March 24, 2017

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Ironwood Web Update

For a small little school in central Maine, this campus sure has a lot going on throughout each day.

Our recent weekly updates have shared weather summaries, extra-curricular activities and the anticipation of our next Family Weekend gathering…this week has had all of that, as usual.

This week, I seemed to noticed the many layered human interactions that go on around our campus and also to family members, back home.  I have witnessed several communications between residents, staff and family member(s)…and for each interaction that I’m aware of there are likely hundreds that take place that are “under my radar”.  You see, we have over 40 residents in our care, over 50 employees, easily 150 family members, and another 30 or so support personnel that can be circulating on any given day.  That’s a lot of communication and therefore, a lot of potential for human impact on other humans, both positive and negative.

Early in the week, I sat in on a group of residents who were annoyed with one another and the air was charged with negativity.  The group was asked to rate their day together and they replied that it was a 5 out of 10.  We talked about how this 5 had come about and what could be done to move to a higher 7, or 8, perhaps?  Their suggestions we brisk and on point.  “Avoid comments that are negative”…”cut back on sarcasm, because sarcasm can really hurt some of us”…”be more accepting and respectful of one another”…”be less selfish and try more to make a peer’s day better”…”focus more on what I need to do, instead of what I think someone else should do”.  Not bad for a collection of 14-17 year olds!

I then asked, if you are currently in this negative space and you clearly have good ideas on things that can be done to make it better, why are you allowing your day to be a 5?  The replies were equally brisk.  “Habit”…”I don’t feel confident”…”peer pressure/jealousy”.  Wrapping up, it was agreed that it was mostly due to a lack of awareness, that it was a learned fall back behavior, that it was the easier of the two options and most importantly, that the selection of behavior didn’t make any sense at all.

Why are we so quick to judge, to criticize, to undermine, embarrass and humiliate? Why do we do this when we all know how easy it is to offer support, acceptance, understanding and mutual respect?  Why do we move away from these powerful tools of connection, when connection is needed now, more than ever?

Later in the week, I was able to revisit with this group who reported their new day to be a “7”.  Not by chance, their actions reflected an understanding of their conceptual suggestions that were given two days earlier.  They were reporting back on their choices, knowing they were more on course, than before.

This relational contrast has been highly visible at Ironwood this week and I have observed positive and negative actions within each of the groups mentioned above.  When a visible transition takes place that move us to 7+ days (or higher), the resident and family impact can be truly awesome.  These young people showed me that they have an awareness of what they need to do and I suspect that we are all of similar design and capacity.   Perhaps we all just need to try harder to “do it” more (myself included)?

Thank you for putting your trust in Ironwood and we hope you have a wonderful weekend.

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March 17, 2017

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Ironwood Web Update

So, we’ve placed springtime on hold and have settled back into winter for the next week or two. We were met with single digit temps the last two mornings with daytime highs barely reaching 30. Like many of you, we spent the last few days recoiling from the March Blizzard of 2017. While many forecasts on the east coast were off quite a bit, Maine held its own receiving between 12-18 inches of new snow with some rain for the finale creating a shiny winter wonderland…in March!

Not to be defeated by the weather there was a group of Frye boys out careening down the sledding hills yesterday afternoon. And much vigilance has been displayed in keeping the buckets attached to the Sugar Maple trees. Forever hopeful, we will have an early spring sap run.

All thoughts on campus are about spring: warm weather, snow birds returning, our friends; the Spring Peepers, the gardens, and a host of other harbingers of better weather. Our Horticulture program is off and running with a 14’X48” “hoop house” (green house) on order, seedlings and all other supplies have been ordered and are on their way. The Farmhouse Garden is the flagship of the fleet, with the Frye Gardens providing a wonderful learning resource as well as fresh veggies and colorful flowers throughout the season. Staff Jacqueline is heading up the program this season and there has been some rumor that she may be getting some Laying Hens to take up residence in the Frye Mini Barn.

Ahhh spring…our little campus is bustling with activity both natural and residential. While no residents migrated to the FH this week, we had a new arrival at the Frye campus and one Frye resident receive their invite to present to Treatment Team next week for a possible move “up the hill”. Thanks so much for allowing your child to be part of our lives.

All eyes and thoughts are on the upcoming family weekend in April. Maybe the snow will be gone by then…

Have a great week!

