Who am I and what am I doing here?

17 Mar

I sometimes tell people that I am a normal mom – overworked, overextended, overscheduled, and overwhelmed.  But in my household, we use the word “normal” very loosely if at all.  For a start, I’ve never really believed in the concept of “normal”.  It’s too subjective – one person’s “normal” is another person’s “what the hell is going on here?!?”  And the fact that one of our children has special needs throws a wrench into the whole idea of normality anyway.

To start from the beginning: I am a transplanted South African living in Toronto, Ontario.  I proudly became a Canadian citizen three months ago, on the same day – indeed the same ceremony – on which my partner of eight years proposed to me.  Gerard and I have two children together.  George is six years old, and if I were asked to describe him in one word, that word would be “sweet”.  He may be autistic, but he is such a sweet, gentle soul.  He is touched with a kind of grace that is impossible to put into words.  His mind goes to places that are unreachable to the rest of us – these places are sometimes frustrating, both him and to his family – but at times he is so present, so with us.  He does not talk much and has a lot of trouble with social engagement, but he is a smart kid who can read (although not necessarily comprehend), count, add, and write his own name.  He is full of love.  He is never short of a hug for his family, and has a healthy level of sibling rivalry with his younger brother James.

To describe James, I would use the word “dynamite”.  James is four, and depending on your own personal views, his Christmas Day birthday can be seen as either a blessing or a curse.  We ensure that he gets his full quota of attention by throwing half-birthday parties for him in the middle of the year.  James is loaded with energy.  You know those cartoons in which a series of streaking white lines depicts a character running by so fast that you cannot see him?  That’s James.  The kid never stops.  He approaches life in the same way a bull approaches a china shop – as several visits to the Emergency Room over the last four years will testify.  He is always busy, always talking a mile a minute.  He gets into spats with George, but he is also a wonderful little brother.  He is considerate of George’s challenges – not because he has to be, but because he wants to be.

I am lucky to have Gerard.  He is a truly wonderful father to the boys.   We have been through some very hard times – so hard that at one point, we didn’t know if we would make it.  But we have gone through the fire and survived – and we now know that there is nothing we cannot work through.  We are planning next year’s wedding with lots of excitement and anticipation.  Although getting married isn’t going to change anything in practical terms, it will be symbolic of a new and wonderful stage in our life together.

My passion – apart from my family, that is – is running.  I used to run years ago, but having kids put a kaibosh on that for many years.  For ages, I tried to get back into it, but there was always a reason why I couldn’t.  Then, about a year ago, the right motivation came in the form of an email.  The Geneva Centre for Autism was entering a team in a major Toronto running event.  Parents were invited to register for the race and raise pledges.  All funds raised would go towards providing services for autistic children and adults – people like my son George.

Wow.  An opportunity to do something for my son.  As soon as I saw this email, I knew that I had finally found the reason that I would not give up.  Although I could barely run around the block at the time, I signed up there and then for the half-marathon, six months away.  For the next six months, I trained and rediscovered my love of the sport.  And on September 27, 2009, I stood at the finish line with a finisher’s medal around my neck and a village-idiot grin on my face.  My legs were screaming, but every other part of me was on an incredible emotional high.  I had done it.  I had run this race for my child.  And I knew I was going to be back.

The Geneva Centre is entering a team for the 2010 event, and I have already signed up for the half-marathon.  I am just emerging from three months of illness and injury, but my training is already getting back on track.  I have a busy racing season ahead of me, starting with a 10km event on April 3rd.  All of the training, all of the races that I participate in over the summer, will lead up to this one event – my run for autism on September 26th.

Follow me as I go through the trials and tribulations of training, the early morning solitary runs in the dark, the long Sunday runs with the sun beating down on my shoulders.  Moan and groan with me as I massage my aching muscles, and stand with me at the finish line as we celebrate a triumph for autism on the day of the race.


5 Responses to “Who am I and what am I doing here?”

  1. Margie March 17, 2010 at 3:59 PM #

    I remember when you started running again! I am so proud of you and love this blog.

  2. Lisa Whittall March 17, 2010 at 4:20 PM #

    Wow you have me in tears what a great blog and what a great cause! Keep running! Let me know the link to pledge I would love to help
    All the Best I look forward to reading!

  3. JennyKlass March 17, 2010 at 6:35 PM #

    Oh Jess you know i am with you all the way, and beyond….

  4. gethealthywithme March 25, 2010 at 8:44 AM #

    Kirsten you are an amazing mothsr and I loved sharing stories with you on our commutes together, I will look forward to following this journey and our continued bond!!


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