Mama said…

All Mama’s have wisdom she bestows to her children like, make sure you have clean underwear on in case you’re in an accident. I never fooled with telling my kids this, because how dirty can their undies be??? My tip for accidents is, make sure your legs are shaved. Or, nap when the baby naps. My personal favorite that my Mama always said, a person that says they aren’t hungry, will eat you out of house & home. Over the years, I have made a little booklet of personal wisdom tips/life lessons for our children. I keep a running notebook of these tips on my dresser so when I think of one, I can jot it down. The tips range from cooking, to men, women, friends, strangers, & so much more. I have highlighted the most important ones (in my humble opinion). I think it’s a really good idea to do this for your children in case something ever happens to you, they will know your values.

Pictured below is my Mama’s hand. She’s getting onto Ava & Jack during a beach trip. This is a perfect “Mama Said” picture!

The list is called “Mama’s Do’s & Don’t’s”.

1. Never trust a man with long fingernails. This is the first rule I taught our children. If you’re a man & reading this & have long nails, cut them-it’s creepy.

8. Playing sports is some of the best times of your life. Play when you’re grown if you’re able.

10. Carry scissors in your car at all times. You never know what they may come in handy for. I’ve used mine countless times, especially when riding down the road & I can’t get a pack of tater chips open!

11. And carry a pair in your purse.

14. Always send handwritten thank you notes for gifts, surprise food drop-ins, & nice gestures.

19. Do not buy any food items (includes candy) that is not made or grown in the United States.

24. Change toothbrush on the first day of each new season. It’s easy to remember this day & is the perfect three month cycle as recommended by the American Dental Association.

30. If what you’re eating or drinking isn’t absolutely delicious, don’t eat it-not worth the calories.

31. Do not trust other people’s turn signals. Some forget they have them on & some put them on to make you wreck into them.

36. Floss everyday & Waterpik, too.

39. Stay away from people that have torn up blinds in their house.

40. Do not heat food in plastic containers or plastic bags.

49. Never use a wire brush to clean a grill. The bristles can come off, get on your food, & cause serious intestinal damage.

51. Eye cream is your friend! I’ve used it since I was a teen & don’t have crows feet…yet.

52. Always be kind & generous to others, say thank you & open doors for others.

53. Offer to help the elderly or disabled load their groceries & return their buggy for them.

54. Sleep on your back, it helps to prevent wrinkles.

55. Read! It makes you smarter.

56. Ava, get your mammogram. It does not hurt at all. A piece of cake!

60. Check bathroom stalls before using public restrooms. Crazy people could be hiding in them.

67. A lot of this will be repeated, just deal with it as I am mildly crazy.

75. Alligators are everywhere, if one attacks you, punch it in the nose.

79. When you are in a scary situation or in fear, DO NOT be nice! That is the time to show out & act a fool-might save your life.

85. Never accept drinks from strangers.

86. When children tell you something is good & they want you to try it, that means it’s awful!

87. When making tacos or spaghetti, make sure you have a special spoon for those two items. If not, all your spoons will taste like tacos & spaghetti.

88. Never use a generator inside the house-you will die.

89. The key to success is to be yourself in every situation.

90. Teach your children as you have been taught to do life’s basics: pump gas, cook, wash clothes, write a check, iron, grocery shop.

91. Take vitamin K2, it helps prevent osteoporosis.

Many of the tips I have jotted down for our kids are private & I wish to keep them that way, but I feel these are instrumental for everyone. Whether our kids listen to “Mama’s Do’s & Don’t’s” is totally up to them, but Mama tried!

Men in Doorways

I have so many blog titles in my head that I would love to write about. I mainly don’t because I don’t have time, but also because I title my life almost daily based on some sort of foolery or weirdness that has occurred. I just love titles! This blog post is going to appeal to women ages 35 & up. It’s concerning men. Men get a bad rap. Some say (I may or may not “say”) men are too sloppy, don’t pay attention to details, don’t help in the kitchen, etc…Whether men do or do not do any of the above is a moot point. My question is, why do men stand in doorways? I haven’t always been privy to noticing such a phenomenon, I am certain it has occurred since doorways were invented. The reason I haven’t always noticed it, I was too young & blasé to care.

As I aged & my responsibilities changed, I began to notice it. For instance, I started helping out with showers for friends, meals at church, & family gatherings. Now I’m not saying this is always the case, however it is in my experiences that men don’t typically help do what they consider “women” things such as cooking & cleaning. Men like to talk as do women, but I’ve noticed in nearly every situation, men like to talk in doorways, more specifically, they like to talk in groups in the doorway of wherever women are working. I’m going to make a sign like the orange ones you see on the highway that says “women working, men, stay out of the doorway”! Could they not pick a more inconvenient place to hangout?

