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.


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

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

Snaps of Halloween

This is the time of year when everyone wants to know how DJ and I manage all the Halloween mania.  As parents know, October can be tough on special needs kids. Uncomfortable costumes, sensory overload and an innate fear of overly excited children can combine to create disaster.  So, I thought I’d share a few pictures of how we cope with the madness.

Our biggest rule?  We never wear more of a costume than he can tolerate.

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Sometimes it’s just better, not to mention cheaper, to make your own costume.  DJ loved learning about Native Americans and making his own costume.  Prior to that, when his legs were too weak for walking some colored posterboard and creativity turned his wagon into Thomas the Tank Engine.

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We practice before the big night. Whether he needs a signal to say the noise has become unbearable or if he just needs to get accustomed to what he’s wearing, practice makes perfect.


When we go to the pumpkin farm we go to a small, less busy one and on an off day.  That filters out some of what my sensory boy finds intolerable and helps him branch out to new sensory adventure.


But in the end, if watching is a better option than actual participation, that’s okay.


You won’t get there overnight.  Just take baby steps, introduce the easiest new activities first and don’t get frustrated.  Our kids may be a little quirky and off-beat but never hopeless.



Posted in Education, My Life My Way, Special Needs Kids, The DJ Diariers, This N That

What Does Time Cost at Costco?

In a world that is daily increasing in the number of special needs children, it is exceptionally important what parents teach their typical children. Even toddlers have the ability to recognize that DJ is unlike them. Of all the responses we receive in public, we never had one like today.

Costco shoppers have always been the most tolerant. They smile and go out of their way to speak to DJ. Once in Walmart a woman actually said to me, “What’s wrong with it?” In reference to my child! DJ isn’t stupid. He picks up on unkindness. So, needless to say, Costco is DJ’s favorite store. Since the store is so big we push DJ in a wheelchair which really draws the eye of children.

Today two little boys were riding in a shopping cart and caught sight of DJ as we rounded a corner. The oldest looked to be maybe five and the younger about three. The younger questioned his older brother about why DJ was jabbering and flailing about. Their mother, unaware of what was taking place, pushed them away before I could hear the older one’s response. As we were leaving we ran into them again. The older one immediately began hollering at DJ and waving frantically at him. I mean this kid was serious about getting DJ’s attention. When he did, DJ gave him an enthusiastic wave back. The younger one immediately turned incredulous eyes upon his brother.

“He waved at you.”  The little one was so in awe you would have thought his favorite movie character had just come to life before his eyes.

“Wave at him. He might wave at you too,” was the older child’s advice.

DJ, now seeing he has the attention of two children, is jabbering in that dialect that only he understands. He was rocking the wheelchair trying to roll over to the two. His little arms were flailing about as he simply couldn’t contain the enthusiasm of having what he rarely has; the undivided attention of another child.

When the youngest one, with his big beautiful brown eyes round with wonder, gave DJ a wave and DJ jabbered and waved him the little boy just couldn’t believe it. These two little boys were amazed that DJ was “talking” to them. When their mother turned to see what all the excitement was about they both began pointing at DJ with enthusiastic gestures and simultaneously telling her how DJ was waving and “talking” to them. We had a good laugh about it while all three boys were going crazy over each other. Those little boys were amazed that DJ was interacting with them.  They treated DJ like a rock star.

Parents need to know the importance of encouraging their children to ask questions about DJ  and to interact with him. DJ LOVES to get the attention of kids. He tries his best to talk to them either jabbering or using his iPad. Unfortunately, it is a very rare occasion when the child will respond in a positive manner to him. Science has shown us that children learn physically and intellectually from other children. Therefore, no one wins when the opportunity to interact with a special needs child is lost.

Somehow that mother at Costco has successfully taught her two very young boys that they should be accepting and loving of all people. And in the process of doing so, her children made DJ, for a brief moment in time, just like every other little kid. That is a blessing that defies words and will have a positive impact on DJ for the rest of his life.


