Friday, October 30, 2015


So. I've had my phone for almost two years. Tonight I found out I can edit pictures on my phone. Turns out that sometimes, I am not the sharpest pencil in the box.

I took this picture of Livvi and friends at a Halloween carnival tonight, and because I am also not the most professional of photographers, I had way too much ceiling in my picture. This is what prompted me to explore the boundaries of the camera on my phone and now I feel like a kid with a new toy on Christmas. And just in time for Halloween too!

Sunday, October 25, 2015


Last day of our little weekend jaunt. What is rotten about a weekend trip is that you get home Sunday night then have to hit real life again real hard on Monday morning. We thought for a split second about being practical and driving straight on home so we could get home at a decent hour tonight, but why start being practical now?

So instead we detoured to Dead Horse Point. Dan and the girls had never been before. I went once as a kid, and remembered it being impressive, maybe because my brother picked me up and dangled me over the edge, which I remember being a much more traumatic experience than he does. Probably because I was the one that was dangling. Anyhow, it is still beautiful and totally worth the drive.

Our second detour of the day was the Scofield Cemetery, to satisfy the history nerd in me. I just finished reading a book about the Scofield Mine disaster in 1900. It was written by Dan's aunt Carla Kelly. So when I saw the sign on the freeway pointing to Scofield, I knew we had to stop. It was cold and the cemetery is very neglected, but cool, and it was sad and fascinating to see row after row of old, weather beaten wooden headstones with the date of May 1, 1900.

So, Dead Horse Point and a cemetery. Seems kind of fitting for an end of October vacation. Now we are safely home and back to the old grind.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Not Yet Off the Bucket List

Who else but us, (and lets be honest, about 10,000 other people) would have the bad luck of being in Arches National Park the one weekend in who knows how long when the road to Delicate Arch was closed?  That was the one thing we were really planning on doing- seeing Delicate Arch, and all of our hopes and dreams were washed away in a flooded out road.

So we had to make due with Devils Garden, Landscape Arch, Double O Arch, Sandstone Arch, Skyline Arch, Windows, Turret Arch and Double Arches.  Turns out there is no shortage of arches in Arches National Park.  Missing out on Delicate Arch this time only means that we will be making another trip down there sometime soon. We also discovered a whole bunch of places to add to our List of Things Not to be Missed.

This girl was so brave. The hike up to Double O involved about a half mile scramble over steep, slippery, narrow sandstone with cliffs on both sides. She made it 3/4 of the way up before it got too scary. She was sad she didn't make it the whole way, but she did so good, and found out she was much braver and stronger than she knew she was.

 Way in the background over there you can see the Fiery Furnace. In the foreground is some serious sister love.

By the time we got to Double Arches at the end of the day, I was ex-haust-ed. We had hiked over seven miles and I was dead on my feet. By the time Olivia got to Double Arches, she had turned into some kind of desert rat, and was determined to make it up inside the arch. So we kept on going. I thought I was going to collapse. But we made it, and later on, she and Audrey were dancing in the parking lot and running literal circles around me. I am old.

We finished up the night with a lovely Italian dinner. It was delicious and we were even serenaded by bag pipes and Scottish dancers. But. Note to future self. Moab is expensive.

After dinner, we dragged the girls back out to Potash to see stars. I thought it would be  a great night to be out in the open desert and have a star party. We were foiled by the almost full moon though. We could only see a few of the brightest ones. Yet another item that remains on the list: go star gazing.

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Voices in our Heads

Some of us are off on a mini vacation to Moab this weekend. It was supposed to be a family trip but Will couldn't get off work. Duncan opted to stay home with him, and of course Mitchell and Alisa and Erwann are off doing their own thing. So it's just us girls and the daddy man. We left early, played along the way a bit, and pulled into town just before three p.m. Too late to go on any big excursions, too early to call it a day.  We wound up taking a short drive out to a small canyon just outside of town.  It was the perfect little adventure to start our weekend here.  We saw Indian petroglyphs, dinosaur foot prints, and then found this great little pull off at a place called Jug Handle Arch. It was the prettiest little private canyon. We felt like the only people in the world. We entertained ourselves by yelling at the tops of our lungs and listening as the echoes bounced down the canyon walls and back to us.