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March 10, 2017

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Ironwood Web Update

The first week of March is always an unknown with the weather. While we’ve been anticipating the below freezing overnight temps and nice warm sunlit days to facilitate the Maple Sap run, we’ve experienced well below normal day time highs and wet and rainy nights. And oh my, have we had the wind and rain. It has been unusually cold and some very high winds. From what I gather much of the country has been experiencing these above average wind speeds. And, of course, here on the side of the mountain we get some very impressive wind gusts. All to be expected in the first week of March.

The Sap run has been slow, but we did manage to garner some 80 gallons this week. We’re hoping for a run today (Friday), but as of late morning temps remain too cold for a daytime run. Although, the last week has not been conducive there is still time left for a solid run.

The snow has melted in all of the fields and there remains a fair amount of snow in the woods. It is that in between season. In between Winter and Spring. It is a very anticipatory time of year and that has been the prevailing mood here on campus. Although not lots and lots of snow, it’s been a long winter, and residents and staff alike are ready for some spring time. As you know, the Maple Syrup operation is running and the planning for the spring planting of the gardens has begun. And, yes, we’re beginning to hear rumblings that the Family Weekend is getting closer.

In a therapeutic setting, with very, very little outside influences to distract one during the day, anticipation of future events becomes ever so important. As an example, the small things, like a hike, or emptying Sap buckets, or horsemanship have enormous meaning. And big things, like a Family Weekend, although 4 weeks away, begins to take a place in day to day conversation.

We had 2 Frye residents come to the Farmhouse this week. The Farmhouse boys are going swimming at the Y on Saturday and we have a Canine Group on Saturday that is being conducted by a Professional Dog Trainer.

We are all in anticipation of the warmth and excitement of the upcoming weeks and months. We hope you are as well. Have a great week and thanks for allowing your child to be part of our lives.

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March 3, 2017

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Ironwood Web Update

Well, we can say that March has entered as neither a Lion nor a Lamb as we had rather warm, foggy weather for the earlier week, quickly giving way to blinding snow squalls on Thursday, then coooold and windy here in Friday. Daytime highs over the coming weekend are not expected to get above 15 degrees and overnights well into single digits. Our residents are very interested to see such a stark change in weather patterns and seem to relish the many weather patterns.

With our spring type weather we have geared up for, and are taking full advantage of “Maple Syrup Season”. Yes, with the overnight temperatures going below freezing and daytime highs hitting mid-40’s or higher, the sap has been flowing! Many of you had an opportunity to visit our Sugar Shack over the last family weekend and got a quick course on the how to’s of ‘sapping”. The residents, under staff direction have placed over 120 taps and buckets to our Sugar Maple Trees in the sugar orchard.

The sap ran pretty well early in the week with the Frye residents gathering 30 gallons on Sunday. Through Wednesday all residents had gathered about 140 gallons of sap and we began boiling. We finished off the batch to almost 2 gallons of pure, very excellent, maple syrup, and served some up for snack on today on both campuses. Yes, Apple chunks touched with just abit of real syrup was snack after lunch. And what a big hit it was…

Today’s experiential with the Frye girls group was held at the sugar shack. Therapist Nicole T., brought her group to the shack where staff had the evaporator fired up and the waft of maple essence steam filled the air. After an explanation of the maple syrup production process, and then the hands on of actually tapping a tree and placing the bucket in the very cold wind, the group went back inside the shack (where the wood fire was creating great warmth) to discuss the role of sap gathering in early America and its role in families and communities of the time. And then after the ceremonial “tapping” of a spoon against an actually tap, Staff Nicole and Sarah, presented the group with a fine sampling of fresh drawn Maple Syrup. After the entire experience staff asked the group what they just experienced in a few short words each. Here’s some (participant’s first name initial):

A- home, traditions, maple syrup.

A-home, memories, family.

I- sweet, work, warm, olden days.

G- sugar, nature, trees.

B- Filled with nature, sugary, education.

R- happy, content, hopeful

I- maple tree, teamwork, sap

S- maple sugar, fun working together, Native Americans, traditions.

The Farmhouse had a wonderful Ethnic Night, with Russia as the host country. A resident enrolled in the Young Adult Program and a native of Russia, prepared a masterpiece of Beet Borscht, Salad Olivier, Buckwheat, Stuffed Cabbage Leaves, and Dumplings. Oh my, what a wonderful time had by all and an absolute joy to have this young person with us, here at Ironwood…

There is much happening here in our little corner of the planet. We hope you all have a great week and thank you for allowing your child to be part of our lives.

