Showing posts with label children. Show all posts
Showing posts with label children. Show all posts

Saturday, December 07, 2013

History is not a game

We live in the age of miracles and innovations. I walk around with a device that helps my heart correct arrhythmia -- I got rhythm! I just watched an online tutorial (complete with code) by a young man explaining how to hack a drone and take it over for your own purposes. Amazon, beware! 

At work, I supervise print and online communications. I typed my first book manuscript on a portable non-electric typewriter. My younger colleagues have never seen such a device. 

The year I was born, 1950, was closer to the bombing of Pearl Harbor (Dec. 7, 1941) by propeller-driven aircraft than to the 1969 launch of the Atlas rocket that carried the astronauts to the moon.

1950 was closer to the Russian Revolution (1917) than it was to the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989) and the end of the global Cold War (1991). 

My birth year was closer to the first 1951 airing of "Duck and Cover," a film by the U.S. Civil Defense Administration, than to the dawn of the atomic age (1945). 

My birth year was closer to the founding of Hewlett-Packard in 1939 than it was to the 1976 launch of the Apple-1, a single-board computer for hobbyists, designed by Steve Wozniak, and the founding of Apple Computer by Wozniak and Steve Jobs. 

We are approaching the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I. 1914 was a very big year. An archduke was assassinated in Sarajevo, the machines of war were set in motion, and four years later, millions were dead, the world map was changed and the seeds were planted for the next world war. 

One hundred years ago (1913), members of the United Mine Workers of America at Ludlow, Colorado, went on strike. At Christmas, it's possible that a little girl in the miners' tent colony received the gift of a bisque doll that was made in Germany and purchased from a Sears and Roebucks catalog. The remains of that doll were recovered in the exhumation of the tent colony. Also recovered were the remains of somewhere between 19 and 25 men, women and children slaughtered by Colorado National Guard troops and goons from John D. Rockefeller's Colorado Coal, Fuel and Iron Works on April 20, 1914. Most of them were immigrants, trying to make a living in their adopted country.

The remains of that doll is now part of the collection held by the UMWA. It also is a significant Colorado historical artifact, according to the Center for Colorado and the West at the Auraria Library in Denver. 

How this artifact relates to Colorado history: 
At the turn of the century coal mining was a large part of the labor force in Colorado, and the working conditions were poor, which prompted the miners with the help of UMWA to go on strike. This artifact reflects the families that were directly involved in the violence and turmoil during that time. This coal strike affected Colorado as well as the nation. On April 20, 1914, the death of the women and children at the Ludlow Massacre shocked the nation. This watershed moment spurred stricter labor laws to be enforced, and is considered the breaking point for American labor relations.
The doll's head is chilling to behold, its sightless eyes staring out at us a century later.

You can vote for Colorado’s most significant artifacts by Dec. 31 at

I voted. My duty as a Colorado native and a union member. 

The object also has a connection to Wyoming history. Rockefeller moved much of his iron-ore mining operations to Platte County, Wyoming, in the wake of the bad press he received after Ludlow. Sunrise was a company town, far away (Rockefeller hoped) from trouble-making unions.  

Now Sunrise is a fenced-off ghost town, much like the Ludlow town site. By 1928, the Sunrise mine employed 547 and featured brick housing, modern utilities, a hospital, parks, playgrounds and the state's first YMCA. It closed in 1980. Both Ludlow and Sunrise are National Historic Sites.

Rockefeller learned some lessons from Ludlow. 

A beat-up doll's head helps us remember Ludlow. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

UPLIFT Wyoming has vision

UPLIFT's vision is
Hope, health and well-being for all Wyoming children and families. 
You must have 20/20 vision for a statement like that. An abundance of hope.

The statistics are bleak. Alabama-bleak. Wyoming leads the nation is teen suicides. Not a single child psychiatrist lives and works within its 97,000 square miles. In 2012, Wyoming's overall health ranking dropped from 21st to 23rd. More than 23 percent of the population smokes.

OK, so maybe we rank better than Alabama by most measures. But we have problems. Most residents have to drive hours to reach mental health care. Youth are regularly sent out of state for mental health and substance abuse treatment. I know. My kids did just that. Broke the bank and almost broke the will. Only late in the process did we discover the state's children's mental health waiver, which paid for much of our daughter's care, both in-state and out.

Time will tell whether the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) will make a difference with accessibility to quality mental health treatment. We do know that insurers no longer can disqualify you for pre-existing conditions. And caps have been removed on quantity of treatment sessions. And we can keep our daughter covered until she's 26 (our son has aged out). Most students with disabilities take longer to matriculate than others. It's not unusual for them to take six or seven years to graduate. It's not unusual for them to be a boomerang kid, landing in your basement after graduation, Daft Punk tunes wafting up through the heater vents.

I just returned from a two-day board and staff retreat for UPLIFT. I've been a board member since 1999 and am just about ready to retire. It's a volunteer position. Most of us on the board have had personal experiences with challenging children.Our son Kevin was diagnosed at 5 with ADHD and, later, struggled with drugs and alcohol. Our daughter faced mental health challenges, first diagnosed as bipolar and then with borderline personality disorder. As often happens, she did some self-medicating.

