Thursday, July 31, 2008

We Can Relax, Now

This morning the three of us packed the car, popped in some Peter Gabriel music, and headed over the mountains to visit our friends in Homer.

Those of you acquainted with us know that Homer is our location of respite from the daily grind. What most of you don't know is that Homer is also currently our escape from an extremely stressful summer.

Yukon, especially, has taken the brunt. Faced with an ever-increasing workload and the non-written expectation of weekends in the office, Yukon has taken a mere two days of leave since January 1, and was forced to cancel a family vacation and our wedding vow renewal in Haines this past week. Which was, effectively, the proverbial straw that broke Mr. Dromedary's back.

A request for reassignment as Equal Employment Opportunity Manager at the VA followed, and my darling husband can now relax. A lateral move for more money, and a more enjoyable job, at doing what he excels, has given him new perspective, and a deeper appreciation for the work-family-self balance that he always strives for.

So, cheers, we are now in our favorite Alaskan place; Yukon is out with our good friend at Dugan's Pub, the skies are clear, and the tide is low. Can't get much better than that, my friends. Clam digging on Saturday, a trip to Seldovia on Sunday, lots of wine, good friends, and song.


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Glory Be

We have the sun! At least, I think it was the sun. Bear had me find his sunglasses because it was "too bright" and I had to water the garden under the eaves.

The temperature reached 70 degrees and all the kids of Anchorage, along with a few parents, appeared in backyards and on decks, tentatively making their way out the door with a look of disbelief at our good fortune.

The next door neighbor children coaxed Bear outside for instructions on the proper operation of a water gun. He learned very quickly about rules concerning who to shoot (those with Super Soakers in hand) and who not to shoot (mommies holding a camera, or a beer).

The party really got going once the dads showed up and delivered the news that Uncle Ted is under indictment on seven felony charges. A true super soaking.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Update From the Wolf Den

I found these flowers struggling to survive in the corner garden. Knocked over by rain, they were splayed against the green grass when I went out to mow the lawn. The buds were trying to reach the light and keep on blooming, as evidenced by the curling of the stalks in a pretty successful effort. I thought they looked kind of neat and decided to cut some and see how I could make a bouquet for my table. As you can see, they look very cool and certainly brighten up our dim, rainy Alaskan days.

Why am I talking about flowers when I should be updating Wolf's progress? Because I think the parallels between these gorgeous flowers and an individual with Asperger's are amazing, and hit me as I was talking with someone the other day about the future for our son.

The flowers struggled all spring and summer to bloom. Warm weather was late, the rain has been falling in buckets, and when they finally did begin to grow, they fell down to the ground. But they continued to grow and mature in their own unique and creative way, and were just as beautiful as they would have been staked upright, like they were "supposed" to be.

Wolf has to find his own unique method to bloom, yet welcome the stakes that hold him up, for now. He, and we, have to remember that the rain is going to come and pound him back to the ground, but turning his face up and carrying on, looking for the sun, is okay, even if the outcome seems a little different.

Those flowers don't really care if their stems are straight; they are going to bloom and grow and spread their seeds about the yard. Their special look is created not in spite of their condition, but because of it. And because of it, they earned a place on my table and a photo for everyone to see. They are special because of who they struggled to be. And because I took the time to embrace their uniqueness.

It's a hard thing to resist being staked up like a flower appearing as the rest of the garden flora. Success in our society is measured sometimes like a garden; neat and tidy rows, college degrees, and prestigous jobs making for shiny produce.

May Wolf know he doesn't have to do that. May he grasp that he can be who he is, as long as he turns his face to the sun.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Rain Rain Go Away

We would like a little less water around here. It has rained every day for the last month, and the newspaper said today that this could be the coldest, rainiest, summer ever.

This morning I stooped so low as to clean out my linen closet. Bear took the opportunity to "help" change the sheets on his bed and use the old ones for a tent, where he ate his snack. He also had me take out his two tunnels.

Our living room is crowded, but rainy days require a little less organization and a little more flexibility!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Tail of the Story

Yes, this is the arse end of our neighborhood bear, who is now making quite a nuisance of him/herself.

Around 8 p.m. last night we were settled downstairs watching a movie when Yukon turned to look out of our north window and saw a black furry thing taking a potty break. Thinking it was the neighbor's dog, he turned back to the movie, only to remember that the neighbor never lets his dog out.

He went closer to the window and shouted that the bear was back; and indeed it was. The little (and it is very little, perhaps a yearling) bear went around the corner of the house to our east window and stared right at us before going to investigate the yard waste container.

I went to the front door and hollered at it, and it ran up a tree for a while before rethinking that maneuver, sliding down and galloping away to bother someone else.