Posted in My Life My Way, This N That

Epic Nail Fail

Recently, I was given a gift card to Nail En Vogue in Lexington.  Though I love beautiful nails it has never been something I’ve been able to maintain.  Since someone went to the trouble of getting me a gift card for no reason, other than she wanted to bless me, I committed myself to the project. I’ve actually loved being “required” to go every two weeks for the fill-ins. It forces me to do something just for me and that’s an activity I’m not very good at.

Nail En Vogue is about 25 minutes from my house. Between preparing for a spring break trip, doctor appointments, funerals and basic daily events it just has not been possible for me to take the time to get there.  Since it’s just a fill-in, I reason to myself, it can be done anywhere. Just once I’ll go to that place around the corner. How much different could there possibly be? Turns out a lot, actually.

My first clue that all wasn’t well was the extraordinarily long wait. Granted all the nail clinicians are working. They just look as if they are working in slow motion. I conclude this must be a patience test for me. Feeling a little Holy I decide a good use of my wait time is to pray for everyone there. I did that – three times. And I was still waiting.

Finally, a lady gets fed up, leaves in a huff and my time has arrived.  I was seated next to a pretty dark-haired girl who was getting gel tips. As I’m settling into my seat the clinician doing her nails starts speaking to the clinician doing mine in a language only they understand. Before the girl and I could exchange that awkward smile that Americans share when we have no idea what language is being spoken let alone what actual words are flying about, her clinician raises her hand up, points at her thumb and cackles like a hyena. He was pointing and laughing and next thing I know my clinician has joined in. This clearly warrants more than an awkward smile but neither of us are quite certain what to do when one’s finger is being so openly mocked.  So, we just sat there allowing her thumb to be the object of some joke we are not privy too.

Yet, despite not knowing the joke I found the entire situation funny. I was attempting to hold in my own laughter and when I feared it may escape I whispered to the girl, “I’m not laughing at you… or your nails.”

“Oh, I know.”  She whispers back as if our whispers are as unintelligible to them as their language is to us.

My clinician goes to work on my nails with her little drill thingy. If you haven’t been through this process they use a tiny, rapidly spinning tool to shave off the longer ends of the nails.  I call it a drill though that isn’t an adequate description. Normally, you don’t feel a thing. The drill simply decreases the nail length. Not this time. Without warning, I felt the end of my finger burn. “Sorry,” she says. Okay, not everyone is perfect. I’m going to let it go. Then she does it again. And again. And again. Each time she follows it with a “sorry” that doesn’t sound very sorry at all.

For such a small drill the pain is a bit more than one would expect. I’m enduring this on every finger multiple times. Holiness gone! I’m not only not praying for anyone but myself at this point but I’m also thinking some rather unfortunate thoughts about the chick doing my nails. I decide right then I could not hold up under torture. I’m doing my best not to flinch but crap it hurts! I dare a peek at the girl seated next to me. She’s smiling, trying to hold in her laughter.  She mouths a “sorry” to me. I shrug.  Seems fair.

Somehow, I’ve managed to survive one hand of burns and she has moved on to the next. On finger number two the drill slips and off flies my entire nail! As if in slow motion we all watch the nail sail across the room, me in horror, my clinician in abject indifference, everyone else in humor. “That will be $3,” she says.

I shake my head. “What?” I stammer.

“To replace nail is $3.” She says it slowly as if I’m a simpleton.

I point at the offending nail now protruding from the carpet.  “I’m not paying for that.”

“You no want to pay?” She inquires innocently.

I look at her for a moment, in complete shock that this is actually a question, before shaking my head. “You did that. I’m not paying for your mistake.”  Then, for reasons I’m not entirely sure of, I take this moment to actually count my fingers, as if she somehow shaved a finger off without me being aware.

“You no want to pay?” She repeats.

“I no want to pay.” I spoke as slowly and deliberately as she did.

