Monthly Archives: December 2012

Mix tape.

“Where words leave off, music begins.” – Heinrich Heine

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Genesis, “Throwing It All away”, 1987 Invisible Touch album

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“I love the relationship that anyone has with music … because there’s something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. … It’s the best part of us probably …” – Nick Hornby

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“Hypnotized” by Fleetwood Mac  from 1973 album “Mystery to Me”

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“Music… will help dissolve your perplexities and purify your character and sensibilities, and in time of care and sorrow, will keep a fountain of joy alive in you.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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Seals and Crofts, “King of Nothing”, 1974, from Unborn Child album

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“Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.” – Confucious

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Classic.

“If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.” – Albert Einstein

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Pachelbel Canon in D with guitar and violin

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“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.” – Aldous Huxley

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Pachelbel Canon  Guitar

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“Music . . . can name the unnameable and communicate the unknowable.” – Leonard Berstein

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Virtual Zen.

Buddha Maitreya and Attendants, Cave 248, Western Wei Dynasty, around 450 AD

Buddha Maitreya and Attendants, Cave 248, Western Wei Dynasty, around 450 AD

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When I read this one a short while back, I thought it likely the only
way I’d see these caves. :^) Although a trek around Kailas sounds
inspiring and a real lifetime opportunity, the reality is a
next-lifetime experience. Meanwhile, I’m grateful for almost-there
technology:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/12/16/holograms-to-save-buddha-caves.html

Holograms to Save Buddha caves
Dec 17, 2012 12:00 AM EST

Among china’s greatest art treasures are the Buddhist caves near
Dunhuang, an oasis on the fabled Silk Road that once linked China and
Europe. Their ancient frescoes, sculptures, and other relics date as
far back as A.D. 430 and have survived wars, environmental damage,
antiquities hunters, and the chaotic Cultural Revolution. But their
biggest threat today is tourism.

The UNESCO World Heritage site—which includes more than 700 caves,
2,400 clay sculptures, and 150,000 square feet of frescoes—has an
optimal capacity of 3,000 people per day, but up to 8,000 visited the
caves daily during holidays this year. The caves, also known as the
Mogao Grottoes, have fragile ecosystems, and the buildup of humidity
and carbon dioxide from visitors’ breath can lead to flaking and
discoloration of the delicate wall paintings.

In a bid to help preserve the caves, the Dunhuang Academy has settled
on an innovative strategy: digitize them. The academy has been working
with the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Northwestern University to
create a digital archive of the caves using a camera with a
billion-pixel resolution. The results will be used in the academy’s
planned $40 million visitor center—slated for completion next
year—which will present virtual tours of the caves to save the real
sites from wear and tear. The scope of the project is daunting. It
takes 20 minutes to record a 30-square-foot fresco, and there are 492
caves with murals inside.

Recently the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington, D.C., offered a
tantalizing glimpse of the final product. Donning 3-D glasses,
visitors were transported across time and space into a “virtual”
Dunhuang. The exhibit digitally re-created a single grotto, known as
Cave 220, which boasts early Tang paintings from approximately A.D.
642. The 3-D, interactive experience is flooded with vivid color,
entrancing close-up details, and moving images of flying bodhisattvas
riding mythical animals.

One of the most popular features is the “magnifying glass,” which can
zoom in on, say, a zither depicted in a mural. The instrument appears
to pop out of the wall, enlarge, and then rotate in space as zither
music plays in the background. Visitors can also “flip” back and forth
between an intricate Tang-dynasty mural and a later, cruder
Sung-dynasty fresco, which had hidden the original painting until
1943.

To help bring Cave 220’s Tang dancer paintings to life, performers
from the Beijing Dance Academy were filmed by the City University of
Hong Kong’s Applied Laboratory for Interactive Visualization and
Embodiment (ALiVE). They appeared in the Sackler tour dancing as if in
midair, clad in brightly colored Tang period costume. ALiVE’s project
manager Leith Chan said that while he’s become intimately familiar
with the images of Cave 220, he hasn’t been to Dunhuang yet. “I can’t
wait to visit the real thing.”

