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Posted in Celebrities, domestic violence, In The News

What Is It About Campfires & Abuse? Raquel Pennington Testifies

Today Amber Heard’s former friend Raquel Pennington testified to a campfire event she witnessed between Amber and Johnny Depp. According to her, Amber was sitting in the lap of another female friend. The friend had an arm draped around Amber. Although Raquel passed this off as normal, it’s bizarre to me. I’m close to my friends but we don’t sit in each other’s lap. But Amber’s previous partner was female, so perhaps it’s normal to her. Which gives reason to Johnny appearing and telling the friend, “Get your hands off my woman.” Amber got up and followed Johnny as he walked off. It’s as if she is quoting a story right out of my life.

Raquel stated Johnny had been with the group earlier, so she was surprised at his abrupt change. In her words, “It’s like a switch flipped.” As someone in that exact situation, I say that is a very accurate description. Unless you’ve been a victim of domestic violence, you cannot understand the internal and permanent damage of a person’s entire thought process.

Abusers are narcissistic and insecure. In order to validate themselves, they engage in jealousy inciting behavior. They ignore their victim and shower attention on another. Nothing makes them feel empowered more than setting up a rivalry and demeaning their victim in front of friends.

Years ago, a guy I dated was not a physical abuser but a master manipulator. He would never lay hands on me. His preferred tactic was psychological, which is an abuse of another type. The abuser’s humiliation tactics flood bone deep into the victim. Resurrected emotions surface.

The first response is to ignore it. The mindset is, if he is ignoring me, I’ll pretend it doesn’t bother me. You want to withhold the reaction he seeks. But the rejection, embarrassment, and anger crawls through you, devouring you from the inside out.

In my case, after seeking me out as soon as he arrived, he ignored me. Because I was target shooting away from the main area, he needed to find me. He wanted me to know he arrived. Instead of approaching me like a normal human, he shouts from a distance, “Who gave Joan a gun?” then ran off. It was a funny joke. I thought little about it. But that was it. He never spoke another word to me.

As night fell, we sat around a campfire. He seated himself in front of me, but pointedly ignored me. I don’t think he planned what happened next, but he sure didn’t dissuade it. A random girl seated herself on one of his knees. At once, everyone turned to me. A response was required.

I sifted through my options until I landed on one. I turned to the group of his and my friends I’d been hanging with all day and said with a laugh, “Maybe I should sit on his other knee.” That was it. Gauntlet thrown and bets made. My friend I came with immediately started telling the others not to bet because I’d do it. That only brought more money into the game. People were gathering around me, whispering and laughing. Others realized something was brewing, but they didn’t know what.

With a fair amount of money on the table and the opportunity to reclaim power, I had to do it. I rose to my feet and sauntered over with full on sass. Eager laughter and anticipation rose behind me. I sat on his free knee, wound my arm around his shoulders and said, “Hi baby.” Groans from those who thought I wouldn’t do it and celebrating from those who knew I would erupted. I watched everyone exchange money with a grin of satisfaction.

I bent to his ear and whispered, “I don’t share.” With that, I got to my feet, walked behind him, motioned to my friend to get my money and meet me at the car. According to those there, when he realized I was leaving, he told the girl to get up. She said no. He told her a few more times, and she continued to refuse. She finally got up when he basically told her to get up or he’d remove her.

I was almost to my car when he called my name. Turned, it surprised me to find him running after me. But the damage was done. I was leaving.

To others, it may have looked like a switch flipped in me. They were not privy to what transpired between us in private. They didn’t know the damage inflicted by his pushing me away with one hand and pulling me to him with the other. They knew nothing about the demons I fought and his desire to resurrect them.

I’ve heard multiple people tell similar campfire stories. It’s strange to think a laid back event turns to a catalyst for abuse. That’s why judging a person by a single behavior is never a good idea. You need a baseline of the person. Abuse doesn’t discriminate. It stretches across gender, financial status, married, and unmarried. The National Statistics for Domestic Violence indicates 20 people per minute are abused by an intimate partner. You don’t know if the behavior you are witnessing is a direct response to ongoing abuse. Before you judge, consider you’re witnessing a plea for help. Respond to that. And for goodness’ sake, people with shaky relationships should avoid campfires.

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Posted in Celebrities, domestic violence, In The News

Dan Wooten Attacks Victims of Domestic Violence

The Johnny Depp lawsuit against Amber Heard should be important to every decent human. Domestic violence is a nasty disease that is only eradicated by spotlighting it. For far too long, the world labored under the misconception that only women are victims. Yet, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence states 1 in 9 men experience severe physical abuse.

With numbers like that, you’d think people like Dan Wooten would want to bring positive attention and reflection. Unfortunately, Mr. Wooten felt a personal attack on Johnny Depp, coupled with an elevation of himself, was more valuable than bringing awareness. For someone who vowed to not talk about Johnny Depp, Mr. Wooten sure has a hard time shutting up about him.

Mr. Wooten’s self-serving opinion neglects every major point in the case. But of all the things Mr. Wooten said, the most outrageous is calling Johnny Depp “a pathetic excuse of a man.” The venom in his woefully ignorant words is why male victims of domestic violence don’t come forward.

Mr. Wooten’s attempt to emasculate Johnny Depp reflects only his poor example of manhood, not Johnny’s. Attacking male victims feeds the violence. In her own voice we heard Amber Heard taunting Johnny, telling him no one will believe he is a victim of domestic violence. She and Mr. Wooten must share the same playbook. Like the worst bullies on the block they wield shame as a sword. She says a real man would engage in physical altercations not leave the violence as Johnny does. These degrading attacks on the masculinity of an abused man are why so many suffer in silence until the relationship concludes in deadly violence.

In 2016, a woman murdered her two teenage daughters to get back at her husband. In 2012, Shayna Hubers bragged about giving her boyfriend a nose job when she shot him in the face. Jodi Arias stabbed her boyfriend 27 times in a jealous sex fueled rage. Each of these men were victims of chronic verbal and physical abuse. That’s only three of the 155,000 cases Mankind.org reports in America.

There is no room for Mr. Wooten’s male ego, misguided sense of justice, self-promotion, or infatuation with Amber Heard. His attention seeking behavior of inserting himself into this litigation is startling. The case doesn’t involve him or the UK. The case stems from Miss Heard’s op ed in the Washington Post. Obviously, he knows nothing about the overwhelming evidence that Amber Heard, at best, is a sensational liar with untreated mental health issues that manifest in bursts of violence.

Instead of playing as a victim of Johnny Depp, perhaps Mr. Wooten should focus on male victims of domestic violence. There are 174,733 in the UK. He should start there.

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Posted in Education, In The News, parenting

Disney In Chaos

It was surreal to watch Prince Harry pitch voice over work for Meghan to then Disney CEO Bob Iger. Meghan got her voice over in the infamous Elephant documentary. Regardless of how interesting the documentary was and how fast her PR team spun it, Meghan Markle can’t even read with flourish. It was amusing to see the end of Iger’s CEO position (his choice or no) come on the heels of Elephant.

What makes the story even more tantalizing is that “super feminist” Meghan wanted to meet and work with Iger. At the time Harry pitched his wife’s alleged skills, Iger, his predecessor Michael Eisner, and Walt Disney Company were under a lawsuit. Actress Paz de la Huerta alleged the CEO’s and the Disney company created an environment enabling prolific rapist Harvey Weinstein.

The lawsuit didn’t curb the disturbing actions of Disney and its employees. In March Florida, detectives conducted a sting operation targeting child sexual predators and prostitution. Disney employees were among the 108 arrested. From a hotel lifeguard through Tomorrowland to IT workers, the self-proclaimed Happiest Place on Earth became the creepiest place on earth.

Ten days after the arrests, Florida enacted the “Parental Rights in Education” bill. Though dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill that’s not what it is. The “Parental Rights In Education” bill makes it illegal for children kindergarten to third grade to be exposed to sex education. It doesn’t target just homosexuality as the media would have you believe. It includes sexual content of any nature. That fact eludes those claiming the bill is an attack on LGBTQ.

Current Disney CEO, Bob Chapek, said Disney “unequivocally” stands with LGBTQ. That’s interesting considering Disney cruises go to multiple countries who’ve outlawed homosexuality and often impose the death penalty if caught. Shouldn’t Chapek end those cruise destinations in support of LGBTQ?

Chapek, laboring under the misconception Disney was untouchable, and pressured by the minority, came out swinging against the bill. Despite their lineage of alleged sexual misconduct, Chapek vowed to take on Florida politics in general and Governor Ron DeSantis in particular. It was a classic cut off your nose to spite your face move.

