Friday, January 28, 2011

Courage is Universal

I woke up this morning to the radio playing back a recording from January 28, 1986 as the Challenger space shuttle took off, then exploded over the ocean.

Scrolling through Facebook and Twitter a few hours later I saw hundreds of posts from people I didn't even know trying to start some form of effective communication to and from Cairo, Egypt as thousands of people stand in streets protesting for their civil freedom.

How ironic, perhaps, that we are witnessing courage of such different extremes but with potentially similar outcomes. Seven individuals consciously choose to explore space and die trying. Thousands of citizens choose to explore liberty, and some will die. Many already have.

Courage is a decision.

The best quote I ever heard about courage comes from "To Kill a Mockingbird", Harper Lee's chronicle of childhood during racially-charged times and where, I suppose, courage lived day and night.

Atticus Finch is trying to explain to his children, in not so many direct words, how difficult it will be to defend a black man in a white town:

"Courage is knowing you could be licked before you begin. But you begin anyway, and you see it through, no matter what."

No matter what.

I listened this morning to the audio tape of Shuttle Commander Dick Scobee saying "Roger, go throttle up" from 25 years ago, then sounds from Cairo with explosions and automatic weapons, right now.

Opening the universe, and making a way for people. Here, or there. It's all courage, and another reason not to forget this day.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

From the Wolf Den: Five Months and...Counting?

I was driving down my favorite scenic Anchorage byway yesterday when it hit me. Perhaps it was the weariness of caring for a sick child the previous four days, or the simple quiet driving in Alaska affords one, sometimes, when I can just look at trees and snow and moose and forget all the other stuff in my head. This time, though, the other stuff seemed to crowd to the front of my brain in a rush of emoticons and fragile feelings. Obviously, I need therapy (and I'm only half-joking)....

A flurry of emails have been sent and received this week from Wolf's own therapy team, the new group home to which we hope he will be admitted, and between Yukon and myself. With every new greeting at the top, every innocent misstep that by now I should know occurs in any placement of any individual into any group-lodging situation, our family is one checkpoint closer to the arrival of oldest kid.

Are we sure this is the place? Are we sure these are the people? Are we sure Wolf is ready? No, but we never will be. This big leap will be the first in a series; the pilot project, if you will. If not now, when? Wolf would age out of CHYC within a year, anyway, and given the future of his care needs, I'd rather have him come back to Alaska as a child rather than an adult and have to wade through the legal, ethical, and physical dilemmas he (and we) will face. No, better to do it now.

Why Fairbanks? Many Alaskans screw up their faces when they say "Fairbanks". It's freezing in the winter, hot and smoky in the winter (lots of forest fires), and rather isolated as far as largish cities go. But, the University of Alaska Fairbanks is there, a number of vocational programs, too, and Yukon and I feel good about it. We have met some great folks, have connections, and in many ways, Fairbanks reminds us of our home city of Port Angeles, Washington.

After I return from SLC next weekend, AK Fam will turn around and head up to Fairbanks and check out Wolf's potential new digs. Then the real countdown begins....

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Cold Weather Breaks....

One could interpret this title a number of ways.....

From a factual standpoint, the sub-zero temperatures that plagued Alaska for more than a month are finally gone. With daytime readings in the mid-teens/low twenties, this AK Fam is one happy group. Yesterday was spent playing at a city Parks and Recreation-sponsored sledding party; Yukon and Bear went up and down and all around the slippery slopes while I amused myself making videos for AKontheGO and walking around looking at the lovely view with my gal pal.

This particular gal pal has adorable children, one of whom is in Bear's German School, and they attend our church as well, so we find ourselves hanging out more and more often. Truly a wonderful family, it is lovely to have someone else to ski, run, and generally share the ups and downs of each other's lives. I know she won't mind if I put her photo up here, gazing out upon frozen Cook Inlet, west toward the Alaska Range.

Unfortunately, poor Bear (this is going to be his new name, "Poor Bear") has succumbed to yet another Kindergarten-fueled illness, and has been in bed since our return home Saturday afternoon. Another Sunday and Monday bite the dust, as he (and subsequently, I) have been lounging around, eating popcicles and watching old Saturday Morning Cartoons (neither of which is bad, mind you, but I'd rather be doing something else, and I daresay so would Bear).

I did escape briefly to run The Dog around the forest and spy a few moose browsing among the tree branches, probably thankful themselves for the upswing in temperatures.

Here's to a peaceful week.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

From the Wolf Den: How Do You Spell "Home"?

Our family therapy sessions with Wolf are definitely taking on a new format, now that the concept of "home" seems to be something we can mention without cringing, any of us. But what will "home" mean to our son, and really, the whole family?

After almost three years (we will have reached three years by the time Wolf does indeed make that flight from CHYC to Alaska), so much has changed. For those of us in Alaska, our physical home looks different, our physical selves, do, too. Wolf will not be coming back to this "home", but will be making a new adjustment at a group "home".

