Sunday, February 27, 2011

Mass Exodus

Of Biblical proportions, I would imagine.

Alaska schools begin their spring breaks over the next two weeks, and already the airline terminals are filling with overanxious, overeager, and definitely over-wintered 49th state residents ready for a respite.

We witnessed this phenom last weekend while walking toward terminal C at Anchorage International. C1 was leaving for Honolulu, our friend H. the First Officer, and he said flights had been full lately. "We're outta here" is the general mantra, he told me, clutching his passenger manifest and glancing at the crowded gate area. And we were going to Fairbanks. Bummer.

Weather wise, winter 2010/11 hasn't been particularly brutal to Anchorage-ites. No -40 degree nights, lots of sunshine; our only complaint was not enough snow rather than too much. But health wise, it's been a tough one. Between Bear and I, enough cough, cold, and flu medicine has been taken to assure stocks in such pharmaceuticals for a long, long, long time. The same can be said for much of the state. H1N1 reared its ugly self, Influenza of other types came to visit, and the usual coughs and colds left many a classroom down many children at a time. It, for lack of a better descriptor, sucked. Badly.

So we're leaving in search of green grass and flowering things and bare sidewalks. Quite the irony that our destination seems determined to be white instead of green. But Grandma assures us it will merely be raining when we show up on Tuesday. And, for once in my life, I'm ecstatic to hear it.

Ten days of lounging around, hiking familiar trails, running without spikes in my shoes and mittens on my hands. Bliss. Bear is excited to bring his Christmas scooter along to get a jump on pre-summer riding, making his pals jealous.

I do know, however, that it won't be long before Alaska joins the rest of the nation in thawing out, melting down, and greening up. I can see tired, brown grass underneath the tree wells of spruce in our neighbors' yard, and birds are starting to show up in greater numbers at the feeder. The days are longer now, and The Dog has begun curling up in his favorite late-afternoon "patch of sunshine" at the back slider. He does this every year about this time, it lets us know spring isn't really that far away.

We're ready this year. Boy, are we ready. But first, the exodus.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

From the Wolf Den and Other News

Not too much other news, really. Bear, Yukon, and I made it home safely from Fairbanks and our wild winter getaway. After a quick trip to Ice Alaska, the home to World Ice Carving Championships and a park full of kid-friendly, icy slides, climbing things, and critters, we arrived in Anchorage to my panicked realization that Bear and I depart for Seattle and the Grandparents next Tuesday, with Yukon following Wednesday. Ack.

Pulled out all the organizing stops as soon as my feet hit the ground from the SUV, unpacking, doing laundry, making corn dogs, putting Bear to bed, then waking up the next morning sicker than sick. Again.

This is indeed getting old.

Poor Yukon has a week full of meetings and an appointment with our wonderful, cussing, Tax Man, so he was a little stressed to find his wife unable to do much more than make toast. Pass the whiskey, please.

Wolf, on the other hand, continues on his upward trend toward summertime discharge from CHYC. Despite a tragic turn of events on his father's side, he has not only maintained his level, he has climbed it. Today we skipped the Hour of Power (thank goodness) in favor of an outing to the movies and Wal Mart with some other guys from his unit and Therapist B. We are nothing short of amazed.

The power of positive. Gotta love it. Maybe if I try I will feel like something other than day-old bread.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

From the Wolf Den: Looking North

Yukon, Bear, and I have been in lovely Fairbanks, Alaska the past three days scouting out a potential group home situation for Wolf, and doing our annual Interior visit to this wonderful community.

In a crazy twist of weather-fate, yesterday reminded me of the stories told by my eastern Montana-raised mother of blizzards, howling winds, and driving snow that hurt when it hit the face. We woke up Monday morning to almost 18 inches of snow, crazy wind gusts, and flickering power at our hotel.

Thankfully we had accomplished most of our AKontheGO missions, but did have to have hotel staff (our friend C. is the manager here) haul out the snowblower to get us out of our parking space so we could make it to the meeting with said group home staff.

We were pleased with the meeting; staff seem to be on the same wavelength as our family, they operate as a "family", and work hard with the young men and women to achieve independence so necessary to survive in the "real world". I left there feeling as if we had finally found a fit. A hole that is square enough to accommodate my four-cornered-kid. Time will tell, of course, but I think he'll do well up here.