Feeling so far removed from everyone and everything and seeing ancient art, dinosaur prints, and how vast the world is makes you start thinking deep thoughts. Like how would it have been to live there 6000 years ago? I bet they loved calling these canyons home.

This is our little friend Dave the lizard, who almost decided to come home and be our pet. He rather quickly changed his mind at the last minute.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Elder Metcalf and How He Got There

When a kid graduates from high school, it's always a proud moment for a mom and dad. For most parents, it's also a reflective moment, thinking about your kid growing up, and wondering what life holds for them.  I bet most parents would also admit to a certain amount of worry. Is my kid going to be successful? Will he get an education, and a good job, and turn out to be a productive and functioning member of society? Depending on the kid, you might only have a passing flash of worry, or you might spend the next 40 years stewing about it.

When your kid with autism graduates from high school, you have more than a few fleeting moments of sheer panic. You suddenly realize that in spite of all the frustrations and headaches that go along with autism and public education, at least when your kid was in school, he had a place. He belonged somewhere. No matter how well or poorly the school team did it's job, at least there was a team. There was someone besides you who had responsibility to see that he was progressing. Now that he has graduated, there is no more team. Your kid only has you to figure out what his next step will be.

When Duncan graduated from high school, we were proud. And scared. Not sure that we had done the right thing letting him graduate on time with his class.  He could have stayed in high school for a while longer, but they didn't have much else to offer, other than a familiar  place to go every day. We felt like Duncan needed more than that. We just had no idea what that looked like or where to go next. All I knew for sure was that waking up one morning 25 years down the road and having a lazy, unshaven, out-of shape 43 year old man living in my basement and  playing video games all day was not a viable option for us. And that if I wanted to prevent that from happening, it was up to me to find opportunities for Duncan that would give him chances to work and learn and interact. And I had no idea where to even start. There is no handbook that comes with raising an autistic kid. It is a fly by the seat of your pants experience that doesn't end once they hit adulthood.

I wish I could say that answers were quick to come and that we quickly found a new team of people who could offer help and advice. That was not the case.  Duncan graduated from high school two years ago, and in that time we have met with mostly bad advice and closed doors. It's not that there aren't people who try to help.  It's partly a problem of the nature of the diagnosis. Autism is a spectrum.  There are not textbook cases or textbook answers. One program might work perfectly for one person, and be a perfect disaster for the next, even though they  might appear to have similar issues. You just never know until you try. So I guess what I have learned over the past two years is a lot of things that have not worked for Duncan. That is not to say they won't work for someone else. But nothing seemed to be a great fit for us.

One doctor strongly suggested that we immediately apply for social security disability income for him. So that's where we started. After six months of applications, meetings, testing, doctor visits, documentation of everything that had ever happened to him since birth, more doctor visits and evaluations, he was denied.  At first I was so angry. He is obviously disabled.  All the doctors we saw classified him that way. How could they deny him?  I KNOW people on SSI who are less disabled than Duncan. I was told to keep at it. Keep fighting their decision.  Like with every other thing associated with autism, if you make a big enough stink and are annoying enough, eventually we could get him approved.

Here is the thing though. Social security income is a ridiculously paltry sum.  For Duncan, it was like $400 a month. And even though they tell you that you are encouraged to work, as soon as you start to earn money they start deducting your income from the amount they send you. We could have spent our time and energy fighting it, but for what? So that he could be limited to earning $400 a month sitting at home alone? That is not the life I want for him. He is capable and deserving of so much more. He is capable of work. He needs a sense of purpose and accomplishment as much as anybody, as well as the satisfaction of earning his way.  It wasn't hard to see that helping him find work would be a much greater blessing than helping him learn to be dependent.

