Part 4.

[Author's note: Well, this ended up being really long, so a la Harry Potter, I decided to split it up into two posts. Just more for you!]

Two days before my sister graduated, she had a breakdown of sorts. This school didn't make her perfect. But we knew that - and don't expect perfection. We just wanted our sister/daughter back to her loving self. It was time to do school, but my sister felt she needed to prep for graduation, and wanted to get ready. She felt the staff's expectations for her to be prepared were unrealistic. So she was typing... but not doing the scheduled activity. Oops. Staff said go to school or go to regroup. After 40 minutes, they threatened escort. When they tried, my sister wasn't having it. She shoved the staff away. They wrestled, and two of them tried to get her into a hold, but they were newer staff with less experience, and couldn't manage. Finally, they brought in a more experienced staff and he took her to the ground in a couple of seconds. When my sister had a second to breathe and clear her head in the hold, she broke down crying and just sobbed. The stress of graduating had gotten to her and she didn't know what had gotten into her. She cried and cried and cried, it was all so much.

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And then it was here. My sister was GRADUATING from calo! We were so excited. And by "we" I mean ALL of us. Like, all TEN, all of us. We gathered from THREE different states to support my sister and show how proud we were of her! Now THAT'S family!

I had to fly in the night before this time to meet up with my parent's early plane. But that was fine with me. Gave me an excuse to get Dice to come down and see me from all the way over in Lee's Summit (which is like 4 hours away). So while I was on a plane, she was on a train and we met in the middle! Squee! It was FREEZING cold. Like seriously, who turned off the heat and bought popsicles cold.

So once we were together, we went to tour Downtown St. Louis. Cuz I live in downtown Salt Lake and there's TONS to do! Tons!!!

Apparently St. Louie didn't get that memo. I mean it was like 6pm, and the place was CLOSED. Dead! Everything. We tried to ask people where we could go to shop... because downtown HAS to have malls right? RIIIIIIIIGHT?!!!? Fail, St. Louis. The one store we could find was a Macy's and it closed at SIX. SIX PM! That's absurd! What kind of downtown are we running people? So much for an economic and social hug. Pshh. We found an italian restaurant and ate yummy foods. Then we decided that St. Louis was pretty much the lamest thing since Twilight (which is so not a valid book, I'm not even going to italicize it), and we went back to the hotel. We got hot chocolate in the lobby and just talked. Then we went up to the room, plopped down in our separate beds and just talked. And maybe played Puzzle Quest 2 >.> Shhh. (Hey! I was only slightly addicted this time around! Way less than my first addiction.) We went to bed super late, but such is the way with friends who haven't seen each other in ages.

The next morning we had the hotel breakfast (way better than the hotel food I ate on my last trip here), then I sent Dice on her way to her train. I mucked around for a bit, showered, packed, and headed back to the airport to meet my parents and my Florida siblings. When they arrived the 4 boys went outside to toss a frisbee while the parents and my sister waited for their bags.

Then we piled into a shuttle to take us to the rental lot, where we met by my Big Bro and my sister-in-law who had come from Seattle. We got the rental (there's 10 of us!) which was a GIANT TANK VAN! Rawr. We all piled in and the 3-hour drive began.

With that many of us, there was alot of convo about books, movies, music, tech, etc., and not a whole lot of quiet, but none of us are complaining. I think some (maybe me included) may have tried to sleep, but I don't remember. 3-hour drives aren't generally the memorable part.

When we got close to the school we had to stop at the store to get the foods for my sister's graduation reception. With an army as big as my family, it was a quick 5-minute in and out, with the needed items divided among us. Someone get crackers, another water, mom goes to the deli for the meat and cheese tray, someone get candy, etc. Pretty funny. It was like a swarm of ninja Hulets.

We were late! Agh!!! (That's one of the reasons the grocery run needed to be so quick). We made it to the school about 15 minutes late.

When we walked in we were confronted with my sister 45 feet in the air, standing on a 4 inch beam. She was attempting what the CALOers call "The Leap of Faith." Her goal was a trapeze bar 5 feet away.

One problem: My sister is AFRAID of heights. She had tried to do the Leap a month or so earlier, and never managed to muster the courage. Eventually they just pushed her off (she had a harness and belayer, not to worry), and made her resolve to do it before she graduated.

