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.