Yukon drove us downtown in a wind tunnel of blowing snow to the School District offices, where we gathered paperwork for an impending IEP (something I am totally unfamiliar with since the Anchorage School District never felt Wolf was "disabled enough" to require one-don't get me started). Standing there, talking about "my son", making plans that after three years actually, physically require me to do something, felt strange and wonderful at the same time.

I could see Yukon felt the same way, too.

Friday, February 18, 2011

From the Wolf Den: So Proud

It's been a very difficult 24 hours for Wolf. He lost someone very close to him in a tragic turn of events that has left his natural father's side of the family stunned, confused, and asking questions.

After trying all day to contact Wolf I finally reached him about an hour ago, and, after a conversation with the staff member who has been with him since receiving the news last night, had the chance to talk briefly to my oldest child.

His voice was shaky, his nose very obviously running, and his emotions were wildly swinging. But as I myself struggled with what to say to this grieving young man, one thing became clear. He was acting appropriately, and had been since receiving the news.

Beyond sad, yes. Crying, of course. But no hitting, no running away, and no attempts to sabotage any of the week's progress because he could not process the events of the last day.
In the wake of this river of sadness flowing through him tonight, I am so very, very proud.

I am sure there are those reading this who understand completely.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Shades of Something Colorful

This is when I start combing store aisles and nurseries for color. Daffodils, tulips, anything at all to remind me that spring is going to come eventually and spread greenery all over the state, seemingly overnight. I just need a little push to get there.

Yukon, who knows my penchant for yellow during these gray and beige end of winter months, bought me these tulips for Valentine's Day. What a guy.

Bear and I spent last weekend helping out at one of our favorite places, Campbell Creek Science Center, where I am a board member of their Friends group. Despite -15 degree temperatures in the morning hours, Bear and I handed out flyers, stamped hands, and went on a ski with my pal and radio co-host, who showed up to make some promo videos for our weekly program. That's us clowning around for the camera. Bear was somewhere in the trees making a snow fort.

The sun was spectacular, warming things up to around 20 degrees and causing us to take a moment to just play in the brightness of it all.

That was a good reminder, too.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


It's been that sort of week, one in which the days scream by and none of us can catch our breath with any sort of ease. Like that. It is 9:30 on a Sunday night and Yukon and I have just finished our dinner. Yes, that sort of week.

Ever since my trip to see Wolf morphed into a sort of planning session for the next six months, I've been wrestling with my Inner Overachiever to try and discern what, if anything, needs to be adjusted, adapted, or simply eliminated from the double-booked Kirkland calendar.

It all began with my decline to the Magazine an offer to work on an upcoming program guide for our Native Youth Olympics. I hate saying "no". Obviously. But with a radio show, two other program guides for said Magazine and a few other interesting, albeit cheaply paid gigs to which I had already committed (few shekels or no), and a two-week vacation to see aging grandparents on both sides of the family, I simply could not carve out one more minute. And, frankly, I didn't want to.

Social media and I also have been having a disagreement on how much is too much, and it has bothered me. I've been asking friends all over town what they think and how they have managed, and have come to the decision to power down a bit.

Really, if anyone was to ask some forty years from now, what I had to contribute to the world and the community around me, do I really think it would be about the quality of Tweets I created?

Don't think so.

I'd rather be known for helping build up my oldest son's sense of self, or assist my pastor in the sabbatical journey of a lifetime, and be remembered for loving my family without a smartphone in one hand.

That's what. Stated firmly, with a glass of merlot in my hand and not the phone.


Friday, February 11, 2011

The King of Hearts

All we need is love.

Bear's early celebration of Valentine's Day started with his feet hitting the floor at 6:30 a.m. Church pants, check. "Button shirt," check. Cowboy boots? Sure. My little buckaroo was ready before 7:00 a.m., before, even, Yukon and I had fully fortified ourselves with coffee.

Boots clattering against the floor, Bear proceeded to pack his own lunch ("I put in goldfish crackers and a fruit leather"), pop a waffle in the toaster, and suck down some orange juice. Clearly, the day held great anticipation for our smallest son on this his first Valentine's Day.

