Pomp and circuses

Today Doctor Doo-Be-Do ‘graduated’ from his first summer therapeutic camp for ADHD kids. He won the award for “The Funniest” child, and punctuated that when his name was called and he got to the stage with a flourish and a bow. He got his laugh. Good for him.

Did the six weeks make much of a dent in his attention issues?  Certainly not the 65% the counselors were tossing around before we signed up. But the experience was good for him, a chance for him to shine without either his brother or sister slowing him down or getting in his way. They played sports every day and concentrated on social skills, sharing, not whining and complaining, and giving lots of points if he was paying attention. Which wasn’t often.

The model was fascinating to me; basically each day involved classroom work as well as plenty of activities, during which campers earned points for knowing what was going on and lost points for complaining, not paying attention, arguing, acting out, etc. At the end of the weeks, several really great field trips were planned (destinations secret) for those who had earned enough points to go.

But having been there for some of the weekly parent meeting and seeing the madness that ensues when you add some 40 little people with ADHD issues all to the same location…. I have got to add a special “Hallelujah! and Amen!” to all the counselors and staff.

Little Miss went with me, and created a permanent record of the event, as I’d forgotten to bring the camera:

 

Now those happy faces say it all. 🙂

When passion doesn’t pay

Regular members of my readership club will note a drop-off in post frequency, and I apologize for that. I have been distracted by…dare I say it?

Life.

As if Little Miss and her PMS isn’t enough, we have been wrestling with the Captain’s behavior, which looks like it will now be handled by partial hospitalization over the summer, with strict attention to behavioral issues. Dr. Do-Be-Do has also begun exhibiting angry outbursts and lackadaisical behavior toward assignments and teachers that is very unlike him and somewhat frustrating; these, hopefully, will be the subject of work at his therapeutic camp for which I’ve finally completed the intake. 

Add to this an overhaul of four rooms of our house, including a complete ceiling replacement in the 30 foot by 20 foot kitchen and the bathroom flooring, the decor switching from warm-colored Moroccan grotto to stark cream and cherrywood Victorian/steampunk. With a hint of Firefly, as we add some Chinese touches, including a fabulous Chinese cabinet I drove to Asheville to retrieve this weekend, with Little Miss as my co-pilot.

My secretary has essentially vanished into her other job; I’ve seriously got to consider replacing her, but the thought process has been too painful. I’ve muddled through on my own, and the Cabana Boy, bless him, has put me on the volunteer list to take interns from his business school, at least to tide me over.

My passion has been with none of these things. My passion has been in The Elf Queen  and her forthcoming series of novels and their promotion and writing. My passion has been in the month-long spree of daily contact with writers and editors that was CoyoteCon. My passion has been in associating with an editor at a romance press who loves my work, though I haven’t sent her anything that exactly fits her line–she’s now assigned me a novel to write for a special series, and I’m fleshing out a story for that.

My passion has found me five editors in the last thirty days who have requested to see full manuscripts of mine, and are reviewing them as we speak.

My checkbook, however, is reminding me that somewhere along the line, all of these things are extraneous to the business of paying for our lives. So the stack of bills here must be attended to.

With any luck, we’ll be back to passion soon. Stay tuned…

Tourney for the Journey!

Every year as the excitement for the NCAA basketball wars heats up, so too, does the push for fun and funding at Sierra Nevada Journeys, an environmental camp near Lake Tahoe.

My daughter B is currently Director of Community Partnerships at SNJ, having moved up through many different capacities over the years. She says, “It’s amazing to see how successful Sierra Nevada Journeys has been in such a short period of time. We attribute that success to SNJ’s ability to really address community need and meet our partners where they are.”

Clearly SNJ’s growth shows that it is a worthwhile cause, and here’s your chance to get in on the action.

For a mere few minutes of your time, you can choose your teams, just like at the office pool,  and have the chance to win fabulous prizes!

1st place will receive a travel adventure package including a $200 Southwest Airlines gift card, and a 2010 National Parks Pass
2nd place will receive a $75 REI gift card, to help fulfill athletic and outdoor aspirations
3rd place will receive a Reno themed box, including Atlantis Casino playing cards and dice, and items from Reno eNVy.

But when you donate to SNJ, this will be the real prize, because as little as $25 provides an hour of experiential classroom learning for two students. $100 could sponsor one student’s six-hour journey to understanding what a watershed is and why it’s important, and $250 could support an entire classroom of students engaging in a hands-on energy or earth science lesson. These lessons will stick with these young members of our next generation for years to come.

You don’t even have to know about basketball to win! In fact, the Cabana Boy and I came in dead last two years ago, knowing absolutely NOTHING about B-ball except how to spell it, and we won a prize for last place. This year the last place prize is a 2010 Tourney for the Journey Snuggie to keep you warm and snug after cold, hard defeat.

B’s work on the program emphasizes the effort every person on staff puts out: “Before we do anything, we ask, is this in the best interest of our students? If the answer is yes, we find a way to make it happen.”