So here we were. One last obstacle to face before it was all over. It was incredible to me how instantaneously I was caught up in the emotion of the moment. You could hear the fear and panic in my sister's voice, and I was right there with her. But with an underlying surge of confidence and hope. We're here sister, and we're rooting for you! We watched from the side for a while, staff and other students gathered around, with one counselor up on the bar with her for support.

Once of the first things we heard as we entered was the counselor talking to everyone that was there to watch and support her. He said the leap to that bar represented all her hopes and dreams; it represented success. These were things that had to be fought for, things that had to be wanted, and there would be a fight to get them. She had to wrestle fear and win. The things that matter, that we want, will not come to us; we must go out and seize them. She had to jump and grab that trapeze.

After he talked, he moved away from her, and she wasn't holding on to him anymore. After a few seconds, she said she needed him back, but instead of going to her, he asked why. She said, "I need to stabilize myself." His answer was, "You can stabilize yourself." "Please!" she cried in desperation, which made me choke up. The emotions were so strong. I was scared for her. She sounded completely frightened. The counselor said he would give her his hand but she had to look him in the eye, which she did. Then he said, "You say you're gonna fall. That's okay. The safety net is in place. From now on, it's okay to fall. As long as you have your support team. Today and for the rest of your life, falling is okay. You don't need to hold on to me. You can fall. You learn, you get back up. Falling is actually one of the best things that could happen to you. As long as everything is in place, it's okay to fall. You will be safe." She knew she had the harness, the carabiners, the belay system, JB was on the other end holding the rope. All these people were there supporting her - students, faculty, family... she could do this, and if she fell, that was fine too. She steadied herself.

Earlier on he'd announced she wanted our support by us counting out loud from 10 to 0 at which point on Zero she would jump. We did audible countdowns two or three times and everytime we got to zero, she wouldn't go. It was so frustrating, we all wanted so badly for her to succeed! At one point we even moved, over from the side where we'd come in, to in front of her and all held out our arms for her. We're here for you sis, we want you to make this, we will support you, come to us. It was incredibly moving.

Finally, she was ready. See the result here (sorry the quality isn't better - it's super compressed HD):



The emotions bubbled over in that moment to a gush of success, love, and appreciation. This was my sister and she could do anything she set her mind too. Overcome fears, jump and grab bars, achieve success. In that second, all was within her reach (and from here forward also). That is power, my friends.



After the successful leap, we adjourned to the Graduation room, and got hello hugs. Unfortunately(?), my sister had figured out we were coming, because she's too smart. She had gone in the room they had set up and counted out 10 chairs against the wall - and she knew we were all coming then. Stinker. :)

The graduation ceremony began with my sister officially adopting her dog, Toby. She got an official certificate saying she was trained to handle him, and then some of the students got up to talk about my sister and her impact on them. Then select Staff spoke about her and her influence on them. Many of them cried. Once my sister decided she would go for it, she opened up and let these people see her: vulnerable, hurting, trying her best to make changes and find herself.

I needed a box of tissues.

It only got worse from there when my parents got up to talk...

Stay tuned for the last installment! Part 6: Graduation II (The Difference) and Beyond

Sorry readers, I know you are eagerly refreshing your browsers every 30 seconds, hungry for the last installment. It's taking longer than I anticipated and I've had a busy couple of days. Likewise, things are completely up in the air at work... and I've been working hecka extra hours. This week will be no different.

I'll get to it just as soon as I can! Stay tuned!

Ordinarily I am adverse to more than one post in a day. I don't want readers going "ugh, he posts too much" and to stop reading - be honest. I do this with some blogs I have in my reader. If they are too inundating with posts, and the posts are super uber long, I glance, skim, or skip. And I'd hate for that to happen here.

But I feel in this case it is justified. This post in itself is in many ways belated. It couldn't be helped. This is the first I could get to it.

Brian Jacques died over the weekend of a heart attack. Which is heart-breaking. I literally stopped breathing for a minute when I found out. I'm still not over it and I've known for like four days.



