Resilience in the Redwoods

 

Ahhh….

The mighty Redwoods.

Walking among the giants was mesmerizing…..peaceful…..majestic.

We were in California 2 weeks ago for our youngest son’s wedding and while there we decided to spend a couple of mornings seeing nearby sights. My husband and I love to travel and explore and seek out new adventures. And we don’t believe in letting an opportunity to find some hidden gem, pass us by…

On our second morning in California, we got up early to go explore Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. It WAS WORTH the early morning!

The first thing that hit us was the smell…..that redwood forest smell….ahhh…..we don’t get that in the desert and boy do we miss it.

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park encompasses 40+ acres……acres filled with the tallest of the trees, the redwood. Here the coastal redwood survives and thrives. We walked the Redwood Grove Loop Trail in the park and were thrilled.

Walking with my husband through the forest of giant redwoods was exactly what I needed at that moment. The redwoods are giant, growing tall, some for over 2000 years. These coastal redwoods were magnificent! Majestic! Mighty!

The Redwoods grow tall….some reaching heights beyond 300 feet! Here in the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park the tallest tree—the Giant—stands 270 feet high. And among these trees we felt very tiny….just a spec in the forest.

As we walked through the forest I was awed by the beauty surrounding us. Learning about the redwoods in a book is one thing, but to actually walk among the trees and see for myself how they grow, how they spawn new growth, and how resilient they are, took my breath away.

Redwoods can live for over 2000 years. And some of the trees surrounding us had been here far longer than us, our parents, our grandparents and our great grandparents……actually, many of these redwoods were here long before any of my or my husband’s ancestors came to this land. It is hard to comprehend how any living organism can stand so tall for soooo long. Yet here they were, just waiting to tell us their story.

At the beginning of the trail we picked up the brochure that would explain the stops on the loop trail. We learned about the redwoods and how they grow. And seeing for ourselves the redwood family circles was beyond amazing. Redwoods have the ability to sprout from the tiny seeds, but it is their ability to sprout new growth from the base of the “parent” tr3ee that really struck me. These magnificent trees sprouted new growth from the base, and from their roots. Amazing! And as we stood looking at one of the family circles, it struck me….this was representative of our family, and of the young couple whose wedding we were celebrating….this family circle. Love, support and strength are found in the family circle.

And then we stopped and read about how the roots of these trees were shallow…only 6 to 12 feet deep….wow! These mighty trees, these VERY tall trees, did not have the deep roots that I had expected. Instead their roots were shallow. Then how could they survive? How do they grow so tall and withstand so much? The roots of the Redwood tree may not go deep, but they do travel out, extending hundreds of feet from the tree base. THAT is how they withstand so much. The roots of the trees extend to the roots of other trees and the roots wrap around each other, supporting each other through the forces of nature that threaten to topple them. The Redwoods not only sprout new growth from their base, but they reach out to the other Redwoods to support each other. Amazing! Resilient! Wondrous!

Not only do these trees thrive through their family circles and their extended root system, but when a tree dies, it gives life to more trees. Trees sprout from the dead trees, growing right out of them and the root system of the downed tree lives on, giving more life and supporting the newer generations of trees. Much like my mom has done for me! Even though she is no longer living, she is still my support, she is still with me, a part of me and my family.

Our walk among these magnificent trees was showing me a lot about my life…..

All of this amazed me, but the one thing that I discovered among these 4 (2)giants that really resonated with me and spoke to me was their resilience. Redwoods have a bark that is thick, REALLY thick and the bark has a Tannic acid within it that helps to protect the tree…from insects, from animals, from the forces of nature and even from fire. We stopped at one tree that had been hollowed out at its base, much of it burned away in a fire over 100 years ago. Silently I stood under the tree, in the hollowed out area and touched its scars. This redwood had deep scars from a fire that would have destroyed the life of any other tree. Yet this tree was still standing, still alive, still growing and healing, and still sprouting new growth. RESILENT! STRONG! It had survived the worst thrown at it. Not only did it survive, but it found a way to thrive, to grow and to heal. The scars remain, a symbol of what the tree has survived.

And standing there I couldn’t help but reflect on my life and my scars, both visible and invisible, yet through it all I am still here. Like the Redwood, my roots may not run deep, but they run far, joining with other’s roots and providing support for each other through the storms of life. My family circle has grown and the support I have found keeps me thriving. Despite the forces throughout my life that tried to destroy me, I am still standing tall. I am scarred. But I am alive. My scars remind me of what I have been through and how far I have come. And like this magnificent redwood, I am resilient. I am strong. I am a survivor.

