Serenity Now!

Where does one go for a little rest & relaxation, typically their home to binge watch Netflix or to grab a nap. Our homes are supposed to be our safe haven, the place you can truly be yourself, be the most comfortable. My current safe haven is inside my car at my home. I hate so bad that I can’t go inside my house & enjoy peace & quite. Jack’s morning a few weeks ago started off rocky. He was awake messing with something throughout the night (I have a hidden monitor in his room), then was up at 6:30am using the bathroom, then back up by 9:30am wild as a buck & running through the house like a Tasmanian Devil! The morning prior he tried to rip my bathrobe off of me. There is not enough coffee in the world to help get me through mornings with Jack. This particular morning, he wanted eggs & felt he could cook them all by his lonesome. As I was giving instruction on what to do, he reminded me that I don’t tell him what to do. 18 year olds don’t need telling anything. Now of course this IS the typical mindset of an 18 year old, most just don’t say it out loud to their parents. So after getting talked to like a piece of trash, Jack couldn’t cut the butter to put in the pan. Think about that a minute. This child who is literally strong as an ox could not figure out how to slice the stick butter to make it go into the pan, important side note, he was using a butter knife (I ain’t no fool). Then of course he needed help, go figure! An 18 year old actually did need my help is what I wanted to say & stick my tongue out at him, but again I reiterate…I ain’t no fool, that’s just asking for trouble. Next, Jack finds a duck call of Lee’s & goes outside in only a tshirt & underwear to call ducks. The temp at that time was around 40 degrees. Jack is oblivious to temperatures, often going places in 30 degree weather in shorts, tshirt, & sandals or barefoot. Then it was time for meds which he refused. It’s getting harder & harder to get morning medications in him. He’s like a bull in a china shop in the mornings & has a grandiose way of thinking that he’s all that & doesn’t need them. All of this in a mere hour!

Each of the above reasons are a list of many as to why Jack is under our legal guardianship, but it is amazing what all he can do. He is too smart for his own good. I kick myself every single day when I think of everything I did to help Jack’s enhance education. Not knowing what Jack had until he was at the age of 6 & even then there wasn’t a lot of information out there about Dravet, I did everything possible to ensure Jack received the best our area & beyond had to offer in helping him develop as normally as a child his age would. There were endless appointments with not one but two speech & occupational therapists, driving over an hour for sensory occupation therapy twice a week, same for biofeedback which was supposed to help treat seizures & behavior…didn’t help either condition, multiple tutors, therapeutic horseback riding, music therapy, acupuncture, the list goes on & on. I wish I would of had the insight then when I was running myself ragged shuffling three kids to & fro, I helped create a child that is really too smart for his & our own good. I worked hard on Jack in so many areas. Hindsight really is 20/20. I have to wonder if Jack would not be as intelligent without my efforts? He could honestly run a business of some sort I’m sure. He calls people all day long. Don’t ever let him overhear a conversation if it involves needing something, equipment not working correctly, questioning business hours, he WILL & does call them. It’s all day long that fella is calling someone. He’s been wanting a house key made, we don’t want him to have one due to the fear of him using it to leave. Lee talked with the local hardware supply & asked if they would tell Jack their key machine is broken. Every now & then Jack starts up about wanting a house key & starts calling the hardware store. Everyone in town has been warned, don’t tell Jack anything unless you have talked with us first! This is one of the greatest advantages of small town living. I really do love our hometown.

About two weeks ago I had a day without anything to do. The Berry Patch (our business) is slow this time of year, there is no need for me to be around right now. I have cleaned out some of Mama’s things over the last few weeks because organizing & clearing clutter is one of my passions. Morbid to think of, but Mama made the statement she wanted me to come help her get cleaned out before she dies so we don’t have so much to do when that time comes, the correct term for this is called Swedish death cleaning. Now I don’t think of it that way, I simply say I am only cleaning out! When I started, she got overwhelmed & told me to wait until she dies to finish-she can’t take it lol. No, she’s not sick, she’s a planner. I am forever selling her stuff on Facebook. People ask me all the time how big is my house, where do I get all this stuff? It’s all Mama’s! There is a lot more to clean out, but I didn’t want to do that on this day, wasn’t in the mood. We all have days when we don’t want to do anything, we all deserve it & need it. After Jack’s caregiver arrived & helped me get Jack more settled, I did a few errands & ate lunch with Lee. Since I didn’t have anything else to do, I sat in my car because going inside meant Jack would harass me or there wouldn’t be any peace, either he’s singing extremely loud or playing the TV loud. I’m thinking an RV in the backyard might not be a bad option, I would at least get to lie down, maybe take a nap. It’s pitiful actually when you think about it. Going into my home is not a place of serenity. I find myself screaming in my head far too often inside my own home like George Costanzas Daddy from Seinfeld, “serenity now, serenity now”! My car isn’t such a bad resting place though. At least I can listen to the radio, listen to the birds, but forget going to sleep. Going to sleep in a car is one thing I’ve never been able to do, must be because I’m not a man??? I have heated seats should I get cold. It smells nice-I’m really reaching here! It’s not home & it shouldn’t have to replace my home.

It’s days like that that I would not have a problem with sending Jack to a residential home of course this is said tongue & cheek. The other night he screamed at me from his room & said in a very angry tone, “Mama! I’m gonna get you”. Immediately my heart sank. My first thought was he found out about my blogs. This is like one of my biggest fears outside of Jack himself. Not sure what was wrong, Lee & myself reluctantly rushed to his bedroom. He was upset because I had fixed him Sunkist to drink when he requested Ginger Ale. A). He did not request any drink just asked for something to drink, B). He drank all of the Sunkist before he fussed at me. Jack is like the Queen Grimhilde (you know, who’s the fairest of them all?) from Snow White. We are forced to comply with his demands, forced to lie about situations like the poor mirror from Snow White. Jack sings songs & asks who sings it better him or Keith Urban, him or Lady Antebellum, him or Carrie Underwood. And if we don’t answer correctly, there just might be a “special” apple waiting for us…if you know what I mean, & unfortunately, there’s no prince to kiss & make it better. If anyone needs me during the week in the winter, you can find me in my car. Maybe I’ll start doing facials, mani’s & pedi’s in my car!

Most of my blogs are written over a period of 1-2 weeks. One reason is that I don’t have a lot of time to devote to blogging, another is Jack’s status is ever changing & there is so much to add each time I find a minute to sit down & concentrate on blogging, I also dislike writing. In school I would wait until the very last moment to begin working on a paper, even a research paper that typically takes weeks upon weeks to do correctly. I would rather of been playing in the gym, running errands for the teacher, anything but school work. I liked the socialization of school, just not the work. I didn’t get school work, diagramming sentences & word problems never made it into my skull. The teachers might as well of been teaching me Latin. If you ever find any typos, please forgive, I often write when a lot of you are asleep.

The above paragraphs all happened the second week of January, we are now entering week four of the new year (longest month ever), some positive changes have occurred that I am excited to report. A lot of people put down social media platforms, I, however will forever be grateful for Facebook. Because of Facebook I have been able to write blogs to keep those that are interested in our journey with Jack abreast, friends have been able to pray specifically for certain situations going on with Jack, & one of the biggest burdens we have had to face to date was just checked off our list because of a post I recently asked Facebook friends about. One of the hurdles we are challenged with in Jack’s care is getting him to the doctor, he flat refuses to go most of the time unless he is sick & really uncomfortable. I asked a few weeks ago if any of my friends knew a psychologist personally in hopes I could convince the doctor to come to the house & give Jack an assessment in the event we do place him in residential care. Jack has to have a psychological evaluation so the social worker will know what type of facilities to point us in for permanent care for Jack. The evaluation is a guide for the professionals. One dear friend of ours contacted her psychologist friend, placed me in contact with him, & the evaluation was completed! How amazing is that! This is something I have prayed & prayed over. Jack was very cooperative during testing, it went off without a hitch. Insurance didn’t pay since it was not an office visit, but it was worth every dollar-a bunch of dollars it was!

