Homeward Bound…..823 days!

Homeward Bound....823 Days
Homeward Bound….823 Days – Utah to CA!

Monday, the last day of September, 2019 will rank as a high point for my son and us as a family in so many emotional ways. He will be graduating from his step down program after 27 months away from home and we will all drive home from Utah together. It is a truly amazing journey!

It’s been 821 days (as I write this blog post) since we sent our then fifteen year old son to wilderness, way back at the end of June 2017. Fast forward to this coming Monday, the last day of September 2019 and he will be heading home for good! To recap: he will be graduating from his step down program after eight months in southern Utah, along with seventeen months at his residential treatment center near Salt Lake City and before that, 92 days in his wilderness therapy program in southern Idaho. 823 days away from home! Can that even be possible? WOW!

This has been a tremendous journey, as cliché as that may sound. He is ready to begin a new chapter of life facing many of his previous challenges and plenty of new ones as well. Isn’t that what life is about? Yet, what is different for him and for us as a family, are the tools we have gained and the experience of all the hard work that comes with treatment in general. He is one of the lucky ones, and so are we!

We couldn’t have done this alone. We have been fortunate to have been helped by a host full wonderful therapists, advisors, mentors and top notch professionals in this field. They truly care. The programs have tons of experience helping teenagers with their personal issues and work hard to get them back on track. It is a true team effort and is not for the faint of heart, not to mention the unimaginable cost families have to bear.

One good person led us to another good person to another and so we learned to navigate this treacherous sea of “what shall we do next?” with trust and hope and our “gut” feelings. We didn’t know what we didn’t know and with each new interaction we picked up a phrase or new tidbit of information that took us down another trail to where we are today. The road can be long as we can attest.

We are so proud of our son. He is happy again and reports no anxiety or depression. He still faces the challenges of technology use as do we all. He is now finished with high school after taking the CHSPE exam (similar to the GED) and wants to work for a year before heading to the college experience. He is a good kid, not perfect, not fixed as people want to ask, yet a better communicator and compliant to rules and boundaries. We have repaired our relationships and continue to work at it. At 18 years old, his future direction will be up to him.

I don’t want give the impression that our lives resemble a “package all tied up neatly with a bow on top”, but rather, a chance to see what opportunities lie ahead for all of us! This is a chance at a new beginning. And so we begin a fresh chapter with our now adult son living with us again, back home in Marin County and the SF Bay Area, CA. Thank you for reading and for your constant support in our heck of a journey! I will continue to blog and ask you to come back often to check our progress!

Most gratefully and filled with love,

Warrior Mom

2 Years…….Full of Gratitude and Positive Changes


On June 28/29th we will mark two years into our journey. We are so grateful for the time, which has been full of positive change and family healing. When we sent our son to Wilderness therapy with the help of a transport company in 2017, we took a giant leap of faith. We had no idea what to expect. Would this “reboot” work? Would he resent us? Would we get our son back?

Our decision was excruciating. But ultimately after trying everything, we knew we had to do something drastic to keep him safe and stop the downward spiral. He was just shy of his 16th birthday. Today our family can see a future as he turns 18 next month. We all have come a long way!

A couple of weeks ago, our son was home for a quick visit and I asked him a few questions, sort of an interview. His answers might surprise you!

Interview with my son

Warrior Mom: What do you remember from that time two years ago?
Son: I don’t have a lot of memories from that time, since the drugs heavily affected me. After wilderness, my memory got better at the RTC (residential treatment center).
Warrior Mom: What was the worse part for you from that time?
Son: The last part of my freshman year was the worst. I was spiraling out of control. I thought that you should have sent me sooner.


Warrior Mom: What are some of the positive parts?
Son: Being sober. My mental health is stable. My happiness level is better. My anxiety is better. My self confidence is better.

Warrior Mom: Thoughts about the two year anniversary of going to treatment?
Son: In some ways it feels short, in some ways it feels long.

Warrior Mom: Do you think that others at your local high school would benefit from treatment?
Son: Yes, I know at least fifteen kids who have been to some kind of treatment. A lot of kids from California are in Utah!

Warrior Mom: What was it like when you visited your old RTC last month?
Son: It was really surreal. It looked the same. Some new kids, a few from when I was there. I liked being there without the same rules. A bunch of us from the step down answered questions about it and what it was like to have more independence and privileges.

Warrior Mom: You also had a chance to go to one of your RTC mentor’s wedding. Tell me about it.
Son: It was really fun. We were no longer just staff and students, instead we interacted like friends. I had a good time. We got to decorate the wedding get away car! It was a long day and we got back around 11pm.

Warrior Mom: You have made lots of friends in treatment. Do you keep in touch?
Son: Yeah, I text them and most of them are doing well. One friend and I have talked about working a couple of shifts at our old Wilderness program next Summer.

Warrior Mom: Wow, that sounds like fun!
Son: Yeah.

Warrior Mom: Can you share some of your current goals?
Son: I want to earn money by getting a job. (He was hired at McDonald’s last week and has completed orientation and two training sessions on the grill so far!) I want to move into the Bridge Independent Living House. I want to go to college. (We are going to tour University of New Mexico in July).

