"It's always darkest before the dawn."

I have always been afraid of the dark. I honestly can't tell you why.

About a year ago I started walking home from work on regular occasion. I usually work afternoons and evenings and it is not uncommon to leave my office after 8 or 9pm to make the mile trek home. Of course, it's dark....

Sometime in that year I have gotten over my fear - for the most part. Even after the horrendous murder in our town in May I was not scared (call me crazy, but I refuse to live in fear in my own town).

Don't walk behind me up a dark staircase. Don't make spooky noises while I am walking through the dark house. It's not funny, I'm still scared. But, I am better...

This morning I got up around 5:15am and was out of the house and walking by 5:30. It was pitch black. So dark that even with the headlamp on my head I couldn't see the ground underneath my feet at some points in time. So dark that while I was running home I was terrified I was going to trip and fall because I couldn't see the sidewalk under my feet.

An hour later when I got home it was still dark and there was no sign of the sun even. The sky was starting to show a little blue and not so much black...but no sun. And the biggest fear I had was of falling.

Progress, not perfection.

And to top it all off, my great morning that started with a 5K, ended with dropping my children off at school was also met by an angel by the name of Bill.

Bill is an older gentleman who lives in town. I met him when he was doing some contracting work on our neighbor's home. I don't see him often but I was graced with his presence this morning as we left Dunkin Donuts (for Andrew's daily visit with his friends).

As we crossed paths Bill looked me up and down and said, "Have you lost weight?! You look great!"

I love that man.

"When it is dark enough, you can see the stars."


Stomp out the anger

My youngest son, Andrew, has an autism spectrum disorder. Many of you know what this means to our family, but for my new readers...I will explain a bit.

Andrew is incredibly "high functioning". He is in a mainstream classroom with the assistance of a full time aide. He reads and writes and does math. He leaves the classroom for occupational therapy, speech therapy (because while his language is sophisticated, in comparison to other children his age, you cannot have a conversation with him), he is part of a social skills program and he uses the nurses office to go to the bathroom (and has only been potty trained for 6 months).

He is the sweetest boy you will ever meet. He is polite and has exceptional manners. He makes friends wherever we go. In fact, we walk to the local coffee shop every morning and there is an entourage of people waiting for him - mostly elderly folks who enjoy seeing his smiling face.

Andrew is black and white. He follows rules because it is what he knows to do. He will tell you the rules if he feels you are breaking them. He is blunt and abrupt and often causes me embarrassment in public. He does not understand broken promises or changes in routine.

And this is where my story starts....

Weekends tend to be hell in our home. Andrew is off his routine and he does NOT like it. He doesn't even realize why he is angry or why he is acting out but dad and I sure do!

Sunday was one of the worst days we have had in a very long time. He was driving everyone in the house crazy. He was in and out of the fridge. He was mouthy. He was hitting...he was off his routine. And I was exhausted (having not gotten to bed until 3:30am as I was volunteering at a local memorial walk doing massage until 2am).

At around noon I had finally had enough. It was a gorgeous day (but we didn't have any plans as my older son, Zachary, was sick). I grabbed the camera and I grabbed Andrew and we went for a "nature walk".

Getting out of the house was hell. He was insistent on bringing his "monster truck" and I was insistent that he was not bringing said monster truck. He stomped down the stairs, he screamed at me, he growled...and we walked.

We went downtown to window shop. We went to the docks to see the fire boat, we took some gorgeous pictures:

And then we made our way to the walking path (much to Andrew's dismay). The walking path in town is one of my favorite places in the world. It is a path that was created where the railroad tracks used to run into town. It runs by 3 different lakes, you see wildlife and mountain tops, it's quiet and peaceful...it also runs rather close to a playground and Andrew wanted no part of walking he wanted the playground.

We weren't going to the playground - we were going for a walk. Andrew had other plans. He took off on me 3 times trying to get to the park. Yesterday I explained that I had been running...today you understand why. I HAVE to run so I can keep up with my little escape artist.

I feel I need to stop here and explain why I don't take Andrew to the playground. I am not an awful mother - I'm just a mother of a child who has ASD. A playground often just exacerbates his symptoms. He gets overwhelmed and wired and when it is time to leave we have meltdown after meltdown and the "angry" mood I was trying to get rid of has just intensified.

I explained to him (as I have in the past) that if he is angry and outside he can stomp his feet and yell. He did. I slowly watched my loving boy making his way back...

We sat down on a bench and I tried to take some pictures of him looking into the camera. These pictures were taken one after another (and there are about a dozen on my computer that look exactly the same) and will give you a pretty good idea about Andrew's attention span and inability to "look me in the eye":

This is as close as we get to "looking at the camera". And even still he eyes are squinting because he, literally, does not have the ability to look me "in the eye".

As we walked I watched him quiet himself. He started to be able to see what was going on around him. He started to come back to me.

The path we were taking is only 1/2 mile, at which point you can either take the road into town (and back to our home) or continue on the path past more lakes and through more woods. I knew that Andrew would only tolerate so much walking (and this short time had already taken us nearly an hour).

Andrew has recently joined Cub Scouts and needed to gather leaves for a project. He LOVED gathering leaves but has a hard time not leaving without all of them. Here he is gathering a "bouquet". I was amazed at the distance I could travel from him without him sprinting in another direction. He truly was calming....

We continued onto the road and meandered to our home. He stopped and looked at more leaves and bugs and looked for landmarks that he walks past regularly. On the way I tried to remind him how his behavior and his mood had changed during our walk.

"Andrew, when we left the house before our walk how did you feel?"

"Mad and sad."

"What kind of words were you using?"

"Angry words."

"Yeah....and how do you feel now?"


"And what kind of words are you going to use when we get home?"

"Nice ones."

And he gave me a great big hug.