My church friends & I will be busy scurrying about setting up the buffet line for a meal, trying to go in & out of you guessed it, the doorway-no matter how many times we politely say excuse me which is followed by an eye roll & an under the breath “why don’t you move”, the men always find their way back to that doorway. It’s like it has some sort of gravitational pull. I think part of that pull is these “doorway standers”think if they are partly in the kitchen, they can imply to their wife they did something to help in the kitchen. The real reason probably has more to do with the fact that the doorway they are standing in is closer to the food & they want to be first in line.

Today at The Berry Patch in our gift shop, there was a group of three men lounging in the doorway. Summer Sunday’s are swamped at the big strawberry, so this is not the time to lounge around our doorway. They were standing in the way of all of the customers that wanted to come in the gift shop & the employees that were trying to stock produce. They were totally oblivious to anything we were doing & oblivious to the fact that they themselves were in our way. Some men (not all, just the ones I know), are oblivious to the annoyances womenfolk have for them. I know blogs can be written & have been written about how women spend too much money, have too many shoes, wear clothes & claim they’ve had it for years when in fact we just pulled it out of the trunk five minutes ago, but I’m not a man (sadly). If I were, I’d be sleeping right now, it’s 1am.

I’m pretty sure no one has ever written about the strange mystery of “doorway standers”. Pay attention next time you’re at a party or a church meal & see where the men linger-it ain’t the table like normal people, it ain’t the bathroom, it ain’t even in the kitchen. It’s smack dab in the way of everything women are trying to do. Can you imagine the conversations our Grandma’s once had? “Inez, did you see Clyde perched in that doorway running his mouth while we were trying to get the food setup? He would not move!” I may or may not of had this conversation with a few friends. Of course, this blog wasn’t meant to offend, only to get you to stop & think about men in doorways. I do find the men in doorways comical, I even married one! I’m sure Coleman won’t like that I shared a picture of him in a doorway, but it was the only picture I had of a man in a doorway. Let me know if you’ve ever experienced a man in a doorway!

The Bird Flu

Last week Coleman, Ava, & I drove across the country from North Carolina to Minnesota over 1,200 miles to move Coleman to the “dontcha know” state for the summer for his internship with an egg production company. Lee was originally supposed to take Coleman & that’s what we had planned on, up until about a week before departure. The reason Lee didn’t get to go was due to an almost fire at The Berry Patch. Lee was making ice cream & saw the power flicker & knew there was a problem. Upon investigation, he discovered there was a fire inside our electrical panel box. One of the many advantages of small town living is having the contact info for people that can help during a crisis. Lee quickly called a family friend who came out in a flash & addressed the issue, called in help to repair the problem-disaster avoided. Had Lee not been there at that very moment, things would have probably ended up differently, perhaps a large fire. It was at that very moment, that we realized me taking Coleman would better serve our family. There are too many things that can go wrong with our business alone & Lee is often the only one that can fix the issues. I like to call him Macgyver (young people, Macgyver was a man that could build a bomb out of coffee & Windex). I often tease Lee by saying I’m going to have that nickname inscribed on his tombstone.

Coleman got home from his study abroad trip from Norway & Sweden on Wednesday & we headed out Thursday morning for our trek. For the most part, our trip was uneventful which was completely shocking to us, I know it has to be for you also! I was more shocked to see that there are numerous Shoney’s still in existence in other parts of our fine land (their hot fudge brownie was always to die for) & a Cracker Barrel stands literally every 15 miles on the interstates. Taking two days to get to Coleman’s summer home-he’s living large, we saw some wonderful parts of America we’ve never seen, from lots of farm land, the rolling hills of Wisconsin, to miles & miles of windmills.

Upon arrival, we met Coleman’s roommate, did a quick tour of his apartment which is really nice, & went grocery shopping on my dime so he could to stock up his kitchen. I would love to see his place right now. I wonder just how clean it is or isn’t. We only took one car which was Coleman’s so he could have it for transportation while in Minnesota, meaning that Ava & myself would have to fly home. I went 43 years without flying, had intended on making it the rest of my life without spreading my wings, but when you make proclamations like “I’m never doing blah blah blah”, the universe has a way of saying “oh yes you are”! Flying & snakes have always been my worst fears…still are! I am really good at tamping down things I dread until the very last moment, I tried not to think about flying at all, that was until we got to the airport that morning. Coleman literally dropped Ava & I off at the door & gunned it! I had zero idea of what to do. I felt like The Clampet’s from The Beverly Hillbillies when they flew to England. Ava was my source of interpretation, reasoning, & mostly importantly, calm. I’ve heard horror stories from various people about their TSA experiences, but the one thing I was most worried about, was not having socks on while my shoes & body were being scanned. Now all I can worry about is contracting plantar warts! Worried that we would be pulled aside for something because we are The Berry’s after all, my first TSA experience was pleasant. Nothing was confiscated nor taken. That meant one thing in my mind, the plane was gonna crash! The Berry luck has to come in to play somewhere!

