Monday, September 24, 2012

Opening the Door to Home

"Son," he said. "Grab your things, I've come to take you home." - Peter Gabriel, Solsbury Hill

I've just opened two emails. The first is a huge attachment of paperwork outlining everything from school goals to personal hygiene recommendations. The second is an airline ticket. Correction: two airline tickets.

This swirl of information comes just as I finished rearranging the furniture in the house and my office. I needed to do something other than write or think about what the next few months will hold for us.

It is good. It is also overwhelmingly frightening.

My heart going boom, boom, boom.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Elituq: She Has Learned

Nearly 700 times I've sat down at my desk and written about our life in Alaska; the joys, sorrows, and moments of awe that come from living in a place so far north. Many things have been unexpected, and many, downright painful, but like the Athabascan term for which this blog is named, all have led toward a deeper understanding of my life, and that of my family's.

I began Elituq: She is Learning after I made the decision to leave my part-time job as communications director for a local agency serving individuals with Alzheimer's disease and related dementias. It was the right decision; Wolf's behaviors were escalating to the point where my support group facilitation skills were being overshadowed by my own need for periodic emotional rescues. I wanted to write about Alaska, too, and had an opportunity to do so, opening doors through which I have happily walked. This blog was a lovely, comfortable fit for me to share a peek into our world for family and friends who live so far away.

As the months went on and it became obvious Wolf was in need of assistance we could no longer provide, blog posts turned into a means of communicating the difficult decision of transitioning Wolf from our home to residential treatment Outside. I suppose it was both a crutch and a means of support to be able to network with other parents and write words I didn't have the courage to speak over the telephone to my own family.

In the four years since, Elituq has meant different things to different people; a means of keeping tabs on our busy life, and a way to see how Alaskans temper personal feelings for the necessary actions regarding medical care.

We've all grown during these seasons of my musings; Yukon, Bear, and Wolf, perhaps most of all. It is time for all of us to move on to the next phase of our lives, and it is at this point I feel Elituq: She is Learning has served its purpose.

One of the most important lessons I've learned as a writer is knowing when to end the story. Perhaps you have been lifted up by a particular blog post, or photograph, or a link to some of the other fantastic blog friends I have come to know, and one in particular who has known me almost my entire life.

My writing continues, but with a different focus. It is time, and it feels right. And I thank you for reading; my world has been enriched.


*The blog will stay active for a while, for those who wish, as I have these past few weeks, to go back and read how it all started.* 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Where I've Been....Lately

The image above reflects what I've been up to this past month. Lots of growth on the business front has led to an expansion of my website, AKontheGO, and all the "stuff" that goes along with it.
Not a marketing professional by any means, I've been clumping along, trying to figure out a launch date and a launch party without actually launching myself into space. It's mostly worked.

But it's been a challenge, too, making new decisions, the biggest of which is reflected in the new logo above. You might notice someone is missing from the image. It was indeed purposeful, but painful, to not include Wolf in the new family travel logo. Many reasons, mostly practical, not personal, but still ultimately difficult.

I haven't written about Wolf lately. So much is going on in his world, and a lot of his story just continues round and round and round, like a broken record, and frankly, it is a bit draining to make the effort of describing it in words. But rest assured he is still learning in carefully-planned phases, still arguing and erupting occasionally, and still manages to make me laugh one second and screw up my face in frustration the next. It's his world, and ours, and we're moving through it as best we can.

It's a time for growth and change all around.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Selection and the Service

In the mail today, one letter in particular stood out to me. A plain, white envelope, clearly marked with Wolf's name, with a return address that surprised me just a little, even though it probably shouldn't have.

It was from the Selective Service. Another adult requirement, another explanation, but one that might actually yield a positive result. With such a strong paternal family history of U.S. Navy service, and with Wolf progressing, however slowly, we might be able to leverage Wolf's registration (he and Therapist J registered back in January) as an incentive plan.