Some say it takes a village. And here in a redwood grove, I realized that it also takes a forest!

 

 

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A Celebration of Love

Our youngest son….our baby, got married this past weekend. Surrounded by Redwood trees, in an outdoor ceremony witnessed by many of their friends and family, they became husband and wife….Mr. and Mrs.

We are thrilled!

Our family has been through a lot this past couple of years and the joy that this wedding brought us is priceless…..I am having a hard time putting into words what this wedding has meant to me and to my family.

We arrived in California Wednesday evening, ready to celebrate with family and friends. We all had been waiting for the day of the wedding to arrive.

My son and his now wife are perfect for each other and together they planned a celebration that reflects not only who they are as individuals but who they are as a couple…..

And it was beautiful!

As their friends and family gathered the few days before the wedding, I could see just how loved the two of them were and how much those who were there represented who the two of them were.

I was emotional every day leading up to the wedding and at the wedding.

This was my baby…..

And now he is married, a husband.

For years and years, I prayed for the perfect person for my son to spend his life with…someone who would challenge him, share his sense of adventure, and someone who would love him as much as he loved her. And our new daughter-in-love is that perfect partner and so much more for our son. I couldn’t have imagined a better person for him to share life with and to share in all the adventures that lay ahead of them.

4 years ago our son brought his now wife home to meet us for the first time. We introduced her to our family style of site-seeing…..and she didn’t run away! I knew that first time we met her, that she was THE one for our son. And she became a part of our family the day my son brought her home. Now, 4 years later we were “officially” welcoming her into our family and it felt so right! She stole our sons heart and she stole ours, too!

The two of them inspire my husband and I to be more present in the now, and challenge us to see the world a little differently. They make us so proud! And celebrating them was more than I could have imagined.

The wedding venue….the adventure theme…..the family and friends….the love…..perfect!

My heart is filled with joy….overflowing with happiness and love….

My family has grown…I now have a daughter! (And I did not have to go through labor to gain this beautiful daughter) And we have more extended family now….wonderful!

I am so looking forward to the adventures that are ahead for these two and cannot wait to see where this life takes them!

For 5 days, I left the world and the worry behind me….and I enjoyed! I cherished each moment, each conversation I had, each new person I met, and the love that flowed in every aspect of this wonderful Wedding.

I was mindful and present…..and though we missed our oldest son being there, our youngest still found a way for him to be present, through a recorded reading…..

My heart is bursting with love!

I wish my son and daughter-in-love many, many years filled with adventures and love!

When hope is taken away, what is left?

My husband wrote in his letter to the court on behalf of our son, that “an endless supply of hope is what every parent of an addict needs”. And he is right.

Hope got us through some of the darkest days. And along with the hope, our faith kept us going. Even when we had no idea where our son was or when we would……if we would….ever hear from or see him again.   Yet, we continued to hope…..and pray……and hold on.

My son is still facing the probation violation charges in Yavapai county that I previously wrote about and is facing charges here in our county, and despite all of that we have held on to hope.

My son continues to move forward in his treatment, making forward progress every day. Is it perfect? Is he perfect? No. But that is the nature of the addiction beast.

Hope keeps him going. The hope for a future without drugs….the hope for happiness…..the hope for a light at the end of this long judicial tunnel……the hope that he will be healthy……..

Hope gives him a reason to keep trying, to keep working on his recovery.

And then this week we hit a roadblock and hope was pulled out from under him…..and us.

Imagine, if you will, that you received a speeding ticket and were dealt your punishment. But after the punishment was decided…..well, the court goes back in time and discovers that you were pulled over two other times, but never punished….so now they are going to bring you back to court and punish you for those two previous speeding tickets.

That is what my son is facing now, only his crimes are victimless……well, not really if you take into account that he is the victim of his addictions.   He was arrested in March of this year and was sentenced in April for that arrest. And then the day after his sentencing, the same county and the same prosecutor’s office filed new charges stemming from an arrest 3 weeks prior to his March arrest……for the exact same charges, related to being an addict. We have been to court for this newest charge three times now, each time resulting in a continuance, twice by the prosecution and this week by my son’s attorney. The prosecutor continued the case, because they wanted to decide whether or not to file more charges.

