My Call to Action

It has been almost 2 weeks since we took our son to self-surrender for his probation violation at Yavapai County Jail, in Camp Verde and almost a week since his court hearing. And it has been an emotional time.

I was proud of my son for doing the right thing when he self-surrendered and I thought that doing the right thing would matter…….little did I know that doing the right thing would be the beginning of a nightmare for all of us.

We left the jail and had no idea what would be happening to our son or when we might be able to pick him up. That was hard. But even harder was the call I received later that night from my son, from the infirmary…..

He told me that despite having his prescriptions with him, the contracted medical staff told him he would NOT receive any medication while there in the Yavapai County Jail and would just have to withdraw. I could hear the fear in his voice. I felt the fear rising rapidly through my body……..

My son is on Methadone and the withdrawals are horrible, but that knowledge did not stop my breath…..it was knowing that he would not receive his Klonipin, the medication for his anxiety, a medication prescribed by a psychiatrist and one he has been taking for 13+ years…….a medication that when stopped suddenly can cause life threatening seizures. And we know all too well about those seizures, caused when doctors, who did not understand the dangers, would stop his medication.

So when he told me that the medical staff was refusing to give him his medication, I was in fear for my son’s life. How could that be legal? Surely this was not right? Other times that he had been in jail, he had received all of his meds……why was this different?

And then I remembered what had happened last fall and that this was the SAME jail where the nurse refused to give him his medication, even after the police had told her he needed them. And a few hours after his release, he had a seizure, prompting a 911 call and an ambulance to take him to the hospital.

Now, I was really scared and my anger began to grow. I knew I needed to do something and I needed to be at the court the next morning for my son’s initial appearance, to stand up for my son and make sure the judge had all the information needed to make an informed decision about my son.

I drove north early in the morning and more than 2 hours after I left home, I arrived at the courthouse. I checked with the information desk to find out which courtroom my son would be seen in and then I was informed he would not be seen at that courthouse because the judge for his case was not on the docket that day. Instead they were seeing him at the courthouse next to the jail. Crap! That was another hour away, I would NEVER make it in time. The clerk took mercy on me and gave me a number to call at the other court in order to find out information about my son and to get information to the judge.

I called. I talked to the clerk. She told me to call back after 9am to find out what the bond was set at. I told her about the medication situation and the dangers. She told me the judge couldn’t do anything about that as it was under the jails control to make that decision.

I should have known right then that there would be NO help, NO concern, NO caring.

I called after 9am. My son was seen and the judge set his bond at $25,000. It didn’t matter that my son was clean at this point. It didn’t matter that my son was to start treatment that afternoon. It didn’t matter that my son had never missed a court date. It didn’t matter that my son was being denied medication that was necessary for his physical and mental wellbeing. It didn’t matter that my son did the right thing…….it didn’t matter.

I immediately called the Yavapai County Public Defender’s office and I got the same response as last time—they can only talk to my son. But she took my name and number after I told her about the medication situation and my fear that my son would end up being taken to the emergency room or worse, lose his life. She said someone would call me.

And someone did. She listened to my concerns. She told me that the jail makes the decisions about medication based on their assessments. She said she would look into it.

I spent hours talking in person and on the phone with many people. And no one cared.

I started the process to see what we could do to get my son out on bond, could we use the house for collateral, because now it was my son’s life that was at stake. And I called attorneys that I could hire to see what it would cost and what they could do.

And then I drove more than 2 hours home. It was one of the longest, loneliest, saddest drives.

Later that night we heard back from a lawyer and decided to hire him. What was happening was beyond legal and was inhumane…..and we didn’t know the whole story yet.

I talked with my son many times that day, each call worse than the previous. He was suffering. I made sure he knew I was doing all that I could for him, that I was fighting to get him his meds or get him out of there. I was not going to stop fighting. I told him I didn’t know if we could get him out. And he understood. He took it all so well and his attitude stayed hopeful and positive. But he was suffering.

It was breaking my heart.

And then the public defender called me again. She told me that she had typed up a letter for the nurse at the jail and would go see my son in the morning to get him his meds.

I was hopeful. But in the conversation I could hear that she did not really understand what was going on or the dangers.

The next morning when my son called, he was worse….unable to keep food down now. I knew this preceded the seizures and was more worried. And I started making calls again.

Finally, we were able to find a bonds agency to bond our son out. And we headed out for the 3-hour drive. When my son called we told him we were on our way, but it would be a few hours. We arrived in the town where the jail was and waited to get him out. He called shortly after we arrived in town.