Granted, he wasn't one of my best friends, but he had a large part in my life (well, his books did anyway). I mean, in the time of this blog alone (very short), I read and reviewed 6 of his books (4 here, one here, and one here).

Here's the thing about Jacques: I can't go so far as to say he's my favorite author, or the BEST of the BEST... but I'll say this. Brian Jacques is the author I have most widely read. Hands down.

I am PROUD to have read all 24 of his novels (21 Redwall, 3 Castaways). That's right, ALL 24. And I'll confess to checking my local library repeatedly over the last few months to see if there's a new one out yet. May 3rd people. There will be one more (as I thought. I figured he'd already finished and it was at the publishers. I mean you have to be ahead on these things...trust me, I'm a writer with actual published author friends). Is it May 3rd yet?! I want to read it now!

When I discovered Brian Jacques, I fell in love instantly with his friendly creature characters, and the wonderful story-telling that had descriptive food, creative songs and ballads, memorable chants, and riveting storylines. I remember even drawing some of the characters after reading about them (>.> and people, I DON'T draw). His books stuck with me, and were always a welcome source of reading escape.

Funny story about Jacques' books. I believe I discovered them around 7th or 8th grade. I read his 8 Redwall novels, and when I finished Outcast of Redwall I remember thinking, "Dang, it's too bad he's dead. More Redwall novels would be great. Imagine my surprise when The Pearls of Lutra came out! He's NOT DEAD!? AWESOME!!!! That was a great, great day in the life of a book-lovin' kid like me.

And then he published 16 more Redwall books (soon to be 17)!

I don't know that I have a favorite novel by him. There were many I liked better than others. High Rhulain, Doomwyte and The Sable Quean are some of my more recent favorites.

I think as far as all-time favorites go, I'll have to pick two:



Castaways of the Flying Dutchman came out just when I was graduating High School. I remembering thinking Jacques was crazy for writing something outside of Redwall. That's CRAZY TALK! But I was SO excited to read it! And I loved it. The trilogy lost its glimmer as the novels went, but the first one was amazing, and so refreshing as a non-Redwall read.

Secondly:



Mossflower will ALWAYS have a special place in my heart. I can't remember if I read it or Redwall first, but it's the one that's stuck with me. I still remember alot of the story, and many of the others have long been forgotten. Mossflower is also one of the 5 books that I actually OWN. And it's totally the one I tried to draw the cover page. Heh. Such great memories.

Brian Jacques will be missed as such a welcome constant in my reading list. With my words, I echo the cry of the many who know the lay of the land and can hear the tolling bells Matthias and Methuselah in the distance. Whenever trouble brews, shout for your people and victory:

Redwaaaaaaaaalllll!!!!!

Eulaliaaaaaaaaa!

Logalogalogalogalogalogaloggggggggggggg!!!!!!

To Brian Jacquesssssssssssssssss!

POST EDIT: Check out this remembrance site they created: http://www.rememberingjacques.com/

Part 3.

In May I got to visit my sister. In order to meet my parents at the airport, I had to fly out of Salt Lake at 12:50am. Which meant I didn't go to bed. Sacrifices.

It was a surprise visit for her birthday, and I was so excited! I got her an expansion for the popular card game, Dominion. Just so happens that cards in a box like that apparently scan as C4. T_T Awesome... no, not really. That landed me in a security hotseat, though once they unpacked everything and explained it, I was sort of laughing inside. I mean, I guess if they packed with C4 and shrink-wrapped it BEFORE I bought it, then yes, it legitimately could be C4. *shakes head*

Since it was like 1am, I hoped to get some shut-eye on the way there. And then had to have the ONLY person on the entire plane sitting next to me who decided they weren't tired and wanted to read. Serious? Oh, and the row right in front of me had the only baby also. SERIOUSLY?! Why do I have such rotten luck with planes?!

I finally drifted off at some point, for which I was thankful. With 127mph tailwinds, we had an impressively fast flight. I got to my next airport way early, so I took a nap on the floor. Kinda. I decided to get breakfast and ordered some biscuits that ended up not even being the size of my fists. And they were freaking $10! Ridiculous.