She shrugs. “Okay. I pay.” Just like that, the matter is dropped and she’s moving on to burning the rest of my fingers.

I glance at my fellow victim…. uh…. patron of the store to find her smiling. Just as she gives me a nod of encouragement her clinician again raises up one of her fingers and begins speaking in that language we have yet to define. Just as before he shows my clinician and they both laugh. Whether garnered by the stand I just took or simply fed up she suddenly erupts.  “No!” She wags one of her other perfectly manicured fingers at the two clinicians. “No more of that! Stop laughing at my fingernails. You made them!” Both clinicians look properly chastised, my fellow….patron… looks supremely satisfied with herself. I was a little proud of her too.

Later, after both of us had been admonished for not washing our hands fast enough,  my fellow …. oh who are we kidding?…. victim … my fellow victim turns to me and says, “I swear I am going to run as fast as I can from this place and never come back.”  I giggled in response.

I dutifully returned to my clinician. I wasn’t thrilled that she had sawed off more of my nail length than I wanted but happy that the torture was over. After she painted a single nail in the pretty purple shade I had selected she cocks her head and asks, “You like the color?”

I smile for the first time at peace. “Yes.”                               IMG_8112“Really?”  She asks in that disbelieving tone people use to make certain you know they don’t agree with you.

Not sure why I felt the need to explain but I did. “I picked it for Easter.”

She looks at me quizzically.  “Easter? When is Easter?”

“I’m not sure of the exact date.”  I reply.

She stops painting my nails and looks at me like I’ve just sprouted two heads.  “You picked your nail color for Easter but don’t know when it is?”

“Well, it’s the end of March,”  I defend myself, obviously unprepared for this interrogation.

For a heartbeat, she merely stares at me, then shrugs.  But if I thought her shrug was the dismissal of the subject I was very wrong. The shrug was not yet complete when she launches into another conversation with her fellow clinician in their language. I blame it on the burnt nerve endings in my fingers but I’d had enough. “That’s rude!” I proclaim. But my declaration yielded nothing more than a pause in their conversation before they resumed in earnest. “Oh, my gosh! Where am I?”

That put a stop to their conversation. My clinician looked at me and gave me the name of the place.  I look at my fellow victim.  “Apparently, rhetorical questions are not part of their language.” I then give my clinician a fake smile. It worked. They shut up.

Still wondering what sort of weird dimension I had ambled into, I made my way to the counter to dry my nails.  Rather than the fancy mani/pedi automatic dryer, I was accustom to at Nail En Vogue, the timing system here was just a tad ….. shall we say different? They had an hour glass filled with what looked like purple slime which they simply turned upside down. Just as I was getting comfortable in the drying process my fellow victim’s slime ran out. Without further ado, she literally jumped from her seat, and true to her word, ran out the door, through the crowded parking lot and never slowed down until she reached her car. My only surprise was that she didn’t squeal  tires as she peeled out of the parking lot.

I nodded my head in respect.  “You go, girl!” I thought. Then I sobered and wondered if Nail En Vogue would take me back after my cheating. Would my slumming ways matter to them? What if I promised never to nail cheat on them again? Should I tell them? I don’t know what to do. I’ve never cheated before. Now, I have a whole new prayer to pray between now and my next nail fill-in.

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.




Posted in My Life My Way

Marriage – Scams, Fantasy & Reality

It was December 11, 998 and I was on my way to Gatlinburg, TN to get married.  Of all the little girl fantasy visions, none came close to what would become my reality.

Steve and I worked together and decided it would be funny to run off and get married only telling people we were married when they asked what we did over the weekend.  That should tell you a lot about us right there.

Tennessee is like a mini Vegas when it comes to weddings.  You can pretty well get married anywhere.  As we crossed the Kentucky/Tennessee border, we stopped in Jellico to get a Tennessee marriage license.  When we exited the courthouse, we saw a huge sign hanging over a feed store that read; “Marriages done here”.  Steve thought it would be great fun to get married there.  I’m all about the fun but I do have my limits and getting married in a feed store was definitely beyond them.