With all the kids in residential treatment out of state, there is not only the reconfiguration of family dynamics, but within the realm of convincing the brain that everything will not, as much as they want it, be the same as when they left. For better or worse, people and places and things have moved on. This is a hard concept for kids who thrive on sameness, and perhaps the one we are most concerned about.

Preparing for this is a prime directive for my visit in a few weeks. Nothing is the same, yet Wolf desperately aches for that familiarity of place and routine. Whew. Lots of work, ahead.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

From the Wolf Den: Is This the Last Visit?

For those who know me well, it will come as no surprise when I say the biggest irritating factor of Wolf's time at CHYC is the ambiguity of it all.

When will he come home? Will he come home? In what shape? What about our shape?

We've started filling out paperwork for placement at a group home back in Alaska, but that, too is full of uncertain questions and factors that are both internal and external to Wolf right now. One has to do with the mere physical presence of other boys at the home, and when a bed will become available. Although the director has told Yukon and I they like to follow the school calendar as closely as possible to maintain a sense of "summer vacation" and "graduation", sometimes that is a little more difficult. The term "Wait List" takes on a whole new meaning, doesn't it, when we are truly "waiting"? I'm such a good waiter by now I ought to own my own place. Ha.

The second gray area, which seems to be grayer than usual, today, deals with the ongoing medication dance and subsequent behavior of said young man. Is he up, or down? Is down better than up? What about in-between? How the heck can I, and everybody else, be sure this is working? And how, pray tell, can I trust, Mr. Doctor-Man, that you know what you are doing?

I am due to visit Wolf in a few weeks. I need to lay my eyes on him, really see what he looks like, acts like, and how he behaves. Currently he is back on Refocus status, so our off-campus wishes, it appears, is squashed.

This will be a turning point, this trip, the beginning a whole new journey towards what is going to be our newest form of "Normal".

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Transitions and Tribulations

It's been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon...Oh, wait. That line has been taken already by someone far more articulate and funny than me.

It has been a quiet week, relatively speaking. Sure, the below zero temperatures have made for some interesting adaptations in how we spend our outdoor time, but everyone seemed to adapt and so far no major meltdowns have occurred. Not even on my part. For the record, however, I did manage to saddle up The Dog and run three days this week, cold or no cold. With four weeks without snow, I think we're doing rather well.

This weather has given me a little extra time to catch up on some of my pals' blogs, one of which is authored by one of my oldest friends, D., who has 11 children. Yep, 11. Growing up two blocks from each other, we got to know each others' personalities pretty well, and when she moved to Minnesota and became mom to this crew of kiddos, I wasn't too surprised. Then they moved to Colorado Springs, and now are moving back to Minneapolis. I'm not too surprised at that, either. She has kids with special needs, and sadly Colorado ranks near Alaska in the availability of resources for the issues her children face. She was dialed in to Minnesota resources, so has decided to pack up, head out, and re-establish the roots she left deep in the prairie soil. Her blog, Urban Servant (I could never call it "Sub" Urban Servant, so I'm glad it will go back), is full of interesting tidbits of life with 11 children, a husband, and a community of needy people. She and I regularly, by turn, praise and pout about our particular lives and often wonder at how two friends could possibly have ended up raising kids so similar. Or maybe it's not so strange.

One of these days I'm going to convince her to join me in a mom-week up here in Alaska, and one of these days I'm going to take her up on her invitation to do the same in Minnesota.

One of these days.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Words and Image and What it Means

In these difficult days following the tragic turn of events in Tuscon, Arizona, it has been my daily pledge to pay attention to how I express myself.

Funny, almost, how I lamented the drying up of my print media formats in favor of the immediacy of web-based social media just the other day. Not funny, though, is a battle royale among those who think and/or don't think media had anything to do with the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and many members of a crowd gathered to meet her.

Yes, Sarah Palin's name entered the fray almost immediately, mostly due to a SarahPAC splash page showing crosshairs over certain states and their districts. I'm not going to talk about that, specifically, because this is not a political discussion. But I'd like to share a comment made by someone near and dear to me, who responded to a statement (not by me) on Facebook, talking about SP. "I don't understand why people hate her so much, just for speaking her mind."

Let me dissect that statement and its relevance to the events of the weekend. First, "hate". We have become a society, somehow and someway, determined to put down, disparage, and downright fight against those who do not agree with our opinions, political or otherwise. Perhaps the "mainstream media" had something to do with this; when we are provided 24 hours a day of shouting, at-a-glance news reporters driven by the assignment to dig up all they can so that the 24 hour news can indeed occur, we go to places not previously visited. Who, what, when, and why take on a whole new meaning when the public is right in (the media's) face, now, later, and in the middle of the night. We want more, and we want it now.

As to the phrase referring to Sarah Palin "speaking her mind", let me just say that everybody, not just a woman who thrives on spotlights and attention, is guilty. We have Facebook to speak our minds, we have Twitter, MySpace, blogs, comment sections, and Apps allowing us, with no sense of conscience, to say what we want, when we want; trouble is, we are not saying it to anybody in person. I truly believe that when we say something directly to someone else, we are able to read their body language, see their eyes shade with disappointment or hurt or anger, we can feel their excitement or withdrawal. When we hit that "publish" or "comment now" button, we do not have anybody staring back at us but our own reflection upon a screen. Think about it.

