Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mother's Day

It started last Thursday, when I noticed a terrible mess on our porch.  Were the kids having a grass fight or something?

No, a robin was building a nest.  This is the top of the green pole you see in the middle of the "mess" in the first picture.

By Friday afternoon, the nest had grown.

And then, by Saturday, it looked like a real nest.

Today, when we got home from church, she was sitting on it.

Totally brooding.

We've been watching her almost non-stop today.  From a chair in the hallway with binoculars;

... peeking out our front window.  We are SO WORRIED that we are going to disturb her!  Every time I've looked out and she's not there, I'm afraid that we've scared her off.

But during one absence, I stuck my camera out the door and got a photo.

Hooray for mothers!  Apparently, robins only lay one egg a day until their clutch is done (we've been doing a lot of research).  And it's normal for the momma bird to fly away from the nest until all of the eggs are laid.  So this is her first day!  There will be more eggs, and we are pretty excited.

For the time being, our front porch is *closed*.

Momma guard bird is on duty.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Tsunamis and Car Wrecks

I saw this 26-minute video of the storm surge in Japan after the 2011 Tsunami, and this is a fitting week to share.  The guy shooting the video must have been pretty far inland, because the water came up over the course of four or five minutes.  I got anxious about how long the videographer waited to get to higher ground.  But he does get to higher ground!

The next one is unrelated, but I couldn't stop watching; a traffic accident in Russia.  A truck full of explosive gas tanks catches on fire.

Tanks explode, one at a time, for seven minutes.

The best part is how close people were at first.  How the cars kept going by on the other side of the road.  Then a few tanks blow, and *everyone* stays away, backs up.  Even the videographer.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Max Fire Update.

The house Max has been staying in caught fire today in one of the second story bedrooms.

It's that front room, with the multiple windows and the blue shutters.  Max was staying in a bedroom on the opposite side of the house, in the back.  Everyone is safe, but the house has a lot of smoke and water damage.  All of the upstairs windows are broken out from the fire response.

It's hard to see the damage from across the street.  The fire response had that side of the highway closed for hours.

This is from inside. There was a lot of damage to the attic.

Looking through a doorway into the room where the fire started.  That metal frame is from a bunk bed.  The charred wood on the ground is the door that had been between the two rooms.

We're glad everyone got out OK.  Life is fragile.

For now, Max is staying with us.  Washing his clothes, looking for somewhere he can stay while waiting for a space to become available for him in the residence program he applied to last week.  We are tired, but still able to have gratitude.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Most Comfortable Baseball Game Ever

Over the years, my folks have shared many tickets to Aberdeen Ironbirds's games with us. We'll often go to the parking lot on nights they launch fireworks, even if we aren't watching games.

In the past, we've had great tickets, down by the visiting team dugout. Really, there are no bad tickets in the stadium, the design makes everything feel super close to the action and very intimate. But last summer, Grandpa scored some skybox tickets he shared with us after Stewart returned from his mission. Wow, the privileged class is privileged!

Jennilyn is practicing making the sailor's knot bracelets she gave to our pioneer trek kids.  See those comfy chairs?  And the glass?  We were air conditioned, baby.

Sam was waiting for me to stop shooting flash photography so he could go back to exploring the nap-taking potential of the huge sofas.

Stewart, looking very chill a few weeks after returning home from Montana.

We had fun.  Thanks Grandpa!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Max Update (Complexity that Engulfs)

I have been trying to talk about Max for months.  For years now.  I've wanted to share an update, and tell people what is happening.  So they'd know.  I've wanted to talk about how it feels so I can deal with it.  It has gotten in the way of nearly everything else I want to say.

Did you know I have over a dozen blog posts started, which I cannot figure out how to finish?  Seriously, when I open up the blogger dashboard, I have an entire screen of Draft.

What happens is I sit down and start to write, or I upload a couple of photos I like, and Max drifts into my mind, like a fog that obscures the details of a landscape.  This huge thing that's invisible when you look at it up close, but when you try to see through it, everything else turns gray and disappears.  I can't will it away, my vision is clouded. I write a little something, furtively trying to clear the fog from my mind, become lost in the complexity of my life, and give up, thinking I'll try again later.

There is a computer game series called "Civilization" that is popular.  There is an organization called "Humble Bundle" that puts together collections of computer games and sells them to raise money for charity.  It's a niche audience, but they've raised some ridiculous amount of money.  Seriously, over the years they've been selling bundles of games, they've collected, like MILLIONS of dollars.