After lunch at some swanky pizzeria inside the airport, Ava & I headed to the boarding gate. This is when the moments of dread & second guessing our flight began. I was seriously considering a train ride home, but those accidents are always in the news. All was fairly calm until take off. If you’ve ever been to Disney & ridden the Tower of Terror, that’s what I compared a plane ride to. It was like that ride during take-off & landing. The flight was actually wonderful, smooth mostly, just terrifying for this big chicken. During take-off, I was crying like a baby. There I was facing my biggest fear without medication! Ava my source of reasoning & comfort patted my hand & wiped my tears. She was a champ & loved her first flight…that girl is going places, too. Once settled into the blue sky, here comes the drink cart & snacks. We were in the air for less than two hours, those were some eating people! All I could think about (other than crashing) was my Grandma saying she didn’t know why people had to eat all the time. If they had a meeting, they ate, if they had Sunday School, they ate, if it was the last day of school, they ate! It was then I wished I was a man. An older man was dead asleep during all that raucous. Wrappers being fooled with, cans opening, ice being put in cups, not to mention the noise of the plane itself-it was like being in an eternal vacuum. Men…they can sleep anywhere! Remember the picture of Lee falling asleep at an actual Keith Urban concert? All was well & wonderful with the flight, the hardest part was trying to find Mama when she came to pick us up at the airport.

I kept thinking when was the bad luck going to rear its ugly head? Were we going to get in a wreck on the way home? No, we made it home successfully also! It wasn’t until Sunday evening that that bad luck made its entrance, my throat started hurting. No big deal, but the next day it was my back, neck, & slight cough. The next day even worse, & the next-boom, full-blown sickness. Coughing my head off, severe sore throat, achy body, fever, some flesh eating bacteria inside my mouth (not really but feels like it) & fever blisters not only on my lip, but my chin! Ava has a mild version of it also. I knew our perfect luck was too good to be true. Someone on that plane gave me the bird flu as my Aunt referred to it. I’ve coughed so much I’ve lost my voice. Pictured below is what I did this morning to try to help rid this awful invasion on my body, I roasted garlic cloves & ate them. Now I love garlic & could eat roasted garlic all day, every day. This is also a result of people that don’t have health insurance which is so foolishly expensive if you are self employed, ours was finally up to $35,000 a year & we had to drop it. So sad!

And to top it all off, our Directv satellite signal has been lost yet again-please refer to my previous blog for more information about Dear Aunt Sue. I wish I had my Aunt Sue’s pistol!

All in all, it was a great trip. Jack was being taken care of by his caregiver, Mama, & Lee. Although I was extremely worried that he might get out-of-sorts without me home, he did exceptionally well. He never knew I was gone out of town, only thought I was working really long hours. This was intentional because as you’ve read in my other blogs, Jack can get stirred up. Jack has continued to do so well behaviorally, we have truly been amazed. There have not been any medication changes at all, so we know without a shadow of a doubt, that the positive changes we have seen in Jack are a result of prayer. Our prayers, your prayers were heard & we couldn’t be more grateful. Thank you to every single one of you that has lifted our family up & shared our story with your church or a friend so that they too could pray for our situation. Jack is back like his old self. Getting out several times a week with his caregiver, whereas for nearly two years, his outings were less than once every two months, sometimes longer. We have been blessed greatly by The Great One.

How exciting it is for us to see our children grow. For many years, Coleman had zero interaction with peers & would only communicate with close family members & now he’s many states away from us at only 19 years of age learning about so many different aspects of life. After I got home & was doing laundry, I washed Coleman’s towel & when Ava was putting the towels up that evening, I said, don’t hang Coleman’s towel up, he won’t be using it this summer. That was a sad sentence to use. He may not ever use it again in our house. He’ll be coming home from Minnesota straight back to State into an apartment there. There’s no telling what direction he’ll go in, I just hope we are there to enjoy the journeys even if it does mean more plane rides & the bird flu!