My flight to Missouri was uneventful. When I landed I met my parents, little bro and my other sister. Party! We rented a van and set off on the 3-hour drive from the airport to my sister's school. My parents were required to visit every 6 to 8 weeks, which they tried to plan around retreats. The van was cramped and it was hard to sleep (though I desperately needed/wanted to).

When we got to the city we did some shopping at the outlets, then checked into our hotel which has the pungent odor of baking soda. And trace amounts of vomit. Ew. My sister knew my parents were coming, and they had to do a session with just her, so we chilled at the hotel. Which ='d naptime for me.

Then then my dad "forgot something at the hotel" and came back to get us. I was so excited to see my sister! We had devised a devious surprise plan. My dad went in with my brother and sister. Surprise! After a few minutes, my dad said that he "forgot something in the van" and came back to get me. I was practically bursting from the excitement! SUPER SURPRISE!!!

When we got inside, she was up in the loft, so we snuck through the main room and up the stairs, then down the hall. When she saw me, she cried out and jumped up off the couch and bolted over to me. Hugs all around! She showed us Toby (who didn't seem to know how to listen, but that wasn't stopping my sister!), and then wanted us to see the puppies. We went down to a lower level and it smelled AWFUL. SO TOTALLY LIKE DOG. Not my thing, sorry dog-lovers. It made our hotel smell like fresh flowers.

Then she showed us her room before we went to dinner with the rest of the girls. Some of the girls got into a fight while we were there - obviously some felt the need to put on a show. My sister may have even been part of the fight... none of us can remember now for sure or not... (that's what I get for waiting 9 months to post this...)

My sister wasn't allowed off campus with us that night, so we said goodbye after we ate. Then we had some free time, so I convinced the other four to go laser tagging. I rocked the first game. The second game we played teams: my family against some other people. My family rocked! We teamed well, we helped each other, covered each other while attacking bases... if some post-apocalyptic invasion happens where we have to fight to survive, I totally call my family as my team. We ended up losing at the very end, but one of the guys on the other team played cheap and just sniped us along a hallway - honestly, I don't even really know HOW we lost. We were doing so good! And we totally protected them from getting our base... anyway. I was sad we lost, but will always have fond memories of us being such a team.

We went back to hotel and I went swimming with my little bro before it was time for bed.

The second day we went back to CALO and got my sister. This was her legitimate birthday so we opened presents. Since it was her day, she got to pick the schedule. The first item on the list was to volunteer at an animal shelter. She had been there with the school and really loved it, so she wanted to do it again. The moment I walked in, I couldn't handle the smell. WHY DO ANIMALS SMELL?! SERIOUSLY!!! I decided that I didn't want to just cop out though, so I hung out with the cats. Outside. Their enclosure had an inside room and an outside. I got a brush and tried to brush any of them that would let me. One of the cats was WAY touchy-feely and a definite lap hog. My sister took my dad and walked dogs. After an hour or so, we were ready to move on. We headed back to the outlets and shopped some more. I went to Harry&David and bought a soda and some candy. Nom nom nom. Did some clothes shopping... didn't really see anything I liked. Then we saw a movie all together. The selection: Iron Man 2. It was okay. We had lunch at Subway, then hung out at the hotel for a while. I think I threw a frisbee with my brother. At some point, I got sick. Violently so. I'm about 95% sure it was from food poisoning. Either my hotel breakfast, the soda and candy combo, or my lunch. By the time we went to dinner at a nice Italian restaurant I was sick, sick, sick. Literally in and out of the bathroom every five minutes. I went back to the hotel and tried to play cards, but mostly slept. I was so upset that my trip was being ruined by something attacking me from the inside. I mean, how often do I visit my sister far away? UGH.

The third day we picked up my sister again and we all went to church. Then we went to the park and had lunch and played with her dog. I was feeling much better (again, I believe it was food poisoning of some sort... soon as it was out of my system, I was fine). Little bro and I played frisbee the whole time. Toby even tried to play some too, which was entertaining to say the least. A neighborhood kid was there, and clearly lonely; he latched on and wouldn't leave us alone. We tolerated him.

It was over far too quickly. We took my sister back, drove the 3 hours back to the airport, and parted ways to go home.