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Dunhuang Buddhist Caves

Dunhuang Buddhist Caves

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“Truth is the same always. Whoever ponders it will get the same answer. Buddha got it. Patanjali got it. Jesus got it. Mohammed got it. The answer is the same, but the method of working it out may vary this way or that. – Swami Satchidananda

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Buddhist stupas dot the hillside at the Mogao Caves

Buddhist stupas dot the hillside at the Mogao Caves

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“Whether our action is wholesome or unwholesome depends on whether that action or deed arises from a disciplined or undisciplined state of mind. It is felt that a disciplined mind leads to happiness and an undisciplined mind leads to suffering, and in fact it is said that bringing about discipline within one’s mind is the essence of the Buddha’s teaching.” – Dalai Lama XIV

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Dunhuang Cave 158: Recumbent Buddha

Dunhuang Cave 158: Recumbent Buddha

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“If in our daily life we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it. This is the most basic kind of peace work.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

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Orogenesis.

“Orogenesis: The Making of Mountains” by Michael R.W. Johnson, Simon L. Harley, Published April 9, 2012:

Orogenesis, the process of mountain building, occurs when two tectonic plates collide – either forcing material upwards to form mountain belts such as the Alps or Himalayas or causing one plate to be subducted below the other, resulting in volcanic mountain chains such as the Andes. Integrating the approaches of structural geology and metamorphism, this book provides an up-to-date overview of orogenic research and an introduction to the physico-chemical properties of mountain belts. Global examples are explored, the interactioning roles of temperature and deformation in the orogenic process are reviewed, and important new concepts such as channel flow are explained. This book provides a valuable introduction to this fast-moving field for advanced undergraduate and graduate students of structural geology, plate tectonics and geodynamics, and will also provide a vital overview of research for academics and researchers working in related fields including petrology geochemistry and sedimentology.

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This new book arrived today and I can’t wait to read it. I’m currently half-way through Hard Road West:  History and Geology along the Gold Rush Trail” by  Keith Heyer Meldahl, published in 2007. This is the first of Meldahl’s books that I’ve read and he is a fantastic writer.

 

Review:

This is a really good book, a great read. The author is a gifted writer and he beautifully weaves the tales of the emigrant travels to California with the landscape geology that they had to cross. I am a big reader of geology books and this is one of the best that I have read. With all due respect to Mr. Mcfee who pioneered this genre (and I have also read and enjoyed over the years), I think this book is at least as good and maybe even better. First of all, Hard Road West uses numerous pictures and diagrams to explain complicated geological principals which are invaluable for understanding the geology. And Hard Road West lets the emigrants themselves tell the story though their travel journals. Its a wonderful approach and makes the geology jump out of the page as you follow the emigrants almost step-by-step through their many travel hardships crossing the west to reach California. He is a really fun writer and I look forward to many other books by him in the future. Highly recommended.

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Meldahl’s second book, “Rough-Hewn Land: A Geologic Journey from California to the Rocky Mountains” published in 2011 was a thoroughly enjoyable read as well.

R.M. Peterson Review:

“In ROUGH-HEWN LAND, Keith Heyer Meldahl (a Professor of Geology) takes the reader on a geological journey eastward, starting at the Golden Gate and ending on the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains. The north-south band of his tour centers roughly on Interstate Highway 80. He explores such things as the pillow basalt heaped up around the Golden Gate (volcanic basalt that once formed part of the ocean floor thousands of miles west of California); other geological aspects of the accreted terranes that form the entire west coast of North America for one hundred or more miles inland; the gold and other mineral resources of the Sierra Nevada foothills; the dramatic evidence of past earthquake activity throughout much of the West and the geological reasons for it; the Basin and Range province, where to a degree unmatched anywhere else the Earth’s crust has been stretched like an accordion; and the formation of the Rocky Mountains, where some of the oldest rock of the continent can be found on mountain summits.