Until yesterday, Disney operated under unique circumstances. The state of Florida gave them tax breaks and special self-governing allowances. Knowing this, Chapek continued his war of words against DeSantis. By the time he figured out it would be wise to shut up and stay out of politics, it was too late. The Florida legislature stripped Disney’s special privileges.

Amidst the drama, subscribers to Disney Plus streaming service canceled. Stock in Disney plunged 33% and a high number of vacationers cancelled. All of this plays out as Johnny Depp battles for his reputation in a defamation lawsuit against his ex-wife Amber Heard. When Depp was accused of domestic violence, Disney dropped him. A move that was premature and a violation of the American mantra, “innocent until proven guilty.” Revelations now paint heard as the violent one. Once again, Disney responded without facts. That seems to be their anthem. If Depp wins the current suit, it will be interesting to see if he goes after Disney next. After all, they cost him wages on a false accusation. That won’t go over well legally.

Walt Disney created Disney to cater to families, not political ideologies. It is a swipe at his legacy to throw his masterpiece in a raging political storm. As summer approaches, it’s vital Disney return to its roots to win back the canceled vacations. They should replace Chapek with an anti-political CEO with fierce leadership skills. Will they do it? Who can free Disney from the mousetrap they caught themselves in?

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Posted in Book Promotion

Stained Glass Windows Book Cover Reveal

A couple of years ago, I was on Twitter talking about who knows what. I tweeted something in relation to me praying for someone. A random stranger responded. He said his friend lost a croc and asked if I would pray for him to find it. Because I can laugh just as much at myself as I can at anyone else, I pounced. Of course, I’d pray for the horrible tragedy of a lost croc. The shoe, not the reptile.

A few tweets in and others joined the fun. Looking at their bios, I realized they all know each other. They live in the United Kingdom, are sarcastic, goad one another, and are highly amused by their own tweets. That’s a group I can get onboard with.

A year or more after our first interaction, I needed to decide on a book cover. I reviewed several, but nothing felt right. I wanted a book cover as unique as the story. I turned to my guys in the UK.

Once you’ve seen Paul Brandford’s work, you don’t forget it. His distinctive style invokes a multitude of words through a single image. His work tells a story you didn’t know you needed. I reviewed countless others but always came back to Paul of Brandford Studios.

I provided him a watered down synopsis but offered nothing in way of artistic preference. I wanted his take. He did not disappoint. What I love most about the cover is the blending of the beginning and the end. Below is the cover image seamlessly weaving the first page into the last.

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Posted in Celebrities, In The News

Will, Jada & Authentic Marriage

Lurking below that slap heard around the world is a more sinister operandi. In the months leading up to the Oscars, Jada launched an attack on Will Smith. She humiliated him by justifying her affairs publicly. By his admission, it is Jada who wanted their marriage open. He agreed just so he could keep a wife who says he can’t satisfy her.

A pair of videos, one on each of their Instagram accounts, are the prelude to the attack on Chris Rock. Less than a week before the Oscars, Jada posted several videos on Instagram about fashion. In one of those videos she says, “I don’t give two craps what people say about this bald head of mine because I love it.” The day of the Oscars, Will posted a video on his Instagram. That video shows them in their Oscar clothing. It’s overlaid with a voice saying, “Good morning, everyone. God has let me live another day and I’m about to make it everyone’s problem.” Pictures pop up of the couple with multiple expressions on their faces.

Without their attempt to humiliate Chris Rock, these videos appear innocent and unconnected. After the fact, they draw questions. One absolute is Jada lied. She either lied when she said she didn’t give “two craps” about what people say, or she lied when she set Will off with only a look. Will’s “everybody’s problem” video is coincidental on his part. I can’t say the same for Jada. It’s possible it was her idea as she continued her emotional assault on her husband.

In the months leading up to the Oscars, Jada humiliated Will at every opportunity. Who can forget his expression as he sat before millions on social media listening to his wife divulge her affair? Or the video in which he asked her not to video him without telling him first. She called that foolishness. He explained, “social media is my bread and butter.” Yet, she continued videoing and posted it despite his obvious displeasure.

Jada’s behavior is indicative of narcissism, emotional abuse, and control issues. Marriage is a union of two, not a dictatorship of one. Yes, marriages struggle and it’s okay if both parties are willing to discuss the issues publicly. But putting your husband on full display, blindsiding him, and systematically breaking him down on what he termed his “bread and butter” is cruel. From her behavior, we can deduce that Jada Pinkett Smith herself is cruel.

A man can only tolerate being torn down for so long before he snaps. Jada chipped away at Will for months. She beat him down emotionally, emasculated, and humiliated him publicly. Will needed to prove he was a man. So despite his first laughing at a harmless joke, he strolled to the stage like it was the OK corral to “defend” his wife and reclaim his manhood. What he actually did was ruin his career.

We are all ultimately responsible for our own actions. But sometimes we need help to see how toxic a spouse is. There is something inside a person that makes them vulnerable to abusive partners. We must ferret that out, examine it, and conclude a set of actions to break the cycle. When we do that, we set ourselves free to enjoy an honest, loving, supporting marriage the way God intended.

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Posted in Celebrities, In The News, Parenting From The Headlines, Special Needs Kids

Will Smith’s Shameless Attack On Advocacy

Rocked by scandals, mocked for wokeness, overrun with hypocrisy, and desperate to resurrect viewers, Hollywood needed the Academy Awards to score big. Oscar was limping along in a stale state but better than expected. Then Will Smith channeled his inner Kanye West.

Of all the TMI moments Will and Jada Smith inundated us with over the last few years, the only good one was Jada’s struggles with alopecia. Jada stated she wants to use her platform to bring awareness to the condition. Admirable. Except she didn’t do it. Then Will hit the nuclear button peppering her advocacy claims with the effectiveness of hollow point bullets.

Demi Moore was an epic GI Jane, is an iconic actress, and has her own advocacy platform. There is no insult in being classified with her. Chris Rock’s joke wasn’t insulting either. Will laughed until he saw his wife’s face. She obviously was far too sensitive and overreacted.

Jada should’ve stood up flexed her muscles, made a powerful pose, done anything indicative of GI Jane strength and courage when Chris made the joke. Think of the inspiring message. Alopecia makes you GI Jane strong! She then could’ve had Chris on her Red Table Talk to discuss it. Better yet, GI Jane 2 with Jada in the lead role and a class of recruits with alopecia. What could’ve been a female empowering message devolved into violence as the answer.

It’s shameful Jada couldn’t get past her thin-skinned self long enough to encourage others from a world stage. Will strolling up to that stage and shouting profanities from his seat only confirmed how shameless he is at his core. All this they did in front of their kids. Their son, Jaden, tweeted, “And That’s How We Do It.” Congrats Will and Jada. You just told your kids to result to violence regardless of how benign a joke is. If they do, and God forbid get seriously injured, killed or do the same to someone else, you will question the actions you demonstrated for them in this moment.

If the Academy Awards hopes to salvage anything good from that dumpster fire, they should strip Will of his Oscar. No action on their part is silence acceptance of audience members punching comedians when they don’t like the joke. And that is something that should concern every comedian.

My words come to you from experience. Jokes are made about my hearing disability all the time. Doesn’t bother me a bit. One of my son’s stutters and two others have special needs. I advocate for education and the disabled. I’m a gold medalist in dealing with stupid comments, rude stares, and cruel jokes. The Smith family endured none of that last night.

Advocating means putting yourself out into a world of keyboard warriors who get their kicks being abusive and cruel. If you can’t take it for the team don’t advocate. Leave it to someone with thicker skin, a quicker wit, and less bent toward violence.

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Posted in In The News

Remove Putin From Power?

Last night Russian troops invading Ukraine set a nuclear power plant on fire. That answered the question of, will Putin use nukes. A resounding yes! Putin’s troops target civilian buildings such as hospitals and areas populated with children. It’s psychological warfare intended to wear Ukraine down and surrender. It’s pure evil.

Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted the only solution to Russia’s brutal, unprovoked aggression is to assassinate Putin. And just like that America got amnesia with a side of ignorance. They called for Graham to resign and recoiled in horror at an American politician taking out a leader in another country. I’m uncertain if these people are hypocrites or wildly uninformed about world events.