And this week, when we went to court, my son’s lawyer informed us that they had filed charges for an arrest he had in April 2016……..more than a year ago.

And the plea deal from the prosecutor’s office was awful……….

Now, we go to court again, in a three weeks and my son now faces 4 more felony charges stemming from 2 arrests that occurred before the arrest that resulted in his current sentence…….

I have struggled the past few days with how to put into words what I am feeling. This hit me hard. And it hit my son hard.

I finally had my son back. He is alive and trying to get himself whole and healthy. He is going to treatment, he is participating and talking with us. He is present. I had my son back.

But I have now watched these past two days as he slips into depression and I am scared. The hope he had for his future, the plans and the dreams that he finally started allowing back into his mind…..well where is that hope now? When hope is yanked right out from under you, what is left?

My son has lost everything because of his addictions. And just when he thought he had a chance at a real life without drugs, this happens…….so why try? Why continue? What’s the point when the punishment being offered is worse than the punishment he is already serving?  A punishment, by the way, given him by a judge who knew about the other arrests and took them into account when deciding my son’s sentence.

I am at a loss. How can an addict, any addict, get clean and have a real life when the system is set up for punishment, not rehabilitation? Shouldn’t the goal be to get addicts clean and help them to become healthy, functioning members of society? Shouldn’t we all, as a society be trying to help these addicts, especially those participating in their own treatment? When is it enough punishment……..when we take away all hope? Addicts lose everything and then the system takes the last bit they can hold onto, their hope.  And this loss of hope leads to the cycle of drug use—arrest—incarceration—drug use–arrest–incarceration……..

I am angry and frustrated. I am scared. I don’t understand and am trying to, but this defies all reasoning. My son is sick and more punishment is NOT going to make him better.

He needs to continue treatment.

He needs help.

He needs hope.

I am disillusioned and losing hope. And when hope is gone, what is left?

For me, what is left is my family—my husband who is my rock through everything, our boys who are my purpose and gifts from God, and extended family who are all a source of comfort and strength– and my friends.

And what I am left with is my faith. I know that God is right here with all of us. I know He will not leave me to drown in this storm. I know that He will make sure that I and my son and our family will be provided what we need to weather the storm hitting us. My faith keeps me going and will keep me going…..and one day I will find hope again.

I am trusting God and taking the leap……..

SOLD!

My husband was in the Air Force for 30 years and we moved a lot. For most of his Air Force career we lived in the housing on whatever base we were stationed at……. all over the US and in Turkey and England. I loved living in base housing, in the community where others were going through the same things we went through. Each house became our home, where we laughed, loved and created memories. It was never about the building, it was about the love and the memories. But we knew they were all temporary homes.

We only lived in off-base housing, twice in his career. The first time was when we were in Alabama for my husband to go to school. We rented a house then and loved the house and quickly made it a home.

After Alabama my husband was sent to the Pentagon and base housing was not going to be an option for us. We were okay with that. We made the decision to buy a house, a decision that was hard for me because I knew that the house we bought would become our home, I would get attached and I had never desired to buy a house until it was THE ONE, the last house we would live in. So, I went to Virginia, alone, to find us a house.

I looked at a lot of houses and then I found the one that I could picture us living in and in a neighborhood that looked wonderful.

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We bought that house.  Brand new.  Never lived in.  Ours.

A house is just a house, until you fill it with family, friends, love, memories and the sweat and tears that go into making a house a home. And we did just that.

our house

It was our home. Filled with lots of memories of holidays, birthdays, fun, and even sad times. We painted every room in the house and all of the halls…..colors that reflected us, no more white walls. And my husband and youngest son worked hard building the fence that would make our backyard an oasis for our dog. And they built a beautiful deck for us to relax on while watching the corn in the field behind us grow. We landscaped and planted the flowers, trees and bushes we wanted. We had friends and family visit us. And we all worked hard finishing our unfinished basement, creating a space where more fun family memories were made—playing pool and playing Wii games.

We had only planned to live here 2 years, the norm for us. But that two years became three, then four and before we knew it we lived in our home for 6 years…..the LONGEST home either my husband or I  had ever lived in. Our youngest son completed all of his high school years in that home. We had teenagers in and out of the house, became close with our neighbors and built a life in that community. This home was the last one our dog would live in.

We were putting down deep roots.