 So the next step was voc rehab. That was a joke. His first counselor there was nearing retirement and almost palpably uninterested in what happened to Duncan.  He was just a name on her list.  But still, he got assigned a job coach that did a half decent job of working with him. After nearly a year of working with this job coach, he finally got a job working 10 measly hours a week as a bus boy. At first we were excited. It was a place to start, and his job coach promised that he could eventually work into more hours. The people he worked with were kind, and seemed ready to give him a shot. It seemed to go great for a while. He liked the job, and was doing well. Then after four months, the place got a new manager and almost immediately after the new manager started, she fired Duncan. We went back to voc rehab thinking that surely there was something they could do. It didn't seem right that a business could agree to hire a person with disabilities and then just up and fire them at the drop of a hat. They told us that they see this happen all the time. Yes, legally, we could fight it, but for what? Ten hours a week and a manager that was obviously uninterested in helping him? Our energy would be better invested in starting over with a new job coach and going through the whole process again. He got assigned a new and better voc rehab counselor, and we were moving forward with finding a new job coach. I was not looking forward to another year of job searching though.

In the meantime, the most important person in all of this had been spending his days mostly sitting at home alone while his family was all off at work, or school.  He did chores around the house. He walked the dog. He played on the computer. On my days off, we would run errands together and go to lunch, we would apply for jobs, and he volunteered here and there when I could get him there.  I was trying everything I could find to make something happen for him, and so very little was actually happening in his life. He was becoming that reclusive guy I feared I would find in my basement one day.

Through all of this time and effort, floating around in our heads was the idea that Duncan could be a service missionary for our church.  Mormons are well known for their young proselyting missionaries who volunteer for 18 to 24 months to preach the gospel and serve in an area far from their homes.  Most people are not as familiar with the less visible service missionary program, which is a program for people who want to serve but are unable to serve a full time proselyting mission. This program gives both young missionaries and older people too, the chance to serve close to home, either full time or part time. It offers more flexibility for people with disabilities or other limitations and still lets them use whatever skills or abilities they have to serve. This sounded like a great opportunity for Duncan, and more important, through many prayers and contemplation, it felt right. Even though, because of his autism, he was honorably excused from serving a full time proselyting mission, I  felt the strong impression that he still needed to serve, and that he still deserved the experiences and blessings that would come to him through serving in the way he could.

 Frustratingly though, we could not seem to find the right fit for him. I knew that for Duncan to be successful in a service mission  he needed the right mentor. He needed someone who could take the time to get to know him and his abilities, give him the right kind of training, and keep him on track. We never seemed to connect with the right people who knew where we could turn and what we needed. Many sleepless nights, many prayers and hours of investigating opportunities had not produced anything yet. I began to wonder if I was wrong about Duncan and a mission. Maybe it was only me that wanted this to be the right thing for him. He was scared and unsure about the thought of serving a mission. He didn't know what to expect, and I didn't have any answers to give him. Was it only my pride that was pushing him into serving? Was this whole idea a mistake? How long could we sit around and wait on the right opportunity? So we kept looking, but we kept seeking out other options too.

In the middle of all of this, I was planning my daughter's wedding. For a few months, the wedding took front and center of all of our time, energy, and mental abilities. I was in the middle of working on some things with voc rehab for Duncan, and then everything got shoved aside while we concentrated on the wedding. I was scheduled to take two weeks off work for the wedding, and it was about my last day there before my time off started that a couple came into my work. It was a busy day, but I remember hearing snippets of a conversation my co-worker Mindy was having with this couple, something about them being missionaries, but I didn't pay much attention to it.  Little did I know at the time that the answer to our prayers was literally standing right in front of me, and everything would soon fall into place in perfect time.

For the next two glorious weeks, everything was wedding and celebration.  And even after I was back at work, the wedding still the main topic of conversation for a while.  Everybody  wanted to know all the details and how everything had turned out.  It was not long at all though, maybe even as soon as my second day back when sweet Mindy suddenly jumped. "Lynne!" she said. "I just remembered! I need to talk to you about something! I've been thinking and thinking about this, and I just have to ask you."  She then went on to tell me about her long conversation with the missionary couple from two weeks ago. It turns out that he was a pharmacist for my company and had recently retired, which is why my friend had struck up the conversation in the first place.  He and his wife had just been called to oversee a brand new pilot program for young service missionaries. It is starting up in only Davis and Weber counties and is something completely new and different. They would be overseeing missionaries at the Deseret Mill in Kaysville and were currently just getting things up and running and were beginning to look for young men and women who might fit the bill to serve there. They were so excited about this new program, and my friend, as she was listening, kept thinking of Duncan. What's funny about that is that she doesn't really know Duncan. She has met him once or twice, and of course I have talked to her about him, but it's not like she really knows him. Anyway, she meant to tell me about it that day, but with all the hullabaloo of a regular day in the pharmacy, added to all the extra hubbub surrounding the wedding, she forgot.