And that was when he told us he had had a seizure.

My heart stopped. I held my breath. I told him to hang in there, we are getting him out.

A couple of hours later we saw him walk out of the jail. Relief. He was alive. I immediately gave him his medication. And he hugged me….tight.

On the drive home he told us what had happened in the Yavapai County Jail, Camp Verde infirmary. After my son’s seizure, when he was aware of his surroundings again, the other inmates told him that as soon as his seizure started, they banged on the windows to get the guards. They told him the guards came rushing in, asking what they should do. And the nurse looked at the guards and told them to do nothing, that my son was okay.

WHAT?? I was livid. How could anyone, especially a medical professional, behave in such a manner and with such disregard for another human?

And then he told me the rest of what was happening….how NONE of the inmates in the infirmary were receiving their prescribed medications from the contracted health company. Not the individual who was on high blood pressure meds, he was just told to lie down and drink water. Not the man who had been laying in a bed in the infirmary who suffers from severe neuropathy and was denied his non-narcotic and narcotic pain medications….this man could not walk because of his pain. NO ONE was given medication in this jail.

I am appalled that this is allowed to happen, that no one has stopped this. And I am taking action.

The medical staff and the contracted health agency for the Yavapai County Jail, did not count on my son having a family who cared about him and about others. My heart breaks for those who are still there and I worry that someone will lose their life in that infirmary.

I am taking action, through my letters to local, state and federal politicians, my letters and calls to organizations who help and advocate for the mentally ill and addicted, and through my calls to the ACLU. I will not stop until those held in that jail are treated humanely.

My son is still working through the justice system in Yavapai County and in ours. He had his hearing this past week and when his lawyer told us that the prosecution wants him to spend a week to two weeks back in that jail, my heart stopped…..I couldn’t breathe. And I told the lawyer that my son would not survive that. So, he listened and heard us and decided we needed some more time and had the hearing delayed until next month.

A month in which my son will have more time in treatment. A month in which my son will have more clean drug tests. And a month in which we can breathe just a little.

And a month that I can spend working on behalf of those still suffering in that jail, at the hands of the contracted medical staff.

This is my call to action.

Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera

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It has been awhile since my son and I have done something together, just for fun. This past year’s struggles have not allowed us the time, energy or frankly the desire to do something fun, together.

We are still dealing with the remnants of the addiction storm and still picking up the pieces. But amidst the healing and rebuilding and the many other things we need to do, we found some time to spend together, doing something we both enjoy.

Yesterday, after a quick trip to the courthouse for some paperwork, we decided to stop at the Heard Museum. I love visiting museums of all kinds and thankfully, both of my boys do too.

The museum was not far from the court so we stopped to enjoy some culture. I enjoy the Heard Museum, exploring the Native American history, culture and art. So when I saw that the museum was hosting a special exhibit showcasing the art of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, I knew I wanted to go.

Little did I know, that my son was a fan of one of the artists, so he was excited to go and see this exhibit.  This exhibit became an opportunity for us to bond and find some healing.

We spent a few hours enjoying the artwork of Frida and Diego, and the other exhibits inside the museum.

We shared our thoughts about the artwork around us.

We talked.

We laughed.

We had fun.

A much needed day of enjoyment, that was long overdue. A day that gives me hope that things will get better, that we can rebuild and heal.

A few hours spent with my son, where I could breathe!

Family

We are born into a family, related to them by virtue of birth.

And some of us, me for instance, are adopted into a family, related not by blood but by love, chosen to be a family. My mother often reminded me that she CHOSE me.

We have family that we marry into and family we gain when our children marry.

We have family born of old friendships from our years growing up.

Families come in ALL forms…….Thankfully!

And then there is the family that is related by a common bond, born out of a shared nomadic life—a life in the military.

My husband served 30 years in the Air Force and we moved A LOT. Everywhere we moved to was new, foreign and a little scary for this shy girl.

Our first move away from home was the hardest for me. We were moving many states away and it would be the first time I moved out of the northwest……away from my sister, my in-laws and my friends. It would just the three of us—my husband, our three-year-old son and myself…..alone. I was nervous and scared. I was shy and making friends had been hard for me every time I moved as a child. And now we were moving to a state in the northern tier, in winter.

I didn’t know how I was going to survive the cold and snow, let alone survive without my support system.

Despite the long months of snow covered ground and roads, and despite the isolation in a time when we did not have internet or cell phones to stay in touch with long distance friends and family, I thrived in our new home.

I made friends.