Dear Aunt Sue

Dear Aunt Sue was one of the funniest people I knew. She was hilarious & didn’t even know it. She had us rolling on the floor laughing all the time with her funny sayings, quotes, & talking about her love for smoking, cussing, coffee, Pepsi, Nabs, & Jesus. Sue could be praising God one minute & the next, she’d flat cuss you out. Don’t get me wrong, she absolutely loved God, she just cussed a little (or a lot). Sue is my Mama’s sister, full name Linda Sue Coleman Coleman. Yes, that’s right. She was a double Coleman. She was a Coleman by birthright, married a Coleman (not related) by choice. Born in the early 1940’s, she & the rest of her siblings grew up on Mill Hill in East Rockingham. Both parents worked in mills when that was once a thriving industry. There were seven kids, one still standing which is my Mama. In 2013, Sue’s thigh was giving her a fit. She went to our local ER thinking her thigh bone was broke. It was, but sadly she had a cancerous mass on her thigh bone that caused the break. Sue quickly had surgery on her leg with a rod inserted to correct break & the mass removed, but opted not to treat the cancer because of the side effects of chemo & radiation. One of the main reasons she didn’t want to have treatment was because of sickness that comes with those treatments & the loss of hair. Hair was everything to Sue. The bigger the hair, the better. She had a large collection of Toni Poni’s. A Toni Poni is a clip-on hairpiece that looks like a ponytail. There are pictures of nearly everyone of us with Sue’s Toni Poni’s clipped in our heads. Sue didn’t last long, in 2014, she passed away. We lost a legend that day.

Ava with a Toni Poni.

This is Sue posing with her gift of Nabs for Christmas.

What prompted me to write about Sue, is our Directv has been out multiple times in the last few months. Not because of weather issues nor sticks or debris around our satellite like they make you want to believe either. The piece of crap just can’t keep a signal for some reason. Lee brought home the ladder during one of our outages to clean & polish the blooming thing & still no luck (the ladder is still there btw, wonder what trick I can use to get him to move it). You know as well as I, trying to get a human on the phone is about impossible. Trying to get a human that works for Directv or AT&T or whatever they are referring to themselves now is like actually trying to call the director of the FBI. We’ve had Directv for 20 years & never had an issue until recently. When Aunt Sue was living, we gifted her with paid for Directv. She helped us so much with the kids, that was a small thank you to her. I was so proud that Sue would not have the burden of not having a monthly cable bill!

Sue lived just two houses down from us. The kids could walk to her house at any time. I remember Coleman & Ava coming back home after a visit at Sue’s one afternoon saying Sue was gonna shoot the Directv people! This sort of talk was everyday language for us, nothing out of the ordinary, Sue was always going to shoot someone or cuss someone out (which she did that all the time). Obviously, she never did shoot anyone, probably only fired her gun one or twice for practice. Curious as to why the threat on Directv, I called Sue to find out the scoop. She couldn’t get a human on the line & they didn’t come out to her house like they said they were to install her equipment. I now understand Sue’s feelings towards Directv. After three calls just this afternoon trying to connect with a human body, I too, wanted to reach for my pistol & blow my debris-free satellite off the rooftop! Why do these knuckleheads make customer service so very difficult? You go through all of the time wasting steps & energy answering questions with some automated heifer only to be asked the very same questions yet again by a human if you’re ever so fortunate for one to pick up the telephone.

After assuring the technician my satellite was sparkling clean & the sun has shined for 14 days straight, she made another appointment for someone to come out tomorrow to install a brand new, sparkling clean satellite. The customer service rep I was talking to asked when our call was nearing its end, do you have internet service? Why yes I do I replied. Well, she says, you can watch tv on your mobile device through our Directv app. I’m sorry, not happening! I do not want to watch Southern Charm or Real Housewives of any county, city, or state on a device the size of a notecard. I’m old, I want to watch plain old fashion tv. I want to sit down in my recliner when I’m able to sit down, partake in trashy tv, fast forward through the commercials, & call my Mama or Aunt Dot & tell them they need to turn it to QVC. Is that too much to ask Directv? We had to go four days without tv last week because of the same issue & someone “supposedly” fixed it. I feel like I am reliving my youth during the 1989 Hurricane Hugo outage. I’ve written a blog about this before, here’s a quick refresher for ya. Hugo went through our area, we didn’t have power for weeks. Water ran on well, generator ran from 5pm-10pm so we could cook, clean, bathe, watch 30 minutes of Dan Rather, & go to bed. We survived, we didn’t have any choice. Meanwhile, my school friends all had power, telephone service, cable. Here we were with nothing to do but read the newspaper, listen to the loud hum of the generator, & inhale the diesel fumes. We’d hear through the grapevine that so & so across the creek got power back today, maybe we’ll be next. We were never next, always last. That’s what Directv has taken me back to, but those weren’t bad times only inconveniences. Those power outages that we became all to use to are now precious memories. Although it is aggravating, it really wouldn’t matter if I never got to watch tv again, but I bet my Aunt Sue would still want to shoot Directv for me!