When I got there after lunch, the kids were all assembled at their tables, small paper plates full of pinkish snack items. I helped peel some oranges, open some juice boxes, all while trying to reel in five and six year-old enthusiasm for what came next.

When turned loose to fill each other's envelopes with treasures, treats, and assorted valentines sporting SpongeBob, Lightening McQueen, and/or Tinkerbell (double those), this class of 19 danced around the room with glee.

Everybody was happy. Especially me. Even more so when we arrived home and fished a red envelope out of the mailbox to find a card addressed to Bear from Wolf. That one got top mention when Yukon came home tonight.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Love, Love, and More Love.

Or, whatever you call it in Kindergarten. Bear is quite the, um, ladies man, and has a cadre of little girls that call him "theirs". Valentine's Day festivities are nearly here, with a party in the Kindergarten class of the German Halls of Higher Learning, so last night my little Casanova decided he'd better get working on the Tinkerbell valentines he so carefully picked out at Target.

Granted, with only six boys in a class of 19 children, girl valentines are more prevalent than boy ones, and we did, in Bear's defense, buy SpongeBob Squarepants valentines for the fellows.

After laboring over the class list (I so remember doing that as a kid), putting pencils, stickers, and Laffy Taffy into each goodie bag (I know, I know, all this stuff was in the dollar bin of Target and I just couldn't help myself), Bear flopped down on the couch with an air of someone who had just run a marathon. "That was a lot of writing," he said, covering his eyes with his hand.

Get used to it, buddy. We girls can suck the life right out of you, sometimes. Heh, heh.

Monday, February 7, 2011

From the Wolf Den: Post Script

It was a fairly uneventful trip home. No delays, no mechanical failures of the aviation sort (that's a biggie with me, I hate flying and someday I'll tell you why). I ordered wine, watched a movie, read a book, surfed the Net. On my flight from Seattle to Anchorage was a friend from the church we used to attend and who we still remain in some contact with in an oblique sort of way. A pilot for Fed Ex, he is also dad to three daughters and a former Air Force officer. A very no-nonsense sort of guy who's values mesh perfectly with mine.

It was harder to say goodbye to Wolf this trip, in part because I knew it could be the last time I spent multiple days with the wonderful individuals who have nurtured and cared for my son, but also in part because Wolf and I had such a "normal" sort of visit. Time spent as any teenage boy and his mom would; I nag about pants hanging too low, hair being too long, socks being dirty and he rolls his eyes and laughs.

Nice to talk to another parent about all that; the joyous trial of mom or dad-dom, and receiving validation that Yukon and I, for all the doubts of Wolf's lifetime, are not bad people. I think every parent goes through that in the child-rearing process at one point or another (or more often perhaps).

But it was nice to hear from someone else....

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Roads and Maps and Repeating the Drills

Much of my time in SLC is spent in my rental car, navigating the checkerboard pattern of the city on my way to and from CHYC. Airport to hotel to store to restaurant to school; wash, rinse, repeat.

For an Alaskan whose road systems consist of two major highways, driving in a large city like SLC, however thoughtfully it was designed, is always interesting, and not unlike our journey with Wolf.

I’ve got directions, but am I really sure where this off-ramp leads? Whoa, that intersection wasn’t on the map, did somebody build a new one without telling the folks at AAA? Gee, that cloverleaf was a doozy, hope we don’t slip off the road.

This trip has been less about what is going on now (even though it matters infinitely) and more about what will be going on later. Job Corps, Access Alaska, New Group Home, UAF, etc. etc, and etc. some more. We hope to create a helpful Key in his map for the days ahead. That’s the easy part. Harder is the balance between knowing he’ll screw up eventually (because he will), and how much to save him.

Carrying a map is one thing. Using it is quite another.

Remember when you were a teenager and your parents wanted to tell you something really, really, important, but you kept interrupting with “I know!” Yeah, it’s like that, but even more so, because Wolf really doesn’t know.

So we begin here, and make the map, provide the Key, list the options, arrange the meetings. Wash, rinse, repeat as necessary.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

"In the Middle of My Little Mess, I Forget How Big I'm Blessed"

Today was sort of a mess, from a purely physical standpoint. I hate messes; they're

Wolf and I spent the day organizing the beastly piles of stuff he has managed to accumulate, including a gazillion-gallon tub full of outgrown clothing, read mail, and notebooks filled with zombie stories and interesting factoids. Truly a typical Asperger teen.