Later that evening after Jack’s evaluation was over & done with, Jack asked Lee to help him put his socks on-as smart as Jack is, even tasks as simple as putting a sock on is extremely difficult for him. Jack looked at Lee & said, “will you always be here to help me?” Talk about a reason to make you cry & make us feel like terrible parents for doing what we were forced to do with the evaluation. That morning prior to the doctor coming out to the house, Jack was a Tasmanian Devil. After the testing, he reached a level of calmness we haven’t seen a quite a while, keep in mind his calmness is not the same calmness you experience. He still called my name 5,000 times that day-when he is calm, he still worries the complete sanity out of me, but he was chill. We had to increase one of his seizures medications due to the increased seizures. The seizures he was experiencing prior to the medication adjustment have calmed as well, he is still eating like crazy which is great. I’m just not sure how long this medication adjustment will last with his increased eating, we may have to taper up again. Around the same time as his evaluation, Jack became obsessed with my “cuss-said” washing machine, suddenly he’s wants to learn to wash clothes which is not a good thing. Before you start messaging me telling me that’s a good start, teach him how, etc…don’t do it. Jack will not listen to anyone. He thinks he can go & put his clothes in during a cycle, paying no attention to what cycle the clothes are on. It is a fancier machine with electronic push buttons I guess that’s why he’s become enamored with it, but I’ve had it for over six months & his fascination has just recently begun. His mind…I would love to go inside of it one day. The lid locks once the machine is powered on (which I find silly by the way), so in order for him to open it, he has to stop the load. He throws in a shirt or a pair of socks. The other day he put in a pair of his pants while I was washing sheets. When I got them out, they were dry as a bone because they were put in during the last spin cycle. That boy is so infuriating! I told Lee I’m going to have to start washing a load of clothes at night after he goes to bed & hang them out in the mornings, start unplugging the machine & tell him something is wrong with it. He thinks he can wash one shirt & that be okay. The things this child gets into & obsessed with drives us nuts. What will he be obsessed with next, working at The Berry Patch? Yikes! He woke up at 8am this Sunday morning (01-19) & started calling everyone in the world. When I tried to reason with him that some people may be sleeping in, he simply ignores me & continues calling everyone. Jack’s birthday is not until August, he is already searching for gifts for his day of birth! Making lists & sending me suggestions. The Santa list will be sent soon! His mind is never at peace. As a result of his overworked mind, mine has now become a spin cycle, except I am thinking about what he may do next, am I prepared if he tries to start an altercation, are his meds fixed correctly, how will I convince him to take his meds, the list goes on & on.

There are so many prayers I have for Jack; no more seizures, no more violent outbursts, better reasoning skills, a calmer demeanor, & acting like Mickey Mouse instead of the Tasmanian Devil to name a few. I really don’t see how a group home will house him as active as he is, as medication resistant & sensitive as he is, as needy as he is. It hurts my heart knowing what they will have to do to contain him, but it breaks my heart too nearly every moment of day with him home because he can be so mean, sassy, disrespectful, & violent. As a result of this described behavior, Lee & I are forced to eat lunch out everyday. If we try to eat at home, Jack finds some reason to worry himself & us at the same time. It could be for batteries, a gift card, or he tickles us or give us knuckle sandwiches, there is always some type of annoyance. Sounds like a delightful way to eat lunch, right? His room looks directly into the kitchen & we all know the kitchen is the main hub of the household, if he sees you in there, he’s calling you or talking to you constantly even when his caregiver is in there with him. Just a few days ago, I was preparing to eat my lunch in my car in the next town over when I got a call about Jack, he had locked himself in his room because his caregiver couldn’t find a 9 volt battery that Jack required for his metal detector. My intent was to eat lunch in my car, return something to Belk (story of my life) & get Ava from school. Instead, I flew back home unsure of what Jack would do. Whole day ruined, but crisis was diverted, thankfully! This evening, Lee was supposed to bring Jack a lemonade from The Berry Patch (mind you he has three drinks opened already on his nightstand), Lee forgot. Jack got very upset, we really thought we’d have a fight on our hands. I went to console Jack & encourage him to go to Sonic for a lemonade, he could even press the red button I told him. He agreed. After getting his order placed, guess what the attendant said? We are out of lemonade-Berry luck at its finest was showing off! Surprisingly, I didn’t end up with a black-eye & he ended up with a sweet tea with lemon-how they gonna have lemon for the tea & not lemonade???

In my car I do can so many things. I can cry, sing, listen to my podcasts, pay bills, blog, eat, pray, pluck my eyebrows (best place for it), decompress, & achieve a smart part of “serenity now” all without leaving my yard. I’m thankful for my car even though it looks like a gypsy wagon & has a large crack in the windshield , it gives me solitude from a very stressful, hectic home. So if you see me sitting in my parked car doing any of these things, mind ya business 🤣! If the below statement isn’t true, I don’t know what is. Describes my life. I happened to see it on a friends Facebook page as I started writing this blog.

Blue Christmas

Christmas is either a joyous season or a sad season, hopefully it was joyous for you, but for some, with the passing of loved ones or no family or friends around, it can be a tough holiday to get through. This Christmas season for me was a particularly Blue Christmas as Elvis so sweetly & sadly made into a melody. Christmas Eve felt different for me. I was iller than a hornet, really filled with anticipation of what the day could potentially bring. I wasn’t sure if Jack would show out or have a seizure, he didn’t-saving all of that for Christmas day. Christmas Eve went well if you consider worrying every single moment a great thing. Jack was sassy & demanding. At noon he ordered me to wash his bedding before Santa arrived. His request came too late in the day for this, if you’ve kept up with my blogs, you know I hangout all of our clothes & I have a “cuss-said” new washing machine that takes an hour or more for one load & the clothes would not be dry by dark. I somehow reasoned with him that it would be best to wait another day, miracles do happen! Jack’s main caregiver was able to stay with him while the rest of our family Christmas Eved at Mama & Daddy’s that evening. This isn’t the first Christmas we’ve celebrated with everyone excluding Jack, we’ve done this for the last few years. There is way too much going on to take Jack anywhere or have more than two visitors at our home at a time. Exclusion is a necessity sad to say. Nothing would make me any happier than to see our whole family have get-togethers & everything be normal. One thing I love to witness are families together & having a good time, the next thing I love to see are teenagers hanging out having good, clean fun. It always makes me sad for our family & for Jack knowing that he will never get to experience this. One time (and I mean one time only), Lee & I took all three of our kids & a family friend to Dairy Queen one Sunday evening. All four sat at a table together while Lee & I sat separately, we sat back & watched. Their togetherness, smiles, & laughter brought me so much joy. I think about that night often & wish there could be more.

All Christmas Eve day, Jack with his infinite amount of computer smarts found the number for the NORAD Santa Claus tracker. He called those people 500 times on the 24th questioning Santa’s whereabouts. I can’t believe they didn’t block his number! I was really worried about Christmas Eve/Day. I just knew Jack would fight sleep per his usual, but he drifted off fairly easily & stayed asleep until 7am. He woke us all up ready to see what the jolly old man left for him. Jack was so polite & cordial on Christmas day, using manners that I haven’t seen in a long time…there was a reason for this as I will explain later! Jack enjoyed his Christmas gifts, loving his Pokémon treasures the most. Not sure if Coleman was pleased or not, one of his gifts was a patio set for his apartment-getting old is no fun! One of Ava’s treasures was a suture kit-she aspires to work in the medical field. One of the best gifts I received was the return of the Elf on the Shelf into his box!

As an 18 year old, my idol was Martha Stewart. I looked forward to watching her show everyday & hearing her famous quote of “it’s a good thing” after a particularly beautiful masterpiece whether a flower arrangement or a perfectly prepared panna cotta. Martha was the one who taught me what a boning tool was-Google it, it’s a real thing! I even tried to mimic her look around the age of 22 with her hairstyle.

As Lee & I were planning our wedding, Kmart came out with their line of Martha Stewart home-goods, I was over the moon. Our bedding & bath linens were all Martha’s. Martha taught me a thing or two about cooking, organizing, horticulture, & she helped develop my love for the perfect denim or white blouse (which I’m still on the hunt for). There were segments of her show that I always disked though, the crafting & sewing parts. I have never been a crafter or seamstress, never will. My Mama & sister can craft up anything & can draw beautifully, Mama can also sew like a Vietnamese sweat shop worker. I on the other hand can not do either. What a disappointment! I tried to keep my house like Martha would, neat without lots of extras. My ideas of decor are a few nice pieces, an unusual lamp, & photographs of the kids I have taken through the years. I don’t like “stuff” just to have it. The decor in our home has to be meaningful and/or beautiful to me. As I watched Martha over the years & into the early years of our marriage, I planned on entertaining just as she did with family & friends. From preparing an elaborate meal or a party with heavy hors d’oveures with libations, that was going to be a reality for me I just knew it! One of my biggest dreams was the purchase of a Christmas party outfit to wear at said party. The said party would of been an elegant soiree thrown at our home. Of course, this became a fictitious joke in our family as I was only able to host one Christmas Eve party at our home & that was when Coleman was two. Jack, age one had recently began the ketogenic diet as treatment for his seizure disorder, the diet was working perfectly & our lives were calm for the moment & that was my one opportunity to throw a party. I loved entertaining & hosting this one party! Now, when Mama, Jodie, & myself are out shopping & see something sparkly (we are all fools for sparkle) we deem that particular garment as our “Christmas party” outfit, which needless to say has never came true! We have always shown up at Mama’s for Christmas Eve & Christmas day in our regular clothes such as blue jeans & perhaps a festive red sweater, this year my sweater was a fancy cowl neck camo print & you can always count on Lee in his Berry Patch shirt. I don’t even dream of a Christmas party outfit any more. Sequins still put me in a trance, but they no longer hold the magic they once did for me since I know this is “party” will never happen.