Unfortunately this little bear is showing signs of conditioning to people; our theory is that his mother showed him how to scrounge in the trash cans, had another set of cubs this past spring, kicked him out, and now he is on his own, doing what she taught him.
Hope not, the neighbors would be justified in a "protection of life or property" right to shoot him, according to Alaska law.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Uniquely Alaskan; Part Two

No shortage of excitement in the neighborhood this afternoon. What started out as a relaxing, quiet Sunday turned into an adrenaline-pumping exercise in Alaskan-ism.

Shortly before 4 p.m. I had returned from a long run with Jasper, at which time I took a few minutes to catch my breath in front of the house. Jasper, however, kept wanting to go towards the neighbor's house and on down the street, even though he, too, was panting and tuckered out. I soon found out why.

We had gone inside and were collapsed on the floor downstairs when I heard loud shouting from upstairs as Yukon hollered "Hey, there's a bear outside!" A bear? In the middle of the day?

A smallish black bear had gone into our next door neighbor's garage (inside all the way, mind you) and taken a zip bag of GORP from the top of a cooler, and was happily chomping away when the neighbor came out and tried to shoo him away (the Anchorage Police had called to tell him the bear was in his garage, by the way).

Clumping across our yard and on down the street, the bear was about three houses down when the APD cavalry arrived (see photos above), bearing shotguns. These brave soldiers followed the bear for a few more houses until it again went into a garage, and this time the owner had the foresight to shut the door, thus trapping it in with their garbage until, we thought, the Alaska Fish and Game would come and dart him to dreamland. Not.

My Southside neighbor wandered down the street to check the process and returned a few minutes later calling "Fish and Game isn't coming! They want the police to let him out and chase him back into the woods!" Oh.

Thinking I had never seen a bear rodeo, I stayed on my front deck with a teenager from the neighborhood who didn't dare go home, and we waited and watched while seven police cruisers came down the street to provide support to the situation. Southside neighbor stationed himself on his deck with his gun to protect us all.

Eventually the officers came marching down the street and said the bear was loose and "runnning around somewhere". Obviously the herding idea did not work out, and to the best of our knowledge, he is still running around.

Needless to say, there will be no outside playing tonight. And I thank god I didn't decide to go for a jog a few minutes later, or Jasper and I would have run smack into the little bruin.

Just another day in Alaska.

Friday, July 18, 2008

No Runway? No Problem!

It's not every day you round the corner in the neighborhood to find an airplane parked on a front lawn.

In Alaska, however, anything goes. Clearly. 1 in 5 residents are licensed pilots; in part because many are military or retired military, and also due to the fact that some of the best fishing and hunting are done miles away from any road or water system.

Merrill Field, just across from Yukon's office at the VA, is home to most of these pilots' aircraft. Others rely on float planes, moored at Lake Hood near the Airport. Lake Hood is the busiest float plane port in the world.

Or, you could just land in the street and roll up to the front deck. Handy if you're late to dinner.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

There's a New Face in the Family

It belongs to that of my niece, born just a few hours ago in Seattle. She is the second child to my brother and his lovely wife, and the first granddaughter for my parents.
"Niece", so named because she has no name yet (this happened with their first one, too, took three days for the kid to carry a moniker), has a big order ahead of her. Two aunties and a grandma who would like to finally have a break from the boy-isms that have infiltrated their worlds for the last 14 years. Let's see, with a niece I can...
  • Go shopping at stores like Nordstrom without fear of an outfit, even that of Nordy's, lasting a week at most due to grass stains, permenant ink, or melted army men in the pockets.
  • Attend events that would befit a young lady, like the Teddy Bear Tea, with less trepidation than last year, when Ted flew through the air and landed on someone's petit four because he "he was Superman bear".
  • Avoid arguments and/or discussions about bodily functions that somehow manage to occur at the most inopportune moments, like in the middle of church.

Thank goodness there are now some "girl germs" to spread around! We'll see what her older brother thinks of that, however.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Update From the Wolf Den

"If you're happy and you know it...."

Unless you don't know it.

People with Asperger Syndrome often have difficulty expressing their feelings; assigning a word to something going on inside that brings about an emotion. This can cause all sorts of trouble when conflict inevitably arises and problem-solving using "I feel/you feel..." is a mystery.

During his first few days at the School, Wolf was given six feelings to memorize and use on a daily basis to describe himself at any given time. Anger, happiness, sadness, hurt, fear, and shame. Six words as a general round-up of feelings for a kid whose usual description of his day consists of "good" or "bad". Wolf, like so many with Asperger's, lives in a black or white world where everything, including feelings, are all or nothing.

It may seem strange that Wolf must carry a list of feelings around and use that list as a reference, but many things that are instinctual in nature to most of us must be learned, studied, and remembered like French verbs. And it is easy to forget.