Yukon and I met a wonderful couple who is serving on the commissioning committee of the USS Anchorage with us. He is the Navy League representative, and she is his dedicated partner. Both were valuable resources, and wonderful encouragers of our son. Today, I went and bought Wolf a copy of the ASVAB study guide for Wolf (the military assessment and aptitude test). While Wolf is waiting out his remaining high school time, this will be a great activity to prepare him, or at least, give him an option of preparing, for his future.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

God Bless the U.S. Navy

Yukon and I are sitting in the San Diego Airport at this hour, waiting for our return flight to Alaska after an insightful weekend in southern California.

As distinguished guests (that doesn't happen very often in my world) of the Commissioning Committee for the USS San Diego's entrance into the Pacific Fleet, Yukon and I, and four other Alaskans were privileged to attend ceremonies over the past four days.

Why? Just so happens that Alaska will get her own ship, the USS Anchorage (LPD 23), to be christened in April, 2013; both Yukon and I are on the committee responsible for making it all happen. We traveled to San Diego this weekend to see how this should look.

With a strong Navy tradition in Yukon's family (his father was in the submarine service from 1942-66), it was a memorable opportunity to see the pomp and circumstance surrounding such an event through the eyes of a Navy veteran's son.

The sun shone, the flags snapped sharply in the sea breezes, and strains of 'Anchors Aweigh' filled the morning air.

Monday, May 14, 2012

We'll Let Go the Dark...

It's no secret that this blog has for years represented an extension of my inner thoughts concerning Wolf, Bear, Yukon and I. Mostly, anyway.

But lately...well, lately blogging about Wolf has become less an outlet than a chore, but something, I recently found out, that is not all bad.

Wolf is still struggling mightily; some violent episodes of self-harm a few weeks ago left everyone involved scratching our heads and wondering what, if anything, could we do to help he and we survive the rest of his life. Of course I only slightly panicked at the idea of nobody in Alaska accepting Wolf for independent living, and of course I managed to pull it back together when Therapist J. called to run down the latest laundry list of odd behaviors.

But here's what happened, next.

Therapist J., a longtime professional in the world of troubled teenage boys, said something that probably should have been said four years ago when Yukon traveled 3,000 miles to deliver Wolf to the first residential facility.

After calmly stating the most recent incidents, and reiterating his belief that Wolf is indeed choosing many of these behaviors and not exibiting an organic reason for them, Therapist J was silent for a second on the telephone in Colorado. Then he said, "It's time to focus on what you have there, and let us focus on him, here. Wolf is safe, he is loved, he is cared for, here. What you need to do now is let your husband love you, care for you and your other son, and let go."

Let go. Let it go. Let him go.

My life has been defined by the past, present, and future of Wolf, and someone just offered me a gift of doing all the worrying and fretting and hand-wringing for me. Focus on what is good, and let them deal with the bad.

Love Wolf as simply as that, because finally someone told us they have our backs.

Amazing, and freeing. It will be interesting to see where this takes Elituq: She is Learning.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Avoiding Monday.....

For your viewing pleasure, here are some photos taken from our fabulous, sunny, and otherwise wonderful Alaska weekend. I do not wish to discuss Monday, and therefore will pretend it is Tuesday.

Yes, that is a young moose peering through my deck rails. He and his very patient mama arrived in our front yard minutes after our return home from a great day (ironically) wildlife watching in Seward. He walked right up to me as I kneeled on the deck in order to get these and other great shots.

Ah, the wild life.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Eighteen is a Number - Special Post for Public Radio

One of my favorite freelance jobs is blogging for Kids These Days Radio, a weekly program targeting parents and caregivers. Heard Alaska-wide, the show delves into issues around Alaska's children, and for my part, I offer perspective about travel and tourism in and out of the state.

But occasionally I delve into our experience with Wolf. Yesterday's show was centered around Autism in Alaska; rates of diagnosis, special considerations for rural communities, and a post by me. The show's producer is always interested in our lives, what we are doing to mitigate Wolf's difficulties, his future, and such. She asked me if I'd write a short essay about Wolf's 18th birthday, and I did.