Warrior Mom: We are very proud of you. You should be proud of yourself, too.
Son: Thanks. I am!

We have so much to be grateful for as a family. The past two years have been filled with renewed opportunities for growth, communication and love. It has been joyful and at times tearful. The financial end of it is unimaginable! We have met so many wonderful professionals and had support from family and friends. We have made many new friends who are going through similar journeys. Thank you to all who read this blog. I know writing it helps me and hopefully I can shed some light of hope for others.

It is a one day at a time process. This hits home to me this very moment, after hearing of the passing of one of my son’s most extraordinary teachers today. She was a special person to my whole family. I want to dedicate this blog post to her. Her positive outlook was contagious and she touched all of us who knew her. I am saddened with her passing, yet she was able to see my son in person not long ago and witnessed the 2.0 version of him in action. RIP dear Christy. You were there with us the past two years and of course for all the years before as well. I will miss our weekly walks and your unwavering support. Thank you. My thoughts are with your family.


Goodbye RTC, Hello Step Down Program

The Ranch
The Ranch

This past month has been a very exciting time for my 17 1/2 year old son! He has started a new program in a new area of Utah. This program is what is known as a “Step Down” program in the treatment world. It is a small co-ed, boarding prep school with only 37 total students and a place of many possibilities towards a bright future! Much of what he learned at his Residential Treatment Center (RTC) will be put to the test quite quickly! It will be a perfect place to practice!

We left the Ranch last week on a Thursday and drove down to Southern Utah with a car full of clothing, boots, binders and memories! The exact day and time of the departure was kept under wraps by the staff, as close to the last minute as possible, so the students keep participating and working on their issues. In my son’s case, he had a vague idea of when he would be leaving, but not the exact day and time. We challenged him to continue to put in the work, in what would be his final weeks of his almost 17 month stay. He was ready and we were ready! He had learned all that they could offer and succeeded in many aspects during his time there.

One of the biggest achievements was that he finished Geometry, and took his final test (a re-test) and passed with 100% on his next to last day! Days earlier he had only scored a 47% on that same exam. In fact he passed three tests during his last week, which helped quite a bit. He had been ready to give up and accept a half credit for the course just weeks prior. But we as parents and his therapist pushed him into getting the studying done! We told him that if he completed Geometry, he would never have to take that class again, ever! Geometry was not his favorite subject (and who can blame him for thinking that!) but he did get the job done and WOW you could see his pride and excitement when he told us all about it on his final day at the RTC. My son also shared he that decided to skip his team’s basketball game (his did have a sore wrist, but still getting off campus was always a treat) and so he hit the books in order to finish this daunting math class! It was one of the first times that he directly saw the pay-off for actually doing the difficult work! It was a huge accomplishment!

Another big moment for the kids leaving The Ranch is coming up with a “brand” and having it burned into the wall at the entry of the Administration Building and another on a take-away plaque to keep. There are so many unique symbols from every boy who had left prior to my son. It is considered a very special ritual and as we were landing at the Salt Lake City Airport, his therapist texted pictures to us. We would miss that moment in person, but would be able to participate in the “Goodbye Group” with his fellow students, many staff members and mentors.


Making His Own Mark
Making His Own Mark
As we entered the Bunkhouse, where my son had lived since the very end of September 2017, he warmly greeted us with the biggest smile imaginable! He remembered that is was my birthday and even told me, “Happy Birthday”! Those words were the best gift I could receive! I was very moved! As we were getting ready to begin the Goodbye Group, the boys in the bunkhouse all started singing “Happy Birthday” in unison. That really floored me! Even with prompting from the staff, they were able to show their sweet sides to another parent in their group! That put a big smile on my face!
Happy Birthday
Happy Birthday Cake from My Son

There is a designated couch at one end of the main room where my son and the two of us sat. He spoke into a small hand held recording device and announced that it was his Goodbye Group, the date and then paused it, as he passed it to the first boy sitting to his right. They each turned on the recorder, introduced themselves and offered words of wisdom, encouragement or memories of my son and their joint time at The Ranch. Some spoke a short time, some a little longer, but all the messages were heartfelt and very thoughtful. The staff members all participated and added their advice and remarks to and about my son. Our son’s therapist had a couple of quotes that rang true as perfect advice for his future. One was from Mohammed Ali, though I can not recall what the quote was at present. My son will get a copy of all these special sentiments and will be able to listen to them later.

As the recorder was handed to me, I was overcome with emotions. I was going to miss this place, even though it was  difficult having my son so far away from home. This place, that was a safe haven for my son. A place that gave him confidence in himself, where he took care of newborn calves, where he rode horses each week, where he did his own laundry, performed in the Parent Day’s Variety shows and succeeded in school! There were so many thoughts and memories swirling in my head, I had to focus on what I was going to say to him as my parting words from the RTC that was his home and school for over a year!