The memories created are strong in that home, filled with love.

Then the day came when the Air Force moved us and the thought of leaving my home, my friends, my community really hurt. I was attached to this place and I wanted to stay. But the Air Force had other plans.

At the time, we could not sell the house, the market had dropped drastically. So we rented it out, in the hopes that we would return after two years and move back into our home. But the Air Force had other plans for us……we never did move back to our beautiful home.

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Now here I am, 8 years after leaving the house we made a home. Others have been living in the house since we left, renting from us. 3 years ago, we went back to Virginia to make repairs to our house to get it ready for the next tenant and it was then, in the midst of the damage caused by our first tenant that I realized this house was no longer our home. We weren’t living there, creating memories anymore and what we had created was no longer there…..it was now just a house.

The only reminder of the family who made this house a home was the growth marks still visible on the laundry room wall.

We made the decision to put the house in Virginia up for sale when the lease ended. I was ready. My husband was ready. Being landlords was not a job we enjoyed or envisioned we would ever find ourselves doing. So, when we started the process, I was surprised by the emotions I found welling up in me…….this had been our home……the memories made there flooded back…….I was sad about selling our home. But it wasn’t ours anymore and hadn’t been ours for the past 8 years.

Today we closed on our house, selling it to a young couple who I hope will see those growth marks and realize that at one time this house was a home, filled with love, laughter and tears. And my hope is that they make this house into a home and fill it with wonderful memories and lots of love and raise their family, with new growth marks on the laundry room wall.

We only own one home now! We are relieved. The stress associated with owning a house on the other side of the country is gone. A weight lifted off of our shoulders.

And I am a little sad…..it was our home and the memories made inside those walls will forever be cherished!

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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.

God’s Hand at Work….

It has been a difficult week for our family. It began when we took our son to self-surrender, thinking that doing the right thing would help him to continue on the right path to living a clean and healthy life.

What we didn’t count on was the events that occurred while he was held in jail on a bond that was excessive when taking his case history into consideration. I will be sharing the nightmare that ensued and that led to my son’s seizure while in jail, after his court appearance this next week.

Today I want to share with you how I am seeing God’s Hand at work in all of this.

While we were struggling through the trials of last week, and while trying to stay strong for our son, I asked my family and friends for prayers for my son…..I believe strongly in the power of prayer and that through prayer we find strength and comfort. And my family and friends came through for us, praying for my son, our family and for those involved in my son’s case.

I could feel their prayers.

And I know God heard all of the prayers.

And it was through those prayers and our own that we were able to make the decisions we needed to make and that we were able to find the help we needed at that moment.

We were able to bond our son out of jail late at night, and he was thrilled to see us. I expected that due to his experience, that my son would need some time to recover and that he would not want to jump right into all that he needed to do for his recovery, at least not for a few days……I was wrong.

The long drive home after picking him up was filled with conversation and planning.

And then my son jumped right in, the next morning. I have been amazed every day since we brought him home from jail at the transformation going on in his life, his attitude and his actions.

My son started his outpatient treatment the very next day. He made his appointments to get his meds back and to take care of himself…..no prompting, he just did them!

For years we have had to nag him to do anything…..and now he is doing those things. What happened?

He is clean! He cares. He is engaged and trying now. He wants this now.

And I can see that God has His hand in this…..that God has been watching over him, bringing people into his life and answering my prayers.

My son is not only going to treatment now, but he has also started his community service…..at a church!

When my son received the call yesterday to let him know where he had been assigned for his community service, I could hear the determination in his voice to start and finish this aspect of his probation. Then he told me where he would be doing his community service hours…..a church, just down the road from us. A church that has a Recovery program. A church that has programs for supporting addicts and their families.

Yes, God has His hands in this!

I have prayed, daily, that God would find a way to reach my son, to touch his heart and to bring people into his life that will help him to become the person he was always meant to be and to help him to have the life he was meant to live.

My prayers are being answered. Though my son would say that it is the universe that is playing a role in all of this…..I KNOW different. I KNOW that God is there with us, and has been every step of the way. And I KNOW that my faith is what is getting me through this and keeping me going. And I KNOW that God is with my son, protecting and providing for him.

As I dropped my son off at the church this morning, I sat there and watched him walk inside. And I smiled.

As I drove away I said to God, “You work in mysterious ways! Thank you!”

And then I started to breathe again……

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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!