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A week later my parents returned, once again surprising my sister. She hadn't thought they'd be able to come twice so soon. But the miracles didn't cease, and it worked out. This trip was for a parent's retreat. It ended up being cold and rainy, but still very helpful. The second retreat my parents attended was in September, and it was much better weather, so they enjoyed more outdoor activities.

My parents maintain that the retreats were amazing; filled with quality activities, and helpful direction. CALO is just starting to do retreats, so they are learning as well how to do them efficiently and effectively. There's a parent breakout session where parents meet with other parents and the therapist and just talk about the kids. My parents said it was very reassuring to see you're not alone in this - that there are other parents who are struggling with you.

Some of the activities were: everyone was blindfolded and had to put a rope in a square, the students were blindfolded and had to be led through a sea of mousetraps by the parent, another was done at the lake with a pipe full of holes and they had to figure out how to plug all the holes and float a ping pong ball to the top. But for my mom she felt it was really good to be with my sister and be focused totally on her and no one else.

Another time they made masks by putting goo on their faces to make a mold. This activity was especially hard for my mom. She's claustrophobic, and has never had any good experiences with lying down and having people work on her (c-sections, surgeries, etc). She especially hates things on her face. The masks were decorated on the outside to express one's personality style; my mom made hers up of different experiences like a patchwork quilt. She says the pieces come together to make the person that she is. On the inside they wrote secrets about themselves they keep hidden or people wouldn't know about them. Then they went around in a circle and shared them so other people could see how the inner person blended with the personality on the outside to create a more holistic understanding of who people are.

The retreats were helpful, and my sister was making rapid progress. She found out she might even graduate early if she stayed on track.

11 months and 3 days later, this was to be the case. But not without a bump or two, and some difficult challenges to overcome, along the way.

Stay Tuned for Part 5: Leap of Faith and Graduation I

Part 2.

CALO didn't seem to be helping. My sister was still depressed. Still hurting. Still not connecting with anyone.

And then something changed. She decided she wanted to adopt a dog. Not all students adopt a dog; some either are unable to get permission or just aren't interested. That appeared to be the case with my sister, until this dog broke through to her in a very personal way.

The process begins with making people aware of your desire to adopt a dog. You have to obtain permission from your parents. Then you submit papers declaring your intent. The dog is released to you and you are allowed to care for it for one month. Then you submit again, stating you've cared for the dog for a month and still wish to adopt it. Then you start on a number of "intent" essays, submitted at the end of the month for the next 4 subsequent months. By the time the entire dog program is over, it's usually taken the extent of your stay. Most students do not complete the formal adoption process until their graduation day.

My sister decided she wanted a dog, and not just any dog, but a dog named Toby. She felt a connection with Toby, one that affected her deeply. Many of the dogs at CALO were spoken for, some even fought over, but for some strange reason no one wanted Toby.

No one.

When my sister asked why, she received responses like "he's crazy" or "he won't even take a leash."

My sister felt like everyone had given up on Toby. This resonated to her core. She knew what it was like to feel given up on. This is what she believed about everyone in HER life. They had given up and didn't want to try anymore. She'd been written off by them.

My sister made absolutely sure that the same wouldn't happen with this dog. She would reach out, she would care; she would be the difference. Toby would be hers. And that would be enough.

And this made all the difference. The walls came down, the shell cracked, and finally my sister came alive again. Her goals were reached of initiating and engaging. She began to respond better in therapy and get closer to people, physically and emotionally.

The transformation didn't happen overnight, but it was definitely a breakthrough - a turning point.

Likewise, my mom had her own breakthrough: Once a week my sister would have a family session via skype. My mom felt they were helpful, but not sufficient. She was trying to figure out what she could more, and then she found a book. Beyond Consequences, Logic and Control, which is two volumes; she started with volume two, because it had a chapter on self-harm. Then she read the rest, and eventually went back to the first volume. The way she found this book was she would hear about it somewhere, say to herself, I need to get that, and then forget about it. Then she'd hear about it again, and do the same thing. After about the fourth time of this book surfacing, my mom realized, oh, maybe someone's telling me this is something I need to get. And she did. And it the key she had been searching for in the guidance and insights it proffered. To my mom, CLAO doesn't give parents sufficient training. In many regards, it's parallel, but in some critical places this book goes further.

