here.

Delirious Mom’s Girls

Mile 8:  Mile 8 is dedicated to Giana.  Giana’s grandmother, Christine, became a social media friend of mine through our families’ experiences with Long QT Syndrome. Giana is young and is still having various assessments done.  At this point Giana is believed to have SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder) and is receiving the recommended therapy and is making wonderful progress.

Mile 9:  Mile 9 is dedicated to Boy Wonder, a six year old with autism. I can’t wait to meet his mother, “Jersey,” at the run. That alone will be worth the hundreds of miles traveled to Boston and the 13.1 miles of running. Read her blog; it will only take you a few posts to understand why.

Mile 10:  Mile 10 is dedicated to Carly Dowling. Carly used to be my daughter’s dance teacher but has remained a friend and role model. She teaches children with autism in South Florida. She deserves much more than a mile.

Miss Carly, Teacher and Friend

Mile 11:  Mile 11 is dedicated to “The Menininho.” He is the son of my incredibly resourceful and engaging social media friend, Maya, who blogs about many things, including Marfan Syndrome, at www.marfmom.com. “M” was diagnosed with autism in 2010.

Mile 12:  Mile 12 is dedicated to Temple Grandin, Ph.D. Temple Grandin is an adult with autism who is a prominent author and speaker on the subject of autism. Every time I hear her interviewed, I am blown away by her intellect, her perspective, and the contributions she has made in so many areas.

Mile 13:  Well, Mile 13 and the extra .1, here you are. And I pray that next Sunday by 10:30 am. (race cut off time), that is where I will be too. One family that has gone the “extra mile” and then some is Luau, whose post kicked off this journey and Jess, whose many written-at-4am-to-the-detriment-of-her-own-well-being posts have taught me, encouraged me, entertained me, and motivated me. So for the two of you, for Brooke, and for big sister Katie (and even the dog), this mile point one is for you.

Even the dog “goes blue” to support Autism Speaks

I have only scratched the surface with these dedications when it comes to the people and organizations who have impacted me when it comes to understanding more about autism and becoming an advocate. If I didn’t identify you by name, please know that you and your family matter so much.

[edited 9/16/12]

The Boston 13.1 is now history. I ran the 13.1 miles in 3:09:03. The weather was incredible and the course was gorgeous and lined with music and cheering (and volunteers bearing strawberries!). Most importantly, the course wasfilled  with runners and walkers representing Team Autism Speaks. We did get cool spinning medals, but what will resonate with me long after the medals lose their luster is the love these people feel for their family members with autism and for one another. I said when I started this journey that my first half had to be this race, on this day, in this place. I couldn’t be happier to have done exactly that.

 

 

 

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.