What underpins the geology of the book is plate tectonics, and Meldahl helped me appreciate much better that the explanatory power of plate tectonics is roughly on a par with the concept of biological evolution and with quantum physics. Most of the book is in accord with the current consensus of geological science, though on a few specifics Meldahl ventures beyond the accepted consensus. For instance, does the San Andreas fault mark the western edge of the North American Plate, as reflected in all the textbooks? Meldahl says no, that wedged between the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate there is a separate plate that moves on its own, which he calls the “Sierran Plate”.

Meldahl interlaces his discussion of geology with incidents from history – for example, the Gold Rush and the Donner Party — that were heavily influenced by features of Western geology. (Those historical discussions exemplify Robert Penn Warren’s remark that “history is all explained by geography, and geography is all explained by geologic forces.”) Meldahl’s writing is hip and informal, colorful and creative. He has a slightly wacky sense of humor (for instance, he says that about the only benefit to Californians from living along the edge of a tectonic plate is “the thrill of knowing that death from an earthquake could come any day, which naturally makes each latte and yoga lesson more meaningful.”)

What makes the book particularly appealing, and comprehensible, are the many excellent schematic illustrations and helpful photographs. Imagine, then, John McPhee’s classics on geology (the works assembled in “Annals of the Former World”) updated and intelligently illustrated. That is close to what you get with ROUGH-HEWN LAND, albeit without McPhee’s stylistic filigree. If anything, ROUGH-HEWN LAND is even more comprehensible to the interested layperson than McPhee.

I admit to a personal fascination with geology. If I could re-run my life, I would seriously consider studying geology, perhaps even making that my profession. But one need not have as strong an interest in geology as I do to appreciate ROUGH-HEWN LAND. Indeed, to enjoy reading the book one probably need not even have had at the outset a distinct interest in geology at all – though by book’s end there is a good chance such an interest has been kindled.”

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Xmas wish.

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Little did I know when I saw this film back in the late 1970’s at a Philadelphia area theater, that I would be living in the Bay area and even driving south on PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) in 1980 and many times after that.  Oh, what I wouldn’t give to move back to northern California now, especially in the Sierras….

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The Last Season

 McClure Meadow in Kings Canyon National Park

McClure Meadow in Kings Canyon National Park

 

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“The Last Season” written by Eric Blehm

“OK. Total Disclosure: I worked with and was a friend of Randy Morgenson — the subject of this book — for over 25 years; I was also interviewed for the book (endlessly, it seemed).

For all that, when I read this (a manuscript copy), I found it compelling. I mean, I lived the whole thing pretty intimately, but kept wondering “hmm, I wonder what happens next?”

A number of the reviews emphasize Randy’s apparently troubled life. That’s kind of true, but I notice one of the reviewers calls it a love story — a love for the land. And I think that’s closer to it. It’s also one of the few honest descriptions of the exciting, glamorous life of a backcountry ranger (the fast cars, alluring women, investment strategies…)I’ve run across (Jordan Fischer-Smith’s “Nature Noir”, though not about backcountry rangers, is the other excellent account of rangering).

Anyway, if you’re a hiker or one of those folks who always wanted to be a backcountry ranger, this is the book to read. Maybe a cautionary tale but, really, it’s all about not being happy anywhere else.”  – George Durkee

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Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park

Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park

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“I was a backcountry ranger in the High Sierra and Rocky Mountains for many years with both the Natl Park Service and USDA-Forest Service. This is a compelling book because it captures the culture, values, accomplishments and limitations of living a backcountry life. “Wilderness teaches a person the answers to questions that we have not yet learned how to ask” (photographer Nancy Newhall). To paraphrase Isaac Walton’s “The Compleate Angler” (1650), “time spent in mountains will not be counted against the rest of your life.”