Presidents Bush, Obama, and Trump either directly assassinated leaders or brought about their deaths via a US raid. During the Iranian hostage crisis President Jimmy Carter committed to freeing them with diplomacy and sanctions. It didn’t work. Part of Ronald Reagan’s campaign was the promise to free our hostages by any means necessary. The Iranians got the message. They released the hostages on Reagan’s Inauguration Day. Clinton sent troops into Mogadishu, Somalia to capture or kill warlord Mohammed Farah Aidid. Taking out evil murderers, warlords, and terrorists is hardly a new concept.

Putin invaded Ukraine with the intent of annihilating an entire country of people. To get the compliance of his soldiers he lied to them and told them it was a training exercise. He sent young men, many in their teens, into a bloodbath they never saw coming. He bombed a hospital with critically ill children and targeted civilians. All the while Putin threatens a nuclear response to anyone who interferes.

The Ukrainian people organized and amazed the world with their resistance. Ukranian President Zelenskyy emerged as a figure of strength, courage, and commitment. When Biden offered to get him out of the country Zelensky responded nonplussed, “The fight is here. I need ammunition not a ride!” Not only did he remain in the country he fought alongside his countrymen. Thanks to him the entire world now knows what a true leader does in the worst circumstances.

Zelenskyy’s fearlessness and leadership is in stark contrast to the cowardice of the rest of the world. No country wants to help. Everyone fears a nuclear war. Even as Putin commits war crimes by using cluster bombs and targeting civilians the world stands with their hands in their well-lined political pockets. Yet, we’ve seen his war plan map. Ukraine is only the beginning.

The Russian people are aghast at Putin’s actions. They took to the streets to protest their government’s actions. In Moscow that’s unheard of. There are only two possible outcomes in this crisis. Either we allow Putin to dominate the entire world with the constant threat of nuclear war or he is taken out. That’s it. There’s nothing else on the table. Not challenging Putin in Ukraine is not avoiding a nuclear war. It’s paving the way for one.

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Posted in In The News

Our Obligation To Ukraine

A history lesson for those who think the United States isn’t obligated to help Ukraine.

In 1989, Republican President Ronald Reagan’s desire to end America’s Cold War with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) and push back on communism materialized. When the USSR crumbled multiple territories succeeded. One of which was Ukraine.

Russia’s multiple nuclear weapons were spread throughout the now succeeded territories. The question of what to do with them arose. Democratic President Bill Clinton feared the weapons were too vulnerable to theft or blackmarket sales. He wanted them destroyed. Russia said the weapons belonged to them and wanted them back.

Obviously, Ukraine balked at the notion. Giving Russia their nuclear weapons assured the threat of a Russian invasion. Ukraine didn’t want the weapons. They wanted the leverage of having the weapons. Less chance of a Russian invasion if Ukraine had nukes.

Clinton adamantly implored Ukraine to give Russia the nukes. After multiple failed attempts to negotiate a partial reduction leaders of Ukraine, the United States, Russia and others met in Lisbon, Portugal. Worn down by Clinton’s dogged pursuit of the matter, Ukraine agreed under two conditions. 1. They monitor the transfer of weapons to Russia. 2. The United States agree to defend Ukraine against an invasion. Everyone agreed and signed the arms treaty dubbed the Portugal Protocol.

Ukraine kept their end of the bargain. At the time of the Portugal Protocol Ukraine was third in the world for the number of nuclear weapons. Today they have none. The weapons Clinton hammered Ukraine to return are now threatened against them with.

The Portugal Protocol was the idea of a Democratic President. As Ukranian President Zelensky battles side by side with his people President Biden refuses to honor the treaty of his own party!!!!

So, yes. We have an ABSOLUTE obligation to defend Ukraine. We should’ve done so long before the invasion. The blood flowing through the decimated streets of Ukraine takes a path straight to the White House and the Democratic Party. Not honoring our treaty is a black eye to America reverberating around the world.

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Posted in In The News, Kentucky, sports

England’s Saka Has Laettner Moment

 It was 1992 with 2.1 seconds on the clock in overtime. The score was 103 – 102. The winner of this college basketball match between bitter rivals Duke and the University of Kentucky would advance to the Final Four in the NCAA Tournament. Duke in-bounded the ball and threw it across the entire court. Christian Laettner miraculously caught it, turned, shot and made it. My beloved UK Wildcats lost. The backstory makes it all so much worse. It’s the only time I cried over a game.

The UK Wildcats is the winningest team in college basketball. We take much pride in that. No one likes to play us at home because of the fans. We are proud and we are loud. Very loud. We’re also very arrogant and hated by many. Which only amuses us. All of that came crashing down in 1989.

Head coach Eddie Sutton was under pressure from fans to put a winning team together. We don’t take losses well. The coaching staff apparently heard violate NCAA rules and send money to a player’s family via Emery Worldwide. An Emery employee picked up the package and $1,000 “fell” out of it. A scandal erupted. Have I mentioned people hate us?

Across the Commonwealth we were livid over the disgrace and humiliation. It crushed our pride. The NCAA mulled over shutting down our entire program. In the end, they suspended us from tournament play for two years and our games wouldn’t be televised. We accepted our fate. Enter Rick Pitino.

Pitino, a former NBA coach, replaced Sutton. Fans were pumped at the notion of bringing in a big gun like Pitino. We were crazy hyped. We took the song Funky Cold Medina and turned it into Funky Coach Pitino and put it on blast. We were coming back with a vengeance.

The 1992 season was our first off probation. We were back on tv and in tournament play. We were tearing it up. Pitino put together a fantastic team and gave us our pride back. This was our year to rise from the ashes like a phoenix. We never wanted a NCAA title more.

Laettner should’ve been tossed from the game long before he made that buzzer beater shot. Laettner’s reputation was that of a dirty player. He didn’t mind. One of our forwards, Aminu Timberlake, tumbled to the floor landing on his back. Laettner saw him and deliberately stomped on Timberlake’s chest. He received a technical but should’ve been ejected from the game. It was a flagrant foul that took him 20 years to own. Laettner was Duke’s star player. Without him we would’ve likely won not just that game but the championship as well. The loss shattered fans. All our hopes and expectations died in 2.1 seconds.

The sting of that game nearly 30 years ago came flooding back as I read the account of England’s loss to Italy in football/soccer. The ache of defeat does not justify verbal abuse. There is no one feeling worse than Bukayo Saka today. It is reprehensible what alleged fans are doing to him and the other two black players, Marcus Rashford and Jadon SanchoEuro. Racism is the epitome of stupid. And attacking people through social media is the path of a coward.

A number of England fans resorted to racism but not all. We must remember the overall collective group did not engage in such repulsive behavior. Never let one bad apple spoil the bunch.

For all the proclamations of making this a better world, nothing shows us failing more than when we don’t get what we want. Too many people run lawless when they don’t get their way. It’s time it stopped. Character is built more in our mistakes, let downs, and heartache than our successes. How we conduct ourselves in the midst of crushing defeat reveals the true measure of man. Let’s all do better.    

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Posted in Celebrities, In The News, Patriotism, Royal Family

A Tea Party for Harry

Just when I think I can’t be surprised by the stupid leaking from Harry and Meghan’s mouths they prove me wrong. But Harry has really stepped in it this time. He took narcissism to a whole new level.

On Dax Shepherd’s podcast, Harry declared the First Amendment to the US Constitution bonkers. But that’s not even the worst part. Before I get to that lets have a mini Constitution class.

The Constitution of the United States sets the foundation for all America is. The Preamble sets the stage. “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

As America evolved the Constitution was amended. There are 33 Amendments to the US Constitution. The first ten Amendments are known as the Bill of Rights. Of all the Amendments the Bill of Rights is the most sacred. The very First Amendment provides freedom of religion, speech, assembly, press, and the ability to petition the government. They are the very heart of America. Enter Harry.

“I’ve got so much I want to say about the First Amendment as I sort of understand it but it’s bonkers. I don’t want to start going down the First Amendment route because that’s a huge subject and one which I don’t understand because I’ve only been here a short time, but you can find a loophole in anything. You can capitalize or exploit what’s not said rather than uphold what is said.”

Those are Harry’s words. The most shocking claim is in bold. This pissant of a prince thinks he can come to our country and exploit a 200-year-old document that is fundamental to the most powerful country in the world?! Or that he is exempt from upholding our inalienable rights? And will do so despite the fact he doesn’t even understand what he’s trying to dismantle. Has he gone mad? Or is his head so far up his rear he can’t see anything except his own crap?

If Meghan wants to keep her celebrity status she better leash and muzzle her dog. There’s only so much bad press that can be seen as good. A rising tide of backlash and the King and Queen of Grifting will find themselves outcast. So, go ahead Harry. You think you’re so much smarter than everyone else. Just try to exploit, twist, or defy our First Amendment rights and you’ll get a good taste of that American backlash that sent tea into the Boston Harbor.