For Yukon and I, the realization that Wolf cannot process feelings as we do was sobering and enlightening. Try, for a moment, to explain what "happy" means, using words. A bit difficult? You betcha. Combine that with a misunderstanding about the tumble-cycle of emotions swirling around inside my teenager, and whew, we've got our work cut out for us.
We must figure out a way to explain the difference between tears of sorrow and tears of joy; anger at another person and anger at yourself. And underneath it all, convey to Wolf that other people possess these same feelings and reserve the right to express them.

Atticus Finch perhaps said it best:

"You'll never understand how people really feel until you step inside their skin and walk around in it."

Somehow, Wolf has to figure out a way to do just that.

Friday, July 11, 2008


One brain on trail. Grayish in appearance, slightly shrunken.
Call 800-U-LOST-YER-HEAD to identify.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Bears, Bears, Bears

Many inquiries have been made about the recent mauling of a teenage girl in one of Anchorage's parks. A participant in an all-night bike ride/race, she was wheeling past Campbell creek at around 1:30 a.m. when the bear chewed her up, missing vital parts of her anatomy (another reason to wear a helmet in Alaska). Fortunately, she is expected to make a full physical recovery. Emotionally, well, that could be another story.

Folks are interested in my perspective of the bear/human problem, knowing that we live steps away from the far side of the park where this all occurred. The Anchorage Daily News certainly is receiving a lot of "perspective" from readers, some angry that the bears are allowed to live anywhere in the city limits, some angry that people would even consider shooting critters that, for the most part, are just doing what they were made to do; eat, sleep, and protect themselves.

It is my belief that if we humans are going to venture into their space, no matter the location, we must be prepared to face the potential consequences, and be prepared to mitigate them. The photo above shows our family's commitment to hiking in bear country. Dog is on leash, dog wears bear bells on behalf of the family (they drive me nuts to wear). Child is close by. We are noisy.
We carry bear spray and know how to use it.

Perhaps what makes us a bit different is that we expect to run into a bear (or moose). Knowing that there are indeed bears, we avoid spots that are hot beds certain times of the year. Like now, when the fish are running in Campbell Creek. Fish=Bears=Trouble for everyone.

It would be unfortunate if we have become so arrogant that we expect even the wild creatures to get out of our way so we can play.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

It's a Day Off!

Yay, Dad had the whole day off!

A parade down the Park Strip of Anchorage and a quick trip up to Arctic Valley to check on the summer berry prospects, and our 4th was made memorable.

Tonight we'll roast hotdogs and marshmallows in the back yard fire pit, as per Bear's request. Then we'll watch Daniel Boone (always a crowd pleaser).

I'm liking the holiday weekend "Stay-cation" concept more and more.

Friday, July 4, 2008

The Wee Lad and His Daddy

There is nothing more endearing than a little boy wanting to be like his daddy. Mine is no different. From the time he could sit up, Bear has been enamored by the pipes and drums of the Scottish Highland Games. And his daddy.

The Alaskan version of such was held last weekend, and Bear of course wanted to wear his kilt and see the pipers. This year, however, he wanted also to bring his drum and march.

Yukon, sport that he is, marched with him. As you can see from the faces of onlookers during the Massing of the Bands, they were quite popular.
Yankee Doodle meets Scotland the Brave.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Update From the Wolf Den

I think the most accurate word to describe Wolf's progress is "squeezed".

The last few weeks have been full of realizations, opportunities, and realities for our son. For all of us, actually. Wolf is discovering that some behaviors that he employs as a defensive tactic are not as effective at CHYC. Why? For one, the staff are specially trained in managing difficult behaviors, even the manipulative ones. Second, the staff are not emotionally engaged in Wolf's life (not as a parent would), and can detach the child from the event easier than mom or dad can.

Last week's session was particularly trying for everyone. Wolf most of all. It became clear after multiple attempts to not be a part of our telephone meeting that the "squeeze" was on. A difficult time at school, with his peers, and some staff had him on edge, and he shut down.

Wolf's therapist, a man who for us represents the shining example of what all therapists should be like, doesn't let him get away with any manipulating, avoiding, or blustering, however. A simple statement, made with the calmest of voices brought him back to the moment and the goal. The quote the 1940's, "the jig is up."

The "best offense is a good defense" tactic used by Wolf for so many years is being refused, and Wolf is at a crossroads. Like an addict faced with rock bottom, Wolf is at a place where he will either work like hell to stop the behaviors, and thus begin learning skills necessary for his independence, or he won't. It is all up to him.

We are anxiously awaiting his decision. Knowing how this kid operates, I think I know what that will be. It is just a question of when.