Back to reality, Christmas Day was actually easy, but we experienced the calm before the storm. Jack was extremely well behaved the whole day, amazingly so, using manners we hadn’t seen in quite sometime. Later that afternoon, we all went to Mama & Daddy’s for Christmas dinner, leaving Jack behind with his caregiver yet again. We had a great meal & played Pictionary, what a fun time we had with my sisters family & ours. Lee & Ava went home separately since they go to bed early & Jodie followed behind to take Jack his Christmas gifts from her. While Jack & Jodie were visiting, Jack had a seizure. He’s been way overdue for a big seizure as I call them, a full on tonic clonic convulsing one. I find the more big seizures Jack has, the better he behaves in the long run & the better he eats. The seizure builds & builds that it makes him so crabby & causes him to have a lack of appetite as well. As I was on my way home to see about Jack during the seizure, I prayed that he would not become violent afterward since that is a new symptom we have unfortunately seen this year. He did in fact do just that. Ava was frantic when she called me as I was about to pull into the house. She told me Jack had punched Lee while Lee was trying to get Jack up from the floor. Violence in the postictial stage (after a seizure) can be an occurrence-wouldn’t you know it would be just our luck! After getting Jack to his bedroom, no further than the floor, he acted like he was going to become aggressive again. So I did what any woman does prior to a physical alteration, I prayed & took off my earrings. Dazed & confused from the seizure, I was able to convince Jack that he needed to let me help him onto the bed which meant me picking him straight up off the floor by myself onto the bed. My back paid for that the next day. I called Jack’s caregiver & Lee’s aunt & uncle to come over in case we needed backup in the event of another violent outburst. Watching vigil & scared to death at the same time, Jack awakened in a good mood with no recollection of the events that had transpired. He took his evening meds & was soon back to sleep, I thought he was going to have a good night, I was wrong! A few hours after going to sleep in his own bed, Jack came & got into ours-I had not even been asleep yet. I didn’t sleep Christmas Eve night due to getting Santa stuff ready nor Christmas Day night due to Jack getting in our bed. He thrashed & jerked all night long, even punching me in the head several times. Finally at 4am, Lee & I got out of our bed & went into the living room where we waited wide awake & wondered if Jack was really asleep or planning an attack. Thankfully, he was really asleep & slept until noon. Lee had to leave to check on Berry Patch stuff, I was laying on the couch with the remote in one hand & mace in the other. What a terribly awful way to live.

The rest of our holiday week wasn’t that bad. Jack is currently on an eating binge & eating anywhere from 8-12 fried eggs per day on bread with extra mayo. With this eating binge, I know there is a growth spurt occurring. His medications are being metabolized differently now that his appetite has kicked up. The myoclonic seizures that once plagued his every moment of the day & night have returned. These types of seizures for Jack involve his head dropping & upper body losing control for a split second. Imagine if you were falling & you catch yourself, that’s what it looks like. For the first time ever, Jack has started noticing his body doing this. He has never consciously felt a seizure that I am aware of. I didn’t tell him what it was, I explained that he was probably cold because he can be very dramatic-not downplaying the seizures because they are very scary to us. I can’t fathom what his brain & body must feel like. So then there’s that statement. You’ve got someone with a mental & physical disorder as severe as Jack’s, how can you not blame his poor brain for doing crazy things, especially when he doesn’t have reasoning skills nor understands his condition at all. Now with the old seizures returning, Jack is going through a medication increase which is scary because the side effects of more meds is not “a good thing”. Many Dravet parents say they see negative behavioral changes during this type of increase, but also with the increased seizures comes an increase in poor behaviors so it’s a damned if you do/damned if you don’t situation. It has always been a strange phenomenon to me as to why Jack is so nice & kind the day of a seizure. Everything is please, thank you, can I help you, he is so very complex, then as a seizure builds, he can be so mean & hateful weeks prior to it. Jack also had another seizure this week, he went months without any big seizures & he’s now had two in the last week. Thank goodness he did not get physical after it, I had a whole team praying for us as soon as he came out of the seizure.

Of all the things Martha taught me, she never taught me how to deal with what we have been going through for 18 years. I thought I was destined to be so much like Martha. My Martha Stewart coffee table book has become a distant memory that hasn’t been opened in about 18 years. The life I thought I would be leading is also a memory of yesteryear. Maybe “it’s a good thing” I didn’t follow Martha so closely as she ended up in jail-although jail sounds like a better option than the proverbial jail I’m living. Martha made a comeback in a big way after her time in orange. She & Snoop Dog have a hit show that I don’t ever miss! Perhaps I’ve got a big comeback headed my way!

I know I could protect Ava with everything in me if need be, but if you think it could potentially actually kill you, then it’s time to know when to fold ’em. Maybe that’s why this Christmas felt so different for me, in the back of my mind, it felt like this would be the last time all three kids would be under the same roof at Christmas. Where Jack’s roof will be, I don’t know. Calls have already been put into place. The one thing that has held us back from exploring homes other than the obvious of not wanting to relinquish care of Jack, is getting psychological testing. I can’t get him to the doctors office to have the testing performed. The testing allows the social worker to guide us to the type of home Jack would need to have placement. Luckily, a friend has put me in contact with someone that is willing to come out to the house & we can pay him privately to test Jack. The endless array of paperwork will soon begin, the countless questions from healthcare professionals will start, the pit in my stomach formed already. How will this whole scenario go down plays in my head 24/7. My mind is never free. Every thought revolves around Jack. Every decision I make from going to the grocery store to planning a night out involves thinking about who will be here with him, who can I call for backup if something goes wrong, even my dreams are all of Jack. I know other people have dealt with this type of situation, I know there are other people in more dire need than us, but the knowledge of these facts does not make moving forward any easier. We’ve done the best we can, but Jack is stronger than four men combined. That’s right, my 5’9, 125lb. bedridden fella could whoop any mans tail. I try to envision a life with Jack in another home, I can not. It hurts my heart to know he might not be a permanent being as I walk past his room everyday. Will he ever speak to us again when & if this move occurs. The what-ifs in this situation are killing me. This whole ordeal feels like mourning a person that is still with us. Life may be safer, Ava will feel more secure, but thinking of someone else caring for someone I have devoted my heart, my safety, & my soul for every single day since birth is crushing. Knowing that there are people that are not going to treat him well is also another concern. I want to be like my Mama & Daddy so bad, I just want to go home & watch Andy Griffith & chill, this is all too, too much to deal with. This is “not a good thing”.

Cry Pretty

I love the song Cry Pretty by Carrie Underwood, what I don’t love is knowing what living those lyrics are really like. What a week we’ve had! No sooner than I had literally just published my last blog post of “Satan’s Evil Spawn”, we had an event with Jack. Ava & I had just walked into the house, she from school, Jack’s caregiver was in his room with him. Ava & I were going to have a chill afternoon since it was raining. Our afternoon (we thought) was going to be a Christmas movie, snacks, & laid up on the couch bundled in our favorite blankies. That evening we had dinner plans with some family friends that were coming from out of town. Mama, Daddy, Lee, Ava, & myself were going to meet our friends at a restaurant two counties over. Of course those plans got blown out of the water by Jack. He can usually foresee when we make plans, I think he is related to Dion Warwick & has some psychic abilities. We never mention doing anything extra because he gets out of sorts, only about 25% of the time are our plans successful. The problem that occurred was so embarrassing & disappointing to me. Something yet again I thought we would never have to deal with. As Ava was preparing her snack for our relaxing afternoon, Jack had an explicative episode. That “cuss-ed” Elf on the Shelf left some Elf on the Shelf cereal the previous night. Jack had the cereal in his room, Ava wanted some. Jack finally relented sharing with Ava, but then he wanted some. After Ava fixed a bowl of cereal for him & delivered it to his bed, he told her he wanted milk, not cereal. When his caregiver & Ava both told him he requested cereal, not milk, he called them f***ing liars. My first thought was Jack could get violent if he’s getting this angry over milk & cereal. I immediately had Ava call Lee home to help in case he did get violent, cleared his room of everyone but myself & tried talking to him about different things to get his mind off what had transpired. Jack immediately started hitting his mouth with his hand, wondering if God would forgive him, & of course arguing that he was correct, not them.