I turned the recorder on, and couldn’t speak. His therapist was quick to retrieve a box of Kleenex as I gathered myself. It was very silent and then tears began running down my cheeks. My first words were, “WAY TO GO!” You did it. It may have been longer than we all thought it would be, but YOU DID IT! I am proud of you. You stuck with the challenges, leveling up and then even leveling down. Participating in all sorts of therapy, more than anyone can even imagine! But what stood out to me was that your effort was there, even when it didn’t look like if from the outside! You wrote us weekly letters, even if they were mandatory assignments. I am so lucky to have a large stack of them. Yes, they were short and somewhat repetitive but they mattered! I looked so forward to receiving the scan of a new letter every Monday! If for some reason it came on a Tuesday, I was beside myself with anticipation of getting that letter. I was always happy to know that you were okay and were even having a good time!

I then told the boys in the room that their parents and loved ones really appreciated getting their letters, whether they realized it or not! My words to my son then returned back to a simple, yet important theme. I was proud of him, because he was present. I know that being away from home was not something he would have chosen. I know it was hard for him. But guess what, it was hard for me too, not having him home. And most importantly, his original goal (that he stated to the Admission’s person on his first day) was to repair and improve the communication and relationship with his moms. I believe as he does, that he accomplished that!

“You did it son! Way to go! I love you! I can’t wait to see what’s next for you and your future! I’m really excited for you! It’s now all up to you! And we are here for you and still have your back!”

The mic passed to my partner who said something awesome to him and I know he was listening from watching his facial expressions. The circle was complete. We then all went downstairs into the CafeA and had some delicious birthday cake that my son had made in the school’s kitchen, along with his therapist. There is a tradition (at the Ranch) of getting a cake on your birthday made with your favorite ingredients and that was true for me too: chocolate cake, chocolate icing with Reese’s peanut butter cups and Reese’s pieces all over the top! What a birthday I had! We said our last goodbyes and hit the road down to Southern Utah. The next day was going to be big! Entering the Step Down program where my son knew he needed be, for now.

In the car, we talked about our various memories of the Ranch and gave tribute to all those people who helped us along the way. We are all excited to see what’s next! Our journey continues….. Stay tuned!



Change is A Comin’!

Change is a comin'
“The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change -” ― Heraclitus

Happy New Year! Our Christmas visit was awesome! My son came home and that meant that we stayed home for a whole week! No traveling, just staying put! We had a family Christmas, we played basketball, we went shopping and we saw some old friends! Many of those friends had not seen our son in quite some time. They were happily surprised to see a smiling face of a grown teen when they greeted each other.

“What a change!”, they shared with me.
“Can you believe it? He’s smiling and happy!” I replied.
“Really, he looks great!” they added.

In this case, the change was good. Re-connecting with friends from early childhood was important. They knew each other before the teenage years, when they first started school and when they were just learning how to ride bikes. They had lost their first teeth together, and were once so little and innocent, it was hard to imagine they all had grown up to be the big kids now! Some are driving, some have jobs and some like my son, have learned important lessons about life and friendship by a change of scenery and a path less traveled.

They asked him questions about Wilderness. They asked him questions about sleeping without a tent (my son’s choice by the end of 92 days so he didn’t have to keep setting it up every day!) They asked him what it was like to not have a phone.

“Wow, I couldn’t do that! I probably use my phone too much, I guess!”, one realized.

My son has been without a phone (or computer) for over 500 days. What a difference in his brain! He has less anxiety and less depression. He has less to worry about like keeping Snap Chat strings alive or posting on Instagram or getting a ton of LIKES. It’s a simple life when electronics aren’t taking you over! Oh, did I mention that my son read a book over Christmas vacation? He also had conversations with us. And his distraction level is WAY down! That’s another nice change!

Looking back over 2018 we can certainly say that we are moving in a good direction. Yet, just when one feels settled, change comes along to shake things up a bit! Change is a good thing in this case! And the theme of the unknown keeps coming back again and again!

This coming weekend we are touring a STEP DOWN Boarding School together. It is located in Southern Utah. This new environment will allow my son more independence and a chance to make decisions for himself. The school is Co-Ed and that will be a BIG change from the all boys RTC (residential treatment center) he has been at for the past fifteen months. They have school in the AM, and that will be a change from the afternoon schooling at the Ranch. There will be many new adjustments ahead. We think it could be a good fit for a young man heading toward adulthood and his 18th birthday in July. He has more time to practice what he has learned in the past year and a half, before he comes home for good.

We are excited to see a new part of Utah and discover new places in that beautiful state. We know that change is important for growth. This move will be a different experience, but exciting at the same time. We are looking forward to the new changes that are a comin’ our way!

I am embracing the unknown! Thanks for sharing our journey!


The One Year Anniversary of My Warrior Mom Life Blog

Happy One Year Anniversary to the Warrior Mom Blog

Happy Anniversary to me! Yes, it’s been one year since The My Warrior Mom Life Blog was launched. I feel fortunate to be able to share my journey with you on this website. It has been a year filled with gratitude,  growth and understanding. I know many of you readers personally and want to thank you for your support. It means the world to me! There are many others of you, whom I have not met, and I am thankful for your readership as well. I hope my blog continues to blossom and grow and that I can touch the lives (in a positive way) of many more parents, who are going through similar situations. Don’t hesitate to share one of my blog posts or a helpful link with anyone on a challenging path with a struggling teenager in their lives. We all know someone who is going through tough times with their teen, don’t we? Don’t be shy about reaching out!