But to do that, they need our help, too.

If you don’t want to donate cash, you may choose an item off their current wish list:

  • 30 Solar Panel Kits
  • Binoculars
  • 5 Whisperlite Stoves
  • Bus

How could you not take a chance? Support the future of a healthy environment  and a concrete gift to the youth of our country today.

(To see some photos of the camp and surrounding area, see our trip from the summer here.

If you sign up, post a comment here so I can help SNJ keep track of success rates –thanks!!)

Wildlife conservation

Our California mini-visit was so special I’ll be adding a page above, probably after we get home later this week. But this couple of days has been on environmental education, as we’ve come to the Lake Tahoe/Reno area to see B.

We finally get a tour of the camp where Sierra Nevada Journeys provides its excellent programming, and the area is breathtaking:

above the camp

above the camp

We took the tour and learned about how hundreds of California and Nevada children each year experience the learning that will take them into the next century. It’s clear B is heart and soul attached to this program:

B takes us on the grand tour

B takes us on the grand tour

And her boss and co-workers make it clear they agree. It is wonderful to see her so well- appreciated…

We also see the Biggest Little City in the World:

The new arch into the city

The new arch into the city

We have several delicious meals and then all too soon it’s time to head east again! B and her friend C have agreed to drive with us, for which I am more grateful that I can express. I’m all about being independent, but it takes a lot out of you to travel as a single mom!

We came across the Great Salt Flats:

The salt flat drying area

The salt flat drying area

And in Salt Lake City, the Mormon Temple the day before the city is to be invaded by the General Assembly of Unitarian Universalists…

The Mormon Temple, Salt Lake City

The Mormon Temple, Salt Lake City

Finally, we went to ground for the night but not before one last moment of drama, as B managed to avoid hitting a full grown moose in the middle of I-15. It was a thing of beauty. And so is she.

That headache time of year

No, I don’t mean allergy season, though that certainly would apply. I mean summer, and its attendant crisis-level situations about what to do when you have two working parents, special needs children, and services to arrange around family demands.

We’re all busy. Even without the challenges I know a lot of you parents have of getting kids back and forth to sporting practices and events, we have been run pretty ragged by the schedule of services we’ve received in years passed. (Sports are right out. For a number of reasons.)

The first year of our diagnosis we had to deal with TSS and social groups for two of the children, all provided by workers who didn’t drive. So we rushed here and there.

For several years thereafter, we had summer camp 35 miles away for the two kids with autism, and made the trip twice a day.

Ditto Boy was jealous the others had a special camp, of course, so he was signed up at the Y, so he had plenty of activities.

In addition to the weekday events, of course, we had to find time to have time away as a family, and also time to visit grandparents in South Carolina, so we had some respite. For the majority of the year, there is no respite, and with the way the Captain has been carrying on this spring, it’s hard to find anyone willing to take him, even for a short time.  So at 13, when he should theoretically be able to watch the others for an evening so we can go out, he’s the one of the three that needs a babysitter the most.

We found a relative who will keep the Captain for a month, but can’t do any transportation for the visit. So it looks like I’ll be driving to Montana and back (no way I could put that boy on an airplane alone!!) to drop him off, and hopefully a friend will be flying this direction at the end of the month and accompany him.  Two weeks out of my schedule just for 30 days of peace.

Trying to work around grandparents’ schedules is hard too. The schools are on different calendars; they start in early August, while we don’t go till September.  And with their need for continuing ed and so on, we are limited to a very small window–actually exactly the time that I had planned to drive the boy out.   Which would mean not only would the children miss out on a vacation across the US, but there would be no respite. But it at least frees up Little Miss for her ESY program.

So we regroup and regroup and regroup. And reach for the Excedrin.

Life as a sum total

I don’t believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive.      — Joseph Campbell

I had a revelation the other day; one of those moments of clarity when something about life just falls into place. I discovered what’s important to me in terms of determining value: experiences.

Many clients come to me at a time while dividing their assets, and it’s surprising what they value. When I worked doing restraining orders in the next county over, I routinely could get men accused of abuse to waive visitation with their children as long as they didn’t have to turn in their guns to the sheriff. I’ve heard of cases where women gave up custody of their children for a car. Some litigants want to keep the family home; others want to keep the six-figure retirement account. Some just want the dog.

While many people are worried about the accumulation of money, driving the bigger car, buying up real estate, those things aren’t important in our lives. We have a modest house, and we need our two cars, because we work in different cities with very little access to public transportation. But none of these are flashy in the least, or foreign, or new–or even red.