Jack has never heard Lee nor myself cuss, ever-although there have plenty of times I would love to at him. This was not a behavior he learned at home, unfortunately, he learned such language on the chat rooms he was so heavily involved in at one time. It is so disheartening to know that this is something else that we may have to start dealing with now. I can’t tell you how much hearing Jack say that broke my heart. Now you may cuss on a daily & use the f word all the time, but I don’t. I have to be real mad & get really hurt to cuss, like the time I got a line-drive to the thigh while pitching a few years ago. Neither Lee nor myself have ever had any of the kids say terse words to us before, not the I hate you, you’re a terrible Mama/Daddy, nothing like that-although they may of wanted to. This was truly a shock to not only me, but Ava. I’ve got a 14 year old that is not introduced to this language in our home & I am not happy about that.

Over the last week, Jack hasn’t been eating or drinking at all yet again. This is a continuous cycle that has been a chronic issue for him over the last few years. He also hasn’t had (disgusting to discuss I know), a bowel movement in over three weeks. On top of that, he usually only urinates once a day, if that. He takes a handful of medications & supplements twice a day, the medication isn’t being properly processed by his body. It’s in the actions of bathroom visits that helps filter the toxins from the body. All those medications keep piling up & piling up with no where to go due to his limited potty visits, which leads me to wonder if that too attributes to his ill as a hornet nature. Many of you know Jack has had a lifetime of seizures, with his earlier years plagued with thousands & thousands of seizures, much of which were hundreds a day, he’s had nearly every seizure type there is. Seizures are so tricky, random, & strange. Did you know a seizure could be in the form a sneeze, cough, or laugh? It is not always the full body convulsing with unconsciousness you see on Grey’s Anatomy. I had been noticing Jack picking at his bedding for two days, appetite even more suppressed than usual, lack of fluid intake, fatigued, more irritable than usual, he was confused, speech was more garbled than usual, a delay in responses, & a strange look in his eye (some symptoms of those having a stroke). Years ago before one of the medications he takes that was developed strictly for Dravet patients, Jack often had NCSE which stands for non-convulsive status epilepticus, this is any type of on-going seizure that is not in convulsing form. NCSE in Jack’s case most often occurred after a grand mal seizure. He would repeatedly blink, drool, was semi-conscious. Once Jack began the medication developed for Dravet, those types of seizures were eliminated. When those seizures occurred, we would have to go to ER when Jack had those which was fairly often to break the seizure with rescue meds that home rescue meds could not. If we didn’t take him in for emergency treatment, the prolonged seizure would last hours or days. It’s been about 7 years since Jack has had an ER visit due to this type of seizure activity. I videoed Jack picking at his bedding after his ugly word outburst & asked fellow Dravet parent friends what they thought was going on. They all agreed with what I thought, NCSE. I thought he was in some type of seizure status, but it had been so long, that I completely forgot about NCSE. Only an EEG could confirm it, but I’m pretty sure he was in that state. I have been thinking he’s getting sick, so I started him on an antibiotic to help curtail any sickness that may be brewing. Between the elf on the shelf & whatever is going on with him internally, he is wiped out-he’s been falling asleep during the day & that is so out of characteristic for Jack. Although he hasn’t mentioned anything about being sick or not feeling well, I can tell he isn’t up to par. Going to the doctor is out of the question, I think he would flatly refuse, so I do the best I can to treat him at home. Below is the video of Jack messing with his bedding. What he is doing makes no sense & has no rhyme or reason.

Progress was made in the bowel department after I administered a laxative today. Thankfully, he is feeling better & has started back eating just a little more. For the past three days, he has only ingested two cups of applesauce & those had to be fed to him because he has been too weak to do it himself & also, so disinterested in eating that he didn’t want to do it himself. His eating for the last few weeks has been very little. I guess his tummy has been hurting from the backup that he hasn’t had an appetite. And Jack doesn’t have the sensors we do that tell us when we are hungry. Can you imagine living like this? It’s sort of like dealing with someone that is anorexic with the refusal to eat, then a bulemic when he does decide to eat (which is rare) because he purges on whatever he does decide to eat. There is so much going on just with him, that it will make your head spin. The only time I can get him to go to the doctor is once a year for his neurology checkup.

What Jack has done upset me beyond. When he acts ugly, it hurts me to the core. I get so depressed & down in the dumps when he gets violent or now talks ugly, that it can take me days to get over the depression bump that Jack’s actions leave on my heart & in my mind. His words and/or actions are repeated over & over in my head. I can remember each episode like it happened yesterday, none of the scars ever fade. Each time something goes wrong, I question what in the world I have done to be subjected to this type of punishment. This is why it is so important for anyone struggling with depression, difficult times, or issues at home to have outlets. It is those outlets that keep the mind healthier than what they would be. When I was a stay-at-home Mama & that was all I did, the depression from Jack’s situation stayed with me for weeks. I would go a week or more & not talk to anyone but the kids, my Mama, or Lee. A few years ago, Mama encouraged me to play in our local ladies softball league, this helped me tremendously. As a stay-at-Mama, I didn’t really have real friends, any connections, since I was so limited in what I was able to do, but now through softball, I’ve made so many friendships with people that I talk with several times a day. Before softball, I didn’t have any of that. Now I have The Berry Patch that I am able to manage on a full-time basis, people to help at home with Jack, softball, church friends & family. These are the things that keep me going. Otherwise, I would be curled up in a ball, never wearing makeup, or doing anything joyful. I may cry a little. My tears are often silent since I can’t show that type of emotion to Jack, but after a day & night of sadness, I’m back up on that saddle again hopeful for a better day tomorrow & just hope that one day I won’t have to cry pretty. On the brighter side, only 6 more days of elf hiding!

Satan’s Evil Spawn

Omg, kill me now! This little elf on the shelf is going to either to the death of me or the thing that finally sends Jack or myself to a mental institution! I am not being factious in any way, I am totally serious. Our elf’s name is Barney, or as I refer to him as Satan’s evil spawn. Ever since Jack requested Barney’s presence to be unleashed from the box he sat perfectly in, life has been hell. How could a stuffed elf that weighs less than three ounces & is only 8 inches long cause so much commotion? Jack has been leaving notes for the evil spawn, not going to bed until late then awakening early to search if the elf left him a prize or to search where Barney has hidden. Jack has shaved off a good five hours per night from his sleep routine since the elf came out of the box. I hate that elf so much! One of the problems that is associated with Dravet syndrome is the overexcitement factor. Jack does not know how to handle or process excitement, this is a genetic mutation not a made up disorder from his crazy Mama. It brings on seizures and/or negative behaviors like lack of sleep, aggressiveness, or acting like a Tasmanian Devil.

On top of of all the problems that skinny little Barney has caused, it’s now a full moon. Believe what you will about the full moon, but I know facts. The fact is, Jack goes nuts when the moon is nearing fullness status & when it is full. Ask ER nurses about the craziness that happens during full moons, they will verify that people go cray cray. Once when Jack, Coleman, & myself went outside to view a nighttime eclipse that was also a full moon, the child did not sleep at all that night, just looking at the full moon caused sleep disruption, he was up from sun-up to sun-down. For the past few days as the moon was beginning to peak to fullness, Jack has been a pure-t donkeys tail. He has had it out for me since he woke up Tuesday morning. I’ve always said if Jack ever gets out of the bed first thing after waking, he & the rest of us are going to have a bad day & of course he’s getting up first thing on the hunt for the elf every morning. The first night Barney magically moved from his box, he hid in Jack’s room. I will NEVER make that mistake again. Jack pretend slept that whole night trying to catch the elf move. Every time I would go in his room thinking he would be asleep, he wasn’t. Elf didn’t move that night due to the threat of Jack seeing me move him. The next night, I had to give Jack extra sleeping medicine to ensure he was asleep so Barney could move. Y’all have no idea how lucky you are to not have an elf to worry about, or if you do, you have no idea how lucky you are to have children that don’t get this worked up over an elf! Barney looks so angelic resting on this picture frame (clever, right), but I know there is deviousness behind that smile & bright eyes.

Wednesday morning this week upon waking, of course Jack got straight up & searched for the elf. After finding Barney, Jack did his business stuff; called Dixie Burger to place a to-go order for 12 sausages, toast, & eggs. He hates bread unless it’s a bacon & egg sandwich so why would he order toast. Jack normally doesn’t want to venture outside of the house unless it’s to Pokémon hunt, he didn’t ask if I would take him, he assumed his Daddy or caregiver would go get it. Jack does everything without thinking or caring whether or not it inconveniences anyone or if we have even have any money to pay for his order, he assumed his Daddy or his caregiver would get it. Neither one could not get his food, so he calls Dixie Burger back & asks if they can hold his order for a few hours, they said yes. Then Jack decided to go to Dixie Burger with me. Thankfully, the person that took his order is a highly intelligent person & did not give Jack 12 sausages! While in the car, Jack hears one of my favorite local radio personalities, Gary Smith from WLWL 770am on air who is playing a Keith Urban Christmas song. Jack calls Gary to get him to play more songs & Gary happily chats with Jack for a bit. Then I hear Jack talking to a man whose voice I don’t recognize. Jack tells the man to help him & tells the man our home address. I am immediately placed on high alert, as I have no idea who he is talking to. Jack claims it is a fellow Pokémon hunter & Jack needed some help with the game. I hate having to worry about all of this, y’all don’t be surprised if we wind up on the news, Dateline, or 48 hours one day due to some crazy person coming to our home. I’m seriously considering changing our home address & not telling Jack about it. By the way, his food sat for a whole 12 hours without touching it!