As we travelled on to our original destination, Gatlinburg, Steve was having trouble letting go of the feed store marriage concept.  Patiently, I reminded him I had made reservations at a very nice wedding chapel.  I was patient only because I didn’t want to start my marriage out by bonking him on the head for such a hair-brained notion as getting married in a feed store.  But seriously, the man was testing me.  It didn’t help when we were unable to locate my little pre-planned wedding chapel.  Finally, we inquired about it as we checked into our chalet.  When the little elderly lady behind the counter informed us that chapel didn’t exist and it was a scam, Steve inquired as to the closest feed store.  I think it scared her because she gave a little fluttering motion with her hand as if she was about to pass out as she shouted, “Mabel!  Get up here.  We’ve got to find a place for this couple to get married.”

Steve and I watched, more than a little amused, as these two precious ladies sprang into action, flipping through the Yellow Pages, calling various places, and providing intimate bits of local “scandal” about all who were booked.  When it seemed everyone was booked and no wedding could take place they gave me the phone book to keep trying and wished us luck.

While Steve unpacked, I searched for a place to get married.  The only vacancy I found was with a motorcycle-riding minister willing to pick up a pizza on his way to our chalet and marry us in the hot tub.  Steve thought this was a better idea than the feed store marriage but a single look from me relieved him of that notion.

Beginning to think it was a sign we shouldn’t get married I sent up a final prayer to God.  I made a final call.  The man who answered the phone informed me he was an actual minister and just had a cancellation.  If we could get there by 6 pm, he would marry us.  It was 5:15.

I haphazardly tossed the phone in its receiver and bolted from my seat only to run into Steve.  He had some cutesy comment that I didn’t have time for so I gave him a little shove to the side with a strict admonition.  “Get out of my way.  I’ve got a wedding to go to.”  Just as I slammed the bathroom door, I heard his response.

“Am I invited to it?”

“Not if you keep annoying me.”  Was my immediate response.

By the grace of God, I managed to get myself wedding ready and make the 20 minute drive down the mountain in 45 minutes.  We pulled into the parking lot of the chapel at exactly 6 pm.

All was going well, until we hit the swearing of the vows portion.  Because of my hearing, disability I often mishear things.  So, when I thought the minister asked me to vow to “obey” I had to interrupt.

“I’m sorry.  Could you repeat that?”

Before the minister could respond Steve said, “Is this a problem for you?”

“Well, yeah, if he said obey.”  I retorted, much to the minister’s amusement.

“Really?”  Steve asked.  I couldn’t tell if his laughter was at me or with me.  Either way, it didn’t matter because we both knew I couldn’t uphold an obey promise so there was no sense pretending.  I sighed.  “How surprised can you really be?”  The minister was clearly laughing at me but I forged on.  “If there is anything about me that you have seen, heard or thought that makes you think I’m willing to blindly obey you we certainly don’t need to be getting married.”

By now the minister, and his assistant (our sole witness to the marriage) was doing all they could to contain their laughter.  I looked into the eyes of the man I was marrying and saw my own humor reflected there.  He knew exactly what he was getting.  We both laughed, effectively giving the minister and our witness permission to do the same.


In the 15 years we have been married we have endured what most people don’t encounter in a lifetime.  Our life together has been painfully difficult a vast majority of the time.  But just as we did on that cold, crazy night in 1998, we have managed to laugh our way through the worst of worst.  And the crazy thing is, we prefer the all the difficulties that come with being married to each other than we do to any possibility of having an easier life married to someone else.

Some things can’t be faked, bought, or imagined.  Our loving companionship, joy, and laughter are something that my little girl fantasies never knew existed.  Every little girl should know fairytales aren’t true.  Yet, they should also know that with the right person marriage is greater beyond all their dreams.