I don’t proclaim to have all the answers. In fact, it’s just the opposite. I, however, have surrounded myself with people who can help my family and me through our not so unusual journey. The list of contributing factors that many of us face range from digital addiction, adoption to ADHD to drugs and school failure and others I have not mentioned. I have been honest and open about the ups and downs my family has experienced and about the many feelings that have come up connected to those times.  I know that sharing it all on this blog has helped me tremendously! I will continue to write openly about our story, as we navigate a world that is more complex than ever before.

For me, at this very moment, I must trust in the process, especially because it involves “radical acceptance” regarding the unknown future that lies ahead. More on that topic in an upcoming blog post. I am also planning to write about school issues, time between visits in seeing our son, time tables for possible upcoming home visits, aftercare, turning the magical age of 18 and other relevant themes regarding treatment.  Believe me, it’s not easy, not having our son at home, but he is safe and doing well at the RTC. There is so much to learn and digest that frankly, I have to acknowledge that TIME is the best healer there is. It is also one of the most anxious making parts of the process. That is the Ying and Yang of it all!

So in conclusion, I’d like to thank you all personally for being a part of my ongoing healing as a parent with a teen who struggles. I look forward to being there for others as you have been there for me. It takes a village and beyond!



I Am Thankful
I Am Thankful

The Support System…A Parent’s Lifeline…While Your Kid is in Treatment

Support System


As parents we are supposed to care for our kids. We are supposed to teach our kids right from wrong. And we are supposed to be good role models for them in life. Even if all those things are true, as parents we still may need to rely on others for support and strength.

Here is a list of some of the ways I have gotten support during the past year, while my son has been in Wilderness Therapy and at his current placement, an RTC (Residential Treatment Center) in Utah. I will add other resourses to this post in the future. I would love to hear from fellow parents! Please chime in below, in the Comment Section ​because it does “take a village”!
What are your lifelines and support systems?

1. Therapist – A parent needs someone to talk to who is unrelated to the day to day drama we face when our kids are struggling. A good therapist is trained to help parents navigate all the ups and downs we feel when we can’t “fix things” for our teenagers and when life’s challenges are too much to bare. Yes, your kid may need help but it starts with you! Find a good therapist.

2. Education Consultant – Here is another major player in the puzzle of helping your struggling teen. Ed Consultants know all the programs that are available out there. They have visited many of them and keep connected with the staff and administrations of Wilderness Programs, Therapeutic Boarding Schools (TBS), Residential Treatment Centers (RTC), Step Downs and Young Adult (18-26 yrs) Programs. A parent just can not make important decisions without the guidance and expertise of an Ed Consultant. It is important to note that judging a program based on their website alone, is not wise. A talented graphic web designer can make a program’s website look beautiful, but the staff and location is what makes your child’s placement a good fit. The Education Consultant will cost you on the front end of the process, but they are essential at all stages of your journey. A must-have component on your team!

3. Local Meet-Up Parent Support Group – For some folks, this may come in the form of a local Al-Anon group meeting (which I have attended). You can google to see what’s available in your area and find out times and locations for those meetings. For me however, I found that a more specifically directed group for parents of kids in Wilderness, TBS and RTCs was just what I needed. There is a local group in the San Francisco Bay Area is called WILLOWS IN THE WIND. They have an additional new meeting location in Broomfield, CO as well. Willows in the Wind is a 501(c)3 non-profit that supports parents and families who are looking for more information of what’s out there in the way of help or currently have teens and young adults in treatment programs. They have three Bay Area meeting locations: Oakland, Los Altos Hills and San Rafael, CA. Visit their website for more information. It is a safe place with lots of support for parents of troubled teens!

4. Berkeley Parents NetworkBPN is a non-profit online forum for parents who live in the SF Bay Area. Members share advice with other parents about all sorts of topics including parenting, schools, health, career, relationships, travel, and local businesses and services. It has been helpful to me for gathering information and links to other resources, especially when info may be difficult to find. (It is how I found Willows in the Wind!) It is not necessary for you to live in the SF Bay Area to use the website. Many of the posts are older, from the past few years, but it can still be helpful to read those posts on the related topics of Wilderness, Ed Consultants and RTCs for a perspective on how others have handled different problems and their personal situations.

5. W.A.B. Connect Wilderness And Beyond – WAB is an emotional support group with a new website and a weekly parent participation phone call. It began in 2017 by two sets of families who wanted to share their experiences of what therapeutic wilderness was like for them, as well as what follows, with other parents by forming connections. The individual stories may be different but it is very powerful to hear from others going through similar situations, including their wins and set-backs. Weekly call topics and notes as well as a blog are on the website. This awesome group of parents will prove to you that you are NOT alone. It provides a safe place to share, listen and learn from others with adolescents and young adult children at every stage of treatment.