It was, surprisingly, one of the easiest pieces I've ever done. Here it is (sorry for the small print):

"The afternoon my oldest son turned eighteen, I cried. Nose-running, chest-heaving crying, with wretched tears that froze on my cheeks as I ran across snowy trails near our Anchorage home. It was a day I had dreaded with uncertain anticipation. Suddenly, it was here, and I was still not ready. 
My son, like so many children, suffers from and fights with an autism spectrum disorder frequently referred to as Asperger Syndrome. Characterized by an overdose of impulsive behavior and an under-dose of social skills, my son, MJ, is nothing if not the Weirdest Kid on the Block, a label his stepfather and I have mostly been able to shield him against with all our parental powers. 
At eighteen, MJ and thousands of Alaska children are considered officially “adults” in an academic sense. They can vote, boys must register for the Selective Service, and a flurry of college information fills the mailbox. It is a time of independence, either real or perceived, and our son is no different in his zeal for all the honors and benefits of finally becoming “old enough.” 
But MJ has no idea what “old enough” really means. A resident of an out-of-state treatment facility since 2008, MJ has struggled to learn the most basic of social skills; from merely parroting a “Hi, how are you?” phrase, to practicing regular hygiene and grooming habits. It is an agonizingly slow process, filled with false starts and backward steps, and little, tiny inches forward. Staff at his current residence are infinitely patient, yet firm; they know better than we how the world sees young adults like MJ, and they want him to get this right. 
It was almost easier to manage MJ as a young child; at least then I could reinforce with the authority of a typical Aspie Mom. But at eighteen, a difficult decision awaits parents of children with disabilities. Along with figurative independence also comes the literal and legal meaning of the word, and MJ, for better or worse, was now able to make decisions regarding his health and well-being. He could, in effect, sign his name on the dotted line of discharge forms and go about his business in Denver, Colorado with no one lifting a finger to stop him. 
The decision to establish guardianship was made shortly before his birthday, after hours of conversations and meetings and prayerful discernment. Guardianship was granted shortly after his birthday, with little resistance but not without confusion on the part of MJ, although we explained over and over our reasons for wanting to keep him healthy and safe. What we didn’t tell him was our intention of saving him from himself, because for a young man today to appear “odd” or “looking funny,” statistics of violence and police intervention almost immediately stacked the deck against our 6-foot, two-inch tall young adult. 
To his credit, however, MJ is finally pushing back at the darkness which has threatened to consume his soul as a younger teen. He sees, if however tenuously, the connection between how one looks and acts, and how people treat each other accordingly. He will graduate from high school with a fairly high grade point average, an amazing feat considering he has had so little success in other aspects of his life. Our family is working with a team sent from heaven at the Arc of Anchorage, who do not shake their heads in the negative when I mention potential roadblocks. Arc staff will teach him how to ride the bus, be successful at a job, go shopping, exercise, and be happy with who he is
With so much left to learn, I sometimes look at this man-boy during our internet face time and wonder how he has managed to hang on for so long. Perhaps it is my husband and I who need to step back, recognize his courage, and allow him to own his future, instead of asking ourselves for the millionth time, “Why did this happen?”  
One of my literary heroes, Norman Maclean, author of “A River Runs Through It” explained it perfectly to me one day in his book, as I sat on an airplane, whizzing through the sky after a particularly meaningful visit to MJ: 
“...And so it is those we live with who elude us. But we can still love them - we can love completely without complete understanding.” 
Perhaps this journey of maturation has not only occurred in our son. Eighteen is, after all, only a number, and we have a lifetime yet in which to grow."
Erin Kirkland is a regular contributor to Kids These Days, posting weekly at KTDontheGO. Read more about her family’s journey through Asperger Syndrome at “Elituq: She is Learning” (  

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Joy, and Why I Wore Xtra Tufs to Church

I somehow found joy in the midst of a messy, muddy, snowy Easter weekend.

Anchorage managed to break the previous record for snowiest winter since the 1950's. I think the total was somewhere around 134 inches of white stuff, the last three or so falling yesterday in a frantic, wild, and wet blizzard that caused me to chop kindling, build a fire in the woodstove, and work on the book.

We all had a very pleasant day, resigned to the fact that Easter Sunday might be a slushy mess. I laughed with friends about my intention of wearing boots to church to keep my strappy summer sandals in pristine condition. I didn't even think at the time about a song our fabulous church was performing on Sunday; I just thought it would be funny to walk into the building wearing Alaska's signature footwear.