The best part of this was that not only did I notice and his father notice (when we got home) but HE noticed. It was truly and eye opening day.

Now, what the hell am I going to do when winter comes?


Dear 5:30am, how I hate thee...

I started running in April. The day before Easter. It was cold and snowing and I couldn't run more than a few yards.

In June it started raining and it didn't stop until August. I stopped running.

In the meantime, my brother-in-law started running, my sister started running, my cousin started running and my mother started race walking and they all started planning. The plan was to run our first 5K on Labor Day.

Labor Day came and having not run since April I thought I was prepared (I know, really smart, huh?). I got there that morning, stood next to my youngest brother at the starting line (who had not been training either), the gun fired...and my brother took off. Soon enough I was at the back of the pack.

At the first hydration station the volunteers were yelling "you're half-way there, you're doing great" and I was so excited. I kept thinking "this isn't that bad, I can do it"...then I saw the sign that said "1 MILE"...they were wrong. I was only 1/3 of the way there...I was NOT going to make it.

Children were passing me. I was way at the back and I was hating every minute. I couldn't run anymore, I was walking, and slowly...I took advantage of every downhill and ran it as fast as I could - but even that was a VERY slow jog.

At the second hydration station I cursed myself for getting into this. Having learned that hydration stations were set at each mile I knew I still had another mile to go. I hurt, I was tired, I was frustrated...my MOTHER had PASSED me AND so had her husband (who is 72). WTH?!

Soon, the running nuns were approaching from the other direction, running against the grain. "You've got a 1/4 mile" they were saying, "you're doing great". At the same time I noticed a guy coming towards me (I don't run with my glasses so I couldn't see who it was). He was saying my name...

It was my brother-in-law, carrying a bottle of water and coming to check on me. My spirits lifted and I started to run again.

As I came into the final leg of the race, people were cheering me on, screaming my bib number and encouraging me it was amazing. I felt energized again.

I finished that 5K in 52:12. 11 minutes longer than my mother and her husband. It took me SO long to finish that my results were not even posted at the race - I had to wait to see them online the next day. My brother-in-law finished in half my time...I was NOT last (a woman being pushed in a wheelchair came in after me). Honestly, I was far from last.

It inspired me to keep running.

On October 3rd I did my second 5K in the POURING rain. I started at the back of the pack knowing that it would be less stressful for me there. As the race started I watched the crowd pull away from me. I was dead last. I was SO far behind that I nearly got run over by a truck who assumed that the racers had all gone through.

That second race was a very tough course. There were tons of hills, it was cold and it was raining. At one point in time the rain let up, I said (out loud because I was the only one around) "this isn't that bad, thank you God"...10 feet down the road the skies opened up. All I could do was laugh (and curse, just a bit).

I saw three women in front of me and decided that I was going to pass them. We were on a downhill and I knew I could do it. Just as I was passing a woman approached on my right, "are you guys in the race" she asked. "Yeah", I sputtered. "Oh, good, I missed the start by 10 minutes"...and she was gone. Way to kick a girl when she's down!

Again, as I approached the last 1/4 mile I found my brother-in-law waiting for me with a bottle of water. He updated me on the results and jogged with me till the finish.

I finished that race in 53:22. Although I was not last (the three women I passed came in after me) they were not listed in the race results.

Again, I have been inspired to keep training. I have given up on running - not completely - until I can get a good walk time. I do still take advantage of downhills but I am not pushing my running as hard as I was before.

The days are getting shorter around here. It gets dark before 6pm and the sun doesn't even come up until after 7. I rationalize that mornings are "safer" to run...but that doesn't make it any easier to get out of bed at 5:30am.

Today was supposed to be a training day. I have another race on Sunday and I need to be training right up to it...but my alarm went off at 7 (the time I get up on a non training day).

Today I am lethargic and grouchy and can't seem to get out of my own way. I know why that is. I know it is because I have not "run". I know what I need to do to feel GREAT everyday. Yet, I can't seem to get my ass out of bed to do it. I need new motivation, I need an amazing reason to get out of bed every morning ('cause the great feeling afterward just doesn't seem to be enough).

So I ask, what's your motivation? How do you get up for those early morning workouts? Does music keep you motivated?

Help a girl out of her bed in the morning. Share your thoughts and ideas.


Sick kid

I swear that my children have been sick for a month. They can never be sick at the same time. They have to pass it back and forth so that one of them is always sick.

Today we kept Zach home from school even though he was feeling fine. He started with a fever on Friday that lasted through Saturday and came with a cough and the sniffles (oh yeah, this is PRIME H1N1 material). Today the cough and sniffles persisted.

I forgot to call the school to let them know he would be in so the nurse called me to check. I informed her that I was NOT keeping him home for my sake, he was driving ME crazy and that she really needed to thank ME for not exposing him to the world 'cause REALLY he was FINE and could she please ask his teacher to pull together all his missed work so he would stop driving me NUTS.

Now he sits at the kitchen table working on schoolwork. Quietly. Thank GOD for teachers that work kids too hard.



You didn't think I was leaving forever, did you? Well, for now, I am back.

The past 6 months have been a whirlwind. Kirby is STILL out of work (and has been since February) and, sad as it is to say, he steals my hours spent in front of the computer while the kids are in school.

And YES, I said KIDS with an S. Andrew is now in school full time and it did not come a moment too soon. First grade has been amazing for him.

Zach has moved onto a new school and 4th grade. There have been some rough moments - we have left a warm and fuzzy school and moved onto a new, bigger and "badder" school for 4-6th graders....

I'm not going to bore you with the crazy details of my summer. I guess you all are going to have to pretend that it never happened. I'm going to do my best to start anew from this very moment.

So, now that you are here - check out my friend Lisa's new blog and thank her for renewing my desire to be a blogger!