Posted in My Life My Way, This N That

If My Dying Dog Could Read; This Is The Letter I Would Write

190269_1003890557482_6555696_n  I’m agonizing over our final hours together.  Each tick of the clock splinters my heart.  Through the halls of my anguished mind bounces the question, how do I say goodbye.  How do I let go?  How do I show you the love you’ve shown me?  And how do I convince my aching soul that you are only a dog?  An animal.  Something meant to be loved for certain, but should it hurt this much?  Am I out of balance to feel my world skewed at the mere thought of you not being in it?

You came to me in my darkest hour.  I needed you so much.  I thought I was getting a service dog for DJ but what I got was a therapy dog for me.  I felt utterly alone when Mom died so Steve took me to the animal shelter to look for dogs who could be trained as a service dog.   16563_1080684437281_829948_n

I spotted you immediately as we drove up to the shelter.  “Boy, he’s pretty.”  Were the first words I said about you.  With your red coat gleaming in the rare winter sunshine you barked as you approached me but we both knew you didn’t mean it.

Since you appeared to have the run of the place, I assumed you must belong to one of the workers there.  While I talked with an employee, you kept appearing at my side and leaning against me.  I was looking for a service dog to help DJ learn to walk so at first I thought I imagined you were leaning against me.  By the fourth time, I at last got a clue.   6249_1038834391056_5170869_n

Three days later Steve and I returned to the shelter with DJ in tow.  I needed to see how you responded to him.  DJ walked in with his little walker and you were called over.  It took less than a second for you to size one another up before DJ let go of his walker, grabbed the fur of your neck and the two of you walked off.  All these years later and that scene has never lost its impact.


The following day we picked you up at the vet’s office.  You busted through the door and despite having, only seen me twice, and the fact that we were seated behind the door, you came out of, you came right to me.  If anyone had any doubts before that moment removed them.  You belonged to us and us to you. That’s when the memories began.

The first time we left, you alone you freaked out and literally tried to chew your way out a window, leaving broken teeth in your wake.  You thought it was your mission in life to rid the world of cats.  You have such a huge personality behind your big soulful eyes that I never knew existed in an animal.  You were well behaved, easily trained, but also sneaky.  I didn’t have to say a word when I caught you on the couch.  You always climbed down slowly, head, and tail as low as they could be indicating you felt like the lowest of life forms.  You were funny, oh so funny.  But more than all those things, you possessed an uncanny ability to tune into the emotions and stability of your surroundings.  2012-11-23 23.42.50

I will never forget when two stray dogs came loping down the street, tongues hanging out of the sides of their mouths completely happy.  All they wanted to do was play.  You were fine until Colton got upset because he’d had a previous bad encounter with stray dogs.  You sensed that fear and put yourself between Colton and the dogs, letting lose a ferocious growl that scared even us.  Like cartoon characters those dogs came to a screeching halt, running away never to be seen again.  12941_1093670321920_6217877_n

While training you as a service dog I had to connect you to DJ.  Neither of you were pleased with the idea.  But as was your custom, regardless of how mad DJ got you stood your ground.  You did exactly what was asked of you and then some.  You took your service dog job very serious.   998508_4588442289035_378570338_n

In those painful lonely days after mom died, I would hug your neck and cry all over you.  You never flinched.  You simply sat there soaking up my pain through the tears that fell upon your neck.  And now here I am again.  This time there will be no crying on you because the pain is the loss of you.   OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I know when we walk in that vet’s office tomorrow you will be scared and I hate that.  I despise that your final moments will be spent in a place that frightens you.  I know you’re going to look at me with confused, hurtful eyes and wonder why I am doing this to you.  The answer is simple.  You have given so much to our family keeping nothing for yourself, how can I do any less by you?


In a little while, I will go to bed and the dreadful day will be upon us.  I will take that long final walk with you and endure your questioning eyes.  As the lethal drugs flow through your system stopping your heart, they will do the same to a part of me.  A portion of me will die with you and I don’t regret it because I have had the privilege of not just having a good dog but having a heaven-sent dog.  There will never be another like you and I am a better person for having you in my life.  Well, done my good and faithful servant; well done.