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February 24, 2017

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Ironwood Web Update

What happens to the 5 feet of snow that is reduced to 1 foot in a 7 day period of time? It turns into water, and seeps into the ground filling our aquafers and turning our roads into 1 foot deep ruts of soft and very pliable mud! Yes, we’ve experienced a rapid thaw, with seeping snow melt, with no rain, which has emptied many gallons of water into the surrounding landscape. In addition, the once frozen roads, particularly dirt roads, with frost reaching 2-3 feet deep has now begun to surface thaw, and combined with the water rich ground has created the proverbial “mud season” road here on campus just a bit earlier than normal. Alas, we are ready for it, and the hearty stock that are known as “Mainers” here on campus bear with it, and rally forth. In many cases we just pick up the pieces of our vehicles that are scraped off the undercarriage this time of year, place them in the trunk and re-attach after the “mud season” is over.

Along with the above noted phenomena, comes a true tested harbinger of spring; Maple Syrup Sap Season. Yes, for the first time in a number of years we have cleared the Orchard, cleaned and prepped all the buckets, taps, evaporator and all tools, begun tapping trees and are ready to go. Just yesterday as the taps were being drilled into the surface of the trees, the Sap was pouring out…well, dripping out! This is a first for all residents even for one from Maine, and one from Vermont, and the kids are marveling at the process. The best is yet to come however, as the boil will begin in a few weeks and the “sweetness” will be experienced. Residents from both campuses will assist in all aspects of the operation to allow for a complete understanding of a traditional New England Maple Syrup experience. More to come, including some samples!

The Farmhouse girls group went to Harbor Hill Nursing Home this week for a visit. They delivered some goodies and spent the afternoon talking, playing games, singing songs and playing musical instruments for the residents. Need I point out how much this means to the residents of Harbor Hill? Not to mention what it does for our residents? Let’s just say there were tears shared from both groups. Tears of joy and happiness as younger met older, and simply enjoyed one another’s company on a February Winter afternoon. It was quite an experience.

The Farmhouse also made a trip to the Camden Snow Bowl last Sunday, for an afternoon of Cross Country Skiing instruction and enjoyment. The temperatures were warm and the snow plentiful. Speaking of snow, the students at Frye have been working diligently on a large snow-fort, packing large blocks of snow together, the creation is taking an impressive shape.

Hope this update finds you all safe and healthy. Thanks so much for allowing your child to be part of our lives.

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February 18, 2017

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Ironwood Web Update

You’ve probably all heard of, or seen, the remarkable snow event we received here on Monday. As if the prior three storms in the 10 days leading up to Monday were not enough, Mother Nature unleashed a fury on us that has not been seen in a number of years. Visibility was literally zero and the winds were moving at 50 mph, plus. While all the working world was shut down, with all schools and 95% of businesses closed, Ironwood was a beehive of activity with some staff actually staying overnight in the Admin building to ensure that we would have adequate staff on Monday morning.

I must say, that our staff is unbelievable! In addition to some spending the overnight, staff phones were buzzing Sunday night to coordinate who would be on campus on Monday morning, even planning on who would stay over on Monday night, if need be. You can rest comfortably that your child is cared for by an invested and compassionate group of professionals.

In addition to some much needed shoveling, there were snow forts, tunnels and trenches constructed. Card and board games, knitting, baking, and reading were carrying the day with an occasional conversation marveling at the natural phenomena occurring outside. Throughout this event, we were never without full power.

You should all be getting a copy of the Ironwood “Pertinent Press” next week, which is our journalism class’ voyage into publishing.  As I scribe this, we have a group of FH residents who are visiting college campuses here in Maine. Oh, and the FH will be having a field trip to Sugarloaf USA, a popular ski resort in Western Maine, for a day of cross-country skiing. There is always something happening here at Ironwood.

We welcomed a new FH resident that “graduated” from Frye on Wednesday…two Frye residents have received their invite to present to move on to FH, next week. Three Frye residents moved from Level I to Level II…like the cycles of seasons and weather we experience in our natural world…the cycle of Ironwood continues.

Thank you for allowing your child to be part of our lives.

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February 10, 2017

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Ironwood Web Update

Oh my, what we’ve missed for winter weather thus far has come smashing into the side of Frye Mountain like a freight train over the last 36 hours. As many of you residing on the East Coast and into New York, became very aware of this storm as it visited you before arriving here. We tallied about a foot of new snow, with drifts piling to 3-4 feet along the fence rows. Typical of a Nor’easter the next day’s weather is clear, cold, and a biting Northeast wind. Daytime highs have creeped to low double digits, with a wind chill well below zero degrees. Never fear though, your children are well dressed and outdoor exposure is kept to a bare minimum. Great day for a book and some knitting…the kids will be doing a bit of both. After school and chores are done of course.