It is tough on children to have these challenges. It is also tough on parents.

UPLIFT comes to the rescue. When it can. The statewide organization has its own challenges. Its budget was cut by a third when the state decided to re-channel its funding. It lost three offices across the state and 11 staffers. This is why you have retreats that address strategic planning and tries to come up with some big ideas for the future.

Funding cuts and priority shifts have caused the 23-year-old organization to look at itself anew. Wish us luck. And donate at the web site. Better yet, make a pledge to donate a certain amount every month. Go here. You never know when you may need expertise at your I.E.P. meeting or tips on applying for the Medicaid waiver or just a kindly person to listen to your dilemma. 

Tell them Mike sent you.

  • Smoking remains high at 23.0 percent of the adult population, with 100,000 adults who smoke in Wyoming.
  • The infant mortality rate declined in the past year from 7.2 to 6.5 deaths per 1,000 live births.
  • - See more at:
    Smoking remains high at 23.0 percent of the adult population, with 100,000 adults who smoke in Wyoming. - See more at:

    Saturday, May 25, 2013

    Superman goes to kindergarten

    Parents are told: "No more Superhero play!"
    Geekosystem carried a story about a Philadelphia preschool that recently sent a letter home to parents about a ban on "Superhero Play." The kids at the school were acting out their favorite superheroes and as quick as you can say "Biff! Bam! Zowie!" kids were getting hurt.

    Superheroes have been around for a long time. They are, after all, SUPERHEROES and are timeless. Back in the 1950s, my father instituted a ban on comic books. He insisted that they were trash and substituted our Superman and Batman comics with Illustrated Classics versions of "Treasure Island" and "The Tale of Two Cities." You know, the books he read as a lad. Nevermind that the former was about bloodthirsty pirates who raped and pillaged their way across the bounding main. And that the latter featured a bloody execution device that I never encountered in a Man of Steel adventure. So I read the classics and grew up to be a writer of obscure literary works instead of a well-paid teller-of-illustrated-tales at Marvel or DC Comics.

    To ban something is to say to children: "I dare you to outfox my aging brain that rests inside this graying old head." Exactly -- the kids will find a way. Not sure what the kids are doing at this unnamed PA preschool, but I know they will find a way to engage in surreptitious superhero play.

    My son Kevin is 28 now. When he was five and attending kindergarten in Fort Collins, Colo., he decided that he would attend school as Superman. He had a nifty Superman Halloween costume. He wore it to school for the Halloween party and then that evening for our traditional night of trick-or-treating in the snow. We have photos of him sitting on our picnic table surrounded by snow drifts and jack-o-lanterns. He clutches a big bag of candy. Chocolate smears his happy face.

    The next morning, he came downstairs dressed as Superman.

    I told him that Halloween was over. His mother told him to go upstairs and change.

    Kevin insisted on remaining a superhero.

    We both shrugged and sent him off to school as Superman.

    The school called an hour later. "Your son is dressed as Superman," the school said.
    Good Grief! Is that my son going to school dressed as Superman again?
    Chris replied that she knew.

    "He can't be Superman," the school said. "Halloween is over."

    "Can't he just be Superman for one more day?"

    The school pondered this. "Just for today."

    The next morning, Kevin came downstairs dressed as Superman.

    "You can't be Superman today," Chris said.

    "I'm Superman," Kevin said.

    "He says he's Superman," I said.

    Chris explained to Kevin that Halloween was over and he could be Superman next year. He could even be Superman after school and on weekends.

    "I'm Superman," he said.

    We shrugged and sent him off to school. The school called an hour later. Nobody was home. Kevin came home with a note. The note read: "Your son cannot come to school dressed as Superman. It's against the dress code."

    "What dress code?" I asked Chris. This was a public school kindergarten. Kids wore shorts. Kids wore ratty jeans. Kids wore Superman and Ghostbusters and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles T-shirts.

    I knew all about dress codes because I went to Catholic school. Most of us were keen to observe the dress codes lest we be paddled or smacked with a ruler.

    When we inquired about the dress code, we were told only that no costumes were allowed.

    "No costumes are allowed," we told Kevin.

    "I'm Superman," he said.

    "He's Superman," I replied.

    "He's Superman," Chris answered.

    You have to understand that Kevin was diagnosed with ADHD before kindergarten started. He was taking Ritalin to help control his hyperactivity and impulsivity. It was working, to a certain extent. He still got in trouble on the playground for pushing kids on the swings and down the slide who didn't want to be pushed. He treated every sport as a contact sport. Maybe taking on the guise of Superman will help him in other ways?

    It didn't hurt. That's how we approached it with his teacher, a very nice woman we'll call Lois Lane.

    "The other kids will want to dress up," Lois said.

    "What's wrong with that?" I asked.

    Lois shrugged. "Nothing, I guess. But parents might complain."

    "Have they?" I asked.

    "No," said Lois.