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peaks along the John Muir Trail in Kings Canyon Park

peaks along the John Muir Trail in Kings Canyon Park

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Randy was well known and admired because he lived a backcountry life and lived it well. He modeled first-hand knowledge and care and respect for wild ecosystems. Being a backcountry ranger immerses you in rarified air and light, extends the useable light of every day, winter and summer and in many ways is living a religious experience, a special calling. This sets you apart from the every day world and makes it hard on relationships, personal and professional. Each day is a wealth of learning opportunities that teaches you to not take life and people for granted.

Randy lived with the understanding of Sierra Nevada mountaineer Norman Clyde, “the mountains will always be there tomorrow, make sure you can say the same.” Randy relished every day with Clyde’s thought in mind. We are all envious of Randy, he lived a full life (including the ups and downs) doing what he loved and doing it well.

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Mineral King Webcam

Mineral King Webcam

http://www.webcams.travel/webcam/1349965225-Weather-California-Sequoia-Kings-Canyon-National-Park-Mineral-King

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As with Alsup’s (2001) “Missing in the Minarets” the search for Walter A. Starr, Jr., in 1933, “The Last Season,” immerses you in the culture, shortcomings, accomplishments and day-to-day activities of Sequoia-Kings Canyon Natl Park backcountry. Everyone involved is passionate. A large, long-term investment of physical and emotional energy and effort commands a high price. The rewards are outside of ordinary life and difficult to put into words. Those who look in from the “outside” do not always understand when a life is cut short. The rewards are not monetary and “University of the Wilderness” curricula is not always valued or recognized in an urban culture. Rewards are emphemeral and are often taken away just as quickly as they are offered.

We are privileged to have known Randy Morgenson.” – Scott M. Kruse

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Meadow North Of Granite Pass In Kings Canyon National Park

Meadow North Of Granite Pass In Kings Canyon National Park

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Simple things.

Tea-Light-Candles

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There is an old saying about the simple things bringing pleasure and I’m doing that for the holidays, especially x-mas this year.  Small tea candles to light, a bag of red and green candy kisses and two small toys for a beloved pet dog from Santa.

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tealight in glass holder

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Today during errands here and there, I wondered what to do for xmas dinner and an expeditious trip to Chik-fil-A on xmas eve came to mind rather than dealing with the crush of people at the grocery store this weekend. (and it actually felt like a potential option as crowds make me uneasy…)

Last year I was alone during the holidays and although a little nervous about it, found the peace and quiet to be incredibly wonderful.  The Friday before the Sunday holiday, I went to the grocery store, bought fresh salmon, fresh dill and some other items.  Baked salmon on xmas was unusual but an enjoyable meal that reminded me of when I lived in in California. And my Boxer dog most certainly loved the salmon bits I gave him.

This year I’ve been planning on working during the holiday and getting lots of things done. And not beating myself up if I don’t get it all accomplished.

Each night I will light a couple of those tea light candles in cut crystal glass holders (that I didn’t sell) and enjoy quiet evenings. Listen to music.  Sit out on the porch and watch the stars including Orion move across the night sky. Feel grateful for what I have (as well as what I don’t). Appreciate there are no family dramas, toxic arguments, resentments and all the rest of what those spending the holidays with family experience.  Spending xmas alone is not a bad thing at all. In fact, for some folks like me, it’s a tiny slice of heaven.

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Driftwood Tea Light holder

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safe.

Brookhaven, PA

Brookhaven, PA

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There was a time when I used to babysit for not only my own siblings, those of neighbors and a number of families in nearby communities.  In high school I worked several jobs including a mom and pop discount drug store called Nifty Norm’s.

While working there as a cashier, the assistant manager named Marti asked me to babysit her three kids. Of course I told her”yes.” It was only a couple of times that I watched her kids, and each time she told me to never answer her front door if her ex-husband ever came over and to call her if he ever did stop by.

One night he did stop by and I told him through the door to “go away and I am calling the police..” I didn’t babysit for Marti anymore after that.

I went away to college and heard that Marti and her three children were kidnapped. Marti’s ex husband and his girlfriend also murdered Marti. The police found her in a grave next to three smaller empty graves.  The kids were found alive and the two killers went to prison.