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Posted in Bullying, In The News, Politics

BLM Devolving Into Terrorists

It seemed a good idea. Create a grassroots organization to bring awareness to the plight of black communities. What it seemed and what it is are two very different things.

On April 18, two gunmen ambushed a car in a McDonalds drive-thru. Of the 50 shots fired six hit 7-year-old Jaslyn Adams. One hit her father. Where is BLM for this little girl who just wanted a Happy Meal? Where’s all the outrage? Why are there no demands to say her name?

Two days later, Ma’Khia Bryant was milliseconds from stabbing another black girl. A cop, arriving at the scene saved the other woman’s life by shooting MaKhia. BLM is protesting and wants “justice for Ma’Khia.” Oh, okay. So, the victim’s black life doesn’t matter, little Jaslyn’s black life doesn’t matter but a black knife-weilding attacker’s does? Who makes this determination?

Little Jaslyn’s senseless murder is suspected gang violence. Why is BLM not in those communities helping? Last year alone BLM took in $90 million dollars. Yet, there’s not one report of a single cent going to black communities. Additionally, the self-described Marxist who co-founded BLM bought four luxury homes in the US, for $3.2 million dollars. There is a potential deal in the works to purchase properties in the Bahamas for $25 million. All the while, the communities destroyed by BLM protests go without.

What is BLM doing while they sit atop a fortune? A group of BLM protestors went into a Target with a megaphone demanding they stop arresting black people for shoplifting. They go to restaurants and run people out, take their food, challenge them to fight, and anything else they can think of to harass. They murdered a black security guard. They burned black-owned businesses. An older black lady cried on tv because BLM violence halted public transportation effectively cutting off her access to food, doctors, and pharmacies. They vandalize public property, riot, and attack innocent bystanders. They demand no police in areas of highest crime.

BLM is taking in money hand over fist and using it to fund their demands and desires. They threaten that if they don’t get what they want they will take to the streets in violent protest. That is not a charity organization. That is terrorism. And you need to ask yourself why you are supporting it.

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Posted in Celebrities, Just for fun

Was Ross and Rachel on a Break?

It’s been 25 years since, in today’s language, Ross and Rachel unfriended each other. In 1996 Friends roared into it’s third season. Season two left off with Ross supporting Rachel at Barry and Mindy’s wedding. It was such a sweet moment, which left us unprepared for what was coming. We were mourning the relationship death of Monica and Richard. Little did we know.

Season 3 finds Ross in the throes of unwarranted jealousy. Since Rachel refused to wear her I heart Ross T-shirt and ring a bell to work tensions rose. Granted Rachel probably could have made more time for Ross but nearly burning down her office put a damper on things. The argument that ensued led to Rachel’s infamous line. “Maybe we should take a break.” Ross mistakenly interrupts that as a break from the fight. Rachel delivers an equally infamous line of, “No. A break from us.”

Mark visits Rachel to cheer her up. Ross calls Rachel. When he hears Mark in the background it reminds he has copying needs -apparantly. After getting Zeroxed Ross runs down the trail of his misdeed in vain. Rachel knows.

Through gut wrenching scenes the end comes. When Rachel tells Ross to leave we got the line more painful and infamous than the others. Ross in disbelief and agony declares it can’t be the end. And Rachel says, “Then how come it is?” Ugh! Talk about a shot to the heart.

So. Where they on a break? Is it justifiable to sleep with someone else minutes after a break-up? Who’s right and who’s wrong? Leave your responses in the comments and lets put this thing to bed.

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Posted in Autism Spectrum Disorder, funny, parenting, Special Needs Kids, The DJ Journey

Should “Hateful Ass” Be In The Bible?

This is my son Colton. He is on the autism spectrum and has an Olympic worthy ability to find humor in the oddest things. Once he latches on to something funny he will randomly laugh aloud each time it plays in his head. Which is often. For days. Weeks. Months. I’ve seen it go on for years.

This is my son DJ. He has mitochondrial disease and is nonverbal. That should not be confused with quiet. He is the loudest nonverbal kid on the planet. He points, jabbers, yells in a language only he understands and has zero problem expressing his emotions. He has a very short fuse. The difference between emotional outbursts due to his disability and those from pure anger or frustration, is like the difference between a cloud covered night and one lit with the Batman signal.

This is them with their brother Dalton, dressed as a very bad Elvis. Too much to unpack there. Forward focus.

DJ’s emotional development is in the slow powder keg burning teen years. He wants what he wants and he wants it last week. He finds us imbeciles for our inability to predict his moods far in advance.

Steve and I parent as a unit. If he’s handling a problem I stay out of it. But as a Oh-no-you-did-not parent, If I must get involved, it’s on like Donkey Kong! Such was the case today.

DJ found a replay of Saturday’s Kentucky – Louisville basketball game. I’m one of those die hard, arrogant, UK fans that makes other teams dread playing us at Rupp Arena and their fans hate us. Big Blue Nation, I bleed blue and all that.

DJ, however, takes it to a whole new level. In particularly bad games, he stands in the middle of the floor screaming like a wild banshee and flinging anything he can get his hands on. Which gives anyone trying to make entry into his room a crash course in what it must feel like to stroll through a minefield.

This year our basketball program sucks because of this man.

Who should really read that book he wrote.

Somewhere between then and now, he added an option. Losing. Embarrassingly. We haven’t had a 1-6 season since 1911! NINETEEN ELEVEN!!! For the math strugglers, that’s a friggin’ 109 years! For DJ it’s motive.

I didn’t tell him about the game but he found it on ESPN. The boy just lost it. First came the screams. Then the hand biting. Next thing I knew, sounds of tornadic activity emanated from his room.

I go tearing up the stairs to yell at him for yelling. Because that’s how you do it, right? You just out yell them? Never mind. Don’t answer that. Back to the story.

Colton, entered the scene. I tried explaining to DJ. He got angrier. I confirmed his little emotions but warned him justification of emotions is not justifications of actions. DJ calmed a bit but continued mouthing off. Which prompted me to tell him not to be a hateful ass. Which prompted Colton’s asperger brain to commence laughter.

DJ and I look at Colton questioningly. Between laughter Colton says, “I’ve heard mean ass but not hateful ass. That sounds like something that should be in the Bible. ‘I smite thee for thy hateful ass!” DJ enthusiastically repeated in rapid succession one of three words he commands. Yeah!

I looked at them both, concluded I should start day drinking and left them to it.

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Posted in Books, Education, Reviews, Sensory Processing Disorder, Special Needs Kids, Special Needs Students

Colour Me British Review

I have the cure for lockdown low, pandemic pressure, Covid chaos or whatever other ails 2020 inflicted upon you.  Coloring.  Yep, you heard me.  Coloring.  Sharpen those colored pencils and color yourself happy.

Colour Me British not only provides all the benefits of coloring, but educates as well.  Kylie Emma Robertson’s beautiful original hand-drawn artwork fills Colour Me British.  From food to iconic landmarks you’ll find it all in Colour Me British.  It’s a great way to keep kids entertained and learning. Those with special needs or mental health issues receive double the benefits.

Coloring impacts the part of the brain responsible for emotions.  Coloring eases fear, calms anxiety, and releases tension.  It also improves focus, sleep, and hand eye coordination.

 

The book is a great therapeutic tool for speech and occupational therapists.  Patients practice expressive language and communication skills when they color the teapot and verbalize their idea of tea with the Queen.  Pages featuring food are useful in helping patients learning to chew.  They can color the foods before sampling them.

Occupational therapists can use the book to improve fine motor skills and visual tracking.  Pages filled with multiple images are perfect for teaching the valuable skill of learning and creating patterns.  To increase sensory perception color while on a therapy ball, platform swing, or in an upside down position. 

Whether you’re a therapist seeking a unique avenue to reach patients or a parent looking to stuff a stocking, Colour Me British is a great buy.  It’s the perfect gift for kids of all abilities and adults seeking to unwind in this crazy lockdown world.  You may not be able to have peace on earth, but coloring in Colour Me British can give you inner peace.

Use the link below to purchase your copy of Colour Me British and get started coloring yourself happy.

  

https://www.amazon.com/Colour-Me-British-colouring-book/dp/1532968183/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Colour+me+british&qid=1608240136&s=books&sr=1-1

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Posted in Beauty For Ashes, Faith, In The News

We All Have Our 9/11: This Is Mine

I sat at the kitchen table discussing with my husband, Steve, our busy day. It was Tuesday, September 11, 2001. I asked Steve what time his meeting started. He said, nine. I turned to look at the clock behind me. It was 8:45. American Airlines flight 11 was thundering toward New York City. We were 60 seconds away from unimaginable turmoil and devastation.  