Not only has the elf shaved off around five hours per day/night of Jack’s sleep cycle, the elf also receives these types of requests from Jack:

How frustrating it is as a parent of a mentally disabled child (though he be 18, he still a child) forget his physical limitations. Dealing with this on top of his mental condition is an absolute nightmare. He goes from girlfriend/wife to Santa or Santa to girlfriend/wife. And he’s not looking for someone that is on his level, he’s looking for his significant other to have the looks of a Victoria’s Secret Angel. His request to Barney the elf or those idiots he gets tied up with online is always a woman with blonde hair. I honestly think Jack thinks anyone with blonde hair (like mine) can take care of him the way I do. It is impossible to explain to Jack that a “normal” person would not be interested in him nor would a VS Angel. You would think after seeking a woman for two years, being lied to by 100’s of people online, & being catfished Jack would give up, but he is persistent if nothing else. I ask myself all the time what can I do, how do I redirect his thinking? This is a task that simply can not be done, testosterone is more powerful than kryptonite! Pair that with the hard-headness of an 18 year old & you have a recipe for disaster.

The next letter Jack left was to his year round elf, Forest that was gifted to Jack by Santa last year in effort to try to curtail bad behaviors. Forest didn’t see the note, so then he left it to the elf of all elves, Barney. The requests to the elves never stop. Jack has been heavily researching Santa over the last few days. As you know, there is all kinds of information about everything online. It has been a great fear of ours that Jack will discover the truth due to so many sites for parents to purchase packages to help kids who are on the fence about Santa believe again, like purchasing a picture of Santa inside your home & Jack wants us to purchase that. Now whether or not he fully understands what that means, we don’t know & we ain’t asking! This is our only time of year that we have actual leverage & we are terrified we’ll lose it. None of us can physically write to the elf either because Jack would recognize our handwriting, so we have to depend on the other evil spawn of Satan, a printer, which only works less than 1% of the time! That’s a whole blog for another time.

On the same morning Jack woke up requesting songs from Gary, getting food from Dixie Burger, & talking to an unknown man about coming to our house, Coleman had his class ring ceremony at State that evening. It never fails, if we have something planned, feelings of uneasiness or something crazy inevitably happens. The ceremony didn’t begin until 7pm, plus Coleman wanted to dine out afterwards to celebrate his achievement. Of course we were thrilled to go, but we were extremely worried about what was going on at home due to the morning events that all occurred within an hour-who knew what would happen in the next 12 hours! We didn’t get home until after midnight, but the evening was uneventful thank the good Lord. It is sad to say & realize that we can never fully enjoy anything because of worries at home. However, while at State, we learned great facts about the NC State classrings, they possess magic powers as told by one of the chancellors. Maybe I need to go to State & get me one of them there fancy rings & see what kind of magic it can bring into our home! It was a fun evening though Lee & I were worried about the potentials at home. I was in constant communication with the the people looking after him, still completely unable to 100% enjoy. My parents, my sister Jodie, Lee & myself were able to attend, Ava was on a Beta Club trip helping pack shoeboxes with Samaritan’s Purse in Boone, NC. We are so proud of Coleman & Ava for their achievements, we have truly been blessed. Pictures of their special moments.

My last blog about Jack was upbeat & positive & he is still mostly okay, but I know the 💩is going to hit the fan after Christmas. I’m so nervous about December 26 arriving that it is hard to savor the Christmas season. The constant worry about my future on Dateline is real. There are various placements of potential weapons in & around our home in case my worry becomes a reality & quick thinking has to take place in the event a fool tries to enter our home. Please join Lee & I in prayer that Jack’s desire to have a girlfriend and/or wife will vanish, we greatly appreciate any prayers you can send our way. This is not a comedic request either, I am dead serious. Having this prayer answered will help our family feel more secure in so many ways & help eliminate the need Jack has to communicate with strangers. Tell your family, friends, church friends. We need all to help battle this issue that are willing. In closing, I have a few words of advice to the parents that don’t have an Elf on the Shelf, DON’T DO IT! You will have eternal regrets. You will wake up in the middle of the night questioning whether you moved the elf or not. You will rack your brain deciding where to place the elf, in the candle holder or inside the Christmas tree. You WILL run out of places to hide the elf. You will become obsessed your first year of elfing & try to do fun things with the elf by seeking out pins from fellow Pinterest elfers, this only leads to disappointment in the following years of elfing because you will hate that stupid elf & not care where he is, but your children will. You will be the sole responsible person for the elf, the husbands don’t care about it or think about it. Ask yourself ladies, do you need another job? And last but not least, buying the Elf on the Shelf doesn’t stop there. They make costumes & family for the elf. Your kids WILL want this unless stuff & you will buy it. So parents, grandparents, don’t succumb to the Elf on the Shelf madness, it is not worth your sanity or your $$$.

To the Christmas tree lot we go

Christmas is a season we love to welcome at our home in a major way. Christmas is a beautiful season for many reasons; the birth of our Savior, acts of kindness, food, parties, the decorations, did I mention food. What we especially love is Jack tries extra hard not to be bad. There are limited communications with the nuts he tends to get tied up with, he goes to bed in a timely manner, even saying please & thank you. Last week, we headed to our local Christmas tree lot, Lindsey’s. Lindsey’s has been a family tradition of ours for years, with each year getting a real Frasier Fur Christmas tree. Lindsey & his family are dear friends of ours & they help make not only ours, but everyones tree buying experience as smooth as possible. Lindsey’s team blows the tree off, wraps it in netting, places it on your tree stand, loads it up, easy as pie. Lindsey’s offers a great atmosphere for tree shopping with Christmas music, hot chocolate, & laughter. (Sidestory), I’m an avid QVC shopper. This summer during their Christmas in July sale, I decided to try to break tradition & purchased a faux tree for the first time in my life. I’ve never cared for an artificial tree, I love the smell & look of real trees, & love to support the Christmas tree farmer. However, in my older age & with all the problems we have in our lives, I purchased a 7.5 foot prelit tree that could magical things all in order to make my life less complicated. A few weeks ago, we tried to put together my summer purchased artificial Christmas tree. Jack had a fit, he wouldn’t have it! I was so mad. Why would an 18 year old boy care whether or not we had a tree, much less whether it was real or not? My frustrations with this kid are many & daily. After I got blessed out for trying to have an artificial tree, it wasn’t worth my time nor energy arguing my case which is I’m getting older, tired, & I just don’t want to deal with the mess of a real tree. I don’t know about y’all, but in our house, Christmas is left up to me pretty much 99.9%, I think it’s that way in a lot of homes-the female does most of the work; the shopping, the decorating, getting down decorations, putting up decorations, cooking, cleaning-all of which totally sucks. As I have aged, I would love to throw in the towel & say the heck with it & not have any Christmas decorations any more. It’s overwhelming now. I don’t like messes & that’s all the house is until everything is finished. Then December 25 when Santa arrives, it’s a mess yet again. People give gifts, Santa comes, no one wants to help clean, it is not a fun time if you’re the head woman in charge & don’t happen to love chaotic disasters. BUT, after all the Christmas decorations are up, it is so nice to sit back & look at everything twinkle & sparkle, but on December 26, it all becomes ugly to me & back in the boxes the decorations go.

Our Christmas tree hunt this year was uneventful (shocking, right?). Lee & I are always a nervous wreck at the Christmas tree lot each year. Jack has had a few big seizures at the Christmas tree lot in past years from the excitement of choosing a tree, so you can imagine our anxiety, it is a very stressful time for Lee & myself. You often need someone else to help you see situations more clearly. My sister asked why Jack didn’t want the artificial tree. I said because he’s a butthead, she said it’s probably the tradition of getting the tree. I instantly felt bad for saying he’s a butthead. Jodie was so right. As we were at the lot (on pins & needles), Jack went straight to looking at the trees, speaking to the familiar faces of Lindsey’s, & after our selection was made, he goes & orders a cup of hot chocolate. He holds his hot chocolate & makes small talk with the men working, reminded me how older men gather in a circle, drink coffee, & gossip. It was then that I realized Jodie’s wisdom. Our Christmas tree hunt went off without a hitch, no seizures, no acting out.