She forgot until the perfect time, when the wedding was over and I had room in my brain to think again.  She told me all that they had talked about, then called that nice couple and got me in touch with them. I spoke for quite a while with them on the phone, and  the more I heard, the more this sounded like the perfect spot for Duncan. Within a week or so, we had met with the missionary couple and taken a tour of the mill, filled out the application and met with the bishop. A week later we met with the stake president, and about a week after that, we got the official call. And now, Elder Metcalf, as they call him there, is one of the first two official full time young church service missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints at the  Deseret Mill.

 The program is designed to be as close to a regular proselyting mission as it can be. He will have study and journal time each day, a devotional each day, service time in the mill, life skills training, and scripture study. They are currently recruiting new missionaries, and eventually, each group of six missionaries will be supervised by a senior couple who works right along side them. There are devotionals and zone conferences and temple trips just like any other mission.  The couples that are there serving are dedicated to helping these kids succeed, and the best thing is they are willing to cater each missionary's experience to their abilities.

It is hard to believe, but all of my prayers and concerns about finding the right circumstances for Duncan were answered. The senior missionaries he is working with are the perfect mentors for him.  They are excited to be serving there with kids like Duncan. They have the patience and time to work with him. He is a big part of their calling.  They get it. They recognize their call and Duncan's call, and the whole operation  of the mill as all vital parts in Christ's work, and they help Duncan to see that too.  He will also get the chance to form friendships with missionaries who are his age, and to gain experience and skills that he will take  with him his whole life. He is serving, yes, but he is receiving so much more.

Honestly, in my life, the times when  prayers have been answered so concretely and so obviously are few and far between. Every once in a while though, I get the message, loud and clear, that Someone is listening. It never was and never is all up to me. We've got folks on our team. Friends in high places. And friends right beside us too.

Thursday, September 24, 2015


Post Wedding Stress Disorder. It's real, people. I know because I am living it.

When we were in the frenzy of planning, which really lasted from January 18 to August 8, I kept remembering things at odd moments that I needed to do, or something I had to add to a list. And I had to write it down at the very moment it occurred to me or I would forget it. And then I would stress out trying to remember what I had thought of.  So I got a notebook to keep all my ideas in. But then I could never find the notebook, so I would just grab another notebook and start writing in that one.  This pattern continued until  I had about five of these notebooks going, and I was constantly searching through random notebooks looking for things I knew I wrote down somewhere. Which was really almost as frustrating as not writing them down at all.  So now,  I have all these notebooks lying around the house, and I keep running across all these random wedding lists.  And when I find one, I can't just set it aside and go about my day. I have to analyze it, check it to see if I actually fulfilled that list, and ruminate on how it all turned out all over again.  I am 99.9% absolutely thrilled about how perfectly everything came together  But there is a little list of things in my head I wish I could redo. I could waste a lot of time fretting about that imaginary list if I let myself. But then I remind myself of all the millions of things that went absolutely right. And it's all fine, it really is. And when I'm in the middle of an ordinary day, just going about my life, and I find a notebook or a list, mostly all I feel is: I DON"T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT THE WEDDING ANYMORE.  Those lists are irrelevant to my life!  We survived the wedding and, it's' like the load floating off my shoulders all over again.  It was all so fantastic and beautiful, and I am so glad it's over. Really, there was no letdown.

So why am I still so semi-functional? Laundry gets washed and folded but not put away, We sometimes manage to eat some semblance of dinner around nine pm. My room is a mess and I don't even care. I have NO desire to run, even though I am supposed to be running a half marathon in one month. I have even less desire to eat right. I eat crap all day long. I could sleep all day. I have to  drag myself out of bed about 15 minutes before I have to leave for work in the mornings. As  result, I have diagnosed myself with PWSD. Post Wedding Stress Disorder.  All that wedding planning blew a fuse or two in my brain.  Which is entirely possible. My brain was pretty fried by the first part of August. So I'm thinking I will submit my newfound diagnosis to the DSM IV committee.

