Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Whole New Reason to Walk

Anyone who's followed this blog over the years, or has had any type of conversations with any member of the Cook clan knows that every September, without exception, we proudly and happily take part in the annual Jimmy Fund Cancer Walk - specifically, the half-marathon leg from Wellesley into downtown Boston.
I blog about it every September, and throughout this post, you'll see finish line pics from at least the past five walks.  With honor, we do it specifically for Jackie's sister, Annie, who was diagnosed with leukemia more than a decade ago.  After a successful stem cell transplant last year, Annie's kicking butt and taking names again.
So all along, Jackie and Heather have been planning, as they do every September, to walk for Annie and celebrate her life and courage.

This year, there's been a new wrinkle added to the walk.
In August, Jackie, the love of me life, had part of her thyroid removed.  A few weeks later, her doctor told her the removed piece had some cancer cells in it.  So on Wednesday of this week, she had the other half removed.  She's doing remarkably well, and not surprisingly, has undergone the entire procedure with her trademark smile.

Below is a letter that's going out to Jack's friends and family, posted in its entirety.  At the end, there's a pair of links that you can click on to donate to either Jackie or Heather's fund-raising efforts to kick cancer's ass.  Regardless of who actually gets to log the miles this week, we'll all be out there in one form or another, and we appreciate your support.

For me, personally, it's never been more important.  

Dear friends; 

Sunday, September 21 is the annual Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk, a fund-raiser that Jackie and Heather take part in every year, trekking the 13.1 miles from Wellesley to the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Boylston Street in Boston.  For nearly 10 years, Jackie has been taking part in the walk in honor of her sister Annie, who has successfully been battling and conquering leukemia.  Last year, specifically, Jack and Heather walked because Annie couldn’t, recovering as she was from a stem cell transplant that saved her life.  For the better part of this year, plans have been in progress for the mother-daughter team to make yet another return to the route, winding as it does up Heartbreak Hill, complete with Heather’s outrageous walking socks.

This year, though, fate threw a new wrench into the plans, which is where I come in.

This summer, Jackie herself got some medical news that some of the readings were off on her thyroid production.  She went for a biopsy, and in August, had half of her thyroid removed, a procedure that she bounced back from remarkably.  A biopsy of the removed thyroid, however, revealed some cancer cells, which thankfully had not spread.  But as a result of that, her doctor recommended taking the other half of her thyroid out, a procedure she underwent on Wednesday, September 10, and which she once again bounced back from with the same flying colors.

But because of the invasive procedure and the toll it can take on a person, Jackie probably won’t be able to log the 13.1 miles herself this year, despite her insistence to still carry on in her sister’s name.  As a result, though, I’ve agreed to step in and try to carry the torch not just for Annie now, but also in honor of the most incredible, wonderful and greatest partner a mook like me could ever ask for – my beautiful wife.  I will be logging her 13.1 miles this year, trying my best to keep up with Heather’s pace and socks, and trying – and failing – to be as upbeat, free-spirited and downright GOOD as my wife is.

As of this writing, Jackie is still planning to try to walk as much of the route as she possibly can, if not all of it.  She’s certainly been training on schedule, but we also want to see how she bounces back from her second surgery, so just in case, we’ve got Plan B in place.  No matter what, she’ll be out there that Sunday to walk at least SOME part of the course, truly, as much as she can handle.  Knowing her, it’ll be a healthy amount.

Jackie truly hates making this fund-raising ask every year, but we know the monies raised as a result of her walking go toward a fabulous cause – obliterating this insidious disease which has affected so many people we know and love.  So this year, it’s me putting the touch on everyone, asking you to support Jack’s walk even if she can’t do it herself, and to do it not just in support of everyone who benefits from the Jimmy Fund, but very specifically, Annie, and my beautiful Jack.

Your support is much appreciated, and carries a special message this year, more than ever.

This is the Jimmy Fund Walk home page:

Go to the support a walker link on the left and type in either Jackie Cook or Heather Cook to support either my wife or daughter.

Here’s the link that takes you directly there:

Thanks again to everyone.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Dogging It

