Posted in Autism Spectrum Disorder, Reviews, Sensory Processing Disorder, Special Needs Kids

Magnetic Shoe Closure Review

You know those ads on Facebook? Well, I finally ordered something from one. Different Not Less was advertising magnetic shoe closures. The goal is to give disabled kids more freedom. The claim is that children with fine motor difficulties who can’t tie their shoes will be able to put their shoes on independently with these magnets. Additionally, it’s claimed an end to loose laces. The magnets come in an array of colors and are currently marked down from $19.24 to $10.95 without shipping and handling. All said and done I spent about $15. But did they work?

The first thing I didn’t like was that it took 2-3 weeks to get them in. However, I am an Amazon Prime member. So, I could just be spoiled by their two day promise. None-the-less, the magnets arrived right at two weeks, which isn’t too bad.  A great positive note here is that when I emailed them about the shipping their response was immediate and courteous. I love a company that answers their emails daily!

The instructions were easy to read and the magnets went on quick and easy. They are super strong and held the shoes together. My son wasn’t able to use his feet to separate the magnets because he wears braces. Our intent was to teach him how to pull them apart with his hands.  We never got the opportunity.

FullSizeRender (4)The problem came when the little eyelets that go on the side disappeared from one shoe. If you notice in the picture only the shoe on the right has the black eyelet. There should be an eyelet on each side of the shoe. Since we were running around a lot the day the eyelets went missing we have no idea how it happened. We don’t know if they came off on their own or if DJ, who likes to mess with his shoes, pulled them off. Whatever happened to them the magnets are useless without them. The shoe falls off because the magnets keep popping open. The other shoe, with the eyelets, still works fine.

It’s a great idea and I can’t place our failure solely on the heads of Different Not Less. As I said, DJ could have easily pulled them off. But my situation is that we had them working blissfully for a day but currently only one shoe stays closed and on. Would I suggest someone buy them? Possibly.

The bottom line? Although the item pretty much performs as described, If your child messes with his shoelaces I would not recommend it. But for children who don’t grab at their shoes it’s worth a try at the price it’s offered. The company, Different Not Less, is easy to work with, responds quickly to emails, and describes their product accurately. With all that us parents have going on that is the kind of company we like to deal with.

Posted in Beauty For Ashes

The Shaping of a Life

I have wonderful memories of my Papaw McLaughlin, even though he died when I was about four.  My grandparents lived in a huge farmhouse in High Bridge, KY.  He nursed any injured animal back to health.  Whether it was a squirrel who later bit him for his efforts, or an unwanted dog abandoned by cruel owners, my Papaw took care of them all.  He was a minister at the Nazarene church just a short walk down a gravel road from the house.  I have fond memories of us walking to the church and just talking.  To show my appreciation, I bought him huge sticks of the peppermint candy he so dearly loved.
When he had a stroke, I didn’t fully understand what had happened.  But even then he thought of me.  A hospital bed was moved into the living room of the house for him.  He insisted Mom put me in the bed with him.  As sick as he was, he played dolls with me for hours.  Mom warned me before visiting him that I wasn’t allowed to ask for snacks from my grandmother or to play with my Papaw.  I obeyed the rules, somewhat.  Simply asking an innocent question about some sweet treat I spied in my Granny’s kitchen got that treat placed in my hands immediately.  When Mom tried to chastise me, I would respond in my most innocent voice, “But Momma, I didn’t ask for it. Granny just gave it to me.” Score: me one, Mom zero.

But when it came to Papaw, I followed Mom’s instructions.  I wanted him to get better and take those precious walks with me.  Looking back, I think those walks meant so much because, in my world of chaos, he was the only person who took the time to focus solely on me.  I wasn’t a burden to him.  Walking to the church I had his undivided attention.  The only thing that gives me pause is I don’t remember him talking to me about Jesus.  Maybe he did, and I just didn’t hone in on that as much as I did the attention.  In all honesty, I couldn’t tell you a single thing we ever talked about but in my mind’s eye I see those walks and remember the feelings.  Knowing what I know now, I believe that some of my passion for Jesus came directly from Papaw McLaughlin.

Mom, however, would staunchly deny that.  Her vision of my Papaw, her father, was tremendously different from the doting grandfather I loved.  For someone who never lived her life according to it, my mother knew a tremendous amount of Scripture.  She always blamed her father for her lack of faith.  Which seemed odd to me because she could just as easily blame him for the faith she did have.

Mom claimed her father was verbally and physically abusive.  She told stories of how strangers would show up at the door looking for ministerial advice and he would show them kindness then close the door and abuse the family.  Not once did I ever see traces of my Daddy in my Papaw.  But I was very young.  Perhaps, he hid it from me.  Daddy certainly had the ability to morph into someone I didn’t know for complete strangers.  It was sickening.  Even thought Mom displayed signs similar to my own she seemed, at least to me, blind to them in me.

It wasn’t long after Papaw’s stroke that Mom dragged me with her to Daddy’s new apartment.  He had not returned to our house since my surgery.  He had a live-in girlfriend who with only a few words from Mom made herself scarce.  Mom told Daddy Papaw McLaughlin was not doing well.  Right then, in a rare moment of compassion, Daddy packed his stuff and left.  I’ve always wondered what in the world the girlfriend thought when she came back to find Daddy gone.  But my life was marching on and there was no time to contemplate her.