It’s been years since I even remembered this story.  During a recent conversation about high school memories and how the doors were never locked. How there weren’t any guns or other weapons in school. How we never worried about anything like that.

And then I remembered a former babysitting client, Marti.

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Candy kiss bells.

 

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Mental illness and guns: Powerful Opinion Piece.

http://susiemadrak.com/2012/12/15/i-am-adam-lanzas-mother/

15 December 2012

PLEASE NOTE: I did not write this. A writer named Liza Long did, at her website “Anarchist Soccer Mom.”

This is also very sad. And infuriating. Hey, let’s cut some more mental health funding!

Friday’s horrific national tragedy—the murder of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in New Town, Connecticut—has ignited a new discussion on violence in America. In kitchens and coffee shops across the country, we tearfully debate the many faces of violence in America: gun culture, media violence, lack of mental health services, overt and covert wars abroad, religion, politics and the way we raise our children. Liza Long, a writer based in Boise, says it’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness.
Three days before 20 year-old Adam Lanza killed his mother, then opened fire on a classroom full of Connecticut kindergartners, my 13-year old son Michael (name changed) missed his bus because he was wearing the wrong color pants.
“I can wear these pants,” he said, his tone increasingly belligerent, the black-hole pupils of his eyes swallowing the blue irises.
“They are navy blue,” I told him. “Your school’s dress code says black or khaki pants only.”
“They told me I could wear these,” he insisted. “You’re a stupid bitch. I can wear whatever pants I want to. This is America. I have rights!”
“You can’t wear whatever pants you want to,” I said, my tone affable, reasonable. “And you definitely cannot call me a stupid bitch. You’re grounded from electronics for the rest of the day. Now get in the car, and I will take you to school.”
I live with a son who is mentally ill. I love my son. But he terrifies me.
A few weeks ago, Michael pulled a knife and threatened to kill me and then himself after I asked him to return his overdue library books. His 7 and 9 year old siblings knew the safety plan—they ran to the car and locked the doors before I even asked them to. I managed to get the knife from Michael, then methodically collected all the sharp objects in the house into a single Tupperware container that now travels with me. Through it all, he continued to scream insults at me and threaten to kill or hurt me.
That conflict ended with three burly police officers and a paramedic wrestling my son onto a gurney for an expensive ambulance ride to the local emergency room. The mental hospital didn’t have any beds that day, and Michael calmed down nicely in the ER, so they sent us home with a prescription for Zyprexa and a follow-up visit with a local pediatric psychiatrist.
We still don’t know what’s wrong with Michael. Autism spectrum, ADHD, Oppositional Defiant or Intermittent Explosive Disorder have all been tossed around at various meetings with probation officers and social workers and counselors and teachers and school administrators. He’s been on a slew of antipsychotic and mood altering pharmaceuticals, a Russian novel of behavioral plans. Nothing seems to work.
At the start of seventh grade, Michael was accepted to an accelerated program for highly gifted math and science students. His IQ is off the charts. When he’s in a good mood, he will gladly bend your ear on subjects ranging from Greek mythology to the differences between Einsteinian and Newtonian physics to Doctor Who. He’s in a good mood most of the time. But when he’s not, watch out. And it’s impossible to predict what will set him off.
Several weeks into his new junior high school, Michael began exhibiting increasingly odd and threatening behaviors at school.