Maybe CALO really was the right place after all. :)

Stay Tuned for Part 4: Birthday Visit and Retreats

Part 1. [Author's note: Geez! Sorry it's taken so long to get this up. Once I finally had all the pieces I needed (the original hold-up), I didn't have any free time to get to my computer and hash it out.]

My sister was in trouble. She was making dangerous choices that were not just detrimental to herself, but to others as well. She needed help and my parents didn't know how. They were afraid she was going to attempt suicide. For my mom, such things were incredibly scary to comes to term with - because it meant acknowledging she was unable to do her number one job as a parent: protect her child.

My sister was sent to the University Behavioral Center and put in lockdown twice. But the Center didn't really know what it was doing, or how to help. Their idea of a group session was to put on a video called "intervention." The first time my sister went she was in lockdown for about 6 days, then spent 10 days on their day program (which my mom says is a joke). The second time it was for 4 days. My parents battled with the therapist to get him to listen; he had his own agenda of what she needed and how he would help. His concerns were far more important than any my parents could proffer. So my parents pulled her. But now what? My parents both felt that her increasing self-harm was a desperate cry for help, and that's what they wanted to do for her. But how?

My mother turned to online forums, to her friends on various international adoption listservs. One of the moms wrote back and told about my mom about this school called CALO. My mom went to the site to find out more - anything that could help at this point had to be explored. The moment my mom read about them using dogs in their therapy, she started crying. Because she knew that's where my sister needed to go.

My mom picked up the phone to find out more. The call made stark the reality that she didn't have the money for even one day, let alone for an extended stay, and discouragement set in again. Still the feeling remained that this was right; this was where my sister would find help.

My mom went to my dad and said, "This is right. We need to figure out how to do this." So the call went out to extended family to get ideas. One of my uncles called back and said his brother had tapped into retirement funds in a time of extreme need. So my dad went to his retirement savings and figured out how to get access to the funds there.

My parents were able to put together the start-up funds, and they decided she would go, not even knowing how they would ever hope to finance the rest. But they were resolved because of my sisters backgrounds. Both of my adopted sisters had been leaps of faith for our family. If my parents had waited to adopt until they could actually afford it, I wouldn't have any sisters.

So she could be enrolled, but then where did we come up with thousands and thousands of dollars to pay tuition? My sister's old therapist suggested a trust fund, so my parents investigated. They petitioned family for help. And miracles started happening. My mom said with a smile, "You add 2 and 2, and then you get 6." Once those avenues were exhausted, we turned to friends for help.

Over Christmas break when my sister was not in school, and had plenty of time to herself, my sister-in-law was critical in helping keep her safe. My mom presented the school. "I heard about this place... what if I told you it was a center where you go to school half day, then play with dogs the rest? Would you like to know more?" She said yes. My mom didn't have alot of information. She said it would likely be far away. My sister argued it could be close. My mom said no, because she'd have heard about it sooner. They waited for the informational packet to come in the mail. The idea of going away from my parents had always appealed to my sister, so she was actually engaged in the idea, rather than be oppositional to it. She thought it sounded easy, a place to "chillax," and just breeze through. My sister was sold on how easy such a place sounded.

My sister arrived at CALO on December 31st, 2009. When she realized that what my mom has said wasn't true (though my mom maintains she didn't know any better), my sister felt completely deceived and lied to. She was outraged at my parents. Both my mom and dad agreed that leaving her was really, really hard. My sister thanked them for leaving her in HELL. At some point before she went, my sister knew how long the projected stay would be. She complained she couldn't believe she was being sent away for two years. But she said, "It's okay, I'll have my revenge on you - I'm bringing home my dog!" Which was funny, because my parents are not dog people. So in a way she was right.

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CALO is a very regimented treatment facility. The students are separated into four groups: hawks and falcons (boys), doves and sparrows (girls). The Doves (my sister's group) usually had 5 or 6 people, the Sparrows had 12 (my sister said this was attributed to the therapist you had when you joined, which seemed odd to me... it's a little unbalanced).