    Since there was no hue and cry over children's costuming, the issue eventually settled down. At Thanksgiving, Kevin appeared in the pilgrim drama as a pilgrim who underneath really was Superman. Imagine Superman at Plymouth Rock. He might have zoomed over to Europe and delivered foodstuffs to the pilgrims and the Indians. He might have prevented the eventual slaughter of the Indians. As Clark Kent, he might have worked for the New World's first newspaper, answering to an irascible Perry White. "Kent! Where's that story about the first Thanksgiving?"

    "Miss Lane said she was going to do it."

    "Great Caesar's ghost, Kent. Don't you know that pilgrim women can be burned at the stake for taking a job as a reporter. Now get me that story."

    "Sure thing, Chief."

    "And don't call me Chief!"

    Thanksgiving moved into Christmas. Kevin/Superman appeared on stage with the rest of the class. They sang their hearts out with "Jingle Bells" and "Santa Claus is Coming to Town." He was the only one dressed as Superman. I wished that he could use his super powers to make the ordeal go faster, but he was content to sing. I considered the fact that Christmas had a superhero in Jesus and another one in Santa Claus. Jesus rose from the dead and Santa popped down a million chimneys in a single night delivering multitudes of dolls and action figures. He always stopped to eat cookies and drink milk. That was some feat. And his reindeer could fly!

    Winter melted into spring and the Superman outfit was unraveling. Chris managed to sew a few holes but one day, the outfit came apart at the seams.

    "There's nothing I can do," Chris said.

    Kevin shrugged and went to school in a Ghostbusters T-shirt and jeans with a hole in the knee. In his heart, he was still Superman.

    If I had any advice for that uptight Pennsylvania preschool, it would be this: Don't sweat it. The kids will be all right.

    Wednesday, May 22, 2013

    NPR Health Blog: Childhood ADHD can lead to adulthood obesity

    The title of this blog comes from a quote by hypertext inventor Ted Nelson who once told Wired Magazine that having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) was like having a "hummingbird mind." I wrote an essay for the late lamented Northern Lights magazine about rock climbing with my son who has ADHD. I used Nelson's quote in the article and the editor used it for the headline. So, in 2005. I decided to use it for the name of the blog as my initial idea was to blog about ADHD, as blogging and hyperactivity seemed to go together. I was sidetracked by politics and various other topics so my blog is a lot more wide-ranging than anticipated.

    That brings me to today's post about ADHD. I came across it via a Facebook post from renowned ADHD expert Dr. Edward "Ned" Hallowell. The good doctor wrote the intro to an anthology that featured some of my writing, Easy to Love but Hard to Raise: Real Parents, Challenging Kids, True Stories. He writes on his site today about the fact that childhood ADHD can lead to adult obesity. He quoted an article about a recent study featured on the NPR Health blog. Overeating releases dopamine which is what human nervous systems crave. A pint of Ben & Jerry's at midnight is just what the impulsive person ordered. But not the cardiologist. Read more here.

    Friday, March 15, 2013

    On St. Patrick's Day weekend, I ponder the possibility of a Pope Howdy Doody I

    As a kid, I bore a startling resemblance to TV's Howdy Doody.
    Each St. Patrick’s Day, I ponder what it means to be an Irish-American. This year, as a new pope takes the reins of Mother Church, I’m also pondering about what it means to be Irish Catholic.

    I just had a flashback. I get those occasionally. I wonder if it’s my damaged heart playing tricks on my brain.

    Back in those black-and-white days of the 1950s, my younger brother Dan and I found ourselves in the same ward at Denver Mercy Hospital. We had double pneumonia, which is twice as troublesome as single pneumonia. It sound worse, too, doesn’t it? Our mother was a nurse at Mercy, a graduate of the hospital’s nurses’ training program at the tail end of World War II. 

    The Mercy nuns were in charge. They wore full habits back then, which lent them an air of authority and mystery seasoned with a dollop of menace. They were neither the horror of the nuns portrayed in some books or plays written by lapsed Catholics. Nor were they the sweethearts portrayed in “Sister Act” or “The Sound of Music.” They were tough yet fair. They seemed to treat Dan and I a bit better than the others. This was probably due to our mother.

    One day, Dan seemed to have a brainstorm. He waited until one of the nuns was in the ward, and he sat up and said, “I want to be a priest.”

    The nun scurried over. “A priest, is it?” The Mercy nuns all spoke with an Irish brogue, yet another import from that benighted isle. 

    “Yes, sister.” Dan beamed angelically. 

    “That’s a good boy,” said the good sister, patting Dan on the arm. “And how would you like some ice cream, Daniel boy?”

    “Thank you, sister.” More of the beaming. My brother had black hair and blue eyes, Black Irish like my mother. I had bright orange hair and was covered with freckles from head to toe. The kids at school called me Howdy Doody, who was a red-haired, freckle-faced TV puppet. He was an agreeable sort but dopey looking. I didn’t like him.

    The nun returned with Dan’s ice cream. None for us. After all, we didn’t want to be priests. This was the highest calling a kid could attain. Parish priests ruled the Catholic roost. We know now that some of them were less than saintly. But back in those patriarchal days, they could do no wrong.

    The next time a nun entered the room, Tommy piped up: “I want to be a priest.” The nun came over, patted Tommy on the head and said he was getting some ice cream too. So half of the kids in the ward now had ice cream and I had none. Before the fourth kid, the one in the bed by the wall, could speak up, I also said: “I want to be a priest.”