My son, DJ, was an infant. He started fussing. Intending to calm him with a video, I flipped the TV on. The image of the North Tower on fire filled the screen. First reports indicated a small commuter plane accidently crashed into the tower.  It made little sense, but how else could we explain it?  This is America.  Terror doesn’t come to our soil. Everything we thought we knew was wrong.  And what we could never imagine was bearing down on us.   

As a former EMT, my brain assessed the scene on TV, while I stood flipping through options of to save the most lives. I saw a plane on the right side of the TV screen.  I actually gave a sigh of relief.  A rescue.  They could get people off the roof.  Then it happened.

United Airlines Flight 175 plowed into the South Tower. An enormous fireball erupted.  That plane hit the building. That plane just flew into that building.  On purpose!  I couldn’t form any other thought. I don’t know how long I stood there. When the process of thought returned, I realized DJ stopped fussing the minute the TV came on.  As if his only reason for fussing was to alert me to the attack.

I left the room briefly.  When I returned, I saw a split TV screen, on one side the towers burned, on the other the Pentagon.  I gasped.  What is happening?  I felt God impress upon my heart to pray. Despondency cascaded over me.  God, I don’t even know what to pray for. I felt God’s   response. “Pray for my people I’m bringing out.” I dropped to my knees.  I intended to pray aloud.  I choked on words and just wept.

When Steve returned from his meeting, I went to our older sons’s school. Steve and I decided taking them out of school may scare them too much. The only target for terrorists in Kentucky is Fort Knox. We’re far from there.  But I wanted to be the one to explain the attack to them.  I wanted to reassure them.  Pray with them.

In the school office, the secretary called for the boys.  I did my best to explain things to them.  We prayed and when I raised my head, I realized prayer re-entered public school.  A small group of people gathered around us and bowed their heads, joining us in prayer.

Back at home, details of United Flight 93 came in.  Those passengers took back their liberty.  They voted on a plan to storm the cockpit.  Even in the face of certain death, they upheld democracy. Americans to the end.

The reaming hours of 9/11 unfolded with shock, horror, and heroism.  It was the worst day for America, but never was she more beautiful. Flags unfurled across the country. Our government sang “God Bless America” on the steps of Capitol. People flocked to churches, gave blood, and made plans to enlist in the military.  I’ve never been more proud to be American as I was on 9/11.  From the ashes we rose as one.  May God forever bless the U.S.A.  

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Posted in Tuesday Tales

Funny Conversation With Asperger Kid.

Several years ago, my son Colton wanted to walk alone from his grandparents house to the annual Pioneer Festival. I was a bit nervous about it. I knew it hurt him to see his brothers have independence he dreamed about. I agreed. I called him to check on him and the following conversation took place.

Me: Have you found the alley to cut through?

Colton: No. But some people I’m walking with are going to show me.

Me: Colton, you’re not walking with people you don’t know are you?

Colton: Uhh. No.

Me: What are their names?

Colton: Excuse me, people I’m walking with. What are your names?

Me: OH MY GOSH! Colton, you’re walking with strangers!

Colton: No, I’m not. They said they know my grandparents.

Me: That’s like rule 1 in the child abductor’s handbook, tell the kid you know their grandparents.

Colton: Well, I’m not walking RIGHT beside them. There’s a little space.

Me: (After figuring out they did know his grandparents) Now, Colt. You’re not going to the festival and walk with people you don’t know are you?

Colton: Mom, I’m 20. I got this.

Me:(Thinking of all the things he couldn’t do & how much he wants this bit of independence) Okay. But call me to check in, in an hour? What time is it now?

Colton: Excuse me, people I’m walking with, what time is it?

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Posted in Tuesday Tales

How NOT to Make a Bird Cat Friendship

When I was a little girl, my sister Brenda took care of me in the summer while our parents worked.  We got in trouble – A LOT!  If we weren’t fighting each other; we were scheming together.  But I tended to drive her a little batty sometimes.  One such instant played out with our pets.

Brenda had a parrot named BB, and I had a cat named Tiger Wayne.  Yes, I picked that name myself.  Cause no one should be without a middle name, right?  That thought process tells you a lot about my shenanigans.

To say the cat wasn’t fond of the bird is a gross understatement.  You know the scene in the movie Madagascar when Alex the Lion looks at Marty the zebra with steaks in his eyes?  That was Tiger Wayne to BB.  Well, of course I knew how to fix it.  Don’t I always have the answer?  

I snatched up Tiger Wayne and put him in the bathroom.  Then I retrieved BB from his cage and had him join Tiger Wayne in the bathroom.  I admonished them to be friends, then locked the door, shut it and stepped into the hall.  Immediate chaos.

With partially clipped wings BB lacked the ability to fly to higher safety.  He could airborne for a second then crash to the ground.  He was squawking and banging into the walls as Tiger Wayne pursued him with screeching of his own.  Realizing I’m a stupid little kid complicit in pet homicide, I started screaming.  Brenda, who up to this point was enjoying her day lounging in the sun, came racing in.

“What’s wrong?!”  Her voice full of fear she scanned me.  Judging by my level of screaming, she was certain she’d find my arm cut off or something equally terrifying.

“Tiger Wayne is going to eat BB.”

That’s the precise moment the noise from the bathroom penetrated her fear of me being hurt.    She rattled the doorknob in panic.  “The door won’t open.”

“I locked it.”

If her bird’s life wasn’t in danger, I swear she would have throttled me right there.  Instead, she wrapped up all my stupidity into a single sentence dripping with disbelief.  “Why would you do that?”     

Just when she thought I couldn’t shock her more, I answered through quaking sobs and large gulps of air,.  “I wanted them to be friends.”

“You locked them in the bathroom to be friends?”

I nodded.  She practically growled.  A solution arriving in my sister’s brain spared my life. She tore off into the other room and returned with a hammer.  Before I asked her intent she began whaling away on the wooden door.  Once she made a hole, she reached through and unlocked the door.  Because BB was still intact Brenda allowed me to remain that way.  Not to mention, beating a hole in a door went a long way in relieving her fear and anger.  

With Tiger Wayne and BB safely separated, Brenda determined we were in big trouble with Mom.  So, what do we do?  Lie of course.  I wasn’t in full agreement.  However, I thought locking our pets in the bathroom together would make them friends.  So, maybe I’d go with Brenda on this one. 

Brenda told Mom I got locked in the bathroom and couldn’t get out.  Ronnie, a neighbor up the street, came down and knocked the hole in the door to save me.  It offended me Mom bought the story.  How dumb did she think I was?  Sure, locking a barely able to fly parrot in the bathroom with his greatest predator wasn’t my best idea, but good grief!  I could work a doorknob!   

Everything was fine until Mom thanked Ronnie for saving me from a door I mastered.  Ronnie was clueless.  Brenda, operating on same genius level as I, didn’t consider the possibility of Mom mentioning it to Ronnie.  Even though Ronnie lived only three houses away.  And she and Mom talked.  Every day.     

Mom picked our story apart.  Brenda and I may not have been the brightest crayons in the box, but we knew when Mom was baiting us.  We confessed. 

Mom believed in creative punishment.  She made us paint the side of the house.  And that’s where Mom’s crayon lost a bit of brightness.  A hot summer day, frustrated sisters, and house paint?  Mom was asking for it.  That’s a tale for another Tuesday.

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Posted in funny, parenting, Tuesday Tales

Failed Hit On A Guinea Pig

As an adult, my son Dalton and I swapped stories we’d kept from each other. When Dalton was about seven, he wanted a guinea pig. At the pet store, his older brother, Colton decided he wanted one. Dalton named his Lilly, and Colton named his Diamond. As a child I raised hamsters and wrongly assumed guinea pigs were the same, just a bigger model. So, I skipped researching them. Bad move.

While we were on vacation, my mom took care of them at her house. By the time we returned, she was as attached to them as the boys. A few days later Dalton announced one morning that something was wrong with Lilly. I sent Dalton to school and took Lilly to the vet where I got the grim prognosis.

Guinea pigs have very sensitive airways and tend to hide when they’re sick. By the time you realize your pig is sick it’s usually too late. Their respiratory system can’t tolerate smoke. My heart sank. My Mom smoked like a freight train. Lilly didn’t have a chance.