And I learned during that first assignment away from home that the Air Force was a family. We were all related through this common bond of service. My support system grew and the bonds of those friendships grew stronger every day, lasting all these many years later.

Each time we moved, our family grew. We were so very blessed to be given this family and to be there to support each other through moves, deployments, long hours, births of children, deaths in families and so much more….through everything–the good, the bad and the difficult–our Air Force family was there and I could always count on them. We celebrated together, we spent holidays together, we laughed and cried together and we took trips together. This was a family I did not originally choose, but am so very grateful for, Every. Single. Day! My Air Force family made the good days better and made the struggles survivable.

My husband retired from the Air Force a couple of years ago and we are no longer moving around the country. But that does not change the family we have in the Air Force. We are blessed to still count all those friends we made through our military life as our family. And no matter where we go, we have family to visit—around the country and the world.

It is a blessing to us when we get to visit with our military family—to catch up with their lives and laugh with them again. When we see them, we pick right up where we were the last time we were together, no matter how long it has been.

Over the past couple of months, we have had the opportunity to visit with those family members while we were traveling…..such a blessing to have so many to visit wherever we go.

And we have been visited by family as well, while they were traveling through……just last weekend we got to spend a few hours with friends, family really, who were in the area for a short visit.

Families come in all forms—through birth, adoption, marriage and shared bonds.

I am truly blessed to have such a large family, in ALL forms!

Anchors

When thinking about Anchors, one usually conjures up images of anchors used by ships and boats to keep them from drifting in the current of the river, sea, bay, etc. Those anchors keep them from moving……forward, sideways or backwards. I grew up with a dad who loved boating. We would take his boat out in the summers for days, sometimes weeks, exploring the Washington and Canadian islands. And we used the anchor to keep us in place in quiet inlets, near isolated islands that we would row our dingy too so we could explore them. The anchor kept us from drifting and kept us safely in protected areas…..safe from rough open waters, and safe from getting lost at sea while sleeping the night away.

Yes, anchors were necessary.

And anchors in our personal lives are just as necessary.

I spent this past week leading my Weight Watchers members in discussions about our “whys” and about anchors.

An anchor is something that grounds us to our “why”, our motivation. An anchor is a reminder of where we want to go, how far we have come, the things we have accomplished and what is important to us. An anchor can be a strong motivator.

Anchors come in many forms…..Things we can see, touch, feel, smell…..Things that we say to ourselves…..The people in our lives……Things we visualize in our minds. These anchors are important in reminding us just how much we CAN do, HAVE done and what we WILL do.

I shared in my meetings some of the anchors that I used on my journey to reach my goal weight and some anchors I still use to keep me from going back to where I started, going back to my before….something that I could easily do if I did not have the tools, skills, motivation and anchors that keep me grounded to, or anchored to, why I started this journey, what I have learned and where I want to be in the future.

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During my weight loss journey, my anchors kept me moving forward, especially after I discovered the POWER that an anchor has in keeping me motivated. My first REAL anchor on this journey with Weight Watchers was given to me by my leader—a popsicle stick to remind me to “Stick to it”. THAT popsicle stick was instrumental in leading me to my “aha” moment…the moment that changed the course of my journey….when I realized that I didn’t think I was worth the effort. And that realization led to another anchor—a phrase said every morning while looking in the mirror….”I am Worth It”. Both of those anchors play a role in my life today.

Other anchors came into play throughout my journey to my goal weight—my Weight Watcher “bling”—kept where I can see it and bling that I continue to add to today as I continue attending meetings as a member, a reminder of how far I have come. And my before picture…..a POWERFUL reminder of just how far I have come, physically and mentally. After reaching my goal, a special necklace given to me by my husband many years earlier, became a strong, emotional anchor….I had never been able to wear the necklace….I was far too big…….and then I put it on. It FIT. It was perfect! I cried……tears of joy, pride and tears for the girl who had been so lost before. This necklace still inspires me and motivates me.

I have anchors that remind this once exercise phobic girl, that I CAN accomplish an activity goal—my 5K medal from my first Disney World 5k race, a strong reminder of the HUGE sense of accomplishment and the incredible PRIDE in doing so. And a Half-Marathon medal that I have not yet earned, that is kept safely set aside as a reminder of the commitment I made to my family and to myself and that I WILL accomplish this goal and EARN this medal when I am healthy enough to do so.