We decided to transfer him to the district’s most restrictive behavioral program, a contained school environment where children who can’t function in normal classrooms can access their right to free public babysitting from 7:30-1:50 Monday through Friday until they turn 18.
The morning of the pants incident, Michael continued to argue with me on the drive. He would occasionally apologize and seem remorseful. Right before we turned into his school parking lot, he said, “Look, Mom, I’m really sorry. Can I have video games back today?”
“No way,” I told him. “You cannot act the way you acted this morning and think you can get your electronic privileges back that quickly.”
His face turned cold, and his eyes were full of calculated rage. “Then I’m going to kill myself,” he said. “I’m going to jump out of this car right now and kill myself.”
That was it. After the knife incident, I told him that if he ever said those words again, I would take him straight to the mental hospital, no ifs, ands, or buts. I did not respond, except to pull the car into the opposite lane, turning left instead of right.
“Where are you taking me?” he said, suddenly worried. “Where are we going?”
“You know where we are going,” I replied.
“No! You can’t do that to me! You’re sending me to hell! You’re sending me straight to hell!”
I pulled up in front of the hospital, frantically waiving for one of the clinicians who happened to be standing outside. “Call the police,” I said. “Hurry.”
Michael was in a full-blown fit by then, screaming and hitting. I hugged him close so he couldn’t escape from the car. He bit me several times and repeatedly jabbed his elbows into my rib cage. I’m still stronger than he is, but I won’t be for much longer.
The police came quickly and carried my son screaming and kicking into the bowels of the hospital. I started to shake, and tears filled my eyes as I filled out the paperwork—“Were there any difficulties with… at what age did your child… were there any problems with.. has your child ever experienced.. does your child have…”
At least we have health insurance now. I recently accepted a position with a local college, giving up my freelance career because when you have a kid like this, you need benefits. You’ll do anything for benefits. No individual insurance plan will cover this kind of thing.
For days, my son insisted that I was lying—that I made the whole thing up so that I could get rid of him. The first day, when I called to check up on him, he said, “I hate you. And I’m going to get my revenge as soon as I get out of here.”
By day three, he was my calm, sweet boy again, all apologies and promises to get better. I’ve heard those promises for years. I don’t believe them anymore.
On the intake form, under the question, “What are your expectations for treatment?” I wrote, “I need help.”
And I do. This problem is too big for me to handle on my own. Sometimes there are no good options. So you just pray for grace and trust that in hindsight, it will all make sense.
I am sharing this story because I am Adam Lanza’s mother. I am Dylan Klebold’s and Eric Harris’s mother. I am Jason Holmes’s mother. I am Jared Loughner’s mother. I am Seung-Hui Cho’smother. And these boys—and their mothers—need help. In the wake of another horrific national tragedy, it’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness.
According to Mother Jones, since 1982, 61 mass murders involving firearms have occurred throughout the country. Of these, 43 of the killers were white males, and only one was a woman.Mother Jones focused on whether the killers obtained their guns legally (most did). But this highly visible sign of mental illness should lead us to consider how many people in the U.S. live in fear, like I do.
When I asked my son’s social worker about my options, he said that the only thing I could do was to get Michael charged with a crime. “If he’s back in the system, they’ll create a paper trail,” he said. “That’s the only way you’re ever going to get anything done. No one will pay attention to you unless you’ve got charges.”
I don’t believe my son belongs in jail. The chaotic environment exacerbates Michael’s sensitivity to sensory stimuli and doesn’t deal with the underlying pathology. But it seems like the United States is using prison as the solution of choice for mentally ill people. According to Human Rights Watch, the number of mentally ill inmates in U.S. prisons quadrupled from 2000 to 2006, and it continues to rise—in fact, the rate of inmate mental illness is five times greater (56 percent) than in the non-incarcerated population.
With state-run treatment centers and hospitals shuttered, prison is now the last resort for the mentally ill—Rikers Island, the LA County Jail and Cook County Jail in Illinois housed the nation’s largest treatment centers in 2011.
No one wants to send a 13-year old genius who loves Harry Potter and his snuggle animal collection to jail. But our society, with its stigma on mental illness and its broken healthcare system, does not provide us with other options. Then another tortured soul shoots up a fast food restaurant. A mall. A kindergarten classroom. And we wring our hands and say, “Something must be done.”
I agree that something must be done. It’s time for a meaningful, nation-wide conversation about mental health. That’s the only way our nation can ever truly heal.
God help me. God help Michael. God help us all.
(Originally published at The Anarchist Soccer Mom.)

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