Dalton was crushed. The first thing my Mom said was, “Do you think I did something to it?” I could hear the anguish in her voice. I didn’t see the need to worsen the situation with the truth, so I lied.

Dalton wrapped Lilly in a towel and walked around holding and talking to her, begging her not to die. It was awful. He lashed out at Colton, saying it wasn’t fair. Colton only got Diamond because he wanted Lilly, so it should be Diamond dying. Now, Colton cried. When DJ, my youngest son, saw all the tears he joined in. It broke my heart seeing Dalton so upset and I couldn’t do anything. Or could I?

The most humane thing for everyone was ending the suffering. Alone with Lilly, I wrapped the towel around her head to suffocate her. But the second she squirmed, I let her go. I took a deep breath and reminded myself the purpose was to end Lilly and Dalton’s suffering. I tried again. Nope! She wiggled I let go. By the third attempt I accepted the fact I couldn’t do it.

Now I was crying. When my husband appears I told him I was a horrible mother because I couldn’t kill a rodent to end my son’s pain. He looks at me like I just dropped out of a UFO and said, “There has got to be a better way.”  He says that to me a lot.

Dejected and feeling like the worst mother in the world, I went to comfort Dalton as best I could. Sometime during the night Lilly died, and we buried her the next morning. A few days later, Diamond got sick, and we started the entire process over. Well, not the entire process. I didn’t bother trying to take Diamond out. And my Mom died years later, never knowing the truth.

“Mom!” Dalton yells. “You tried to kill my guinea pig?”

“Yes, for you honey.”

“Mom!”

“You were so upset I wanted to help you.”

Days after we had that conversation Dalton called me “Mom, I’m calling to tell you that I’ve told several of my friends about Lilly and we all think you’re crazy.”

“It’s not like I was trying to kill you. And what about the part where I couldn’t do it.”

“That’s the part where you’re a good mother.”

“You’re the one that wanted to share stories.”

“Yeah. Share not scare!”

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Posted in funny, Tuesday Tales

When Email Goes Awry

I think it’s important to always keep a sense of humor. Laughter decreases stress hormones and releases endorphins which make us feel good.  I’m starting a new blog group titled Tuesday Tales. I’ll share some of my crazy antics, past and present. If you have a funny story you want me to share email me at jmariegvs@gmail.com. If your story needs names changed to protect the guilty I can do that. Since my tales tend to be quite colorful I’ll break ya’ll in easy.

My father-in-law and I tend to get into mischief.  We don’t do anything really bad but we think we’re hilarious and that’s usually where the trouble begins.

Years ago when Steve and I first got married we lived in Nicholasville and didn’t see my in-laws as frequently as we do now.  Steve set up email accounts for his Dad and me and we emailed on a regular basis.

Anyone who knows me knows I am anything but tech-savvy.  At work, the IT department spent the vast majority of their time at my desk muttering things like, “how did you get it to do that?” They called for backup. Sometimes the backup called for backup. Other times they made me leave.  But how hard is emailing, right?

My father-in-law and I emailed each other jokes we found online.  I don’t recall what joke I sent to set this in motion.  But I got a response along the lines of, “why are you sending me this?”  I thought it was odd it needed explaining but he’s all old and stuff.  So, there’s that.

The next day I got a follow-up email on my explanation reading, “Who are you?”  Oh, I get it now. He’s playing a little game of pretending he doesn’t know who I am. I’ll play along.  Meanwhile, on a daily basis, I said to Steve, “You’re Dad is so funny.”  But I never fully explained the statement.  He didn’t question me because as I said, his Dad and I are always up to something.

Around day four of the back and forth I received an email stating, “Who are you and why do you think I’m interested in this?” I respond with, “It’s your favorite daughter-in-law.”

He responds, “I don’t have a daughter-in-law.” Now, normal thinking humans would pause and consider the situation.  However, I’ve never claimed normalcy. And that’s why the conversation unraveled.

“I don’t have a daughter-in-law.”

“Well, you better call the police because I’ve been sleeping with your son for the last six months.”

“Lady, my son is six years old and you better stop emailing me.”

No need to tell me the last part.  I not only wouldn’t email him again but contemplated tossing the computer out the window.  Not understanding technology I imagined the man sending police to my house, me registering as a sex offender, and my “most wanted” picture at the post office when I refused.

“I’ve done something bad.”  My exact words when Steve walked in.  When he finished laughing he assured me I wasn’t going to jail for cyber molestation and showed me the single different letter between my father-in-law’s email and the random stranger.

The moral of the story? Make certain you’re inappropriate jokes go to the person as crazy as you are.

 

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Posted in In The News

The Blood is Yours Harry

The all-knowing Harry got himself punked. Too obtuse to see the plethora of red flags, he turned into a Chatty Cathy. He revealed himself as a disturbed, arrogant child. His rudimentary knowledge of coal set me off.

I live in Kentucky. Unlike egotistical nonsensical Harry, I know about coal. Coal is to Eastern Kentucky what actors are to Hollywood. We have the most mines in the country. Closing coal mines means literally wiping out entire communities. Those who don’t starve to death or commit suicide will turn to government assistance. Not only are we the fifth largest coal producer, but we are also the fifth poorest state.

Thanks to politicians robbing Peter to pay Paul, Kentucky is in financial crisis. Much needed support and programs are being cut. My son DJ is special needs. Kentucky doesn’t have the funds to help parents of special needs kids remain in the workforce like other states. Therefore, I left my lucrative job to care for DJ. The lost income forced my husband to work three jobs. Our four other sons were under age 11.

DJ spent more time in the hospital than out and I got cancer. The loss of my job meant losing excellent healthcare coverage that would have paid 100% of all medical bills DJ and I needed. I felt certain if the cancer didn’t kill me, the stress would. It took almost 20 years to crawl out of those black days.

Harry wants to take my personal tragedy, amplify it by ten and inflict it on over 700,000 Kentuckians all in the name of climate change. While Kentuckians lose everything, Harry will be private jetting around the globe on Daddy’s dime and British taxpayer money giving million-dollar speeches to fracking supporting companies.

Pikeville proves Kentucky can escape the coal mines. Once known as a coal town, Pikeville now thrives in the medical field. How? A wealthy man put his money where his mouth is and rallied support from others. He turned around a struggling hospital and built a medical college. Knowing the key to success is investing in people, hospital employees enjoy free healthcare and great pay. That is the epitome of being committed to your cause.

You going to do that Hollywood Harry? Are you so committed to an anti-coal world you’ll sacrifice your mansion, private jets, overpriced clothes, celebrity hob-knobbing, and million-dollar speeches? I didn’t think so.

So, in the words of your little BFF Greta Thunberg, “How dare you!” How dare you think you know all the answers. How dare you contribute nothing but take everything. How dare you devalue people. How dare you present as climate control pious while raking from fracking supporting companies. Most of all, how dare you attack my state, my people, when you have never stepped one designer shoe here.

You sit on your holier than thou throne in your privileged life, calling for the destruction of thousands of lives. That Nazi costume you wore wasn’t a costume at all. It was an expression of a warped sense of self. You have the audacity to attack our president for preserving lives, yet you’re too spineless to walk the coal mines as you did the landmines. The only one with bloody hands is you, Pontius Pilate.

 

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Posted in Faith, Healthcare, parenting, The DJ Journey

20 Years of Loving DJ

A doctor, we’ll call Dr. S, said awful things about DJ. Things no one should ever say about a child let alone a patient. She felt compelled to perversely tell me how inadequate my baby was. She ended with words I never let permeate my heart. “He’s a blob. He’ll always be a blob. That’s all he’ll ever be.” Dr. S lives today because my husband physically restrained me long enough for her to scuttle from the hospital room never to be seen again.

Each candle added to DJ’s birthday cake serves as a tangible reminder of an invisible faith manifested through the most unlikely of people and circumstances. So, on his 20th birthday, I want to bring Dr. S up to speed on her dire predictions. And remind her that while she looked into this little face and saw doom and hopelessness I saw potential, love, and hope incarnate.  382819_2066102232110_512707139_n

DJ demands personal growth. You can’t be too cowardly to look boldly within. You must forget what you want, expect, and plan. Me holding onto expectations and comparing us to others propelled us nowhere. So, when public school and DJ weren’t a love match I became what I never wanted to be – a teacher! No offense to teachers. I just never fancied being one. As a little girl, I was the only one on our street who preferred being the student when we played school.

It took us a couple of years to find our groove but DJ thrived in homeschool. Shock to me, but I enjoyed teaching him. The fuel to higher learning is individualization. Crafting lessons to his needs, incorporating sensory-rich field trips, and teaching by a grasp of subject matter rather than a perceived grade level, proved to be the ladder to his higher learning window.