And this week as I talked, listened to the members and reflected on my motivation and anchors, I realized just how important it was for me to continue to set goals, to challenge myself and to remember why I started this journey in the first place. Sometimes we forget why. Sometimes we lose our motivation. Sometimes we think that since we have reached our goal we are done…..but we are not. This is a lifelong journey and one that needs anchors.

I also found this week while contemplating and getting back in touch with my anchors that mine are not just about my journey with Weight Watchers. I have powerful anchors that remind me of what is important in my life, that remind me joy can be found even in the darkest moments….something that keeps me going and keeps me finding the pleasures in this life. Anchors that remind me that I have the strength to get through anything thrown at me……even when I doubt. And anchors that remind me how important my family, my friends and my faith are in sustaining me and bringing me joy.

A bracelet I wear often to remind me of my faith and family…….two bracelets too remind me to never give up and that anything is possible…..necklaces that remind me of hope and that I am worth it……t-shirts with positive, uplifting phrases, bought to inspire my exercise and worn to inspire my day and remind me just how strong I am…..a framed phrase on the wall to reminds me to trust my faith and to hold onto God’s hand when I am feeling weak…..a stone etched with my favorite bible verse reminding me that I CAN do anything, as long as I do it with God by my side…..Instagram photos taken by a dear friend and given to me, remind me of the beauty in the world around me and remind me to appreciate what is here, in this moment right now. There is always something beautiful!……..photos of my family to remind me just how very blessed I am to love them and be loved by them…….. and so many more reminders…anchors.

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Anchors that keep me grounded and connected to what is REALLY important to me and anchors that keep me grounded and connected to my support, my faith, my family and to just how much I CAN accomplish in this life.

Anchors give me the courage to take the leap and help me to just breathe when I am facing challenges.

 

Clearing the Clutter to take back control

Clutter.

Cleaning.

Control.

I spent some time last week talking with members about cleaning up the clutter, in our physical space and in our mental space.

Clutter is stressful. Clutter makes it difficult for us to live a healthy life. Clutter makes it difficult to take care of ourselves. And clutter in our physical world can reflect the chaos and clutter in our head.

The past couple of weeks I have been clearing out clutter, cleaning out and rearranging the physical spaces in my house.

And with each closet, drawer or room, I have also been clearing out my head.

When you love an addict, your head becomes quite cluttered. And when you live with an addict the physical and mental clutter collides with the chaos of their cluttered, chaotic life.

Today I have been cleaning…..and as I scrubbed my cabinets I realized I was scrubbing……or rather trying to scrub away the visuals in my mind…….the images that threaten to suck me into the spinning funnel cloud that hovers above my life, always there ready to touch down and rip apart all that I love.

That is how it feels to live with and love an addict.

And I HATE what this has done to my child. The child I carried inside me. The child I dreamed about and loved before he was born. The child I read to at night. The child I cried with when he was hurting. The child I laughed with while watching a beloved show. The child I watched become a man. The child that is a part of me, who had so much to offer this world. My child, who is funny, kind, impulsive, daring, creative and opinionated.

Addiction has robbed me of my son. And has robbed my son of the life he should have had.  He is lost inside the spinning tornado. And I have no idea when or where this tornado will drop him.

Every day is filled with a rollercoaster of emotions. And every day is filled with prayer.

I love my son. And I want him back—whole, healthy and full of life. This is not my son right now.

So, today, as I scrub cabinets, floors and walls….as I sort through the physical clutter, I am also sorting through the emotional clutter created by a life I never wanted to live in……a life I never imagined I would HAVE to live in. And through de-cluttering I am trying to get back control….control of my life, my emotions, my home.

I am trying to find my way and navigate through this funnel cloud so that when the tornado touches down again….and it will…..I am ready and more prepared. Making it so that I can recover more quickly and so that I can help my family through the debris.

As I clean and de-clutter today, I am just going to breathe……and trust that God will help me.

Merry Christmas

Christmas is my favorite time of the year.

I have always loved the lights, the colors, the decorations, and the spirit that surrounds this holiday season—the spirit of giving, loving and kindness!

My mom loved Christmas. She always made it special for my sister and I, especially after she and Dad divorced.

We had our traditions and I loved them all—(yes, even the Christmas meal dishes!)

Mom, my sister and I would go out to a tree lot and find a tree together and then mom would ask our neighbor to help us bring it in the house. A couple of days later, she would make us popcorn and hot cocoa and we would decorate the tree together, laughing and reminiscing over each ornament.