Mountain High Facility called around 5 p.m. to tell me of an incident involving Wolf. A serious, oh-my-gosh sort of incident that caused Yukon and I to wonder if he has given up. After all the positive work, after the high marks and difficult work, Wolf is decompensating rapidly, and no one can figure out why. He called a few hours later, railing and ranting and swearing that he could do better on his own, or no where at all. Lost. He hung up no happier than when he had dialed, and I was left, again, standing in the middle of my living room, staring at my silent phone, feeling like an utter failure.

Talk about blowing the storm back into the harbor.

I went for a long, long run after that phone call, splashing my way through full puddles and postholing into old, icy drifts of snow along the roadway. That song kept resonating in my head. I ran, breathing in and out in ragged gasps, sobbing at the same time, wiping my nose on the sleeve of a now-filthy shirt. I ran and cried and prayed, all three, and all the while the lyrics to the next day's song flowed through my addled head.

The Mud Song.

So I wore my boots to church, this morning, in honor of Wolf. Life is indeed pretty muddy right now, but I'd stomp in every puddle around if it meant he'd be able to avoid them. In my Xtra Tufs.

Funny thing; Easter Sunday was absolutely glorious, weather-wise. A stunning reminder of better things ahead, after the storm passes.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Alaska On the Go: From Blog to Book *NEW*

Curious to know from whence all that Alaska knowledge escapes my brain?

Check out the newest post from what my family now calls "The Book Blog".

Monday, April 2, 2012

Why Alaska Weeps, Tonight

This blog is typically not a news and infomation outlet, but this time, I've made an exception.
Alaska is right now embroiled in a bitter, angry, and hurtful battle over a moral issue. We vote tomorrow, so the airwaves, voicemail, and email auto-blasts have been incessant.

All that changed three hours ago when the FBI and Anchorage Police held a press conference to announce the discovery and recovery of who they believe to be a young barista from Anchorage named Samantha Koenig. She was found on the bottom of an icy lake, surrounded by blue sky and snowy mountains that did nothing to mitigate the tragedy.

Her name and smiling, beautiful face have been burned into our memory, first through desperate attempts by her family and friends to find information, any information, that would lead them to her. Posters were everywhere; on cars, buses, reader boards, at the doorway of just about every business in town. One could not go anywhere and not see Samantha. Social media threads became outlets for search parties, hotlines, and a reward.

She was 18.

Anchorage is stunned, angry, and confused. We worked so, so hard to find her. Samantha was as much our child as her father's; that's how we do things up here, most of us. Those of us who are parents cannot fathom the grief he must be experiencing tonight.

Everything else pales in comparison, tonight.

Pie Jesu.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Year Later: How Our Lives Have Changed

My office window looks east toward the Chugach mountains. On a clear day I can see the bright, white snow topping nearby peaks, and spot eagles that are starting to reappear, soaring high above in lazy circles. Today started out like this, but since has become cloudy and a bit distorted, with naked Cottonwood and Birch trees sticking up from piles and piles of wet, heavy snow.

Was it just like this a year ago?

Yukon has obliquely mentioned the one-year anniversary of his bicycle accident with a typical Yukon-style approach: "It's all good, now." I know he hasn't forgotten the whole thing - a long, winding scar on his elbow and constant trips to the hemotologist and occupational therapist won't allow him the luxury of completely erasing that day.

I thought I had done a pretty good job of moving on, even commenting just last week about the swiftness of time. Here we are, looking at the calendar, 24 hours away from the day a hole in the ground made us all think good and hard about life, and love, and the value of both. All in one long, short year.

This is the beginning of my busiest season, as it was last year. I mentioned to someone the other day how very behind I felt - way, way behind, when actually I was way, way ahead. It finally dawned on me that I feel this way because I don't even remember last April. The span of time between March 30 and April 30, 2011 is a nebulous sort of black and white cloud in which I barely managed to care for more than the basic needs of body and soul, and I'm not even sure about the soul part. Tragedy will do that to a person.