I let him turn on "Transformers 2" (oh, how the love of a mother knows no bounds) as we dumped out the contents then spent the next two hours going through it all, me cross-legged on the floor, he slouching on the couch. We laughed over goofy postcards sent by Yukon (where does he get these, anyway?), read magazines, and went silent for a minute over a letter of encouragement from his Popau who died a year ago. It was, for a brief few hours, a regular task by regular people, having regular fun.

Wolf does not like to get rid of anything, and we both agreed today was a major milestone.

A little housecleaning does a body good in so many ways, doesn't it?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

From the Wolf Den: The Shape of Things to Come

There was an abundance of drama yesterday as I made final preparations to visit Wolf in SLC. A situation was brewing that caused a lot of running around and fretting and contingency-planning, leaving me with a big old headache.

Seems that Wolf's dad was sending mixed messages about making a visit during the same time frame as I. Complicated. I spent the morning in constant contact with Therapist B, who showed superb effort in his creation of a plan. I flew out on a red eye from Anchorage around 1 a.m. and arrived in SLC by sunup (a lovely sunup, too, I might add), ready for anything.

Wolf looks great; another inch or so of height, another shoe size in length, and a decidedly more mellow attitude, save for a walk-about from the cafeteria yesterday that put him back on ReFocus and squelched our plans for outings (a good thing in the end).

It was only a few minutes into our conversation with Therapist B that Wolf told us his dad called and said he couldn't visit, after all; that the event he was attending didn't give him "any time". Wolf rolled his eyes as he said it and B and I saw a slight quiver in the now fuzzy upper lip.

My friend D. wrote a lovely post on her Urban Servant blog about the difficulties in managing not just a child with behavioral disabilities, but one parent, too. She used the analogy of a triangle to describe how I, at the top, must still exist in a this odd shape of caring after almost 15 years.

A triangle is an interesting shape, if you think about it, and an appropriate one to describe Wolf and his father and I. Sharp, angular, not at all comfortable, a triangle is a visual reminder of a, b, and c. Connected but not at all close.

When I visualize all the individuals who love and support our family, I think of a circle, with Wolf in the center. Everybody is connected to everybody else through words, deeds, or simple acts of compassion that continue, around and around, forever. Not one person in one place, but a never ending loop of loving.

That's the shape of Wolf's future, and that's the one we care about most.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Quiet Winter Night: Remind Me

When Wolf was at home and our family was at the peak of its unsettledness, I started running after a years-long hiatus. Working part time for a local social service agency and raising two children of vastly different ages and stages left me little free time during the day, so my running took place at night. In the winter.

With headlamp, flashing tail light, warm clothes, and spiked shoes I departed almost every night into the dark Alaskan evening to run the day's frustrations into the ground. This wasn't too difficult, the timing, I mean. I'm not a morning exerciser, just ask my high school swim coach who kept me on the team for about a day before realizing that a.m. is not my m.o.

When I was a kid in Washington and it snowed, we'd always take a walk at night to savor the differences made by a few inches of white precipitation, and I savored the quietness.

After Wolf departed for CHYC I made a point of allowing myself to exercise like regular people, during the daytime, now that I had the opportunity. But time, like so many things, seemed to grow shorter and shorter until last night, in the wake of packing and preparations for my departure today, I simply ran out of it.

With a few whispers of snowflakes in the air, I grabbed The Dog, found my headlamp, and left into the inky blackness that is an Alaskan Winter Night.

Everything seemed unique; the tangy scent of woodsmoke, the sound of cars muffled by snow, my own breath curling around my face as we jogged up, around, and across the neighborhood.
I had forgotten this and the feeling of utter contentment at seeing others living their lives; parents doing dinner dishes while looking over shoulders of teenagers working on homework, small children getting ready for bed, televisions turned to the evening news. All of it.

My own home looked particularly cozy, Yukon and Bear on the couch reading a story, artificial candles flickering in the windows and jazz music softly filtering down to Dog and I standing in the driveway.

Need that reminder once in a while...