Sue with the kids at Christmas.

Side note: please do not write to me telling me this was an inappropriate blog, you’ll be blocked, deleted, & publicly ignored! This was all in fun, I’d never shoot anyone, unless of course they deserved it! 🤣

Boiled Peanuts & Pokeman Hunting

I haven’t written a blog in a while & that’s because the surf has been calm on the Berry side of the sea for a change. Over the last few weeks, Jack took a turn for the better with the help of your prayers & the support of his caregiver. She knows what makes Jack tick, when he is open for ticking. She has convinced him into brushing his teeth everyday with a game. They race each other to see who wins. She has also gotten him to bathe nearly every other day. Jack would not bathe nor brush his teeth for weeks at a time. I was considering contacting Campbell’s soup to buy a vat of tomato juice to soak him in because he stunk so bad since that is a remedy to get rid of the spray of a skunk, if it works on skunk stink, it has to work on B.O. It is so refreshing to see Jack with clean teeth & nice, freshly washed hair. It reminds me of when he was a young boy & was so clean & pretty. I always thought Coleman & Jack were pretty boys & of course Ava a pretty girl, there’s just something about clean children. Jack’s little curls really shine after a bath & it makes him even more handsome. There has not been much activity from the chatrooms, partly because he got kicked out of of them or one-not really sure. The suspension on them lasts around two weeks or so, so I am terrified of the possibility of him engaging with that again. This is how he communicates with the individuals that promise him marriage & then demand gift cards to make the marriage happen. His caregiver has really been preaching to him about this. She has blessed us tremendously with her love & care for Jack, as well as her faith.

Over the course of the last few weeks, Jack has become interested in hunting Pokémon’s. For the illiterate like myself, it’s a app/game where you go to certain areas in town & collect points for finding a Pokémon or a Pokémon character. These characters are often found at populated areas such as churches, schools, the post office & such. Jack even bought a bracelet that is synced with his phone & the bracelet lights up when a Pokémon is nearing. Way over my head, but it beats him being in chatrooms & throwing our money away to total strangers. Several nights a week, I have to drive Jack around town hunting for these things. There are only about 10 places in our small little town that has them & we are less than a mile from any of them. It’s nice because we can ride with the windows down & listen to music. Since Jack shares a lot of my music interests, it can be fun. We jammed out to Achy Breaky Heart just the other night. Billy Ray would of been proud. On the downside, I’m pretty sure the police will be investigating our what looks like creeping skills soon. I have to stop on a dime often times since Jack isn’t good with directions & it’s most often in front of someone’s house. If I don’t stay there until all the points are collected, I get in trouble! So if you see a silver Yukon creeping around playing Achy Breaky Heart around 9:30pm, don’t call the police, it’s just us!

I’ve always said Ellerbe is a great place to live & don’t think I would like living anywhere else. As we were hunting tonight, I needed gas. When I went in to pay, I was surrounded by the smell of boiled peanuts. I’ve never been able to resist hot boiled peanuts! We sell boiled peanuts at our business, but I rarely have time to eat them. So I purchased a cup for me to eat while Jack was searching for Pokémon’s. I didn’t think Jack would be interested in eating them because he doesn’t like to work for food, there is too much involved to get the goods, plus, it’s not Chiba. Oddly enough, he wanted some (don’t all kids want whatever you’re eating?). As we sat in my car hunting Pokes, eating boiled peanuts & tossing our shells out the window, I realized that was a special bonding moment for Jack & me. I grew up eating boiled peanuts, he never tasted one until tonight & liked them. We might have more in common than what I thought. I’m thankful for Carroll’s Pantry (the gas station that sold me the peanuts) for giving us that moment, a good memory made & thankful for the clerk that asked about Jack. Often times, my mind is flooded with bad memories when it comes to Jack, but not tonight. Small town living is amazing & I would not change it for the world.

This is really a busy time of year for us with our business. It’s so chaotic, that I don’t get the time I need to cook or pay bills & be organized like I crave to be. I snapped a picture of my sad supper the other night, it was a rotisserie chicken (several days old) & spring onions.

Then as I sat down to pay a few bills, I remembered that I had not bathed yet, so I only got two tackled. My life is quickly becoming nothing but a piece of paper!