The external signals of spring are what prompted me to double-check my emotions. Last week I was driving to the U-Med campus for a meeting (the same meeting I had attended this time last year). It was a sort of dreary, early-spring day, with low clouds and wet streets, and I didn't pay much attention to my environment until stopped at the traffic light.

"Emergency" the bright red sign said.

I remembered clearly, then, the frantic trips, fumbling to talk on my cell phone as I hastilly arranged childcare. I remembered the gritty car, leaving it sitting in the loading zone for over an hour while everybody tried their best to help my husband. I remembered friends who met me there, not once, not twice, but three times, each visit watching further deterioration and sharing my agony at the moment we realized things could turn out very, very badly. I even remembered what I was wearing and what song was playing on the radio that final ER visit as I swung my car into a restricted parking spot, not caring a damn if I was towed.

But Yukon made it. He's still here. We're all still here. A bit older, perhaps, a bit wiser to the ways of fate, but we're here.

Life is far, far too short to realize that, every day.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Wassup, Alaska?

It was the first day of Spring on Tuesday, and I celebrated by spending a few hours shoveling the hardpacked, grainy snow away from our 4' fence line to keep the dogs from daintly stepping over the remaining 4 inches of chainlink visible to us. Riley, the worst offender,  was less than impressed by my efforts.

Temperatures have been below Zero at night, but rising to a glorious 32 or so with brilliant sunshine during the day. I'll take that as a message from Mother Nature that she's at least thinking about releasing us from our wintertime bondage.

Alaska is like that, some years. I think it's a reminder of just how far north we live, and why we choose to stay.

We're lucky, that's what.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

From the Wolf Den: Quick Update

Today was Team Treatment Review Day, where I sit on one end of the phone lines and listen to the Team, and Wolf, talk about his month's progress and goals.

After a pretty smooth few weeks, I was interested to see how things had progressed, especially since Yukon was present for family therapy last week while I was at a meeting.

Wolf has reached Level II at Mountain High Facility, big time cool! He has done extremely well, reached his goals between 80-98% of the time, and seems to be happy. Yes, friends, Wolf is happy. Whoa. He's worked really hard, so Yukon and I are planning a trip at the end of April to see his smiling face and buy him a graduation present to satisfy his voracious reading appetite.

Any guesses?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

From the Wolf Den: School Days, School Days....They Will Go On a Bit Longer

I always seem to get phone calls from people related to Wolf's current educational cause who want me to drop everything I am doing, RIGHT NOW, and talk over the endless set of issues about getting this kid graduated from high school.

Today I wanted to scream. And cry. And almost did both, but only ended up doing one. Those of you who know me best will know.

After hours of calling, researching, and cleaning the bathrooms (I do chores when I'm on the phone; it keeps me focused. Usually, however, I fold laundry or empty the dishwasher. Today felt like toilets), Yukon and I decided that it would not be in Wolf's best interest to shuttle him to Alaska for a three-day intensive of test-taking, beginning (get this) April 2.

Reasons were many, and took me a bit of time to create a list for the cadre of interested parties:

1. The boy would have to fly back to Alaska alone, unless one of us flew down to get him. Expensive and stressful, no matter the mode of travel and directness of flight.

2. Wolf has not been to our home except for one short day last summer. He has not slept in our house since 2008. We haven't yet even approached the subject of appropriate behavior inside the family unit. I cannot imagine how that could jive with a stressed-out 18 year-old who is beyond nervous at taking a test.

3. We'd have to pay for Wolf to fly here, and return to Denver. Uh, wow. I didn't exactly budget for that this spring.

4. He's not ready. Emotionally, mostly. He can pass the test with flying colors (8th grade level of material, so I've been told), but emotionally? Goodness, we have a bunch of work to do, there.

Wolf has every chance of succeeding and receiving his diploma, and we'll help him get it. But not until the school district administers the exam again, in October. We advocated for this, since Wolf is not on the fast track to higher learning, just yet. What he is on is a wonderful path of self-assurance, independence, and social practices.

Way, way more important than a piece of paper handed out in May.

We're going to give him his own "family graduation" however, and it's gonna be great.

He's earned it.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Gimme Some Alaska

This week was long. Still recovering from whatever chest crud is moving among our friends and family, it was hard to motivate. I found myself cancelling things, shifting appointments around, and generally feeling as if I was working in a fog.