This day was also Black Friday. Jack obtained a Black Friday sale paper from GameStop (his stomping ground) somehow. He has looked the pictures off that sale paper. He reminded me of how I was when JCPenney had a catalog, I would look at that thing for hours & days. Then I would come up with a game to choose one item from each page, then I would try decide who I would gift my choices to. Childhood was fun before phones! After we got the tree, Jack just had to go to GameStop, the Black Friday bug got to him. With $5 to his name, he spent it on Pokémon cards, only staying in the store 30 minutes for a $4 pack of cards. The next day, Jack called GameStop multiple times to ask them questions about different items. I must get the employees at GameStop a Christmas gift for their patience with Jack! After we hit the Christmas tree lot, GameStop, the drive-thru, we made it back home successfully. Jack did not care one iota about the tree. It’s the tradition he was hunting, not decorating. I was able to sell the artificial tree I loved so much, not for the price I paid, but does that really matter when one of your child’s biggest joy is the thrill of the hunt? We each missed not having Coleman be a part of the tree selection, who would of known that last year would of been his last year helping to choose the tree? It’s strange when you’re doing things that seem so ordinary, you really never know or think that could be your last time doing an activity or in our case as a whole family unit & here I was trying to break the tradition altogether. I had still planned on visiting Lindsey’s to purchase some things, just not a tree. Some traditions can never be broken is the lesson I learned. We may not all be together, but it is so important to keep routines going, especially for those with special needs. Breaking routines with a special needs person can result in a tailspin no one can handle.

As I have said from the get-go, we love the Christmas holiday season because Jack tries his best to behave. There have been moments of sassiness (expected with a teen), a few inappropriate interactions with strangers, however for the most part, Jack has done really well since the beginning of November. As I reflect on Jack’s standing last year around this same time, I remember Jack being catfished (if you want to know the whole story, go back & read my blog titled “Catfished”) by someone. This person told Jack “she” was going to come live with him & so on. He wouldn’t listen to reason about it either. He was bound & determined this fool was going to move in with us. Jack had no qualms about the things they were going to do together; take a shower together, cuddle in his bed, & chill. I honestly thought at that time that Jack would not make it through January 2019 housed in our home. I was actively seeking a facility for him to live the rest of his life in. Currently, I am not as of afraid of Jack as I was then, he has calmed down significantly, so I try to more proactive in getting ahead of any funny business by obtaining info off his phone after he goes to sleep. I get help from family & friends & they send these idiots that toy with his mind messages of warnings or threats. I spend a good 15 minutes each night or longer after he goes to sleep cleaning out his phone, blocking numbers, & taking pictures of names & numbers that need a virtual butt-whooping, I would love to give them a real-life butt whooping. Lee fusses at me constantly for not being asleep by midnight, I never am. It’s usually 1:30-2am before I get to sleep. My daylight hours are busy with dealing with Jack, household things, bills, work, schedules, Ava. Nighttime hours are Jack, Jack, Jack, cooking, accounting things for The Berry Patch, a little tv with Lee & Ava, awaiting Jack’s shuteye, waiting for Jack to fall asleep good so I can sneak his phone to block and/or send messages to nutheads, & shower, so getting to bed at a reasonable time is not obtainable. I’m tired of being an FBI agent! Would love to be able to come into my home & do absolutely nothing.

Now that the Christmas season is among us, the tree is up, decorations are out, Jack’s Santa letter was mailed way back in October, & it is time for that confounded Elf on the Shelf to make his appearance. I thought we were going to be able to slide without the Elf this year, but no, Jack called me yesterday requesting the Elf’s presence. Kill me now, I hate that little man! All the memes are so true about parents and the elf on the shelf. I run through the house sometimes at 3am if I happen to wake up to hide it or wake Lee up & tell him to (hey, I’ve only been asleep an hour), or tell Jack that someone must of touched it & that’s why it didn’t move. I can not remember to do this one task on top of everything else & forget all that fancy mess some do with a high wire strung from the ceiling fan to the front door with the elf balancing on it or words spelled out from the elf. Our elf, Barney is lucky to be sitting beside a lamp or stuck in a vase. The woman that invented this “treasure” needs to be horse whipped! See the clever hiding spot Barney & his reindeer have?

We have only 20 days before Santa arrives, that means 20 days of good behavior from Jack. There have been no chat rooms for about six weeks, his door hasn’t been closed at all, no irrational demands either. It’s scary to know that Christmas will be over soon. All of our moments of calmness could vanish on December 26-how sad that would be! It’s amazing to me that Jack holds Santa on such a pedestal, but what he doesn’t realize that Santa is actually me (the smartest, hardest working, transgendered person I know). If he knew that the big guy was actually me, the same good behavioral side effects would not take place, of that I am certain. I wish I had the same standing as Santa! It is truly wonderful to see the self-control Jack exhibits this time of year, which makes me know it’s possible the whole year long, but unfortunately isn’t. The next 20 days will zoom by. Gatherings, gifts, eating, & visits with family & friends will be in full-swing for the next few weeks, we plan on enjoying our solitude while we can. In the meanwhile, if you’re up around 1am, text me & remind me to move that blooming elf!

The Never Ending Story

They say one of the happiest places on earth is at Disney, right? I will have to agree it is very happy, & lots of fun. I enjoy it so much. So a few months ago, I began planning a trip to Disney World for Ava, Zoey (a friend of Ava’s), Judy (a family friend), & myself. We left for a four night/five day stay…quietly. Quietly because taking Jack was not an option. Lee nor Coleman were able to go, someone had to stay behind with Jack, Coleman couldn’t miss school. Lee & I both felt it only fair to Ava to allow her some fun, plus we haven’t vacationed anywhere in years, it was deserved for her if nothing else. It is really sad though that we couldn’t all be together. Planning for a vacation can be difficult. Planning for a vacation while hiding what you’re doing is downright complicated. Jack didn’t know our whereabouts & can never know our whereabouts during that time. There would be a huge price to pay! The first night I was gone, I told him I was at Ava’s volleyball tournament. He was sounding like he wasn’t buying my story, this was the story I was planning on going with the whole time. Jack being the suspicious natured person he is, didn’t seem to buy into it. I had to makeup another fib & told him the next day that Coleman was sick & I had to go see about him. I hate lying, especially about someone being sick-really hoping that one doesn’t come back to bite me in the tail. The calls, the voicemails, the calls, texts, all day, all night Jack pursued me demanding to know when I would return-did I mention the calls? He is persistent to say the least.

Our journey to Disney World began last Sunday. Ava & I have been several times before, since it was time to do something fun a Florida trip it was. If you keep up with my blogs, you’ll know flying is not for me. The first time I ever flew was from Minnesota to North Carolina this past summer. No traffic is great, flying not so much. I prefer to travel spinning in on two wheels at a speed of 75 mph where I’m in control (mostly). The reason we flew was in the event something happened with Jack, I could get home quicker (ha, so not true after airport waiting). Most people can plan, go, & do without preparing for an actual emergency. I would loved to of traveled via my newly refurbished Yukon stopping at interstate Cracker Barrel’s for a bowl of turnip greens, hashbrown casserole, & chicken & dumplings & fueling up at the fancy gas stations & running in for a Pepsi, a pack of Nabs, & bag of sunflower seeds. But no, we traveled in an airbus which I am still mystified by. It’s so amazing that an object the size of several Greyhound buses can fly at speeds of 500 mph carrying 200 plus people & their luggage. This appears to an ordinary person like myself an impossible task. We flew out of Charlotte to get to Orlando. I’ve heard enough horror stories from my favorite podcast, Bob & Sheri (they are Charlotte based) to know what can go wrong when flying. I’ve heard Sheri reference how TSA always screams at her or searches her. Bob is always worried about the plane crashing (same as myself). The Minnesota airport back this summer was wonderful. Those people know how to do. Charlotte however, do not know how to do-well they might, it’s just not done in a nice manner. Everyone told me how they hate flying out of Charlotte, I now know why. Flying is so confusing for newbies. There should be charts posted on the walls like teachers have in elementary classrooms on exactly what to do upon arrival. Going through TSA at Charlotte was terrible. I am thankful for such a high level of security, but not for the attitude. Realizing the volume of people seen daily by TSA & the craziness they encounter, is certainly appreciated, I just did not like the attitudes of those agents there. If they want to be so hateful, they need to go work at a fast food restaurant where hatefulness is expected (sometimes). Judy & I were pulled to the side for further screening due to me having money in my back pocket & she had sequins on her shirt. I didn’t want to send my cash down the belt without me, so I stuffed it in my back pocket. TSA pulls me to the side, treats me like a criminal, giving me the full pat down, testing my hands & money for drug residue. I kept thinking,”Lord Jesus, there’s no telling where this money has been. Please don’t let it of been in the hands of a drug lord”! Finally, Judy & I were in the clear, but all I could think about was the hatefulness of that TSA employee. We finally made it out of hell & our journey to the happiest place on earth would soon begin.