Letter Writing

6. Letter Writing – Every week my son writes us a letter. These letters are part of the therapy assignments in Wilderness and at the RTC. It has become such an important weekly connection for us and we truly look forward to receiving the email version of his handwritten letter at the beginning of the week. We answer him back, usually on Thursdays with a typed letter that we send to his therapist, who prints it out on the other end to give to him. Our son’s letters are not very long and his penmanship is rather sloppy and rushed, but we’ve encouraged him to add more content in the letters to create a back and forth dialog. We put a lot of thought and effort into our replies to his letters. Sometimes we keep it light, but the letters are always encouraging and positive. I have saved a copy of all the letters and plan to put them into a three ring binder to save for posterity. Letter writing has become such a lost art in communication these days. I treasure the chance to re-read each one and actually hold that piece of paper in my hand. Yes, it’s old fashioned but it has a value that can not be underestimated. It becomes something to look forward to, rather than the quick rewards of the instant gratification of texting or phone calls. One could even say it builds character.

7. Blogging – I don’t know what I would have done this past year, if I hadn’t started writing this blog. It has been a highlight of the challenging (yet full of growth) year we’ve had. I feel good after each time I hit “publish”. I’ve learned so much about myself and realize how fortunate I am to have so many family members and friends let me know that they have read what I’ve written. I know some of you have not gone through many of the experiences that my family has, but you continue to show me how much you care and are rooting for us at every turn. I also love receiving comments from all of you after I publish my posts. It is a rather public forum, but I know my sharing has helped others. I have spoken to many of you on the phone. I’ve walked and talked with a few of you. I have had coffee and met some of you in person. I plan to continue to blog because it has become an essential release for my feelings and emotions.

Bonus tip: (For those who are not in the position to blog, keep a journal…same idea, and a bit more private! Get your thoughts out of your head and write them down! Try it, you’ll like it!)

Self Care

8. Self-Care – This is an important one! Exercising, eating right and getting enough sleep will allow you to function at a higher level when stress and worry take over your whole being. It can be a simple walk. I have enjoyed swimming, tennis and pickle ball. Others might prefer yoga and meditation. Whatever you choose, do it regularly and if possible daily! As parents we will not be able to offer anything to our kid’s treatment program if we are unable to get out of bed and are stuck in a frozen state. It might not be easy, but do one thing per day. Put it on the calendar or call a friend and make a firm date to do something you enjoy. It will allow you to come back to the riggers of parenting while your kid is in treatment!

9. Connections – Without connections, a support system can not work. Everyday I meet people who may not know my family’s story and when I have a chance to build a new or stronger connection, I am lifted up by the openness and kindness I receive. I have shared with grocery checkers at my local Safeway. I have shared with other parents and lots of friends who are too shy to ask. I try to be appropriate and not “over share”, but that’s what’s great about having connections first, the realization that everyone’s got something they struggle with. And you don’t know what someone else is going through, if they don’t tell you. So be brave: connect. Then share, then breathe, then let go. Take it slowly. One step at a time. One day at a time. Whatever it is that you are going through, you are not alone. And you can get through it!

10. Books – There are so many good ones. Here’s one that I have read and got a lot out of it and was also recommended by a Mom from Oakland, CA:

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Zen Rocks
Zen Rocks

Turning 17 Years Old…. Away From Home

…Yet Being at Sundance is Nothing to Shake a Stick At!

Turning 17 at Sundance

Happy Birthday! Those words mean a lot for anyone celebrating a birthday. They are even more special to a teenager who is in treatment away from home. How could we make our son’s 17th birthday one to remember? We headed to Utah, of course! Part of his therapy includes regular visits from us every four to six weeks. We use the trips as a way to keep working on our relationships with each other.

However, this visit does NOT include our son staying in the hotel with us. He leveled “down” last month after not meeting a deadline for a Level 3 therapy assignment. He had plenty of fair warning, but couldn’t quite get it done. As his consequence, the treatment team dropped his Level back to a 1. He has been trying to earn his Level 3 since then and when he does get it, he will skip over Level 2 and go straight up to 3. He’s not far from that goal, but as I’ve written in the past, time is all relative. It’s up to him!

Overall, he is doing very well, and he has taken a few minor detours on his overall path, which is to be expected. We arrived the morning of his 17th birthday and he was very happy to see us. He was smiling widely, enough for us to notice he got his retainer with the two attached teeth, back in place! Wow, that only took six months! He looked so handsome and was very confident in his new smile! Again! This was the fourth retainer in a year full of “retainer drama”! This one will not come out of his mouth by accident because it was glued in place by the orthodontist. Yes, the last one was too, but when that one loosened up and came out, he lost it. Another painful lesson learned. And expensive to boot since they cost $700 a pop.

We were also greeted by our son’s therapist at the Ranch who came in on her day off just to see us and say “Hello”. It was so nice of her to do that! We are all lucky to have her on our team! She gave our son a ribbon to wear for the day that said, “Happy Birthday”. It was just enough of an embarrassment that it became a badge of honor and fun in every sense.

One of the first remarks out of our son’s mouth was that he spent his entire 16th year in treatment; first in wilderness and then at the RTC (residential treatment center). Not being with him on his special day last year was difficult with a twinge of guilt, to be honest. He did receive a cake from the staff at wilderness and was made to feel special, but it wasn’t quite the same. We were able to send a card,and tried to keep it light and humorous. This year being with him in person was our gift to him! What a TREAT and an accomplishment rolled into one!