Then the Iditarod started.

It is hard not to get enthused by 66 teams of sled dogs, 12 dogs each, taking off for a race that will carry them almost 1,000 miles to Nome, Alaska.

After a two-year hiatus from the Last Great Race, I decided to jump back in and acquired my media credentials and dutifully attended the media briefing last Wednesday, coughing and hacking my way through an hour of Iditarod information. But it felt good.

Things felt even better yesterday as I layered myself with polypro, fleece, and GoreTex and headed for the Starting Line.

Gimme some Alaska and I'll be fine.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Book Progress, In Spite of It All

The Book marches forward, despite sickness, new dog, and an ever-inflating calendar of events and activities. We spent the weekend doing absolutely nothing in order to recharge our family batteries.
But I did manage to meet with my editor last night, and I feel more in order this morning.

Go check out the Book Blog, why don't you, and see why I love my editor.

Happy Monday.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

It's a Lazy, Crazy, Winter in Alaska

This is how we all feel, today. What a crazy, crazy week.

Riley was "fixed" yesterday, so he's spending the day relaxing in the luxury of his crate. Jasper is wildly excited to have his new companion home, so much so,  he spends quality time staring into Riley's crate, wagging his stubby tail.

I am homebound with a cold, but still intercepting phone calls from Mountain High Facility and the Anchorage School District to try and figure out a way (c'mon, people, this just shouldn't be so complicated) to graduate Wolf from high school.

Yukon is still playing catch up from our trip to Hawaii, but now has planned a business trip to Barrow next week (I think I'd rather go back to Hawaii) to meet with the tribal college.

Bear is anxious about spring, and seems to relish driving us nuts lately. His teacher says all first graders become wild animals in February. I will choose to cling to her wisdom, and hope "this too, shall pass."

Maybe I'd really, really like to be shut up in my own crate for the solitude such a position will afford.

Monday, February 20, 2012

We Needed Each Other

That's what I keep telling myself. But he's really, really cute, isn't he?
Meet Riley: Part dog, part squirrel, all personality.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

"...We've Got All the Strength We Need In the Shape of Us"

I'm following the journey of so many families in crisis over their children.  Some I have known intimately since childhood, some only recently.  All of them, however, involve children on one spectrum or another, suffer from one disability or another - and parents agonize about their futures, down on their very knees tonight, hoping and praying for life to look just a little bit different tomorrow.

Our children's disabilities have shaped not only they, personally, but everyone around them, and not entirely in a negative way. Please, please, understand this. What is most chaotic and sad about families like ours and yours and others who I cannot name, is also the most beautiful.

The shape of Us. Twisted, but smooth. Narrow, but strong. Complex, but clear.

"Hold my hand
  hold my heart
  let go your fears
  I will always be here."

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day: All We Need is Love (and Bacon)

As I stumbled around the kitchen this morning, waiting for my coffee to deliver its promised get-up-and-go, I noticed a pyramid on the counter. Centered around a lovely bouquet of irises were (in order of priority), a new jar of Nutella, a pound of bacon, and the latest Tony Bennet CD, "Duets."

My husband so gets me. I'm even more impressed some days that he stays with me.....

Happy Valentine's Day. All we need is love, and bacon.

Friday, February 10, 2012

It is Done, Should We Send Announcements? Update From the Wolf Den

As Yukon, Bear, and I were departing Nesbitt Courthouse in downtown Anchorage yesterday, a funny feeling of anticipation welled up inside my shaken mother-body. I'm not exactly sure how to explain it, but with the banging of the magistrate's gavel at 11:24 a.m., Yukon and I entered into a brand new world of parenting. A birth, of sorts.

Of course we're still Wolf's mom and step-dad; that sort of relationship will never change, as it will never change for any of us. Parents are parents no matter how old our kids grow to be. But this is different. Somebody is telling us, and him, we are in charge. Now, and for the duration of our lives.

We fill out a form for a birth certificate a day or so after our children are physically born to us, usually in the hospital. Yesterday's stack of forms felt the same, but attached was an overwhelming sense of relief (and anxiety) that Wolf has to rely on us for guidance in his near and far future (at least, for now).