It was all worth it though.  I only hope I can recover in time for Audrey's wedding. She wants one just like Alisa's.

Friday, September 18, 2015

School News

The school life is in full swing around here, and so far so good. Here is what's new for all of our scholars:

Yay for Audrey who is going to be in the school musical. She has a part in the ensemble, and one speaking line. She also has committed to staying after school FIVE NIGHTS A WEEK until November. On top of the two nights she was already supposed to be staying after for debate, that is a lot of long days. She isn't thrilled with being in debate, but I'm making her stick it out. I tell her one day she will be glad she did it. I don't know if that is really true. I just know that I wish now that I had done debate in high school. I was never brave enough. I was terrified of having to speak in front of people. Now I see all the benefits of learning something about public speaking earlier rather than later in life. Whether or not Audrey will feel the same way remains to be seen. But I'm the  mom and so I won that debate. See what I did there? Debate. Do you get it?
Also, Audrey is taking honors everything and AP something else. Don't ask me for details, I am only the mom.  Honors and AP are something else I never dared to do. Not to mention the fact that I was too lazy. And as if all that were not enough,  she is still working at Lagoon every Saturday through Halloween. If she survives the next six weeks, the rest of her life will be a piece of cake, I think.

Will is taking a concurrent enrollment drawing class with a sketchbook that he says is as big as Olivia. He wanted to drop out of that class after the first day, but it's three college credits for 40 bucks, so he decided to stay in, with a just a little nudging from his mother.  He is also taking some AP and honors classes, including calculus which impresses the *&I^ #% out of me as I never in my life made it much past geometry. He works at Arby's a couple times a week,is taking piano lessons, and spends more than his fair share of time shuttling Audrey around while I am at work. He has already been sick twice since school started. Not a good omen. Also, he did not obey my command that he go to homecoming this year. He has promised however, that he will attend at least one school dance before the year is through.

Olivia is finishing her first school break. She starts back again on Monday after three weeks off. Year round school is the worst idea ever concocted. That is all I have to say about that. Also she has to read 20 books this year. They have to be at least 150 pages each, but if they are over 200 pages they count as two books. Or some dumb rule like that. Maybe I'm just getting old, but it seems like school gets dumber and dumber every year.  Olivia however, seems to be thriving in spite of it all.  She takes piano lessons too and is riding her bike everywhere.

Mitch has started his second to last quarter at Weber State. If all goes well, he will graduate this spring. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. He has started applying for jobs, and has even been to California a few times for some testing. It worries the heck out of my mommy heart to think of my boy as a policeman, especially in California and especially with all the craziness surrounding cops these days. But he has worked hard enough for it, and I hope he finds something that he loves. And if he winds up moving to California, that will be all the more reason for me to visit there regularly.

Alisa is in her second semester of her master's degree. She sends me pictures of her assignments that she does well on. She has professors that write lots of nice comments about how amazing and smart she is, which I already knew, but it's nice to see it in writing. She is teaching too, and likes it, which is a good thing since that is her chosen profession.

And then there is Duncan, who is about to start a new chapter in his life and education as well. He is waiting eagerly for his service mission call to come in the mail. We got all the paper work in a few weeks ago, and he should be getting his official call any day now. It's a pretty cool story on how that opportunity all came together for him, after a long long time of waiting and wondering, and when all is set, I will write about that.

Piper the dog is not in school, but she should be. She needs some obedience training. She always likes to try to be the big boss around here and we have to be careful to keep asserting our dominance and putting her in her proper place as the low man on the totem pole. She loves us all dearly and really wants to keep us all safe by being in charge of everything that happens around here. We just keep reminding her that she is at the bottom of the pack. But the only person around here she is really afraid of is Belle.

And that's about all she wrote as far as the students among us. Dan and I are just busy being students at the game of life and making all our dreams come true. You know, dreams like eating and having a house to live in. We are getting a nearly-all-expense paid getaway to beautiful St. George in a few weeks though. Well, it's really a work trip for Dan and a getaway for me. But I'm sure having me along to harass and annoy him will make it seem like a vacation for him as well.