Peculiar things began happening.  Mom was suddenly leaving immediately after work and I was left in the care of Brenda and Daddy.  Brenda, I could understand.  But Daddy? Mom never left him in charge of me.  When I voiced my concerns to Brenda she let me in on the plan.  Papaw McLaughlin was dying.  Mom and her siblings were taking turns sitting up with him at night.  Mom gave Brenda money and a plan.  If Daddy flew into a drunken rage, we were to run up the wall which aligned the town branch, to a pay phone.  Brenda had the number to call Papaw Noe.  Mom instructed us not to run across the street, which was our normal safe haven, because she feared what would happen to the neighbors.  I slept with Brenda every night.  Because of that, I had the most restful nights of my life because I completely trusted her.  Brenda was twelve.

My world was suddenly different.  Daddy was different.  What a peculiar thing to associate death with peace.  Then came the night I realized I was still up and Mom was home but nowhere to be seen.  When I asked about her both Daddy and Brenda, a little too forcefully, told me she was in bed and not to bother her.  In bed?  My mother was never in bed.  I became alarmed.

The more questions I asked the more adamant Brenda and Daddy became that I should not bother her.  Me being me, I went to Mom’s bedroom.  Sure enough, she was asleep.  I woke her up and asked her why she was in bed.  Very gently, crying the entire time she told me Papaw McLaughlin had died, and she was just so sad all she wanted to do was sleep.  In all the beatings Daddy gave her, Momma never cried.  In fact, this was the first time I saw her cry.  I was not equipped to deal with it.  It is an image to this very day that remains hauntingly in the hallway of my mind and forever shaped who I would become.

Posted in Book Promotion

The Joan Zone Goes Live


Big day for The Joan Zone! We held our first live video promotion and gave away tickets to the Spirit Song Festival at Kings Island.  Many thanks to The Joan Zone followers!

First Live Video and Giveaway

Screenshot 2017-05-05 17.38.59

Posted in Church, Faith, parenting, Special Needs Kids, The DJ Diariers, The DJ Journey

The Vision of God

The vision was as clear as it was murky. The image was of DJ walking to the front of the church toward the pulpit. I could make out nothing more than the church had two aisles leading to a step up to the platform where the podium stood. That made sense because it was the exact layout of the church we were attending. What made little sense was that even at two-years-old DJ could not walk.

That vision, like most of the others pertaining to DJ, was given to me when DJ was the sickest. He was in and out of the hospital sometimes multiple times in a month. It was terrifying, stressful, and more than a little taxing on my faith. Yet, whenever I was about to crash God always came through with a vision of hope. He always showed me something that seemed impossible with my current circumstances but instilled profound hope that kept me pressing forward.

I have no explanation for why or when God chose to show me these future events. Not one of them occurred in the midst of fervent prayer. Instead, they came out of the blue. Sometimes I hadn’t even prayed specifically for what God showed me but the vision was an extension of my heart’s desire. That was the case with this vision.

I was busy trying to keep DJ alive. His inability to walk was a low priority. Obviously, it was something I wanted for him but in the big scheme of things, I just wanted my baby to live. I had the vision twice, first at home and then a few days later at church. Me being me; I came up with a reason for it. I determined that one day DJ would walk to the front of our church and reveal to us what God had been doing inside his nonverbal heart and mind.

Fast forward about 15 years. We’ve moved to a different city and no longer attend that church. DJ is walking, but he is still nonverbal. Though the vision was anything but forgotten, there was certainly no evidence that it was about to be fulfilled. But isn’t that just like God?

This past Sunday we were at a church we had only been to once. No one in that church had an inkling as to the vision I had so many years ago. But this church was one of the most loving churches toward DJ I have ever encountered. I’ve had pastors and others love and accept DJ. But the entire congregation at this church has such genuine love and acceptance it stands above all others. Knowing that I was still unprepared for what was about to happen.

Just before he was about to deliver his message, Pastor Rick approached Steve and me. He asked if it would be okay for him to take DJ to the pulpit with him. I’m not sure exactly what he said but something that indicated this was not his original plan. Though we had no idea how DJ would respond we consented. Rick turned to DJ and asked him if he wanted to go to the pulpit with him and DJ agreed. It was when Rick took DJ’s hand in his and they started toward the front that it happened.

IMG_1727In the blink of an eye that long ago vision came to life. What I had failed to notice before, was how much the sanctuary at Bethlehem Christian Church resembles the one at Hill-n-Dale where we attended when I had the vision. They are practically identical. I suppose since it had been so long since I had been to Hill-n-Dale I missed the similarities. But at that moment, it became clear.

The vision wasn’t of the aisle at Hill-n-Dale. It was Bethlehem. And DJ didn’t have to speak his testimony he was living proof of it. I don’t know why God made me DJ’s Mommy. I’m certainly undeserving of the task. I understand even less why God gives to me these glimpses of the future. The only thing I know for certain is that DJ is God’s instrument to reach an often cold, hopeless, and cynical world. But in the process of doing so, he gives me what I need to carry on each day. No matter how hard and painful it is sometimes to parent DJ, God provides me the exact measure of hope I need to carry on. And more love than I can fathom.

Pastors like Rick are far and few between. They may love the Lord, but understandably they are leery of anything that may disrupt their message. Rick invited DJ up with him not knowing how DJ would respond but accepting that if DJ took the limelight from him, it would, in fact, be Jesus stealing the show. IMG_1736