Mom had the most beautiful Nativity I have ever seen and the manger had a music box that played “Silent Night”. It was the job of my sister and I to set up the Nativity. I especially loved to do this…..taking my time to set each piece in just the right place where they could all see baby Jesus. And then we would add the white garland that had tiny little white lights……Oh, how that manager did glow. The last part was to wind the music box on the side of the manger and then sit in front of it, listening to “Silent Night” play. Every year, as I set up my own Nativity, I wish that I had been able to keep mom’s nativity………I hope whoever has it knows just how special it is.

Because mom was a single working mom, she would have my Great Aunt come to stay with us over our Christmas break from school and my sister and I would bake cookies with our Great Aunt and then decorate them….so much fun!

On Christmas eve mom would let us each open one gift, a tradition that has continued with my family. And then we would have to go to bed so that Santa could come. Christmas eve was the one night of the year that my sister and I chose to sleep in the same room and we would stay up late, whispering, filled with excitement for what the morning would bring.

And then the Christmas morning would arrive and my sister and I would open the door and go to the living room, filled with anticipation for what Santa had brought. We would grab our stockings…..overflowing with goodies and go to mom’s room, where we would climb into her bed with her and show her ALL that Santa had left in our stockings. I loved this tradition and yes, carried it on with my boys……until they were teenagers………..

After opening presents, my mom and great Aunt would make a big breakfast for us. It was yummy and gave us the energy we needed to play all day…..which is what we did while my mom and our Great Aunt cooked our Turkey dinner. We would eat dinner in the late afternoon and then my sister and I would have to do the dishes……being extra careful with mom’s good China.

I am so thankful that I had a mother who loved Christmas…..a mother who made it special all month…….danced with me to Christmas music, watched Christmas cartoons and specials with us, started and kept our family traditions even when it was just the three of us…….and a mom who made sure that I knew the true meaning of Christmas by modeling through her actions what true Christmas Spirit was.

I miss my mom every day, but especially at Christmas…..which makes me enjoy the day all the more.

This year I am blessed to have ALL my kids home…..both of my boys and my future daughter-in-law. This mom’s heart is filled with joy. And I am treasuring each moment, filing the memories away for the Christmas’s that are just my husband and I……..and even those Christmas’s, where it is just the two of us, we continue our traditions and have added some new.

Every year mom took our picture in front of the tree and every year we do too……even the years that my guys all rolled their eyes because, yes, it was time for the traditional pictures……

I love Christmas!

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Merry Christmas from my family to yours!

 

 

“Living Our Love Song”

There were doubters.

They didn’t believe we would make it. 

32 years after saying “I Do”, we are happily proving them wrong! 

In the words of Jason Michael Carroll in his song “Living Our Love Song”—

Baby, just look at us: all this time, and we’re still in love
Something like this just don’t exist
Between a backwoods boy and a fairy tale princess
People said it would never work out
Living our dreams has shattered all doubts
It feels good to prove ’em wrong
Living our love song

It feels so good to prove them wrong.  

We met in high school. I was sleeping on my best friend’s bedroom floor, living with her family at the time. I had been through so much in my life already and wasn’t looking for a relationship. And then that fateful day, when my best friend and I decided to skip school with a group of guys…..and that is how I met my husband.

We have often joked that I was the bad influence on him, since that was the start of many skipped school days. Our love song started that day, hanging out with our friends.  And then a first date……..he says he knew right away that I was the one. I knew, too!

Today we celebrate 32 years of marriage. We married a few months after graduating from high school…..two young kids starting our life together. We had no idea where this life would take us, but knew we would travel it together, ALWAYS!

And together we have had quite the adventure……a life in the military, traveling the world….being parents…….sharing in our grief over the loss of loved ones……being the strong one when the other needed us to be……supporting each other’s dreams and not holding either one back……trusting that our love and our life together would last when so many doubted……and loving each other, especially on the toughest days…….yes, our life together has been an adventure.

There is a song by Blake Shelton—“God Gave Me You” and it says what I believe about us—I truly believe that God gave me my husband, that He brought us together, knowing where we had both been and what lay ahead of us….because TOGETHER we are stronger than we are alone and TOGETHER we can face anything and do anything.

I would not change a thing about our life because I have shared it with my best friend, the love of my life and my partner in this great adventure! My husband is my rock, my strength and my biggest supporter—he challenges me to look at the world differently and to push myself to step outside my comfort zone and he is there to carry me when life gets too tough. I cannot imagine this life without him!

I love him more today than the day we married!

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Happy 32nd Anniversary! I cannot wait to see where the next 32 years take us!

We are truly “living our love song” and we are doing it our way!