    The nun walked over, put her hands on her hips sand said, “I suppose you want to be a priest so you can have some ice cream.”

    “No sister.” I was no dummy, although I looked like one. “I had a dream. In it, I was a priest.” 

    This got her attention.  “A dream?”

    I nodded. “Yes sister.”

    “And in this dream were you eating ice cream?”

    “No sister. I was dressed like a priest and was saying mass.”

    “You’re a fine lad, saying mass in a dream.  You almost could call that a vision.”

    “Yes, sister.” 

    She looked down at me. “We’re out of ice cream. I’ll get you a popsicle.” She frowned and walked out.

    “Copycat,” said Dan.

    “Not,” I said.

    “Popsicle.” Tommy snickered. He bit into his ice cream bar.

    I got a cherry popsicle. The nun broke it in two so the kid in the far bed could have some. 

    As I ate the popsicle and stared at the two ice cream eaters, I vowed that next time I would be quicker on the draw and fake my priestly calling with much more alacrity than I had earlier. Perhaps I should be a bishop? Or pope? Too grandiose, perhaps. But imagine the world’s surprise when Howdy Doody the First donned the papal garments and those bitchin’ red shoes.

    Wednesday, January 16, 2013

    President Obama: “We are going to need to work on making access to mental health care as easy as access to a gun”

    This is but a small part of President Obama's Plan to Protect our Children & Communities, which was announced this morning. I'm including it because mental health is one of my blog's key issues. And tackling the many gun parts of the document is too much to bear. Read more here.  
    Though the vast majority of Americans with a mental illness are not violent, we need to do more to identify mental health issues early and help individuals get the treatment they need before dangerous situations develop. As President Obama has said, “We are going to need to work on making access to mental health care as easy as access to a gun.” 
    • MAKE SURE STUDENTS AND YOUNG ADULTS GET TREATMENT FOR MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES: Three quarters of mental illnesses appear by the age of 24, yet less than half of children with diagnosable mental health problems receive treatment. To increase access to mental health services for young people, we should: o Provide “Mental Health First Aid” training to help teachers and staff recognize signs of mental illness in young people and refer them to treatment. o Support young adults ages 16 to 25, who have the highest rates of mental illness but are the least likely to seek help, by giving incentives to help states develop innovative approaches. o Help break the cycle of violence in schools facing pervasive violence with a new, targeted initiative to provide their students with needed services like counseling. o Train 5,000 more social workers, counselors, and psychologists, with a focus on those serving students and young adults. 
    • ENSURE COVERAGE OF MENTAL HEALTH TREATMENT: The Affordable Care Act is the largest step to increase access to mental health services in a generation, providing health coverage for 30 million Americans, including 6 to 10 million people with mental illness. The Administration will take executive actions to ensure that millions of newly covered Americans, and millions more who already have health insurance, get quality mental health coverage by: o Finalizing regulations to require insurance plans to cover mental health benefits like medical and surgical benefits. o Ensuring Medicaid is meeting its obligation to cover mental health equally.

    Friday, August 31, 2012

    Call for entries (kids only!): International Peace Poster Contest

    "Children Know Peace," 2011-2012 grand prize winner
    I know Lions Clubs best for its sight programs. Club members collect old eyeglasses and provide glasses for people who need them but can't afford them. The club also sponsors an eye bank and vision screening. But the Lions apparently have other visions for us all:
    Each year, Lions clubs around the world proudly sponsor the Lions International Peace Poster Contest in local schools and youth groups. This art contest for kids encourages young people worldwide to express their visions of peace. For 25 years, more than four million children from nearly 100 countries have participated in the contest.

    The theme of the 2012-13 Peace Poster Contest is "Imagine Peace." Students, ages 11, 12 or 13 on November 15, are eligible to participate.
    Each year's art contest for kids consists of an original theme incorporating peace. Participants use a variety of mediums, including charcoal, crayon, pencil and paint, to express the theme. The works created are unique and express the young artists' life experiences and culture.

    Twenty-four international finalists are selected each year, representing the work of more than 350,000 young participants worldwide. Posters are shared globally via the Internet, the media and exhibits around the world.

    To learn more about the Lions International Peace Poster Contest, please view our brochure, contest rules and deadlines, call 630-203-3812 or contact the Lions Clubs International Public Relations Department.

    Sunday, July 01, 2012

    Summer is the time to relish good books

    When I was a kid, books were my constant companions. I also lived in a house filled with other constant companions -- my family -- which included two parents, four brothers, four sisters, and and an assortment of dogs, cats, lizards and gerbils. That was one crowded house.

    I mentioned books first. They weren't more important than Mom and Dad and Molly and Tim and Shannon the dog and Polonius the cat. But books did enable me to escape the sometimes frantic pace of daily life. They also helped me understand some odd human behavior. My brother Tommy, for instance, liked to sit down to a bowl of sweet pickle relish for breakfast. While the rest of us munched on Cheerios, Tommy relished his relish. In the beginning, we gave him a hard time, as siblings do. But after awhile, we just had to accept this quirky behavior as you might if coming across something similar in a Dickens' novel.