The Lowell Police Academy took to the historic streets of Concord, Mass. Sunday to pound the pavement in the name of a good cause - specifically, for Concord K9 Mikayel, seen here with his handler, Concord Police Officer Sylvia Toumayan.  At far left is Lowell Police Officer Erin Byrne, who pulled the LPA runners together for the event, known as the Concord 5K9.
About half of this year's class took part in the fund-raiser along with a good chunk of the LPA PT staff.  Lots of you are probably used to seeing them running the streets of Lowell most mornings from June through October.   Most of the this year's class ran the 3.1 mile Concord loop, carrying their LPA standard all along the way.  They're joined here by Lowell Police Sgt. Mark Leblanc, the Academy Director.
In case you haven't run them, the Concord streets around the downtown, along Monument Road and the Minuteman National Park are a true gem.  Why the E Streeters aren't down there running the trail off-shoots more often is a mystery to me.  Sounds like I need to chart a course there sometime soon.
Four Horsemen heading in to the home stretch
After the race, fellow PT instructor Tim Bousios and his personal trainer were proud to take part
As was the rest of the class, joined by Lowell Police Sgt. Marisol Nobrega
And it didn't hurt that members of the LPA team took home some hardware for their age group division finishes, including E Streeter Carlos Borges of the Tyngsboro PD
Props to Cambridge PD's Kyle Galuski and Melissa Miceli for their medal places!
Lots of credit to the students from Concord-Carlisle High School who helped organize the whole shindig.  It was especially heartening to see so many dogs running in the race, considering what the cause was all about.  Proceeds are being used to purchase a ballistic vest and provide for the care of the newest member of the Concord PD, Mikayel.  The 5K9 was dedicated to K9 Charik, who had participated in the marathon bomber manhunt in Watertown, and ended his tour in April and was well known to the children of Concord and Carlisle.
A really great time had by all, and an important cause bolstered by everyone running until they were dog tired.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Lost in the Flood

Nine years ago this weekend, one of the most devastating hurricanes to ever strike the U.S. mainland ravaged the city of New Orleans.
It was the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history (over $80 billion in damages), and it incredibly claimed more than 1,800 lives.
The category 5 hurricane also destroyed thousands of homes in New Orleans.  Many, like this one pictured here, were abandoned and never restored.
Happily, there are organizations such as Habitat for Humanity that have spent the ensuing years trying to rebuild some of the homes.  I chronicled the efforts of Middlesex Community College students to lend a hand in a post earlier this year, that can be read here:  Habitat Forming
This spring, some of my colleagues from MCC and I travelled to the bayou to attend a marketing conference on behalf of the college, the National Council for Marketing and Public Relations (NCMPR)
But at the tail end of it, we were fortunate enough to meet up with another MCC colleague who suffered a personal loss with the hurricane and returns to the Big Easy quite often to check in on her extended circle of family and friends.
Lura Smith, the assistant to President Carole Cowan at MCC, lost her family home to the hurricane.  She is NOLA through and through, and never forgets her heritage, so it was a special treat to see the backroads and main streets via Lura's eyes.
At one point, Lura took us to her what was once her old homestead, where she was warmly greeted by some of the neighbors who were able to salvage their homes and stay in place.
The family has had to elevate their home on stilts (seen in the background here), but remarkably, still have only received partial federal financial funding to help rebuild their home, nine years later!
Lura stands in the middle of a field, where her house once stood.  The home was so badly damaged by the flooding of Katrina, it was razed several years later.

Lura takes our colleagues Donna Corbin and Mary-Jo Griffin through the plot, recounting some of her childhood memories. 
Lura explains to me about her memories of attending school, and how tightly wound the neighborhood was, with families always helping one another out. 
And finally, Lura, and our MCC team members, in a picture taken by a very young but adorable neighbor

While the NCMPR conference was valuable for its content, and certainly for its networking opportunities with other community colleges from across the country, the last day's visit to the storm-ravaged areas of New Orleans really put things into perspective.
Donna, Mary-Jo and I spent each early morning as part of our Boston Marathon training by taking a run through the downtown or the nearby environs.  But it was getting way out into the all-residential neighborhoods, where we saw the thousands of abandoned homes that reminded us how catastrophic the hurricane was and how much work still needs to be done.
If you're interested in helping to rebuild, here's a website you can visit to lend a hand:
It was the author Thomas Wolfe who made famous the idiom "You can't go home again."
From his novel of the same name, said Wolfe: "You can't go back home to your family, back home to your childhood....back home to a young man's dreams of glory and of fame ... back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time - back home to the escapes of Time and Memory."
Never had that phrase seemed more appropriate than that afternoon spent in New Orleans.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Farewell to Chamberas

Another August, another great outing to support an incredible cause - beating Cystic Fibrosis - with the Thomas Chamberas XC 6K or 5K or something along those lines through the winding (and hilly!) pathways of Great Brook State Forest in Carlisle.  The E Streeters are a staple at the race every year, which raises about $10,000 each year to fight the disease.
This year, we were honored to have Professor Quirrell from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry join us for the start.
And yes, as always, the pre-race warm-up included the dulcet tones of Mike Mahone performing his special version of the National Anthem, a video of which can be seen here:
The daughters couldn't make it to run with their old man this year, so it was a husband-wife tandem representing Clan Pisarik at this year's race 
And we're off!  (Those in front of me) 
(And those behind) 
Coming into the finish, Andrew captured some shots.  We're all blurry in them because we were running so damn fast.  Yeah, that's what happened. 
The couple that runs together, sweats together 
One of these men is a legend.  The other just thinks he is.  You figure out which is which. 
And finally, the obligatory group shot with the most famous 33 worn in New England since the days of Larry Bird 
Sadly, this was the swan song for this particular race, which has been held for 12 years.  We're sad to see it go, because we enjoy it every year and it's a great August outing supporting an august charity.  But we also understand how much time and work has to go in to putting these things together.  We wish everyone well and encourage you to visit Cystic Fibrosis to learn more about how you can help.
With that, we'll leave you to the bombards bursting in air, and say adieu!