The typical day started at 6:45am (though my sister never got up before 7:15am). The day began with feeding and pottying the dogs, then chores (vacuum, window cleaning, mopping and sweeping). No one in the group was allowed to do anything else unless all chores were done; which more than once was a source of conflict for people not pulling their weight. Once chores were done, the students could have breakfast (which was disgusting 75% of the time according to my sister) After breakfast, they cleaned their rooms (make beds, clean mirrors, vacuum, tidy).

Then the schedule depended on the day, though there were some consistencies, like school and taking care of the dogs.

Monday - DS duty (clean/take care of dogs); Caseload (get with therapist in group); School; Lunch; Campuswork (whatever needs done - you do this to earn credit to go on weekend outings); DS duty; Library (reading time); Ropes course (just what it sounds like); DS duty; Dinner; Loft time (video games or board games); Team group; Showers; Rooms and 30 minutes to lights out.

Tuesday - "K9 Inventory" (cleaning dog kennels/cages).

Wednesday - Seminar (all calo students together and they have a speaker; Mood regulation group or Attachment group (therapist assigns); my sister's group had dish duty Wednesday night.

Thursday - Recreational therapy (swimming in the lake, dodgeball... any physical activity), this lasted four hours; Leisure ed (downtime for reading or games).

Friday - Interdependence (all students together, two therapists come and talk about whatever topics need addressed at the school, e.g., hygiene).

Saturday - Dog training class; Creative arts (one unit involved a field trip to a radio station where they did commercials or talk shows); P.E.; Community outing (movies, ice skating, laser tag. Or they'd save money for a few months and do something expensive like attend a professional soccer game).

Sunday - Mainly personal time; Set weekly goals (then you'd discuss did you achieve it or not, and set new goals for the coming week); "Spiritual" time (they'd have a non-denominational preacher come and give sermons (though according to my sister he liked his bible way too much to be truly non-denominational); Movie time (students would vote on a movie and watch it (if it wasn't a good movie, my sister would go to her room and sleep)); Sunday dinner was homemade pizza - some weeks it was really good, some weeks it was gross (bbq sauce instead of pizza sauce?? EW).

Anytime a student did not wish to participate in a scheduled activity, they were put on "regroup," which is basically for an hour you do whatever needs done at that time on campus, from cleaning carpets to picking up dog poop.

The campus was a closed campus, so anytime you left you had to do a strip search when you got back to make sure you weren't smuggling anything into campus. This procedure was in place to prevent drugs, weapons, etc., from entering campus.

Likewise, they had pretty strict discipline. Anyone who acted out was put on "white shirt." Which meant the student couldn't go more than 6 feet away, and must go everywhere with a staff member. (Those not on white shirt had a 1-4 staff-student ratio). When they went to the bathroom, white-shirt students had to count out loud so staff could be sure they were not self-harming.

Anytime you were a danger to yourself or others, staff was authorized to employ various disciplinary techniques. "Escort": where a staff cranks your wrist (apparently this sort of wrist-bending is painful, but ultimately harmless as you can bend the wrist any amount without spraining or breaking...[Author's note: I don't vouch for the veracity of these claims.]) on both sides. If the escort is not effective, they proceed to the "Hold", which involves the same bending of the wrist, but flat on your stomach with legs crossed.

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As a result of her perceived deception on the part of my parents, my sister spiraled deeper into depression and pain for the first months she was at CALO. All she did was sleep. Students generally have 2 or 3 hours of personal time, where they hang out, play games, play video games, read, etc. All my sister did was sleep. Any time there wasn't a structured activity, my sister was in bed.

She wouldn't let anyone touch her either; she was completely detached from physical contact. The owner of CALO would often come up to her and try and rub her shoulders and my sister would cringe away. For the first who-knows-how-many-weeks, my sister's weekly goal was to initiate - Staff was trying to engage her and she would just mumble that she was fine. She wasn't vulnerable, she wasn't open, and she trusted no one. She saw no reason to interact on more than a surface level with anyone.

Sometime near the end of her first month, my sister found a way to self-harm again and carved the words "Hate" " Blood" and "Death" into her upper thigh.

The situation was still looking bleak. Was this place truly the answer my sister needed? Doubt was creeping back in.

Then something changed. Everything. Around the beginning of her third month, my sister decided she was interested in adopting a canine.

Stay Tuned for Part 3: Breakthrough and Steps to Healing


 

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