    Summer reading was especially important. We had chores to do and we played baseball and went swimming and spent as much time outdoors as humanly possible. But at some point during the day, I needed time with books. I don't remember official summer reading programs. But Mom took us to the library as often as we needed to recharge the book supply. In elementary school, I read my way through the Hardy Boys series and had a special fondness for dog books ("Lad a Dog," etc.). In junior high, sci-fi was king. I started with the classics -- Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, the Tom Swift series -- and then moved on to the harder stuff. Nothing like spending a lazy summer afternoon sprawled under a cottonwood tree while I traveled to exotic worlds with Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke or Ray Bradbury.     

    We moved a lot, so I got to know a libraries in a dozen different places. Just entering a library gave me a feeling of belonging in a strange new town. Whether it was Denver's big main library or the tiny one in Moses Lake, Washington, the books were all arranged in the same order and the card catalogs (remember those?) all looked the same. The librarians, too, all had that schoolmarmish look, or that's how this 11-year-old boy saw them, anyway. 

    I was in our local Cheyenne library on Tuesday evening. I selected two novels from the "new books" shelf, and then my laptop and I spent several hours on the third floor revising a short story. The third floor at the Laramie County Public Library is the quiet floor. Back in the day, every floor of a library was quiet (or else!). But libraries are a bit more freewheeling these days, more interactive, and a bit more hectic. So I was working on a story, the gentle tapping of my laptop keys the only sound. A storm blew in and I watched from the big window as lightning snaked across the sky. Below, a mom and her kids clasped their summer books and made a mad dash for the car. At closing time, I checked out my books and realized I hadn't signed up for the summer reading program. I sign up every year, buy a T-shirt, fill in the scorecard to earn ice cream cones and various discounts at local businesses. There wasn't time to do that on this library trip (the guy on the P.A. system was telling me to check out my books as the library was closing), but I knew I would return soon. I always come back to the library.

    By the way, if you haven't yet signed up for "Dream Big," LCLS's summer reading celebration, you can by going here

    Thursday, May 10, 2012

    Big turnout at Governor's Offfice for signing of Children's Mental Health Awareness Week proclamation

    Top photo: Big turnout Wednesday morning for Governor Matt Mead's signing of the proclamation for Children's Mental Health Awareness Week. A large group of concerned parents and children joined with UPLIFT staffers and board members, representatives from the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Division, and Sen. Floyd Esquibel. Everyone received a "Children's Mental Health Matters" ribbon and balloon, even the Governor. Bottom photo: UPLIFT’s Kim Conner asked me, as an UPLIFT board member, to share some national stats on children's mental health with Gov. Matt Mead at Wednesday’s proclamation signing.

    Saturday, May 05, 2012

    Early intervention and prevention crucial for children's mental health

    Here are some points to ponder about children’s mental health. As a parent of children with mental health challenges, and as an adult who's dealt with recurring bouts of depression, I ponder these things often and not only during the upcoming week devoted to education and awareness. Governor Matt Mead will sign a proclamation on Wednesday, May 9, 10 a.m., designating May 6-12 as Mental Health Awareness Week. The following stats come from the Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health
    • One in five young people have one or more mental, emotional, or behavioral challenges.  One in ten youth have challenges that are severe enough to impair how they function at home, school, or in the community.
    • One-half of all lifetime cases of psychological challenges begin by age 14, and three-quarters begin by age 24.  In addition, 80% of people who experience multiple issues with mental health and substance abuse report onset before the age of 20.
    • Suicide is the third leading cause of death in adolescents and young adults. Children experiencing symptoms of psychological challenges, particularly depression, are at a higher risk for suicide.  An estimated 90% of children who commit suicide have a diagnosable mental illness.
    • Despite high rates of mental illness in children, 4 out of 5 children ages 6 to 17 who have experience symptoms do not receive any help.  The majority of those who do not receive needed mental health services are minority children.  For example, 88% of Latino children have unmet mental health needs.  In addition, Latino children are less likely than others to be identified by a primary care physician as having a mental disorder.
    • Unmet mental health needs may complicate daily activities and education for youth.  Almost 25% of adolescents who required mental health assistance reported having problems at school.  Over 50% of students who experience psychological challenges, ages 14 and older, drop out of high school—the highest dropout rate of any disability group.
    • Early detection and intervention strategies for mental health issues improve children’s resilience and ability to succeed in life.  According to a study by the National Institute of Mental Health, preschoolers at high risk for mental health problems showed less oppositional behavior, less aggressive behavior, and were less likely to require special education services 3 years after enrolling in a comprehensive, school-based mental health program.
    What can you do?
    Create awareness surrounding positive mental health practices and supports.  Work to reduce stigma!
    Contact your local, state and federal legislators to request funding for early intervention and prevention programs. 
    Encourage culturally and linguistically competent supports and services.

    UPLIFT has a terrific list of resources for Wyoming families at I am on the UPLIFT board and admit to a certain bias. But it is a terrific list.