As I type this, Coleman is in the air on his way to Norway & Sweden for a study abroad opportunity. I was outside this evening & could faintly hear the squeals from a child in the neighborhood, it made me sad to think how quickly time passed. It really seems like yesterday when the three kids & I spent our days & evenings outside (that is when seizures didn’t get the best of Jack). The kids rode their bikes, we jumped on the trampoline, danced outside, flew kites, drew on the road with chalk. Now as the years have passed, I’m left with memories of better & worse times. Better times because Jack’s environment was more controlled & he could be controlled, worse because of the multitude of seizures Jack had in those days. He literally had 100’s of seizures a day. Today, he averages one a month, what a difference. For years I prayed that his seizures would be lessened, my prayers were heard & answered. As I was riding to Mama & Daddy’s one evening, I was lead to snap a picture of a sunset. In this picture, you can clearly see the rays of the sun, but you can not see the sun.

It got me to thinking about faith. The poignancy of that moment for me was, you can see God’s works, but you can not physically see God. Even when we are at our lowest of lows, God is there, trust when I say that I have been there. Although it took 14 years for Jack’s seizures to significantly decrease, God answered that prayer for our family. Though Jack’s life & ours has taken a very sharp curve & it’s still uncertain whether or not Jack will be able to remain at home or a residential facility, that sunset picture helps remind me to lean on God & be fervent in prayer & asking for guidance & praising our Savior for his many blessings.

The person I never thought I’d become

Life is tough, that’s a statement most of us say, think, or hear daily. It’s something reiterated to our kids when they don’t get their way or a friend betrays them, it’s what the boss says when you’re needed to pull an extra shift. It’s what we think when vacation plans fall through-all these examples are based solely on personal experiences & probably yours as well. This is a statement I utter inside my head more than once a day. Why is life so tough, why is it tougher for others, why does it seem like a black cloud follows certain people more-so than others. When Jack is at his worse or even his best, I walk around like Nancy Kerrigan when Tonya Hardings people attacked Nancy during the ’94 Olympics screaming “why, why, why?” At Jack’s best, we are still limited. Limited because I can’t get to the post office before it closes on Saturdays, limited because I can’t cook breakfast for my family because he’s still asleep at 10am & no one wants to poke the bear before need be, limited because every move I make centers around this one human being that has so much control over myself & our family, & limited because of the person I’ve become.

The person I’ve become is not the person I thought I would be. I was a happy person back in the day, now I am a shell of that person. I once heard a neurosurgeon on PBS explain how trauma & stress change people. The doctor said that it changes the chemistry in the brain, it changes the way we think, the way we feel, the way we react to situations. I can concur with that. The repeated stress of Jack’s situation has done all of those things to Lee, myself, Coleman & Ava. Our smiles don’t reach our eyes any more, our hearts are filled with negativity & the looming thought of what Jack is going to do next.

I used to never worry. Taking the days as they came, making plans. Now, that’s all we do is worry because Jack gets involved in so much foolishness. Every knife, pair of scissors, lighter, & razor in our home are hidden. Can you imagine living a life like that? Where you can’t go to your kitchen junk drawer & reach for a pair scissors to cut a tag off something. I keep mace & wasp spray hidden in the house in case I have to use it on our own son. Nothing is easy for our family. I’ve learned before Jack is placed in a group home that he has to have psychological testing. That means I’ve got to take him to our local behavioral healthcare facility for this. How is this going to be possible when he won’t even go for a checkup at a regular doctors office, plus, if he goes, what am I going to tell him it’s for. Not only that, the office can’t see him until June & that’s for the initial appointment. If I get him there once, I’ll never be able to again. I left a message for the provider, hopefully she will understand the situation & do everything in one visit. It’s a double-edged sword every time we turn around.

I was the girl that exercised everyday. At one time, I was the nut that woke up at 6am on the weekends that exercised with Jane Fonda. I was the girl that cared about clothes, makeup, shopping, & style. Now, my attire is strictly Berry Patch T-shirt’s-which we sell at a very reasonable price (got to do a plug when I can). I cared that my hair was washed everyday, now I’m not able to do that because of Jack’s neediness. Getting my eyebrows done every other week was never missed, now it’s like every two months. I cared about decorating my futon/porch for every single occasion. I don’t even really care to watch QVC any more & that was a big thing for me-Lee is definitely happy about that change. I used to visit with family, that is one that miss the most. Those times have come & gone. The opportunities to do any of the above has drifted away.