We had some fun activities planned for his 17th birthday. We began by driving up to the Sundance Mountain Resort to go zip-lining! It was going to be a blast! He seemed very happy to hear about our plans. The Sundance ZipTour is one of the most exciting and scenic zip tours in the world, boasting over 2,100 feet of vertical drop — the most of any zip line tour in the United States. Guests can ride side-by-side on the zip line’s double cables and control their speed, cruising over 65 miles per hour, or stopping mid-air to take in the views. Yes, we all did this together! Now we have zip line experiences from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico Asheville, North Carolina, Jackson, Wyoming and now Sundance, Utah under our belts! Where to next?

The chair lift at Sundance, in Summer, that take riders up to the 8,200 foot summit!
The chair lift at Sundance, in Summer, that take riders up to the 8,200 foot summit!
​After the ZipTour, we shared a wonderful birthday dinner together at the Foundry Grill which included the best brussel sprouts we’ve ever had. Our son even tried and liked them, too! (A small win for us!) We told our waiter that it was our son’s birthday and so he got to pick ANY dessert on the menu for FREE! The choice was a Lemon Ginger Cake topped with fresh Blueberry Ice Cream. Delicious! The waiter brought us three spoons and we enjoyed it in record speed!
Sundance Mountain Resort
Sundance Mountain Resort

Besides the zip-lining and excellent meal, we had some good conversations regarding what some of the scenarios for the future would look like. Nothing is determined or set yet, so we talked in generalities and listened to each other’s point of views and goals. It was successful, even when we had different ideas. Was there a glimpse of a new found maturity of our 17 year old son? Could it be true that he was growing up?Back at the Ranch, the chef made our son his own special birthday cake: Twix with vanilla cake inside and chocolate frosting and Twix candy bars outside. All the boys had a piece and one was saved for us, too. It was so intensely filled with sugar that a little went a long way. Tasty and very SWEET! It’s a good thing that birthdays are only once a year!

Turning 17 at Sundance

​The rest of the weekend was filled with hiking, movies, more good meals, swimming at the Provo Rec Center, running, weights, shopping (he was allowed to pick out two t-shirts and a pair of socks as gifts) and lots more conversations. And he did actually do some homework along the way too! (Will surprises never cease?) Our nightly family meetings were honest and open. Could we be getting somewhere? Maybe, but we have to be patient and full of resolve to stay present and focused. We have a long way to go, but for at least this weekend, we were a family celebrating our teen age son’s 17th birthday. We were happy to be together and celebrate the day!I am a Happy,


Time is All Relative

Time is All Relative

We returned from our third Parent Days event with a new understanding about time, yet again. Among the parents whose kids have been at the Ranch from eight to ten months, there was a common frustration. In most cases that struggle revolved around time. Many of our kids, mine included are taking the slow road, stalling along the way during their treatment. This therapy stuff is exhausting and it takes a LONG time. But why?

It’s comfortable to remain the same. It’s uncomfortable to make change. And we are dealing with teen-age boys who look and deal with time differently than we do. The saying “Time is money” is very true for those who are paying a fortune trying to help their kids by sending them to Wilderness, Therapeutic Boarding Schools and Residential Treatment Centers. This cost doesn’t even include the hours of previous therapy with doctors, counselors and psychiatrists back at home.

It was explained to us at Parent Days that change also has very little to do with cause and effect. If the bait is dangled to move to a higher level for more rewards, doesn’t it seem easy to just follow that path and make it happen? Not always. Whether it involves a young brain trying to develop or a kid with ADHD or other social emotional issues, when one is struggling, then some things just take a while. As parents we want to see results, and yet it’s probably not going to speed up just because we’ve put everything in place and paid the money.

Why do I keep coming back to this topic of time and motivation? Can one really motivate someone who isn’t self-motivated? Does external motivation work? Or does it have to be personal and internal? Very good questions, and yet its obvious that being outcome based is not going to make things move any quicker. Being encouraging and understanding doesn’t change the speed of results either, though we think it should. The simple truth is that it is what it is. I will say it again: “It is what it is”.

So once again, after feeling positive about how things are going with my son, I can easily go to a darker place of frustration and maybe even disappointment that it’s taking so long. But change isn’t easy and it won’t happen just because we attach it to a date on the calendar. Time is relative. As we get older, it goes by a lot quicker. For the teens in today’s world, they have their futures ahead of them, but time is such a vague concept to grasp.

So for this blog post, I am going to give myself a reality pep talk. You can listen in if you like: “Okay Warrior Mom, here’s the plan:  Express your frustration! Take it out by hitting a tennis ball over the net! Sing along really loudly to a song on the radio! Watch America Ninja Warrior on TV and think you could have done better than those athletes! And after that, get back to business. Be satisfied that you have done everything in your power already. Be confident that you are doing the right thing. Be open with others about what’s happening. And then be present and accepting. Time is all relative. It is what it is!”

I will stay strong,


One Year Later…….


Beautiful Rose

Our family is about to have an anniversary. This is not your average celebration, in fact it’s more of a milestone involving a series of acts of courage, bravery and change. In just a matter of days, on June 29th, it will be exactly one year since we sent our son (then 15 1/2 years old) to a Wilderness Therapy Program in Idaho. He did not know about it in advance. We hired a transport service to take him there. The boys in wilderness call it “being gooned.” We called it surreal and unthinkable. How could we send our son away?