Since we had two first-timers with us experiencing Disney, Ava & I wanted to make sure they received the “full Disney experience” as we called it, leaving nothing out! We visited Hollywood Studios, Epcot, & Magic Kingdom. Normally, we go around Veteran’s Day which is the least busy time to attend the parks FYI, I couldn’t make a Veteran’s Day trip work this time. Boy, I will never make that mistake again. There were people everywhere, I’ve never seen it that crowded. Someone told Ava (because she snap chatted her journey as most teens do), all we did was wait in line & eat. His observation was spot-on! In previous years, we could walk up on most rides & hop right on. This time, all had 60 minute waits, many well over 60 a minute wait. We spent more time waiting in dungeons than the cast of Shawshank Redemption. We rode nearly every ride at the parks, ensuring that the two newbies got it all in, I nearly killed our crew with all the walking that was involved. The weather was perfect, not too hot or too cold, beautiful skies the whole time. The most dreaded ride that Disney has to offer in my opinion is the Tower of Terror. To me, it reminds me of flying, but I rode it begrudgingly. Even Judy who never rides rides, rode it all. Space Mountain, Seven Dwarfs, even Aerosmith’s Rockin’ Rollercoaster all of it. This picture describes Judy’s expressions on most rides lol.

There were some great memories made on our trip, most involved eating, laughing, & people watching.

Our vacation whizzed by & it was time to board on what I consider the real Tower of Terror! Thankfully, Judy & I learned our lesson prior to going through TSA in Orlando-no back pocket money & no sequins (we sound like strippers). While boarding there were tons of babies, we were all wondering if we would have to sit next to them & of course due to the Berry magnetism, we did! We were surround by babies all mostly crying their eyes out. One Mama out of desperation to keep her two year old happy since she couldn’t have her tray down due to landing preparation, gave her daughter a tube of NARS lipgloss to cease her tears. Immediately, the crying halted. If that would of been Ava at that age, it would of been a tube of Vaseline! As the old saying goes, money talks or in her case, money stops crying lol. I didn’t blame any of the kids for crying, most were coming back from Disney, tired, sore, tired, sore, if I weren’t so ashamed, I would be crying with them. Of course after landing, we had to wait due to the unloading dock not being available & all hell broke loose with those babies. Every single one of them started hollering & crying at the same time, the Mama in me wanted to pinch them all. The whole flying ordeal is very challenging for new people. We were all so worried we would pack something we were not supposed to, not know where to go to first, there is just so much going on at an airport. Too much! As we were leaving the airport, we got on the wrong bus to take us to the right long term parking lot where my car sat, we had to ride back to airport & get on the right bus. The bus driver asked us where were we parked, I said lot “W”. This trip would not of been complete unless it ended in full-on “Amy fashion”, the fella dropped us off at “VV”. That is “V” “V” as in Victor, Victor not “W”. It wasn’t until he pulled off that we noticed it, lucky for us, “W” is not too far from “VV”. That bus driver needs to relearn his alphabet (but they do sort of favor).

During our whole trip, poor ole Jack worried me to death, calling me all the time, asking Lee when I would return. Lee, Jack’s helpers, & Mama were a huge help trying to keep his mind preoccupied from wondering when I would be home. He was relentless & actually told me he missed me which was super sweet & heartbreaking at the same time because Jack never shows emotion like that. Coming home was a whirlwind, I had so much to do, mainly with Jack, household stuff, & I was so tired (still am), I can’t get my brain right at all. That trip took a toll on me, mentally. I guess I was so worried Jack might find out, worried about him getting out of routine (which he has), & worried about flying, plus, trying to coordinate everything & make sure we did it all, that my mind was overtaxed. The night of our homecoming, Jack couldn’t get enough of me. The next day, it was business as usual, that night however, Jack wanted to see Frozen 2. I enjoy taking Jack to the movies & he always does really well there. The movie premiere happened to be on Friday night, the night we went. I made a mistake in going there opening weekend. The whole lobby theatre was a frenzy of Frozen baby fans, toddler fans, children fans. There was an animal balloon making station & Anna & Elsa, the two princesses from the movie dressed in costume for photos. It was chaos but only because Jack doesn’t do chaos well with his seizure disorder. The 6:30 movie the one we tried to go to was sold out, 7:00 sold out, 7:30 had three seats left, so we got those even though they were not seated next to each other. Jack wanted to be a part of it all while we waited for 7:30 to roll around, but after spending a few dollars at the movie’s arcade, I was able to talk him into leaving only by agreeing to buy him a movie from Redbox. The movie was The Banana Splits. The Banana Splits used to be on when I was young, so I thought it was appropriate. Not! Jack started watching it after we got home that night-it’s a horror movie with killing & such. I tried to sabotage the DVD by scratching it with scissors & wouldn’t you know it, it didn’t work. Any other time a DVD in mint condition handled with the upmost care skips without any known cause & no amount of buffing fixes it. After we made it back to the theatre for the movie, I could not find our tickets anywhere. My purse is literally the size of my hand & I knew I put them in there-I tore that thing up, tickets were nowhere to be found. I explained to the manger my dilemma & she graciously offered to escort us inside & instructed us to move if someone says we are in their seats since I didn’t know where our seats were assigned. Nervously munching on my popcorn, I waited for someone to come & claim their seats. Before they could do that, the “movie” started, it was a strange start. There was a blonde woman that was a human-not the animated characters we were familiar with in the first Frozen movie. I wondered if the movie was starting out with humans & then morphing into animated characters??? The movie that was playing was we obviously realized, was not Frozen& it quickly turned south. The woman wore a skimpy dress, she took off her shoes, the focus was on her legs, her foot travels up a mans leg, she begins talking about inappropriate things, it was headed in the risqué direction. Families are flocking out of the movie & Jack, our 18 year old mentally & physically disabled child is entranced by what he’s watching. He has forgotten all about Anna & Elsa, he’s digging this flick. After much begging, Jack gets up & the staff soon corrects their mistake. Settled in & enjoying the correct movie, 30 minutes later here comes the owners of our seats. It’s a mama, daddy, a toddler, & her baby sister. These people were so annoying. Now you know somebody is plum annoying if they come busting up in a movie 30 minutes late. I mean you’ve already missed part of the plot. Their children cried, climbed, screamed, mama & daddy carried them out about 6 times. People don’t have good sense. Any way, after the movie ended, as I was getting my keys out of my tiny baby purse, what did I find? Our tickets! I thought our vacation at Disney ended Thursday, but Jack made it full circle with the Frozen gals on Friday. The funniest part of all of this “never ending story” is while I was talking with the manager about our lost tickets, Jack was off taking selfies with Anna & Elsa on his phone!

I have wondered if all the craziness I’ve encountered since being home is my punishment for going on vacation? I honestly felt terrible for going leaving Lee behind, Coleman unable to go, & of course not taking Jack. The last time we all went to Disney a few years ago, it didn’t end well. The whole vacation got him out of sorts. All the walking & not being able to ride everything due to his epilepsy was hard. He refused to ride in a wheelchair & thought he could ride it all. Plus, he likes to sleep late so it was hard to get an early start to fit it all in without having him out so late. Just too many factors to have an enjoyable vacation. On our last day of our last family vacation back in 2015, Lee was left with a sleeping Jack while the rest of us went to have breakfast. Lee’s goal was to wake Jack so we could get on the road. Ava ran back to the room because she forgot something & found Jack attacking Lee. After things calmed, we loaded up & headed home. The whole ride back was miserable. He rolled around in our Yukon, stuck his feet up on the ceiling of the SUV, didn’t talk the whole time, pretend slept all because he was pouting over what happened between he & Lee & he didn’t know how to act afterwards. I was scared to death for well over 9 hours. I was never so thankful to be home & out of that vehicle in my life. So now y’all know why taking Jack anywhere is almost always a no. It’s too risky.

My blogs aren’t usually this long, hence the name never ending story. I was telling my aunt Dot about our tales, she said, “it’s just like a Seinfeld episode”. I swear there is some Larry David lineage somewhere down the line. I don’t think there will be another vacation for a long while, I don’t know that Jack could handle my absence again. It’s so odd to me that he can be so explosive with me & down right ugly a lot of the time, but miss me so much. The brain is one complex organ. Before walking into our house, I was sure to hide every single trace of Disney World. There were no receipts, souvenirs, bags, no Disney bands, nothing. I enjoyed our time so much at the happiest place on earth, but you if see Jack around town, do not ask me about Disney, I pray he never finds out!