This week, Jack has gotten involved with other scammers. He has demanded iTunes, Amazon, & Google Play cards for the fools on the other side. We also think they tried to talk him into stealing my Mama’s cellphone information so they could hack into it. Along with all of this, he also wanted his birth certificate & wanted to know where he was born. I gave a fictitious place of birth. He called the durn courthouse trying to inquire about obtaining a birth certificate. Then, he called our local bank & inquired about opening an account. Thankfully, the teller knew me & messaged me right away with this information. She later told Jack he had to be 21 to open an account. Crisis was diverted…for now. It really seems unreasonable to us that Jack is so problematic. He takes the term “problem child” to a whole new level.

As I type this, we are without power, have been for the last eight hours because of storms. Being without power in Jack’s presence, is like a crackhead going a week without crack. He has moved from room to room, blown out candles repeatedly & relit them (yes, I was able to find the lighter), moved candles around ripping wax along with way, carted the portable lights all through the house, & blinded us all with the flashlight.

In the south ever since September of last year, we have been swamped with rain, I’m talking days & days of consecutive heavy downpours of wetness. Most of y’all that read my blogs know that Lee (husband) is a farmer. Our big crop is strawberries. Rain is the absolute worst enemy for the red jewels. Lee grew the largest crop of berries ever this year & we have had to trash a huge percentage of strawberries due to water damage from all of the rain. Just this week, he laid special plastic at a cost of around $8,000 in order to raise crops like squash, cucumbers, & tomatoes only to have the rain wash the rows of plastic away. Farming is a gamble, we’ve been through hail storms, tornados, & dry spells, but never in the frame of mind Lee & I are currently in. When we trash berries that were supposed to sold to customers it hurts, when combined with the tragedies of our home life, it really gets us down. As I mentioned, Jack has been worrying us all week long for various gift cards to give to some worthless nut which always hurts. When he calls during the state of mind we’ve been in about the loss of strawberries, it makes you crazier. Here we are trying to pay our bills & Jack gets hooked up with a scammer every other day that is stealing from us. Purely sickening!

Jack has also had a few seizures in the last week. His seizures were under the best control ever for the last year, so I decided to try to wean him from one of his meds because they each have behavioral side effects. This was a wean I worked on for over six months & almost made it. Jack was completely off Topamax for three weeks, but was restarted due to the increase of seizures. The recovery after the last few seizures he’s had has been very difficult. He has become aggressive about an hour after the seizure. The last seizure, he started kicking me hard & squeezing my arm. I was so terrified. During the recovery period, he is not easy to deal with, I only hope the aggression was a result of not having the support of Topamax.

Lee & I often wonder what Jack is going to get into next. It’s so hard to wrap our minds around all of the crazy things he has gotten involved in & has learned. It is crazy to imagine someone else taking care of Jack, but I have to wonder if God isn’t allowing all of this to happen with Jack in order to soften the blow of him going into residential care?

And Then…

Ava always tickles me when she shares a story with me, her favorite phrase while storytelling is “and then”. I pick at her all the time about it, how coincidental that Ava’s favorite phrase has become the title of this blog-I guess the joke is on me! My stories about Jack often involve the phrase “and then” also. It seems like when I tell someone about the events that have taken place in merely one day about him, “and then” is used a dozen times or more (like mother like daughter). Jack had a wonderful few weeks recently, it was pure bliss. Slowly but surely though, signs of a bipolar storm have been brewing. The term is called “storming”, this is when bipolar stricken people go south-all the bad behaviors creep back in.

This past Wednesday, Jack started showing signs of the “storm” by getting involved in chatrooms again. When he is not storming, the chatrooms are a no-go. He’s more into games, watching movies, & talking with us. As the chatrooms return, other negative behaviors re-enter our atmosphere; sassiness, instant demands, not sleeping, aggressive behavior, clawing like a tiger, doing potentially dangerous things, speed talking, zero regard for others, extremely loud music, & way more (seriously). I never tell Jack about appointments until the day of because he gets so anxious & worked up about them & has time to think of reasons why he shouldn’t go. The following day, he woke up early & wild. Wouldn’t you know he had a dental appointment to get his teeth cleaned & a tooth filled. He didn’t know this, but somehow he did intuitively. The child has supernatural powers I have figured out. When I broke the news, he was reluctant but ended up going. While I was doing my chores in the house, I hear Jack on the phone. He called the dentist office! He wanted to speak with his hygienist about why he has a cavity, explain that it’s not his fault, how long he will be there. He is so much smarter than tests show! On the way to the dentist, Jack was really irritable & suspicious. I don’t know about where you’re located, but in our area, every bridge that gets us anywhere is being rebuilt. Our usual route to the dentist was on a detour, because of this & I was interrogated worse than a serial killer by Jack. All went well at the dentist & we headed home.