Remember when you walked in the door with your newborn and just sort of stared at him or her, unsure of what exactly to do next? We feel that way today; carrying this new responsibility around with us the same as if it were a 7lb baby. It's crazy.

We're now (re) parents to a 6' 2", 167lb 18 year-old.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Guardian: An Update From the Wolf Den

The clock has tick-tocked its way from 1994 to 2012. According to the United States of America, that means Wolf is an adult. But we know he is not.

According to the Selective Service, he is required to register, as an adult. But, we know, he will never serve.

According to the University of Alaska Anchorage, and a wide range of other instutitions of higher learning, he is soon to be a college freshman. But we know, right now, he will not.

Tomorrow, we are hopeful that the Superior Court of the State of Alaska will agree, and grant Yukon and I guardianship of our adult (but not) son.

Hoops have been jumped through, volumes of reports have been written, conversations have occurred, and tears have ensued. The ramifications of what we are about to do are not lost on us; we understand that with one sweep of a pen, the presiding judge will, in effect, take away many of Wolf's independent, adult rights to choose his own life's direction, at least for now. He will be on the phone to hear this.

The appointed Court Visitor asked, during our initial phone conversation, why I wanted to pursue guardianship. With all due respect, I replied, I don't think any parent would "want" to take away the rights of their adult child, necessary or not.

I don't want to do this, I said. But after 18 years of trying to raise a disbled child, there is one thing I have learned:

It's not ever going to be about what I want.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Visiting Pearl Harbor was pretty special for us. From different military branches and for different reasons, both Yukon and I knew people who served, fought, and subesquently were able to share their experiences with family. An opportunity to walk on the same soil was, for Yukon in particular, sacred.

My great aunt was a nurse in Honolulu's Catholic hospital on December 7, 1941. A free spirited lady, born and raised in Montana but wanting to see the world (wonder where I got the wanderbug; look no further), she had married a native Hawaii'an and settled in the city. When the planes flew over and bombs began to fall, she busied herself with getting over to the bases and helping wherever she could, though not enlisted in the armed forces; not yet. After things settled down, she flew home to Montana, "borrowed" her younger sister's birth certificate (Aunt H was considered too old to enlist at the age of 30), and became an Army Lt., eventually becoming one of the first medical personnel to accompany Gen. Eisenhower into Dachau to liberate thousands of concentration camp prisoners. And all because of one day that, indeed, lived in infamy.

Yukon's father was a lowly navigator for the Submarine Service, and traveled in and out of Pearl Harbor frequently. He joined up the day of the attacks, and was sent to Pearl to help with the salvage of the many ships destroyed on December 7, before spending the majority of time encountering Japanese ships in the South Pacific, returning to Pearl for resupplying. We toured the USS Bowfin, a sub exactly like those Yukon's father sailed.

Then there was Bear. Like most kids, a historical site like the ones at the WWII Valor in the Pacific is full of things to see, touch, and soak up. With such deep military roots, Bear was anxious to know about submarines and wars and the people who fought them. Especially at the USS Arizona memorial, his understanding became clear as he peered below the stark, white monument to the oily depths below, where hundreds of souls still lay. He got it.

We spent the entire day at Pearl Harbor. For me, it was a chance to quietly honor those I know, and those I never did. We took a lot of photos, but in them no one is smiling. And that was how we felt it should be.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Winter Respite

We made it. No words today, just images.....and what lovely images they are.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

God Willing? Why Wouldn't God Be Willing? It's Hawaii!

Bear has been responding to everything lately with "Aloha!" Guess that makes him tri-lingual. Ha.
I'm up early on a day I didn't need to be up early, even though it's a Thursday, because the AK Fam is going away. Far away. Like, up, up, and away-way.

This is the day we've been waiting for - after two failed attempts to get this winter-weary, bone-sould-tired family to Hawaii, we're finally leaving this afternoon. God willing.

I say "God-willing" because yesterday it seemed as if God wasn't willing. Yukon had felt a bit punky after laying around all day Sunday due to a seriously obnoxious bout with a stomach flu. Sent him flat out on the bed, it did. As in, no movement for over 8 hours. See where I'm going with this?