We are in the throes of a collard frenzy at The Berry Patch with people preparing for Thanksgiving. We sell them by the bunch or precut & triple washed. One of the reasons my brain has been blowing up, are the collards. I’ve got people messaging me day & night wanting collards, but it’s a good thing. I even have a collard notebook lol. Collards at Thanksgiving & at New Years are like Dixie Lee peas in the summer. Everyone in the world wants them, we always say in the summer at the Berry Patch you’d think Dixie Lee peas are the only thing left to eat on earth, we say that about collards in the fall, we love it though. If not, we wouldn’t do it. So if you’re needing collards for Thanksgiving, come see us. Thank you all for reading my never ending story, I’m sure there is more to come. If anyone has any ideas on how to deflect craziness, please pass the ideas along to me! Happy Thanksgiving to each of you & remember, come see us for the freshest collards around. You can even message me in the middle of night, I won’t mind!

The destruction & deterioration of things

Have you ever thought why do things need to come apart or why do things come off an object that should stay on all the time & my favorite, why do they try to improve things that are already perfected? I have a long list of things that drive me crazy & I bet you do also if you really think about it. What spurred this topic is an ongoing incident I have with my Yukon. I have said for years that women need to be the designers of vehicles, particularly ones that are driven as “Mom Taxis” & for women that are considered a “Girl Friday” like I am for our business. Vehicles need to be equipped with shelves & drawers & built in trash cans. The console I have in my Yukon is not big enough for my bottle of ibuprofen, papaya pills (natural antacid), paper, mail (that’s what the corner under my windshield is for), steroid cream, a tennis ball for my sciatica nerve pain, much less a drink in the attached cup holder! One of the things GMC has done that is totally unreasonable is doing away with the slide-out pocket feature in the sunvisor that once extended to block the sun while driving. I keep saying I’m going to get a clothespin & piece of cardboard to use since these vehicles no longer offer this important feature-going to solve my problem “MacGuyver” style! Getting back to the reason for this blog. My Yukon has third row seating that lies down & the middle row does as well. I often have to lay the seats down due to hauling either farm equipment or Berry Patch stuff. The lever that I use to perform this operation has a little black protective piece on the handle so you can grasp it without it slicing into your fingers. Guess what? That little black piece comes off every time you look at it! There are four of these in my SUV, they get lost all the time. Why wouldn’t they be made to stay on there permanently? There is no reason in the world for those little pieces the size of a piece of hard candy to come off. I’m going to have to breakout the super glue. Not only that, but over the last six weeks, my Yukon has been on its death bed. They say bad luck comes in 3’s. My transmission went out, windshield got busted, & had a dead battery, let’s not forget the lightning strike I survived in my car! Hopefully my bad luck streak is over. Not only do women need to design vehicles, we need to design parking lots. A good majority of cars on the roads these days are SUV’s, vans, or big trucks. My favorite saying when I try to squeeze the Yukon in tight quarters at a store is, “this ain’t no Fiesta”! Major adjustments in this world need to happen & women are the ones to make it happen.

One of Coleman’s favorite childhood toys was a Sit-n-Spin. It wasn’t for the dynamic spin of the toy, it was because the round piece also known as the stirring wheel came off. Coleman loved to take things apart as a toddler/child. I would be in the kitchen cooking or in the bedroom making the bed & here his little self would come along with the steering wheel in hand! Now why I would like to ask the designer of the famous toy would they make it so the top came off? For years it was made as a whole toy, now it’s two parts. It was sort of dangerous as a two piece toy, the boys always tried to stand on the plastic stick piece that held the steering wheel. I think I got sick of worrying about them doing just that that I threw it out the door one day. There were dozens of toys over the years that I wish I could think of now that came apart for unknown reasons & didn’t need to nor should they of. We have gone through more gorilla glue & super glue over the years than most. My Daddy’s favorite sayings about the kids when they were younger were “here comes the wrecking crew” & “they can tear up an anvil”. Companies made it too easy for them to tear things up, Daddy! 🤣

My next gripe is with my washing machine (long rant). Washing clothes is one of my passions. I hang nearly everything we own out on my clothesline. I am such a psycho clothesline hanger-outer that I even hangout clothes when the temperature is in the 20’s like it was this past week. All colors must be hung in like order, all shirts with shirts, shorts with shorts & so on. Hanging out clothes is peaceful & helps the earth (I’m part hippie). I’m all for environmental provisions, but the washing machines on the market now are trash. I’ve been through multiple & returned one after having it for a year-got a complete refund, too. After Lee & I got married in 1998, we got a washing machine & dryer set. We still have the same dryer since it is rarely used. As our family grew & our needs changed, we realized a new washer was a must. We went to Lowe’s & picked out the largest capacity washing machine made, it was a Whirlpool & did not have an agitator. I chose this one because Jack slept with us due to the large amount of seizures he had during the nighttime hours. It was almost every night that Jack would seize & lose bladder function. We have a king size bed & I would have to go to the laundromat so often to use their “big boy” washing machine since our comforter was so large, it made sense to buy the largest machine washing known to man because going to the laundromat was getting expensive, quickly. My “Cabrio” (name of washer) was beautiful, I was so proud. Unfortunately, it was then that I would learn about the new energy efficient products that were just placed on the market, the low fill washing machine & low flow toilets (which at that time were trash). I would wash in my sleek new machine & part of the clothes would come out dry & stains would still be in the clothes. After a year of cussing this machine, I called Lowe’s to complain about how very sorry it really was, they nicely offered a full refund. So then I bought a regular washing machine with an agitator, but it was still a low fill machine. It was just okay, still not like our first machine. This summer, it went out. Instead of repairing it, I decided to buy another one figuring the energy efficient ones had improved. This time I went with Maytag. It again was the largest on the floor, push buttons, agitator, met most of my requirements. Oh my Lord, I hate that thing with a passion! It is NOT efficient in my humble opinion, nor does it use enough water to actually clean clothes, & the clothes are so wrinkled when they come out, it looks like they have been stuffed down in the bottom of a Ava’s book bag for a month. Not only that, my blooming Maytag washing machine runs all durn day. Before I got this hunk of metal, I could wash a load in about 35 minutes. Now, I have to plan the night before, load the washer, set the timer because it runs for an hour or longer. There is a minute countdown on the washing machine so when you start a load it will say 55 minutes, after 15 minutes, it could go up to 58 minutes, 1/2 hour later, it may only be at 45 minutes. This thing is beyond foolish. If you use the bedding setting, it estimates an hour & 15 minutes to wash, how absurd! When using the delicates setting & the lowest setting possible for wrinkle control, my clothes still come out looking like this:

Another thing I’m baffled about with this washer is the cold wash setting. It says cold wash on the dial, but the water temp starts on hot. How is that a cold wash? I’m not sure what this washing machine actually does other than cause me duress! It runs all day & I think it runs just to dampen my clothes a little bit & wrinkle our clothes! I take anything that is semi-good (outside of my Berry Patch shirts) to Mama when the stains won’t come out. Even she hates my washing machine!

Onto the next destructible thing. I don’t drink coffee at all, that’s Lee’s passion & I only make it (on timer of course) on school mornings for him. We’ve had a Keurig that broke, a Mr. Coffee that broke, I literally just bought a coffeemaker from Aldi a month ago & now it has broken. The brewers are used so infrequently that I would think they could hold up, it’s not we are using them morning, noon, & night. Just today I went to return the coffee pot I purchased at Aldi & guess what I did in the parking lot before I ever made it inside the store? Dropped the glass carafe & broke it. Then I couldn’t return it. My life! “They” just don’t make nothing no count any more. Seems like we are running to Walmart or Lowe’s constantly to get a new coffee pot, curling iron, microwave, & even refrigerator. When we moved in the house we live in now, which was about 10 years ago, we purchased a Samsung refrigerator, one of the worst mistakes of our lives. This is a picture of Lee thawing out Samsung’s finest appliance with my hairdryer & a fan. Lee did this for years, usually once a month until we finally broke down & purchased another one last summer.

Samsung has caused many a problem within our home & we do not advise the purchase of a Samsung refrigerator. So far, Whirlpool is holding out strong.

In closing, I hope someone reads this that designs the interior of cars, parking lots, toys, & appliances, maybe they will ask for my design ideas. The destruction of things is real, the destruction of expensive things is even worse, nothing is made to last any more. Good ol’ American constructed, lifetime & beyond products are gone. Wouldn’t it be nice if our hard earned money was actually invested in purchases like it used to be when folks bought one refrigerator & one stove when they got married. People died before their frig could! Everything is too disposable in a non-disposable world. In the meanwhile, I’ll keep the hairdryer handy just in case the Whirlpool decides to freeze over & the superglue closer.

P.S. If your washing machine, toilet, dryer, or refrigerator stops working, go to a yard sale to make your next purchase, you won’t be sorry. The older it is, the better!