Because the weather is so very unpredictable, it is hard to get outside all of the time. The Sunday Frye staff do a great job planning outdoor events around campus, even if for short bursts of activity. Sledding, fire building, wildlife identification re just a few of the activities that take up wintertime fun.

The Farmhouse residents, because they can go off campus, routinely enjoy trips for some recreating. This past week saw some of them at the local YMCA for some swimming adventures while another group signed up for some free time at a local school gym and enjoyed an afternoon of basketball, Frisbee, and whatever else they could muster together for wintertime indoor fun.

The FH residents have wrapped up their 8 week Journalism module, which will culminate with an Ironwood Newsletter Publication, coming out next week. “The Pertinent Press” will be distributed to all of you to enjoy, which showcases much of what they learned in their module. It should be very enjoyable. In addition to the Journalism module’s completion the Financial Module was completed at the same time. Now, armed with an understanding of the financial markets, and a budding interest in journalism, we may have a few Wall Street Journal future contributors on our hands. Stay tuned for more…

Very excited to report that we sent off our first “Young Adult Program” graduate today. This young person joined us a few months after completion of the traditional IW program, as the first to enroll in the YAP after care module. This young adult had an internship position at a local business for the last 4 months, gained some valuable experience and left today for a full time position in the same field with future job growth being excellent. While back at IW, these individuals continue with some therapeutic care, participate in house and barn chores, and received educational opportunities in various fields of interest. We are very, very proud of this young person and are very excited about future opportunities for conventional IW grads and other young adults that are seeking structure and support in their early adult years.

And finally, we had one resident graduate this week and had one hard working young resident make the trip from Frye to the Farmhouse. Two more “Fryelings” have received their “invitation” to present to Treatment Team next for their possible advancement to the Farm.

Have a great week. Stay warm. And thanks for allowing us the opportunity to be a part of your child’s life.

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February 3, 2017

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Ironwood Web Update

February arrived with a bit of snow to liven up our scenery here in the North Woods. A soft, gentle snow joined us for the day Wednesday and departed after leaving about 4” of fresh powder. Roads are immediately cared for and the seemingly never ending task of keeping walkways and paths clear carried on. February for us is that month where thoughts begin to go to Spring, yet are tempered by the single digit temps we experienced just this morning, with a sunrise temp of just 3 degrees. We know we have a long way to go and the Groundhog forecaster only reminds us way up here that warm weather is still a long way off. We have gained over an hour of daylight since the Winter Solstice. Yes. The light is gaining, as is the atmosphere here as optimism abounds.

Family Weekend wrapped up with a great degree of positive attitude following for most of the residents. It is a weekend of tremendous energy as some residents are seeing their families for the first time in months, while others are re-united mid-program, and still others are enjoying what may well be their final family weekend. The experience of the various levels of each family is amazing to witness. To say the range of emotions are different for each group is an understatement. For the staff, it is exceptionally rewarding to witness the reunification of the residents to their families. After spending weeks/months listening to residents talk of their families, it is finally great to meet them, but more so to witness the interaction. Especially when we get to be part of seeing the growth of the entire family dynamic over two or three family weekends. Many staff will come in for a visit on family weekend to simply meet the resident’s family members.

Most important, post family weekend, is the renewed vigor we see residents place on their individual programs. As if race horses getting into the starting gate, there is an unbridled energy and enthusiasm for the individual’s program. After re-uniting with families, spending private time together, and engaging in family therapies, there is a decided emphasis on residents to move forward. We take great care to help guide the efforts of these young people, as they tackle their programs in a balanced and thoughtful way.

Only nine weeks remaining until the next family weekend…thanks again for allowing your child to be part of our lives!