As we look back, we can honestly say, without hesitation, we did it to SAVE his life! It took all the courage we could muster and then some. We have met many other brave parents who have done the same. Like us, many of them also faced scrutiny and criticism from family and friends.

“I couldn’t do that”, was one of many comments we heard. My reply is that until you walk in someone’s shoes, how do you know? We tried everything first before finally making one of the most difficult decisions we have ever faced. Yet, we did it.

One year later, what have we learned? What has changed? How do we feel?

1) We told people about our situation. We didn’t hide what happened and became vulnerable in accepting the help from professionals. And as we opened up, the people around us began to understand. Some even said they now realize they should have sent their own teenagers to wilderness and beyond.

2) We found that we were not alone! We are part of a “club” of parents/families that we never thought we would be a part of! We met those parents/families at our wilderness retreat. We met them at the RTC (residential treatment center) after wilderness. We met them in our own community. They are out there and the numbers are increasing in our society. Anxiety, depression, digital addition, drugs and alcohol are just some of the many reasons why some of our kids are in trouble.

Here is a conversation we’ve had multiple times.
“Is your son at the local high school?” they would ask.
“No, he’s in Utah.”
“Oh, Utah…..hmmm” (BTW, it’s sort of a code word – because so many of the programs are located there)
“My kid was in a program in Utah.”
“Did they go to wilderness first?”
“Yes, they went to ______________”. (fill in the blank: Hawaii, Vermont, Utah, Oregon, Montana).
“How long were they away?”
This one is a multiple choice answer: A) One year  B) 16 months  C) 2 years D) My kid is still in treatment and we don’t know when he/she is coming home.
“How did you pay for it?”
This answer is also a multiple choice: A) Used the college fund B) Re-financed the house
C) “I can’t say.” (Another code for a school district paying for placement but with a NDA – non disclosure agreement in place, sort of like HUSH MONEY). D) I have no idea!

Once the info was spilled, we found out how common our situation has become. If you don’t know a family experiencing these tough times, then you don’t get out much! We have talked to many folks in various stages of this experience. All I can say is that help is out there. Get an Education Consultant! Get a therapist! Get to a support group! Don’t be ashamed, you can do it! Help your kid, help your self and your family NOW!

3) We slowly built our family relationships back. We have visited our son practically every month since last June, strike July, January and March. We have participated in weekly Skype calls with our son and his therapist. We have all written letters and by now that total is close to fifty or so (from each side). How many of you reading have received fifty handwritten letters from your kids? (A nice advantage of treatment). We would like to think letter writing would continue without it being a mandatory assignment, but we are realistic that it probably won’t. I know that I will not stop writing. It’s very therapeutic. This blog is so important in my process!

4) We got our son back. No, he’s not “fixed”. He is still a 16 year old. He’s still a boy. He still doesn’t always see eye to eye with his parents. Sure that’s “normal” stuff, but in our case, the good news is that for now, our son is free from electronics, free from drugs and alcohol. He exercises every day. He wakes up at seven am on weekdays. He participates in all kinds of therapy: equine, ropes, adoption group, intervention and social skills group. There are so many ways for him to work on himself. Opening up is not easy for him, but he knows that’s what he has to do to move forward.  He is happy and that counts for a lot! One step at a time. It’s not a race.

5) We feel empowered. We are not perfect parents. We still make mistakes in some of the interactions with our son. But, the biggest difference is that we have re-established that we are the parents and he is the child. We have more boundaries in place. And not the kind that you may remember from a tough disciplinarian parent who said, “My way or the highway!”  We try to be kind. We are trying to be better listeners. We pick better words in our comments and conversations. The result is that we are no longer afraid. We have our strength back. We have learned some valuable lessons in the past year. Yes, we have cried our share of tears. We have talked and talked about what we could have done differently. We also know that beating ourselves up isn’t the answer either. We are patient and take a lot of deep breaths. We are present and continue to work on ourselves in a parallel process.

6) We have put our focus on our own self care. It’s just like they say when you are on an airplane. When the oxygen mask drops down, put yours on first, then take care of others around you. What kind of things have we done? Swimming, walking, blogging, pickle ball, tennis, baking, going to movies and watching silly TV shows. We have called friends and family and shared with others. We have gardened and fixed things in our house. We have struggled some, too. We take a step forward, maybe a couple backwards, then forward again. This road is not a straight path. We call it a journey and it’s not predictable. It’s real life. And we keep breathing.

7) We try to take one day at a time. We try to live in the present. We try not to worry about cost and expenses (and believe you me, it’s not cheap, but we are trying to make it work). We have acceptance. We practice positive thinking and positive self talk. We rely on the positive people around us and discard the negative. There is little room for that. We are grateful for our lives. We are so very lucky. We have come so far. We know the best is yet to come. Yes, we will stumble. But we will pick ourselves up and keep going. Because we CAN!

Here’s to making it through ONE YEAR in our new “skins”! The reality is that we terribly miss our son not being at home. We still need time to get to that next step right. We will not give up!