    Sunday, April 22, 2012

    Sioux City Journal: It takes a community to stop bullying

    Sioux City (IA) Journal devotes Sunday front page to anti-bullying campaign. Neat graphic, gutsy move. A new resource is available locally for parents whose children have been the target of bullying in the Laramie County No. 1 School District. Contact UPLIFT for its bullying ombudsman program at 307-778-8686 or 1-888-875-4383.  

    Monday, April 16, 2012

    Anti-bullying program on the agenda at tonight's LCSD1 school board meeting

    Laramie County School District No. 1 put out a press release on April 3 about its new arrangement with Wyoming non-profit UPLIFT to serve as ombudsman for its anti-bullying program. Not everyone is town is happy with the news. I happen to know that UPLIFT already has a great track record working with families whose children have "emotional, behavioral, learning, developmental or physical disorders." The topic will be discussed tonight at the school board meeting in the Storey Gym. It's also awards night for district students, followed by a bit of official business. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. I am attending as a parent whose children (now in college) have benefitted from UPLIFT's expertise. Here's info from the press release:
    Officials at Laramie County School District 1 have announced plans to continue offering bullying ombudsman assistance for families in the community as part of the district’s overall package of services offered to address bullying and provide for safe schools.  
    The ombudsman advocacy service will be provided through UPLIFT, a family support network dedicated to the hope, health, and well-being of Wyoming children and families. This service will complement the existing prevention programs and problem-solving efforts of the district. 
    “An ombudsman is available to advocate and support kids and families during instances when people believe their concerns have not been addressed through standard processes,” said Dr. Mark Stock, LCSD1 superintendent of schools.
    UPLIFT"s phone number in Cheyenne is 778-8686.

    Friday, April 06, 2012

    Suicide risk factors explored by National Institute of Mental Health

    Suicide, especially teen suicide, is a scourge in Wyoming. Instead of casting blame, better to get more and better information from the National Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health

    What causes someone to commit suicide? In a sense, it is an unanswerable question. Professionals who study the risk factors associated with suicide say that its causes are complex and slippery, difficult to pinpoint. Still, there are a set of risk factors agreed upon by the National Institute of Mental Health and others that tell us some of the things that can cause suicide rates to increase. Click here to view full article.

    Monday, April 02, 2012

    Easy to Love but Hard to Raise: "You are not alone"

    One of my essays, "The Great Third Grade AIDS Scare," is in this anthology. The overall message of the book and the blog and all of its writers is "You are not alone," even though it sometimes feels like it. All kinds of compelling posts on the blog about medications, education, outreach, relationships, resources, etc. To connect, go to the blog at

    Sunday, April 01, 2012

    How one small event can put things in perspective

    Yesterday I was reminded of life’s important moments.

    Chris and I attended a christening at the First United Methodist Church. Katherine Margaret Cotton, infant daughter of our friends Don and Karen Cotton, was baptized by Rev. Trudy. It was a few family members and some friends. Lots of photos.

    Much of the liturgy was about water and its healing powers. There was no full immersion, or even a partial one. Much different from the Catholic ceremonies I’d witnessed, the ones we held for our two children. Just a touch of water and a few words on Saturday and the baptism was complete. All of us in the pews pledged that we would be there to look after Katie. And we will.

    She was born in Cheyenne two months prematurely. Rushed to Denver Children’s Hospital via ambulance, her father at her side. Joined by mom two days later -- Chris and I ferried her to Children’s. It was less than a week before Christmas. I was frightened when I saw the tiny baby in the huge incubator. This three-pound girl was hooked up to an assortment of tubes and wires. But she was in good hands in a hospital ranked among the top five in the nation.
    She and her parents were in Denver almost two months. Karen and Don stayed at the Ronald McDonald House (remember to donate next time you're at McD's). And now they’re all home.

    Welcome home.

    I’m sure that Karen will be sharing many photos in the coming weeks. She’s a writer and photographer, after all. And a proud mother.

    Saturday, March 31, 2012

    In "Companions in Wonder," Rick Bass writes about how fireflies can illuminate "a newness in the world"

    What I'm noticing this morning: tiny clover growing at the root of my awakening strawberry plants.
    I have been reading my way through the new anthology, “Companions in Wonder: Children and Adults Exploring Nature Together.” I have a short piece in it about rock climbing with my young son.

    Last night read a beautiful piece by Rick Bass, “The Farm.” It is spring and he and his family are visiting Rick’s father’s Texas “brush country” farmhouse near Austin. His mom lived here for a time, but died too young. Now it’s a place for the Bass family on a spring hiatus from Montana’s snowbound Yaak Valley.

    As always, Rick is lyrical in his descriptions of people in nature. He delights in his daughters’ first encounter with fireflies. “I am not sure they had even known such creatures existed.” Not many fireflies up there on the Yaak. The girls, ages 3 and 6, are bedazzled by them. The family manages to snare one and put it in a jar. Rick remembers catching whole squadrons of them as a kid.

    I remember the same thing while growing up in southeastern Kansas lightning bug territory. Not all that distant from Austin. The fireflies lit up those muggy summer evenings. I remember my brother and sister and I chasing them amongst the backyard swing set which backed up against dense undergrowth. We didn’t stop until the jars were filled with bugs and grass. We came inside, punched air holes in the lids, and marveled at our catch.  
    The Bass family repeats this “time-honored ritual.”