He called me from his office around 9 a.m. and said "Something's not right." He called me again an hour later from the imaging center, then again from the hemotologist's office, where I had sent him due to said "not right" feelings.

Again. DVT again. Unbelievable, and almost, (forgive me friends), unforgiveable. Seriously? The day before the vacation of a lifetime? When I have no writing agenda other than a Hemingway-esque date with a Mai-Tai, umbrella chair, and my laptop? ARGH. But it was true.

Fortunately, Yukon knows his body by now, and knew when to question it. The clot is small, he's on a massive injectable to dissolve it, and now we have but one hurdle left before my blood pressure can safely return to normal.

The flight. We don't know about the flight. He's been medically cleared, has all the instructions, we're flying MVP so there's plenty of leg room, but we still don't know. It's gonna be risky.

But, God-willing, we'll get there, intact and in peace.

Friday, January 20, 2012

From the Wolf Den: Educating and Graduating, or Not

I've spent the day on my laptop, clickety-clacking away in the hope that someone in the Alaska educational field would be able to tell me how to graduate my kid.

Wolf has successfully (or, almost so) completed his credits for high school. A decided advantage to having a child in residential care is the commitment to year-round schooling, because these facilities (as opposed to mainstream school districts) know structure is master where education is involved. So, even though Wolf has had myriad false starts on many a school day, he nonetheless has gathered up enough credits at various residential institutions to, in theory, graduate. But there is one problem.

Alaska is a state with an "exit exam" that actually proves a student's aptitude. While I have many reservations about the whole program for a number of unrelated reasons, I also have several specific questions about how a child who has never attended an Alaskan high school could possibly be expected to take a test about which he knows nothing. Or, at least, not what other Alaska kids have been tutored to pass.

Wolf left the Anchorage School District in 8th grade; moved to a parochial school, he attended September through May, then moved down to CHYC in Utah; after which began the second tier of behavioral health madness.

Nobody seems to have an answer for me; Wolf continues to be the conundrum of education, just as he was for state behavioral health social workers.

Perhaps by the time he is 21 we shall have an answer.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

As if I Wasn't Busy Enough....

It's a tool. Or I'm slightly crazy. Maybe both.

At any rate, I have another blog. Alaska On the Go: From Blog To Book intends to follow my book-writing journey from inception to launch, and beyond. Hopefully, way, way beyond.

So check it out, see what, where, and how I'm writing. Enjoy the ride, it ought to be interesting.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Occupy Wolf

Today my oldest child turns 18. I, like so many other parents whose children are now considered by the world to be clinical adults, am greeting this day with joy and sorrow. Mostly joy, though.

I thought of the People -

People who have walked beside us these past 18 years, witnessing the arrival of this incredible kid and becoming immersed in his physical, spiritual, and emotional growth. You are the people who have put up with pushy playdates, biting, running off, and an inappropriate mouth. You are the angels who have picked up our son from the gritty soil and placed him gently in the arms of other angels. Some of you, I have never met in person. Thank you.

People who have been the cornerstones of "practicalities." Things like school, medical appointments, or insurance approvals. You have been the ones to say "yes" when everyone else said "no." The teacher who spent three afternoons a week personally tutoring Wolf, the counselor who cried when we relayed a story about the circumstances around his birth, the Alaska utilization reviewer who fought hard for Wolf's current arrangement. You believed me. You believed in him. Thank you.

People who have never met Wolf. Not once. But you car for our younger son when Yukon and I must travel far away; you go like mad to keep up with me when I just need to get outside and run the feelings of despondency away; you light candles, pray, contemplate, or simply sit in support of our family. You send me notes, texts, and wine. Thank you.

That's an Occupy with staying power.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Let the Photos Speak For Themselves...

The holidays came to a peaceful finish up north in Talkeetna, Alaska. The Alaska Railroad provided the transportation, the Talkeetna Roadhouse, lodging, and Mother Nature, the scenery. -26F did not deter our AK Fam from plunging determinedly into the frosty wilderness that is Alaska.

Just breathe it in, friends.