 

With education came books. Books taught me as much about DJ as they did him about the world. Through books, DJ told me how he loved Kentucky history and opened a path for me into his nonverbal world.

 

DJ views history as a learning tool. Dr. S viewed history, at least medical history, as an inescapable future. Dr. S’s encapsulating DJ into a sports-less world only made us determined to try it all. It should be mentioned that Dr. S did not include sack racing in her list of sports DJ couldn’t do. DJ and his Daddy just threw that in as a show-off manner for Aunt Neen and Maggie.

 

He also learned to swim, ride a bike, and even find his way around a kitchen.

 

It didn’t take long to figure out that the best things for DJ, cost us the most. Giving DJ basic life experiences we all take for granted, means expending physical stamina, mental stress, and emotional shifting. Yet, it’s menial compared to love. The more experiences DJ has the more he learns. The more he learns the more he grows. The more he grows the more he overcomes. And the more he overcomes the more hope he infuses into our crazy world. So, we do the things Dr. S said couldn’t be done;  eating out, camping, peaceful public outings, air travel, and even a journey across the Purple People Bridge.

 

It all matters; dressing up and turning his wagon into part of his Halloween costume, riding a scooter board, carving a pumpkin, reaching higher for the elusive Easter egg, training a service dog for him, building therapy tools like a platform swing for him to chill on, it’s all relative. Nothing is too much. Dr. S’s medical knowledge may have been correct. She didn’t factor in how life-altering unadulterated love is.

 

Of all Dr. S’s wrongs, her greatest was predicting I’d never hear I love you from DJ. Granted, I’ve never heard it verbally. But what I’ve learned is that the deepest of love isn’t said, it’s shown. And no one shows his love better than the little boy who supposedly never could.

 

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Posted in Letters, Royal Family, Uncategorized

A Letter To Meghan

Dear Meghan Markle, I heard you’re just existing not thriving. I get it. It’s like my life with my youngest son DJ. IMG_0196

DJ is special needs and can’t speak. And you? Well, no one can get you to stop speaking.

You love yoga workouts. DJ requires speech, occupational, and physical therapy every week. That’s in addition to working with him daily.img_0942

Like you DJ has a chef at his beck and call – me. He can’t chew so every meal must be pureed. Doctors said surgically inserting a feeding tube would make my life easier. But it’s not about me. It’s about DJ and providing him every opportunity to grow and learn new skills. I mean what sort of mother neglects her child to promote herself?

 You have a multitude of people to bring you any meal you’re hankering for. If someone didn’t cook, blend, and feed DJ he would die. He has zero ability to survive on his own.

You love buying ridiculously priced clothes. A few years ago, we pushed DJ through the mall in a wheelchair so he could point at clothes he liked. Everything he picked came off the clearance rack. He may be special needs but he’s smart enough to know how to get the most bang for his buck. img_0930-1

Sky-high heels are to you what orthotic braces are to DJ – a necessity.

Cute little Archie will need diaper changing for about three years. I’ve been changing DJ’s for nearly 20 years.  I gold medaled in diaper changing. img_0944-1

 Working the logistics of private jetting around the world with a baby is exhausting. It’s like me in a public restroom trying to determine the cleanest part of the floor to change DJ on because he’s too big for baby changing tables.

 And nannies! Wow! It is so hard to get good help these days. We rely on DJ’s brothers and my eighty-year-old in-laws to give us a periodic break.

Those posh resorts really take a toll. DJ has literally been in the hospital about 100 times. We keep praying for a financial windfall so we can fulfill his dream of a Disney Cruise.

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IMG_0941DJ is fully dependent upon me for basic hygiene. You know what that’s like. You depend on your hair, make-up and wardrobe entourage.

I can relate to you dragging Harry around. DJ’s legs don’t fully straighten, so he needs assistance ambulating. He can’t run and jump and can only walk short distances.

 

img_0933Frustrated you couldn’t speak up for yourself you employed your friends to do it.  DJ’s friend is a speech device he carries around his neck. It only speaks what we program. He has no way to express original thoughts. He desperately wants to express himself. He gestures and babbles and I try to decipher what he’s saying. I call it DJ charades.

This has been my day every day for 19 years. You’ve been a Royal for nearly three. And you know what? DJ and I are thriving!

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You chose your life. But life chose us. So, don’t you come at us with your nonsense. You’ve not the first inkling about hard living!

You want to thrive? You want positive press? Then stop acting like a spoiled brat!! It’s your JOB to honor Royal traditions and serve the British people. No one asks if you’re okay because anyone who thinks they’re entitled to take money for a job they refuse to do is clearly not okay. You will never be okay as long as you remain willfully obtuse. It’s time you ask yourself the question DJ answers every single day. Are you pitiful or powerful? Because you can’t be both.

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Posted in Autism Spectrum Disorder, Just for fun, Letters, My Life My Way, parenting, Sensory Processing Disorder, Special Needs Kids

Military Wants My Special Needs Son

Dear Selective Service Person;

I received your letter requiring my son DJ register for Selective Service. As a deep patriot, I must inform you – you don’t want that boy!  As great as America’s military is, they are not prepared for my little weapon of mass destruction. DJ has many strengths, but he’s a little quirky.  Do you really want an enlistee who even Santa gives the side-eye? IMG_0038

There are things he could do such as train bomb-sniffing dogs.  Got some out-of-control dragons?  He’s your man!  But not horses!  He prefers riding them backward and wonders why it doesn’t work out.  Not to mention, the helmet messes up his hair.

 

His flair for disguises is a definite asset.  Hugh Hefner and Phil Robertson never looked better.

 

As evident in his massive medical file, he holds up well under torture.

 

Waterboarding ain’t nothing but a thang.

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He has a problem with loud noises, though.  They scare him and hurt his ears.  So, unless you want him standing in the middle of the battlefield covering his ears some adaptations are needed.  Put a silencer on guns, artillery shells, tanks, grenades, pretty much everything you have; including drill sergeants.  I hear they get a bit out of hand.

 

Considering how much trouble DJ gets into at home, putting him in uniform in another country increases the chances of an international incident.  He has a knack for getting into questionable if not downright compromising situations.  Gambling, document shredding, and literally caught with his pants down are only a few of his transgressions.

 

DJ aspires to be the world’s greatest social media influencer.  Therefore, he requests his uniform have more of the NASCAR I’m promoting something vibe rather than the camo I’ve come to kill you feel.  He thinks it works better for his brand.  He suggests his uniform have patches for Culvers, UK basketball, Pizza Hut, UK basketball, Coke, UK basketball, Bath & Body Works, UK basketball, Ricky T’s Bar & Grille … well, you see where this is going.

 

Though DJ is a true warrior at heart and a Superhero even The Avengers envy, I must exert my guardianship authority over him and reject your offer of war.  Alas, the world is just not ready for my DJ.  (sigh)  But don’t despair, his brother Dalton is all signed up and ready to go.  Good luck with that!

 

 

 

Sorry not that sorry,

Joan Graves

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Posted in Autism Spectrum Disorder, Faith, parenting, Winchester Sun Columns

Disciplined with a Shake in His Stride

Many employers suffer a grave loss of which they are unaware. They shy away from hiring prospective employees because they are on the autism spectrum. The mere words autism spectrum conjures images of inept social skills, stark refusal to follow instructions, bursts of fury, refusal to take correction or responsibility and more. Amid, such a tsunami of negativity it is no wonder they drown out the positives. Yet, even as toddlers, there is a lot we can do to help our kids secure a job. We need to learn to recognize and respond to the potential.

Prior to Annie Sullivan’s arrival, Helen Keller had no discipline. She prowled her family home, doing as she pleased and responded to attempts of refusal with violent outbursts. Her parents labored under the misconception that allowing Helen’s atrocious behavior expressed love. Lucky for Helen a fiercely determined, courageous, half-blind teacher understood the roots of love begin in discipline. And discipline blooms from the small things.

IMG-2425I was nervous about my son Colton’s first involvement with STRIDE (Supporting Therapeutic Recreation for Individuals with Disabilities every day. I knew it was a fantastic program, but it forced me out of my comfort zone. It challenged me to face my fears even as I sought to still Colton’s. I had to swallow my pride, accept I wasn’t the only one able to care for my son and get myself out of his way. He was evolving. Pandering to my fears placed me between the kid he was and the man he’d someday be

This week, Colton started his first job. It’s a goal he’s pursued for several years. He has worked for family, friends, and neighbors but has been unsuccessful in the traditional job market. Until now.