    Writes Rick: “That simple, phenomenal, marvelous miracle – so easy to behold – as old familiar things left us, replaced by a newness in the world. The heck with electricity, or flashlights. Yes. This is the world my daughters deserve. This is the right world for them.”

    We see the world anew through children’s eyes. That’s an old saying, isn’t it? It’s one thing to say it and other to illustrate it with stories from personal lives, told well. That’s what this book is about. It will help you as an adult take another wonder-filled look at nature. And that’s what I’m planning to do today – take another look at my rejuvenating strawberry plants and a crocus rising from winter and the buds on my maple and the deep blue sky.    

    To order “Companions in Wonder,” go here. It’s a $21.95 trade paperback. ISBN-10: 0-262-51690-X; ISBN-13: 978-0-262-51690-7  

    Wednesday, February 29, 2012

    One of my essays in new "Companions in Wonder" anthology from MIT Press

    I’m happy to report that one of my personal essays, “We Are Distracted,” is included in a new anthology from MIT Press. “Companions in Wonder: Children and Adults Exploring Nature Together” features work by some of my favorite writers: Rick Bass, Alison Hawthorne Deming, Barry Lopez, Robert Michael Pyle, Joseph Bruchac and Scott Russell Sanders. I’m looking forward to reading their work. Editors are Julie Dunlap and Stephen R. Kellert. I’ve been an editor of an anthology and it’s no easy task to assemble the authors, get the work, secure the rights, edit it all and get it to the publisher on time. Thanks, Julie and Stephen. The book is in the spring 2012 catalog. Here’s an excerpt:
    Rachel Carson’s classic 1956 essay “Help Your Child to Wonder” urged adults to help children experience the “sense of wonder” that comes only from a relationship with nature. It’s clear we haven’t succeeded in following her advice: eight-year-olds surveyed in the United Kingdom could identify more Pok√©mon characters than common wildlife species; and Richard Louv’s recent best-selling book Last Child in the Woods identifies a “nature deficit disorder” in children around the world. But today a growing number of environmentally minded parents, teachers, and other adults are seeking to restore nature to its rightful place in children’s lives. This anthology gathers personal essays recounting adventures great and small with children in the natural world. 
    The authors--writing as parents, teachers, mentors, and former children--describe experiences that range from bird watching to an encounter with an apple butter-loving grizzly bear. Rick Bass captures fireflies with his children and reflects on fatherhood; Michael Branch observes wryly that both gardening and parenting are “disciplines of sustainability;” Lauret Savoy wonders how African American children can connect to the land after generations of estrangement; and Sandra Steingraber has “the big talk” with her children, not about sex but about global warming. 
    By turns lyrical, comic, and earnest, these writings guide us to closer connections with nature and with the children in our lives, for the good of the planet and our own spiritual and physical well-being.
    Booklist Online says this: 
    Editors Dunlap and Kellert have assembled a stellar collection of essays by exceptional nature writers about adults and children enjoying the outdoors together…[T]his is a striking celebration of nature’s role in sustaining family bonds.
    To order “Companions in Wonder,” go here. It’s a $21.95 trade paperback. ISBN-10: 0-262-51690-X; ISBN-13: 978-0-262-51690-7

    Monday, February 20, 2012

    Wyoming Arts Alliance holds advocacy luncheon Feb. 24 in Cheyenne

    The upcoming week in Cheyenne is filled with events. But there’s one on Friday that you shouldn’t miss. Lyndsay McCandless, director of the Wyoming Arts Alliance, sends this info:
    The Wyoming Arts Alliance in partnership with the Wyoming Arts Council invites you to join us for the “Arts Advocacy Luncheon for Legislators” on Friday, February 24, 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m., in the Herschler Building West Wing Atrium in Cheyenne. Join us to thank our Legislators for their support of the arts in our state! Please pass this information along to anyone who is interested in the arts in Wyoming: 

    Thursday, February 16, 2012

    State budget cuts impact Wyoming's most vulnerable children and families

    For the most part, Wyoming fares poorly in children's health care. It's not Alabama-bad, but statistics provided by national organizations regularly put us somewhere in the middle of the pack. This would seem to run counter to Wyoming's status as one of the few states that prospered economically during the past decade. 

    The latest Wyoming Kids Count data report ranks Wyoming 28th when it comes to twelve criteria, including teen death rates, low birth weight babies, adequate prenatal care, etc. Here's a summary:
    The child well-being indicators in the 2012 Wyoming Kids Count report show improvement over time for just four of the twelve indicators. Results have worsened over time across the remaining eight. Many Wyoming mothers do not receive adequate prenatal care, have difficulty finding a hospital to give birth, and they are often lacking in education about the risk factors that can negatively impact childbirth and child development. 
    Whatever the topic -- health care, mental health, substance abuse, K-12 education -- Wyoming ends up ranked either in the bottom of the top tier or the top of the bottom tier. This runs counter to the idea that Wyoming can have it all -- or "do it all," as Gov. Mead said in his recent State of the State speech. We might be able to do it all, but we haven't yet.