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January 28, 2017

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Ironwood Web Update

Family weekend dawned with an unusual stretch of what one would classify as Spring weather. Our campus, fully prepared, with roads sanded on Thursday afternoon, and ready for the traffic on Friday morning, received an overnight of rain which washed away all the preparation. However, caution was used and the weather warmed throughout the day Friday, allowing of for some melting and much needed traction. Saturday’s looking to be an unseasonably warmer day as well.
First day activity was brisk with the ever warming reuniting of families and a full schedule of groups, seminars and some much desired free time. While Farmhouse Residents and their families had a few morning/early afternoon groups and therapy sessions, they departed campus for the late afternoon off campus family time, while the Frye families enjoyed experiential groups and team builders. Team Builders cause a group to work through the dynamics of problem solving, other group sessions had participants designing and painting Soap Box Derby Cars. Each “team” defined a name for their team with some very colorful identifications such as, “Tar Heels”, “Hippo”, “Team Purple”, “Toon-up-a-soag”(Turtle in Muddy Waters), “The Falcon”, “Dreamer’s With Attitude”…and many more…it was a very interesting and fun filled family event. Some of the Frye families enjoyed an experiential while enjoying a hay ride towed by a pair of Suffolk Punch Draft Horses(Pete and Harry) down to our “Sugar Orchard”. Owner of the team, Drew H., spoke of the role of the Work Horse on early New England Farms, then treated participants to a tour of the Ironwood Sugar House and Maple Syrup operation. While a bit chilly it was thoroughly enjoyed by all.
Our newer Frye residents are not yet eligible for a family weekend have a very special weekend that is put together by our staff. After attending a regular 3 hours of school on Friday morning, “Team Citrus”(aptly named for the Orange color level) enjoyed the catered lunch that was provided on campus, then were lead on a Snowshoe Treasure Hunt. Each resident had a chance as the leader of the expedition as they searched for clues provided by Staff Alex. As they navigated through the woods of Ironwood, they ultimately discovered the “treasure”, which was a box of sweet treats that had been placed by staff. After a thorough investigation and testing of all the treats staff engaged the residents is a “Merit Challenge”. Using only what could be gathered close by the small yurt location, each resident was challenged to make a fire on the snow. For the successful fire starters a Merit was awarded for use at another time in their day to life at Ironwood.
For Saturday, a full plate of activities is planned for Team Citrus. After morning chores, there will be the prep for a special Hot Dog and Baked Bean lunch planned on an open fire. The lunch will be complimented with fried onion toppings and all the condiments. Dessert for the later afternoon will be Marshmallows, Chocolate and Graham Crackers, more commonly known as Smores! Maine Style, on an open fire, in January! In addition, we had some Salmon fillets that staff will be teaching the residents to cook on the open fire using Cedar Wood “Planks” as a substitute for the traditional flat metal pan. Again, an outdoor tradition that is being passed on to our newer Ironwood Residents.
As you can see our little campus, nestled under the watchful eye of Frye Mountain, is a bustling hub of activity, as families re-unite, cherish each other’s company, and anticipate their future together…
Thank you for allowing your child to be part of our lives.

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January 21, 2017

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Ironwood Web Update

We’re locked back into the mid-January, never know what is going to happen in the weather department. We had daytime highs approaching mid 30’s, darn balmy here in Mid Coast Maine. Yet, in a scant 24 hours we’re enjoying single digit lows. It’s interesting to see the varied reactions from our many residents as their home weather patterns are vastly different than here. As noted prior, many residents are experiencing snow and extreme cold for the very first time. Extended forecast is for some lighter snow early in the week, with the deeper extended forecast calling for mild weather through the end of next week.

It is safe to say at this point that we here at Ironwood have discovered something that stirs the same level of excitement as Christmas Eve, Super Bowl Sunday or any major event…it’s called Family Weekend! Hard to believe but we’re on the door step of our once every ten week event, where families gather on the campus to re-connect with their children. Many events/workshops are planned as our campus will fast become a bustle of activity. There are seminars, groups, experientials and much, much more. Most importantly families will have time together, some private time and some time in family therapies.

Farmhouse residents that are Level III will enjoy one overnight off campus with their families. Level III residents that are experiencing their second Family Weekend at the Farmhouse will have two nights off campus and Level IV residents will enjoy the entire weekend nights off campus with family.

Frye Level II residents will have an “on campus” weekend with ample private time with family, yet will not be leaving for the overnight. Certain Level I residents will experience a family reunification, but with staff present.

A clear and critical objective of the Ironwood Therapeutic Program is to re-unite families. Not just to re-unite but to effectively and comprehensively heal whatever hurts and rifts that have occurred up to the point of making the very difficult decision of placement. We know that this doesn’t happen overnight and that simple promises and assurances don’t make a home situation magically heal in just 2 months. It takes time. And our family weekends are just one of the many tools that expedite and create an environment of re-unification and growth for all family members.

Well, I hear a buzzing noise that is getting louder by the minute…it is the excitement as we approach the upcoming week.

Look forward to seeing most of you next Friday. And thanks for allowing your child to be part of our lives.

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