My kids all know that I think it's silly to spend money on something new when you still have something old that works.  This is like triple-true for video games.  But the Humble Bundles always put these cute videos together marketing the collected games that are fun to watch.  So I went and watched this one, even though I know I'm not going to buy a new game.

And I wept.  As soon as the video started, I saw the little bug in the lower right-hand corner indicating that the music would be "Baba Yetu", a piece of music from the Civilization IV soundtrack.  It's a Swahili translation of The Lord's Prayer.  It's also a song that Max used to sing with the Maryland State Boychoir.  I cannot hear it without seeing his performance of it in my mind  The transporting smile on his face of concentration and joy as he sings so beautifully.  How I miss that.

That very thing is what happens over and over.  I know we should not be defined by the trials in our lives, especially not by the trials happening to someone else.  It has been such a hateful, heartbreaking, horrific experience with Max, that has no end in sight.  It it is SO hard not to get lost in the discursive thoughts about him and what is going on with him.

But crying about it seems to make it easier to write about it. Max is currently in rehab.  A locked-door, no contact with the world rehab.  He'll be there until February 19th.  After that, his living arrangements are hazy.  He might end up in a half-way house waiting for a bed to open at a residence facility that can treat him.

He's been diagnosed as bi-polar with psychotic features, specifically delusions.  He's also a drug addict.  The two things feed each other.  His delusions are rooted in a belief that when he is high, he has experiences with higher planes of existence.  Beings of great, god-like power.  Insights that relate to the future and our place in the universe.  He knows we disagree, he knows that his caretakers disagree, but that's the grave power of a real delusion; to the person experiencing it, it is very real.

A key feature of most addiction treatment programs is the 12-step sobriety plan, which holds as a central figure of its process that the addict needs to focus on a higher power to give the addict strength to control the addiction.  Can you see the dysfunctional feedback loop here?  Max thinks his most intense and visceral experiences with any "higher power" have occurred while he was high.

I think it's important to emphasize that 12-step programs are not necessarily religious.  They certainly can be, they're set up so a participant's religion fills the role of the "higher power" required.  But it doesn't require the participant to have a religion, or even to believe in God.  It requires the participant to have a commitment to something greater than themselves.  It can be the concept of family, or friendships, or it can be patriotism.  Something that connects the addict to an elevating community.

And I worry that Max has so effectively cut himself off from all the available community.  Before Thanksgiving last year, he was admitted to a residence facility that specializes in dual diagnosis treatment.  Max's problem is that when he uses drugs, it's not necessarily because he's relapsing as a drug-user, but rather that's he's symptomatic of his bi-polar delusions.  So when he repeatedly relapsed, he was terminated from the program.

Our kids are born to us, and we are so desperate for them to live, to be happy, to thrive, succeed.  The night Max was terminated from his residence program Maryland experienced record-breaking cold.  A county welfare agency put him up in a hotel with hundreds of other homeless people to get them out of the elements as part of a public health emergency.  We scrambled to find him a rehab that would take his insurance, and my Dad secured placement for Max (via a generous grant) at the rehab he's at now.

My desire for Max is that he live.  I also want him to be happy and functional.  I want him to come back.  I want someone to tell me the ways he is still valuable.  I want to enjoy his company, I want to be proud of him.  But these days, often my every parental instinct is honed to a sharp-edged urgency; I just want him to not die.

I want people to know what is happening.  In case they want to help, or to accurately pray for Max.  I don't want to make Max feel like I am shaming him.  I think Max wouldn't mind honest sharing of what is going on.

Almost two years ago, I posted about Max, and wondered, "Who knew we had a such a capacity to grieve and continue living?"  We continue to live.  We will continue to love.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Many Trips to the Temple Last Year

We go to the DC temple at least once a month all year long.  Jenni's better about putting up photos as soon as we get back.  When we go and she doesn't have her phone, I take the photo.  And here they are, from all year long!

March, 2013.  I can't believe it was this warm in March!

April.  Flowers are already blooming.

It's kind of a thing with me, I love taking pictures of us smooching.

May, and Stewart is home!

I don't think Jenni was intending to emphasize that I needed to lose a few pound, but it makes me laugh.

October. I need to shave. But it's interesting when the temple gets the focus of the photo, rather than our faces.

We went twice in December.  Once with the youth, it was Roxie Jane's first time to the temple for baptisms.

Then again with our family home visiting from Utah. We look forward to a future when we can go with more of our kids!

And maybe by then we'll have a camera with a better flash and night photo capability than my wheezing old camera phone...