What we do have are experiences. We’ve been to Disney multiple times, to Niagara Falls, to Mammoth and Wind Caves, to museums and parks and zoos, local and cross-country. I took two girls to New Orleans for Mardi Gras several years before Katrina; we stayed with old friends of mine in the Garden District and had a wonderful time. (Even when the cop pulled up and offered my high-school age daughter edible underwear. Don’t ask me.) We’ve petted sharks, we’ve shaken presidential candidates’ hands, we’ve seen the world’s biggest thermometer. We watched our cat birth her kittens on my great-grandmother’s hand-pieced quilt. We’ve marveled at the magic of fireflies caught in jars. We’ve eaten and cooked in every ethnic cuisine I can think of, with exotic ingredients of all flavors.

I’ve written here before about our other wild experiences, like the trip cross-country for the book tour that wasn’t, or the shootout in the fruit grove. Each of these, as with so many others, always brings the comment,  “Do you remember when-?” and then a reconnection to times past, and sometimes people past as well. Valuing experiences allows me to also value what I’ve chosen to leave behind, including two ex-husbands, jobs I once loved, placed I’ve lived. I can treasure moments that were good about them, without having to draw in the whole relationship.

But it doesn’t have to be anything earth-shattering. We remember the indoor water gun fight between five or six teenagers and myself that ended with me hiding in the tub behind the shower curtain trying to avoid being drowned. Whether we’re sitting around a campfire in the woods, stretching our legs with a fast and furious Frisbee game during a road trip, or sharing a cup of hot chocolate and telling endless knock-knock jokes, we build bonds that help draw us together and give us something to remember.

The same value system transfers to those we meet. I don’t care what brand name of clothing people wear (though I must admit, $300,000 for an outfit seems like something out of a crazy fantasy world), what neighborhood they live in, whether they’re a waitress or a doctor. If someone has been somewhere I haven’t been, or done something I’ve never done, and can make their experience come alive by sharing the story, they’re someone special in my eyes. Sometimes an experience is evidenced simply by a warm shared gaze between a couple, or a parent and child; the bond reveals itself. Through a very poignant kind of mathematics, that experience adds to the rest that make that person what he or she is.

Though it’s harder to find new ones as I get older, I’ll keep accumulating events and experiences until the last day, and if my belief holds true, I’ll have more chances to gather experiences even past that. But Campbell addresses this as well:

“Eternity has nothing to do with the hereafter… This is it… If you don’t get it here, you won’t get it anywhere. The experience of eternity right here and now is the function of life. Heaven is not the place to have the experience; here’s the place to have the experience.

What’s holding you back? Experiences are waiting. Go find them–and pass them on.

Don’t know about global, but it’s sure warming!

I’ve been melting this week, in an unusually early bout of summer heat, and I keep thinking about a Twilight Zone episode called “The Midnight Sun” about a woman, played by Lois Nettleton. As the eppy starts out, Lois and her neighbors are dealing with the extreme heat of the Earth pulling closer to the sun. (Of course, in usual TZ fashion, that’s not how it ends, but that’s a spoiler for another day.)

But the sweaty, hopeless, languid feeling is very reminiscent of how we drag from room to room here. This old house, a centarian-plus, was built back in the day when they understood cross- ventilation, and so for the most part, we survive without air conditioning. Perhaps six days a summer, we’d really love it–but it hardly seems worth the expense for six days. We muddle by with multiple fans and strategic curtain and window closing, and try not to complain too much, because the winter is much worse.

I lived in South Florida for over 10 years, where it was monsoon season from the end of April till Halloween, hot and wet and windy. It rained sometime every day. But the rain cooled things off, just a little, and there was always a sea breeze. Besides, when you live south of the Mason-Dixon line, AC is a staple. It’s built-in most places. So residents spend their days rushing from one cool place to another.

More often these days, my mind rolls to a scene like that TZ, the post-apocalyptic. I’m not sure why, really; whether it’s because I’m getting older, or just coming to a much more cynical place in my life as I watch the state of world politics and economies. What if the world was moving toward the sun, and we lost our cushy place? What if The Other Side (pick your flavor) wiped out our electric and other utilities and we had to live by our wits? What if the zombieverse came to life, as envisioned by my fellow Firefox writer Melissa Wilson?

Or more realistically, what if we didn’t live here? We’re all pretty vocal about our entitlements in the gold old U.S. of A. Air conditioning is on the list. IPod, Blackberry, fax, cell phone, microwaves? Heck, yeah. Gimme more, faster, better.

Gas at $4 a gallon? No way! Even though in other countries they’ve been paying that for years. In yet other countries, the majority of the people can’t even get gas. They don’t have cars, much less delicious SUVs with all the trimmings. They have rice. Sometimes enough to feed the whole family for a week. Sometimes not.

My children are lucky enough to receive therapy this summer at a camp where they will have one on one therapy 30 hours per week, showing them how to better interact with neurotypical peers and learn to deal with their own issues. The medical card they have because of their condition will cover the cost of this therapy. Where else could this happen? What will we do after the apocalypse?

Like my friend says of her child with an eating disorder, in other circumstances, our children might not survive.

So while I stock up on canned goods and debate the necessity for personal weapons, I remind myself to bitch less about the heat and be grateful for the gifts we have.