Perhaps the mother of a timeless writer, Laura Ingalls Wilder, said it best, way back in 1881.

"If wisdom's ways you wisely seek,
Five things observe with care,
To whom you speak,
Of whom you speak,
And how, and when, and where."

Will you?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

I'll Show U

Last night I went to bed grumpy after wrestling with You Tube, trying to upload a short and probably uninteresting video of an AKontheGO trip to the Alaska Zoo, because I was told I had to.

Not to discount anything my most beloved Mentor suggests to me; he is a wise and upwardly mobile, if not downright social media-ish travel media guru who has taken me from the depths of family travel mediocrity and launched AKontheGO, and me, into his world.

But it's a crazy world of Twitter and Facebook and podcasts and websites and uber-fast, ultra-frenetic media I'm not used to. Like many journalistic "dinosaurs", I started with print media, telling my story in 1,000 word features that gave me ample time to utilize my who, what, when, where, and why. It was comfy, like the old pair of fleece pants and worn out moccasins I wear when writing. Like the Olympic National Park mug I drink my coffee from. Familiar, soft, and flavorful. I wasn't sure about the change-up.

New words entered my vocabulary; terms like "embed". Now I don't know about you, but I am embed around 9 p.m., usually after trying to figure out why the heck I couldn't upload the podcast from the radio show last week or pounding my head on the keyboard because I forgot the sequence for un-privatizing the aforementioned You Tube video. Dammit Jim, I'm a writer, not a Geek. I could care less why something goes here or there, I just want it to do it.

Yukon is no help. Like my father, who led to the decimation of my inbred patience gene, my husband insists on going back to the beginning of the proverbial book and asks the questions to which I already know the answers. Sheesh, doesn't anybody understand me and my needs?

Okay. I'm done.

After a few cryptic texts from Mr. Mentor I finally figured out the upload, but not the way I wanted it. Sigh.

I'll tackle the rest tomorrow. I'm going to sit down and put in a VHS tape in my 1990's VCR. That I know how to do.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

'Beautiful Boy', On Your Birthday

To Wolf,

I cannot promise the monster's gone. But I will, as John Lennon said, "be patient" as we try and keep it at bay. Meeting you where you are, when you are, and how you are, out on the ocean.

That I can promise.

Happy Birthday.


Mom and Dad

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful boy.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

From the Wolf Den: The Trouble With Meds

Meds; to use or not to use. When, how, and why; probably the most complex and controversial issue I have dealt with since Wolf began drug therapy in second grade.

The backstory? I tried it all; behavior modification, diet, family therapy, exercise. Yes, if it was available and affordable, Wolf and I embarked on its passage. Some things worked, for a while, then the same behaviors would return both of us to the exhausting pattern of parenting, and being parented in tandem with something so obviously wrong hanging over our heads.

When the pediatrician suggested medication, I was both grateful and guilty, but accepted its arrival as one step in a lifetime journey. We have continued in this mode ever since, despite frequent questions from well-meaning but often misinformed people.

These days, however, our medications pose a more serious series of inquiry, due to Wolf's needs and CHYC's efforts to stabilize his behavior in order to provide him the best possible outcome for discharge and re-entry into our world.

It's a quandary for us. So many medications to stabilize mood and behavior are also riddled with side effects that mimic other behaviors not unlike Wolf, necessitating some serious attention to which is which.

Staff do a good job, and when I raised a red flag the other night, they were quick to respond. See, it's tough when I only have a voice to hear. I can't see Wolf's face, his posture, or look into his eyes. It is maddening as a mother.

Therapist B, the nurses, and I agreed, after much back-and-forth, to wait this current med cycle out, to see if things level off and the post-holiday blues fade from view. Wolf is willing to try, but it's difficult to know my son is suffering, even for a day, thus the paradox of medication "management".

Wolf turns 17 tomorrow. We all should be crossing appendages for a peaceful day.

Monday, January 3, 2011

From the Wolf Den: When I Know All is Not Well

One of the most challenging aspects of Wolf being out of my daily physical view is my inability to take stock of how he looks and acts, especially within the spectrum of trying and sometimes discarding tools to assist in his future.

We are trying a new medication to hopefully stabilize Wolf's mood in the hope that once he graduates from CHYC he can function more easily within societal norms. Medication dealing with emotions, however, is tricky, since no one has the same chemical makeup within respective brains and Wolf sometimes is unable to say what, exactly, he likes or dislikes about a particular drug.

Tonight Wolf called and was very, very sad. Not just a "situational sad" from the downer of post-holiday finish, but a deep apathy we could feel through the phone. Mom-Radar kicked in, the little voice in my head acknowledged the warning signals coming from my heart, and I quickly caught up with the lead evening staff who agreed that indeed something is and has been amiss.

Clearly my morning agenda has been set.

That does not make the night go any faster, however.