At some point in our lives we have all done it. We look at someone and start comparing things whether it’s material like money and clothes or something intangible like happiness and love. At the end of the day no one’s life is perfect and we should be happy with life or change things in our life that may lead us to happiness. Most of the time with me, that is much easier said than done.

As a parent with a child with special needs, I almost always compare our lives with people around us. When it is just the three of us, I am ok. We live in our world where we can be happy and make our lives easy. But when we go out in public like the mall or at a gathering, I can’t help but wish for the lives of some of the other parents. I’ll see a kid simply walking next to her parents, or a toddler helping himself to some crackers and it will break my heart. I wonder if Justine will ever do any of those things. She is 4 years old, the age where she should be discovering so much of the world, but she is unable to explore it on her own two feet. And even worse, if she wanted to, she is unable to tell us.

I fear I will never get to dance with her or hear her say “I love you, daddy”. These are the same fears I have had for the past 4 years. There has been some slow progress which is always good, but I can’t help but wonder how it feels to just know the sound of your child’s voice. I would give anything for her to coming running into my arms when I get home from work. I won’t get to enjoy these things today, or tomorrow, or anytime soon. I feel like we have earned it. We work so hard to give her every opportunity to develop with therapy sessions, multiple specialists, and assistive equipment. And we have been at it for 4 years. I feel cheated.

But then Justine does something to remind us of what is important in life. She laughs to herself about her silly hand. She does this thing where she raises and extends her arms like she is the conductor of an orchestra. Or she will look right at me, in complete amazement as I sing “Rainbow Connection” for the millionth time to her. SHE is happy.

As far as she is concerned, she is able to get what she needs from us. She gets to hang out with friends at school and with her cousins, aunts, and uncles from time to time. And she has her grandparents. All of mine had passed away when I was very young so I never understood that grandparent-grandchild relationship. Now, I absolutely get it. Before everything else, I want HER to be happy. Sure she may get mad at us every now and then because she has to go to her therapy session, but for the most part she is happy. When I look at her smile and the progress she has made, it is all worth it.

I will probably still have my moments of weakness and be jealous of families around me living their “normal” lives. But they are not my priority. Justine is. She has everything she needs and so do we.

11/13/17- 3 Miles and 9 Hills Later

This was my first outdoor run since the marathon. I️ finally got over my cold and it was time for me to get out there. I was a little worried at first because it’s been so long but I figure I’ll do a short distance and it wouldn’t be that bad, right? Every Monday the BWRC meets up at a park near our house so it is hard to pass up. I️ have been trying to go the past couple of weeks, but I only go if Justine is napping after school. And of course she hasn’t been doing that the past couple of weeks. Well today when I got home from work she was asleep! So I got ready as fast as I could and jumped I the car to head to the park.

My Sweatshop/running friend started running with the group a few weeks back so I was glad to see her. She is faster than me but she hung back and kept pace with me. I wanted to push it a little bit since I hadn’t run in a month so I was doing my run-walk at a faster pace – more like 10:30/mi during the run according to my friend and it felt comfortable. I think all that yoga I had been doing the past month had paid off.

My splits:

  • Mile 1: 10:39
  • Mile 2: 11:27
  • Mile 3: 11:51

Me and “Wheels”

We ended up doing just over 3mi because I wanted to have some gas for the hill sprints. I do enjoy running hills but I had never run them in a group before. I wasn’t sure if I would be intimidated by them or pushed by them. The group is so great that they were cheering me on as I ran up that hill 9 times. One of them even hung back with me to make sure I finished. It is so great to be a part of this group.

Great run to come back to finally shake off the cobwebs left from the marathon. I was extremely motivated and I’m sure I’ll be sore tomorrow. Gotta admit, I’ve missed this feeling.

Busse Woods Running Club

Balance Training for the Marathon

It has been a month and two days since my third Chicago Marathon.  The last time I completed a marathon was in 2011, back when it was just me and Jaz and we could really just do anything we wanted anytime we wanted.  That was two years before Justine came along and completely changed how I viewed life.  This year I wanted to tackle this accomplishment again, now knowing I had a little more behind me – the experience of being a parent.

This year, to add more motivation to stick with the training, I fundraised for the Ronald McDonald House.  They helped Jazmine and I so much while Justine was in the NICU at Lurie Children’s Hospital.   It was a very different experience fundraising for them compared to other charities I have fundraised for in the past.  We have a Facebook group where all of the current and past runners for RMHC come to share experiences both on the course and off.    I cried reading some of those stories, sometimes because it sounded so much like us and sometimes because they were not as fortunate as us.  I knew that this group was what I needed to keep me going through training.

In my previous marathons, I did not have to coordinate times around a child’s sleep schedule.  As Justine gets older, her sleep habits have not been consistent.  Some nights she sleeps 10 hours, some night only 6 hours.  She may or may not take a nap in the middle of the day.  And the worst of it was that this summer we were weaning her off of one medication, so she would wake up screaming when she would finally sleep.  We are convinced she was going through some kind of withdrawal.  For about 4 months she was not a happy camper so that led to very early runs for me, running at lunch time, or right after work to make sure I was home as soon as possible to relieve Jaz of her Stay at Home Mom duties.  Occasionally Justine required much more attention so I had to skip a few scheduled runs.  I admit, early on I was irritated when I would miss a run.  If you are a runner you know how missing a run can really mess with your head.  I came to the realization that my situation was not like others and that everyone has to deal with their own obstacles to get their training in.  Life is far from perfect, but that should not stop you from doing the things you want to do.

I am not a fast runner.  Some may call it jogging, or quick walking.  My goal this entire season was to just finish the marathon.  Because of this, I take a longer time finishing training runs than most people training for a marathon.  It was ok early on.  But when the mileage built up to 6-7 mile runs during the week and then up to 16-20 miles over the weekend, that is a lot of time away from the family.  In previous years after those long run Saturdays, I would just crash in my bed and fall asleep for hours.  Now, having a family, I did not want to miss out on our weekend together so I always made it a point to go out with Jaz and Justine right after I got back from my long run.  As much as I needed the long run for my training, I needed the family time with Jaz and Justine for balance.  I never wanted to appear selfish about taking too much time away from my family while training for the race.

I was satisfied with how I trained this year.  I trained smart, backing off when I felt like I needed to and pushing when I knew I had more in the tank.  My biggest worry through the entire season was making sure I was still a good father and husband to my family.  All of the hours I ran, or thought about running, or getting ready to run, or going somewhere to run was time away from my family that I knew was necessary for training.  I wanted to be healthy enough to finish the marathon as well as be functional and not too sore to hang out with my family.  That was the hardest and most rewarding part of training, balancing running with my life.  And in the end, I hope that I am a better father and husband for it.