Jack had arranged for Mama to come stay with him while I went to The Berry Patch after his appointment. He didn’t want Mama’s presence at all while she was there. Lee was doing the farming thing until dark so I had to close the business. Most of you know Jack has a fascination with the guitar Santa (the smartest transgender person ever) brought for Christmas. He also has a fascination of tearing things up. He has intentionally broken the strings on his guitar just to do it & just so he can call a neighbor friend to fix it. Our neighbor is kind of enough to fix it, but I know he is getting sick of Jack & his guitar. He fixed the guitar & tuned it. The very day it was returned, Jack said it needed to be tuned! While Mama was there (Ava was too, PTL), Jack demanded that Mama take him & his guitar to the neighbors house. Jack had just called him & he didn’t answer. Mama told him no, he wasn’t home. Then Jack said he was going to walk to his house. It’s nearly dark & this isn’t an across the street neighbor, it’s a several blocks away neighbor. She tried to reason with him & tell to wait, until I get home. Jack was becoming more demanding about the guitar & irritable since he was not getting his way, he stood up & got his plastic Power Ranger sword & pointed it at Mama. Although plastic, you know if you’ve ever tried to open a plastic wrapped toy or something like a curling iron encased in plastic, that plastic will slice you up, this sword could of potentially done some damage. Jack was putting it all up in Mama’s face. Ava called me in a panic. Thankfully, I was around the corner at Ellerbe’s finest mall, the Family Dollar. Mama was able to diffuse the situation before it escalated further, which never happens, there’s always escalation.

Coleman came home for the weekend later that evening. Fast forward to Saturday morning, Jack woke up like a bull in a china shop. I’ve said this about him many times, but there is literally no other way to describe his morning behaviors. Saturday & Sunday mornings are so very stressful if Coleman & Ava are home. Jack takes every opportunity to aggravate them to no end, they spend the bulk of their morning hours locked in their rooms. I’m always excited when Coleman comes home, he has extended his pallet tremendously. He was cooking scrambled eggs with feta cheese & olives, he is definitely my child-it only took going away to college to confirm it! Jack came barreling through the kitchen, was roaring in his face, clawing his back, & tickling him. Jack’s behaviors to the kids are even more torturous to them than to me. They have no understanding (nor do I) why Jack is like he is. One of the crazier things Jack has done while he has been in a “storm”, is what happened next. Now if you are a reader of my other blogs, you know that we’ve had to hide our scissors & razors since Jack has done foolish things with them in the past (meaning recently). After he terrorized the whole house, I was trying my darnedest to get ready for the day, I hear Jack get something out of the drawer in the kitchen. It’s two screwdrivers. He took the screwdrivers to an electrical outlet in his room & commenced to sticking them in the outlet. I begged & pleaded with him to stop that he could get electrocuted. Nothing I said convinced him otherwise. He told me to shut the door, he didn’t want to be bossed around. And that’s just what I did. There was not anything I could physically do to get the screwdrivers from him without an altercation, so I just backed out of the room & prayed for the best. Jack’s caregiver came soon after & retrieved the screwdrivers for me. I’m telling y’all, we ain’t gonna be able to find anything in our house before long! It took three weeks to find Lee’s electric razor!

“And then” on Sunday, as Jack’s involvement in the chatrooms intensified, so did the audacious remarks from complete strangers. Jack’s caregiver was messaging me all afternoon with the comments these people were sharing with Jack. Calling him a retard, playing mind games with him by saying they were going to be moving in with him, etc. It is so heartbreaking to think of the cruelty people have towards any person, but especially the special needs community. Moving on to current time & day, I was braiding Ava’s hair tonight. She wanted to sleep with the braids so her hair would be curly tomorrow morning. Jack comes in when I’m nearly done & demands that I stop. He didn’t like the braids. What 17 year old boy would even care about something like that! We uprooted to a different room. I could hear Jack being loud & obnoxious. After Ava got tucked in, I went to shower. Yes, a shower that involved washing my hair. Guess what happened? Jack had a seizure. I was blessed with the senses of a beagle, I knew it, but Lee did not. Lee thought he was pretend sleeping. The build-up to a seizure & the recovery after the seizure are harder to deal with than the actual seizure. His brain gets so amped up before & afterwards it’s like Jack doesn’t know what to do with himself. We can only hope that having the seizure causes a more calm reset of his brain, but even if it doesn’t, at least I got my hair washed!