Like most on the spectrum, Colton excels at repetitive tasks. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t advise the fast-paced and often stressful environment of restaurant work. However, food prep at Steak and Shake is ideal. Colton’s job is to remain in one station and chop, weigh, bag and otherwise prepare food for use the next day. He is able to work at his pace, somewhat segregated from other employees, spared from the hustle and bustle of peak hours, does the same thing daily and works off a list. An Asperger kid’s dream!

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STRIDE members encouraging Colton at work

One of the greatest hindrances to kids on the spectrum is fear of the unknown. Doing things for the first time is scary for most but debilitating for some on the spectrum. Colton didn’t have that hurdle. He had an idea of what to expect because STRIDE taught him the basics of food preparation years ago. When we faced our fears and trudged the painful path of discipline and self-discovery in STRIDE, we had no inkling of what it would bring. The dividends of that years old investment are evident today. Colton loves his job at Steak and Shake. His self-esteem has grown exponentially because his coworkers lavish him with praise, kindness, and encouragement.

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Colton explaining his job & encouraging his friends.

Times have changed a lot since the days of Helen Keller. But a child’s need for discipline has not. The world’s expectations of our kids tend to be low. It’s our responsibility to be the Annie Sullivan our kids deserve. We must love them through our pain so they may be a valuable productive member of the workforce and the community at large.

 

Visit http://www.winchestersun.com for more of Joan’s columns

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Posted in My Life My Way, parenting, Special Needs Kids, The DJ Diariers

WARNING: If You Go Grocery Shopping You Might Get Spanked

DJ decided one day he didn’t want to go grocery shopping.  He wanted his parents to continue drive him around aimlessly like some sort of unpaid chauffeur.  Because I had the audacity to disobey his wishes he threw a temper tantrum deserving of an Oscar.  For a nonverbal child he can be extremely loud, demanding, temperamental, and extremely stubborn.

Because DJ has significant disabilities he believes he is entitled to the Helen Keller mentality.  I’m inclined to agree.  We just disagree on what period of Helen’s life he should emulate.  He prefers the pre-Annie Sullivan days when little Helen was allowed to roam free taking from anyone what she desired and steam-rolling over anyone who dared get in her way.  I, however, am more inclined to the older Helen who is wise and prosperous as a direct result of  Ms. Sullivan’s discipline.  Therein lies problem one.

Problem two is that although DJ doesn’t speak he certainly comprehends.  Well over 90% of the time DJ is crystal clear on what is being asked or expected of him.  He is also well acquainted with appropriate behavior.  Anyone who spends time with him becomes aware of this fairly quickly.  But to strangers his intelligence and comprehension is masked behind his obvious disabilities. And that is problem three.

There are times when all three of these problems culminate into the perfect emotional storm. Such was the case on a trip to Whole Foods Market.  My husband, Steve, dropped DJ and me at the door.  That sent DJ immediately into def con 5 tantrum.  DJ likes to ride in the car and doesn’t tolerate well any interruption of what he desires to do.  In his little mind this public place was the perfect spot to stage an uprising.  He was certain that with enough vocals and emotion he would have everyone eating out of the poor little disabled boy’s hand.  But in my mind, I’m thinking being special needs doesn’t give him a license to be special bad.

To his credit, DJ spotted his audience much quicker than I.  An unsuspecting middle-aged woman just getting her shopping cart was about to be thrust into DJ’s world.  Looking back I almost feel sorry for her – almost.  DJ began screaming in his dialect that no one understands and stomping his foot in pure unmitigated anger.  Just as the lady passed us DJ’s hand snakes out and snatches her shopping cart.  With all his might he hangs on to her shopping cart and screams as if he is about to be murdered.

He didn’t just startle the poor woman he scared the crap out of her!  Her terrified eyes flew to mine.  I was immediately struck with the notion that I could probably ask this woman to give me every dime in her bank account and she would happily oblige if I would just pry my kid off her.  That thought didn’t have long to settle because it was edged out by a parenting philosophy I adopted with my first child.  Where you show it is where you get it.

I’m not easily embarrassed but that didn’t stop my boys from trying to get away with things in public, hoping against hope I’d give into them if others were watching. I give my boys room to fly and my discipline leans toward talking it out, finding out where they went wrong and finding a solution for the future.  However, staging a public coup was never a wise choice.  If they were brazen enough to try such tactics, I was brazen enough to spank their butts for all the world to see.  For each child it took no more than twice for them to quickly figure out a public spectacle was not in their best interest.  I was NEVER the mother in a store with a screaming, crying child that drew everyone’s eye.

That day in Whole Foods Market was DJ’s first encounter with the “where you show it is where you get it” mentality.  Because he is special needs he was given far more leniency than his able-bodied brothers.  In a calm voice I explained to him in no uncertain terms what was going to happen if he didn’t get control of his little volatile emotions.  However, during that discussion the lady now caught in DJ’s cross hairs was out of earshot.  She was about to respond to a situation she only thought she saw all of.

The stage was set for drama and us being us we delivered.  Without hesitating, I swatted DJ on the butt just before untangling his hand from her cart.  Now, for all that would like to crucify me for daring to spank my child a few things you should know.  First, I subscribe to the spare the rod spoil the child mentality.  Second, he was wearing a thick diaper that made more sound than inflict pain.  And third, I don’t really care what you think because you don’t have to live with him.

The poor unsuspecting lady in Whole Foods was about to get her first lesson in Joan Zone parenting.  When I gave DJ his single swat on the behind she swelled up with indignation,   looked down her very pointed nose at me and said, “I can’t believe you spanked him!”

Now, granted I could have taken the time to explain DJ’s medical history, but it wasn’t like I was beating the child.  He didn’t even cry.  In fact, DJ’s only response to his spanking was to stop screaming.  I never punish DJ for things he truly can’t comprehend.  But I know the difference in what is his disabilities and what is him simply acting out.  Rather than explain myself I took the frame of mind of, “You have no inclination as to what it takes to raise this child so step off!”  I didn’t say that.  Instead, I looked at this woman standing there judging me, pointed a very determined finger at her and said, “I’ll spank you too.”

The woman gave me an indignant “hummpf.”  She stalked off holding her nose so high in the air she would have drowned had it been raining.  Poor Steve who had been parking the car during this fiasco came in just in time to hear my response.  “Did you just threaten to spank that woman?”  He asked incredulously.  I merely shrugged, completely confused that after all these years of marriage he still has to ask such questions.

I’d love to give you the details of his very wise and logical speech about handling the situation differently but quite frankly, I wasn’t listening.  I positively adore my husband he is the most loving, intelligent person I know.  At the risk of sounding arrogant, no one knows DJ like I do.  DJ is my blessing, son, student, full-time job, patient, client and sometimes nemesis.  Steve is the most fantastic dad I’ve ever encountered.  But DJ is kryptonite to his superman parenting.

Later, we ran into the woman again.  At this point DJ has stopped his emotional terrorism.  He is now pushing his little walker right beside the shopping cart like a well behaved little boy.  He is smiling, laughing and stopping periodically to grab me and jabber in a way that even I don’t understand.  But understanding isn’t the point, attention is.  So, I stopped each time, leaned down on his level and give him my undivided attention.  It doesn’t matter that this turns a thirty minute shopping trip into a two hour event.  What matters is that even though I don’t understand what comes out of his mouth I’m make a genuine effort to understand what’s in his head. And it works.  With each interaction I learn a little more about how a little boy locked inside himself is clawing his way out in a desperate attempt to communicate with the world around him.

Our second interaction with the unwilling participant in DJ’s drama was much different than the initial.  With tears in her eyes, the woman reached out and grasped my arm.  She tried to explain how she didn’t understand and how sorry she was that her initial assessment of me was way off base.  I quickly assured her that I understood and that prior to having DJ I may have responded the same way.

I tried to explain to her the important message I want to say to you.   Special needs kids are forced to live in a world that doesn’t understand.  The world won’t bend their lives to administer to the least among us.  These kids must learn, to the best of their ability, how to navigate a confusing difficult world.  Because someday parents won’t be here to part the seas of a non-conforming world.  One of the most difficult aspects of parenting a special needs child is preparing the child to live in world that is chaos to them when their parents are no longer here.  I arrived at the conclusion long ago that coddling special needs kids, giving in to their very whim and not discipline them is more of a handicap than their disability will ever be.  So, the next time you’re in a public place before judging another’s parenting skills, keep in mind that what you’re seeing isn’t the entire story.