Monday, August 18, 2014

It's Who, You Know

A Time Lord came to Times Square, making his only United States appearance, so naturally, you know what that means, right?
Time for father and son to hang out with Batman, of course.
Wait a minute....
This was supposed to be all about the United States premiere of the premier, half-century old television show about everyone's favorite time-travelling Time Lord, the good Doctor himself
Doctor Who, you ask?
Funny you should ask, it's the first question, the oldest question in the universe.
And that's not Who Are You?
Since 1963, the BCC has been bringing the world serial stories of the greatest Time Lord of them all, Doctor Who, whose adventures have spanned as many centuries as they have galaxies, all to the delight of science fiction fans worldwide.  And among their numbers are a slew of my friends, as well as my co-workers at Middlesex Community College, but most of all, my two favorite travelling companions, my daughter Heather and my son, Andrew.
So when word came out that tickets would be on sale for a New York City appearance of the next Doctor, Peter Capaldi, his current travelling companion Jenna Coleman, and showrunner Steven Moffat, I knew it was time to grab a seat in the TARDIS, the doctor's iconic blue police box that serves as his vehicle of choice to explore the universe.
(That's the Time And Relative Dimension in Space, for you non-Whovians.)
After somehow, and surprisingly being able to secure a pair of tix for the premiere, Andrew and I embarked on our second road trip of the summer season.  (You may recall our historic Bruce Springsteen pilgrimage of a few months back.)  Heather chose to stay home and bond with her non-Whovian mom.
Andrew and I made the trek to the Big Apple in no time, and arrived early enough to check out some of the sights in nearby Times Square.
That includes, of course, getting photo-bombed by Spongebob Squarepants 
Hanging out with an ass-kicking Raccoon
And of course, sizing up to the Incredible Hulk
Andrew seems rather non-plussed about all the super-hero action taking place around him.
Not so for the topless women who paraded around the crowd, rubbing shoulders and other body parts with the likes of Dora the Explorer, Super Mario, and Captain America.  You'll have to trust me on this one, it's a Times Square thing.  But seeing as this is a family blog, you won't be seeing those pics here.  If I had taken any, that is.
Happily, there were no Daleks to be seen.
We can only assume this was a Weeping Angel working the NYC Streets, because if this was the real Lady Liberty, she was nowhere near as inspiring as one would be led to believe.
Even in the dead of summer, there's nothing quite like the olfactory pleasure of chestnuts roasting on an open foil, an aroma usually reserved for the Christmas shopping season
Finally, it was showtime and on to the Blue Carpet over at the historic Ziegfeld theater
Andrew took his turn on the Blue Carpet, before the celebs made their runway twirls 
The Good Doctor and his Good Companion

I tried to Delete this picture, but somehow couldn't.
I tried to strike up a conversation with the metal man, but he just kept on repeating "You will be upgraded, you will become like us, upgrading is compulsory."  Blah, blah, blah, heard it all before.
Saw our share of cosplaying Doctors while waiting in line before the show
Did I mention there was a line?  Yeah.  (And somewhere in this crush of humanity is Amazing Spider-Man scribe and uber Whovian, Dan Slott.  Tried to find him, but alas, no Spidey-sense tingling.
Because geekdom runs in the genes
Inside the theater, we nabbed seventh row seats, and sat through Deep Breath, Peter Capaldi's first episode, which debuts this Saturday on BCC America.  (Check your local listings.)  You won't unearth any hints about the show's content here, just Silence, because, you know, spoilers, sweetie.
After the show, the Doctor, his companion, and their puppet Master took to the stage for a question and answer with fans and the Nerdist himself, Chris Hardwick.
At show's end, they all took a selfie in front of the packed house.  And when I say packed, that doesn't count the hundreds of fans OUTSIDE the theater who never even got through the front doors! 
Before leaving the theater, Andrew bounded to the stage and took a turn in the Doctor's chair.
Yeah, I know it's a silhouette shot, but damn, doesn't he look cool?  Kind of like another iconic silhouette making its rounds this week.
Outside the theater, like any A-list celeb, Andrew had a spin at yet another press interview, this one with six-year-old Lindalee Rose, who was conducting fan interviews for the Doctor Who Review.
She seemed impressed with Andrew's answers.
Not, however, as impressed by HIS interviewing skills. 
Not sure she's even listening to him rant on anymore at this point, because it was past her bedtime, but she gets high marks for trying. 
Another historic road trip in the books, this time for an historic geek outing.
Truly a great time.
And what is time, after all?
People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually, from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobby, time-wimey....stuff.
But in the meantime, don't blink.  Blink and you're dead.  They are fast.  Faster than you can believe.  Don't turn your back.  Don't look away.  And don't blink.  Good luck.