Moab and More….Dealing with Old Patterns

Moab and More…Dealing with Old Patterns

We took another trip back to Utah, this time with Moab as our destination which included Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park. We picked our son up early Friday morning with the intention of having a therapeutic family trip. It turned into so much more than we expected: filled with magnificent beauty and many difficult conversations. Our 16 1/2 year old is back at Level 2 and we were all excited for him to be in the hotel with us again! The last time he stayed overnight with us was back at Christmas time in Salt Lake City. It had been a while!

Our first stop was shopping for shorts. The weather is beginning to warm up at the Ranch, so our son requested that we buy him some shorts. Most of the boys wear them during school hours, so we got permission to add that activity to our contract and list of things to do and goals. We all have to agree to the rules for being off campus: no cell phone use, we have to be together at all times, no use of money, no R rated movies, no highly caffeinated drinks, etc.

The store didn’t have the biggest selection of brands and styles and that has become important to our son, surprisingly. We went back and forth and finally decided on a couple of pair. The tug of war began between us, but we talked about it openly and then hit the road for our three hour plus trip. We stopped for food and our son had signs of more resistance to choices before he settled on a box of fried chicken for lunch. I point this out because looking back we can see how innocently it started but by the end of the weekend, we had more power struggles regarding food and portions. Some old habits and “hot” button topics showed up during our weekend.

We had a picnic lunch along the shores of the Green River and it was a perfect temperature outside. We talked about what was new. It was fun just to be together again. Our trips back to Utah have been about five to seven weeks apart and honestly it’s not easy being so far away from our son. We looked at the map of where we were heading and checked out the John W. Powell History Museum and then hit the road on to Moab.

Moab and More…Dealing with Old Patterns

One agreement we had was for our son to bring his homework and therapy assignments along  on the trip, to work on them during the weekend. But time management is not his strong suit and with some prompting he did get a little work done. My personal level of frustration started to rise each day as he began to make excuses for not doing the work. We ended each day with better family meetings than we previously had during past visits, which took some of the edge off. But there was still a power struggle lying underneath it all. We set it up that he was going to lead the meetings and not just “phone it in” as they say. We succeeded in that department.

Moab and More…Dealing with Old Patterns

We arrived at Moab late Friday afternoon and checked into the hotel. It had a nice pool and a good location so we were very happy. We decided to put our hiking shoes on and explore Arches. First stop was “Park Avenue” and then onto “Delicate Arch”. Our son was a champ for carrying all of our water bottles in his backpack. We did more talking and then the topic of school came up. We went over past issues with his education and the conversation became quite difficult. He admitted to not having the right mind set for learning as a freshman, which led to more discussion of what worked and what didn’t work last year. We listened and learned and even though we disagreed, we talked it out. That was the biggest take-away. Yet, something remained unresolved for him.


Moab and More…Dealing with Old Patterns

We went to the movies on Saturday night to see The Avengers. Not my favorite film choice, but we did enjoy it. Our son really liked it. It brought home the point that we are all different, including taste in movies and our journeys are different as well.  We went swimming at the hotel pool. We ate ice cream in town. And we continued to talk. We never lost sight of the fact that we are trying to re-build our relationships. There were tough moments. There were hard conversations. Sunday turned out to be our biggest challenge.


Moab and More…Dealing with Old Patterns

We were tired. We had hiked and hiked. We had talked and talked. I challenge any family to do what we had done and have them be smiley and peachy keen as a group. But Sunday was a arduous day. We decided to drive through Canyonlands National Park instead of hiking and found ourselves on the end of his silent treatment without understanding exactly why. This was an old pattern and one that I never hoped to endure again. Our son wanted a few more pair of shorts and he wanted to head north to the Lehi outlet mall instead of enjoying more of the beautiful Utah dessert. We didn’t pick up on his desires until late in the day. We probably should have just headed back to the Ranch, but no we continued to prompt him, which led to more power struggles and more one or two word answers to our questions.

Later at dinner we talked about what was really going on. If he didn’t get his way, then we had to pay for it with his silence. It was deja vu all over again. We had experienced the son we had from a year ago. The good news is that his therapist said that was the best case scenario for our weekend. Why not go through some difficulties while still in a safe environment and there was a support system in place? It was not easy, but there were silver linings after all. We talked. We didn’t yell. We were able to disagree and listen to each other’s points of view.


And finally, with the therapist’s help, we validated each other’s feelings without having to agree with the viewpoints. It was a great trip from that stand point. We were actually getting to real feelings, not just going through the motions. Our son was the most like he had been at home and that allowed us to practice new methods, even after the fact. After the trip we wrote letters separately to each other pin-pointing moments that worked and others that hadn’t. We continued working on things in our Skype therapy call last week as well. I am aware I am still processing it and have ups and downs in dealing with the feelings. As they say at the Ranch, “The Strength is in the Struggle”.

It was a good weekend. We didn’t see eye to eye all the time. We talked about our differences. It was done in the safety net of treatment. We are lucky to have help navigating our relationships. We will never forget the beauty of Moab and the beauty of communicating.  See you next month son!

Keeping the Faith!