    This is why it's distressing to learn about cuts to my favorite non-profit organization. UPLIFT provides services to those families with special needs children. I've been a board member since 1998. I've also received UPLIFT services for my special needs children. More about that below. But first, here's is some background on the current budget cuts:

    In 2011, thanks to UPLIFT, families of 717 children with special health care needs received support, advocacy, mentoring, and training with a positive impact on their skills in the following areas:
    ·         Ability to better care for their child at home
    ·         Ability to advocate for their child’s needs
    ·         Ability to access needed services
    ·         Reduction of family stress due to their child’s special health care needs

    The most important piece of data indicated parents were better able to care for their children at home thus reducing the need for costly out-of-home place. The average annual cost for a child in out-of-home placement is $120,000.  UPLIFT support services average annual cost is only $1,500 per child.

    In 2011 UPLIFT served children in 21 Wyoming Counties. UPLIFT currently maintains 5 regional offices to better serve children and families statewide. Current state budget cuts of 44% will result in the closing of offices and a significant reduction in the number of children and families that will be served.

    UPLIFT is the only statewide family-run organization providing these support services and has been an active part of Wyoming communities since 1990. Over the past 5 years UPLIFT has served 3,600 children and their families. Current budget cuts will result in a loss of services to approximately 200 children annually. Without adequate funding, anticipated negative outcomes for families and communities might include increased out-of-home placement, juvenile justice involvement, school failure, and increased family stress.

    If you're disturbed by these cuts, contact your state legislators and tell them to do something about it. I did. Here's my e-mail:

    Dear Sen. Fred Emerich:

    I was shocked to hear this week that Wyoming Department of Health budget cuts to UPLIFT will result in the closing of offices and a significant reduction in the number of children and families that receive crucial services from this non-profit organization. These cuts amount to 44 percent of the funding that UPLIFT receives from the state.

    I urge you to support a bill that will restore this funding during the upcoming biennium.

    Why is UPLIFT important? It’s been crucial to my family on several occasions. UPLIFT is the only organization in the state that provides one-on-one assistance to families whose children require Individualized Education Programs or IEPs. My son was diagnosed in kindergarten with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Without special help provided by an IEP, he never would have graduated and gone on to college (which he did). IEP meetings require parents to meet with a phalanx of administrators, teachers and counselors from the school. Parents are often clueless as to what they can request as far as special accommodations. UPLIFT provides family support specialists who accompany the parents during these school meetings. My wife and I received assistance from UPLIFT employees at IEP meetings at McCormick Junior High and East High School. All this was at no cost to us.

    Our son is a community college grad and will attend CSU in the fall. He's doing just fine, thank you.

    Eight years later, our daughter needed assistance to cope with a severe learning disability, epilepsy and Attention Deficit Disorder. UPLIFT staff assisted at IEP meetings. Later, after our daughter was treated in a mental health facility for bipolar disorder, UPLIFT provided crucial wrap-around support to help our daughter transition back to school and the community. This was paid for through the Wyoming Children’s Mental Health Waiver. This was a great thing because, without it, we never could have afforded the long-term mental health care or the transition services. These on-site support services cost much less than in-patient treatment at a mental health facility. The average annual cost for a child in out-of-home placement is $120,000.  UPLIFT support services annually average only $1,500 per child.

    I am happy to report that our daughter, now 18, is a student in the music program at LCCC – and received a full scholarship. This would never have happened without crucial services provided by UPLIFT.

    We read so much about Wyoming’s pioneer status and the difficulty its citizens have in receiving health care services. Here is an organization that fills a huge need in the state, one that would not be addressed without UPLIFT.

    I am not just talking about families in Laramie County where UPLIFT’s main office is located. In 2011, UPLIFT served 717 children in 21 Wyoming counties through its five regional offices. In Fremont County, UPLIFT served 120 children. This county, as you know, is home to thriving communities in Lander and Riverton and Dubois. It is also home to pockets of grinding poverty, substance abuse and domestic violence, both on and off the Wind River Reservation. It’s not too much of a stretch to say that UPLIFT has saved lives in Fremont County.

    Over the past five years, UPLIFT has served 3,600 children and their families. Current budget cuts will result in a loss of services to approximately 200 children annually. Without adequate funding, there will be increased out-of-home placement, juvenile justice involvement, school failure, and increased family stress.

    I’ve been following the committee meetings leading up to the legislative session. I know that tough budget choices have been made – and will continue during the session. But this is one funding measure that is crucial to the well-being of Wyoming’s children. Please support Sen. Peterson’s amendment. Our families are counting on you.

    Michael Shay

    Feel free to use any of my wording. You probably have your own story. Tell it.

    In the meantime, contribute to UPLIFT here.

    Tuesday, February 14, 2012

    ADHD Parenting Book: Win a Copy of ''Easy to Love but Hard to Raise''

    Enter now to win a free copy of "Easy to Love but Hard to Raise: Real Parents, Challenging Kids, True Stories." This is an excellent volume to add to your library. How do I know? One of my "true stories" is in it. Go and enter now. Win a Copy of ''Easy to Love but Hard to Raise''