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Posted in My Life My Way, This N That

Word Association: Pumpkin Latte, Naughty Selfie & A Boxer Dog

pumpkin latte  My hubby sends me a text after being out of town all day and wants to know if I need anything.  My response is well; I don’t “need” anything but would love a pumpkin latte.  His response was confusion.  That’s not too surprising considering he lives with me and I have a thing about drinks.  I’ve always got to have a favorite and the number one slot rotates continually.  I blame my current desire on my Facebook friends.  I’ve never even had a pumpkin latte.  But they keep posting pictures of their pumpkin lattes from various coffee shops and ranting about how good they are I felt left out.  And when I feel left, I out I revert to middle school age.  Hey, I’m not proud of it but let’s face it.  How mature could you be?  You’re reading my blog.  Which by the way I am very happy about.  Anyway…..

Hubby feels he’s married to 15 different women because I’m always changing.  I prefer to say evolving into a better me but he just refers to it as various steps in my insanity.  Texting or calling me after not talking to me all day is a bit like Russian roulette for him.  He has no idea who is going to respond.  I can sympathize with that.  The man has worked hard all day long, has a crazy wife, has been driving around in nutso weather, and likely is praying I want nothing just so he can come home and crash.  I get that.  But nowhere in my wedding vows did I promise not to try to lovingly manipulate him to get me something from time to time.  It’s game on, people!

I quickly determine the odds of my getting a pumpkin latte will significantly increase if I send hubby a little naughty selfie.  The first problem with this plan is that I’m over 40 and should not even be saying the world selfie let alone actually attempting one.  But I’ve never acted age appropriate so why start now?  Besides, you heard the part about the pumpkin latte right.  That’s not something you can get all year.  Its here for a while and gone.  The time to act is now.  (Oooh, if you say that last sentence in the voice of Jase Robertson from Duck Dynasty it sounds really good.)

I have a bra that matches a pair of yoga pants.  Add that to my thoughts of the farm theme for Jesus Prom and you will understand why I envisioned myself in the bra and yoga pants wearing a cowboy hat.  The desire for a pumpkin latte can do strange things to a woman.  I snatched up a cowboy hat, ripped my shirt off, pulled my hair into sassy little pigtails, and grabbed my phone.  Since I’m a novice at this, I’m thinking the fact that the cowboy hat is actually part of my son’s Halloween costume from a few years ago won’t matter.  Who doesn’t love Toy Story, right?

My next problem is that I only have an average intelligence phone and let’s be honest, it’s barely that.  Which means I don’t have one of those cutesy little buttons that turns the lens around make it easy to take a picture of yourself.  My selfie must be done the archaic way; standing in front of a mirror, angling the phone in a desperate attempt to get at least part of me in the picture while trying not to look as stupid as I feel.  To add to the glamour, I’ve been bed ridden for days with back pain so posing was painful fun.  Oh, no wait, just painful.

About 25 pictures later, I’m thinking I’m finally getting the hang of it and start to feel a little sexy.  That’s when a very pungent odor hit me.  No worries.  It was just my son’s way of reminding me that you can be sexy or you can change a diaper but you CANNOT, absolutely under any conditions, be sexy while changing a poopy diaper.  As I pass by my oldest son, who has Asperger’s syndrome is immediately offended at my appearance.  “What are you wearing?  That’s just wrong!”  He shouts.  Panicked I look down.  Yep, I got my shirt on.  Turns out he was referring to the hat.  I dismissed him.  He has autism.  What does he know?

Well, turns out, the boy knows quite a bit.  Perhaps, I should seek his advice on a daily basis, because I looked at the pictures and they are NOT pretty people.  In fact, I scared myself a little.  Exhausted with the incessant picture taking and excruciating back pain I decide trying to practice the art of seduction was going to kill me and if I were dead, the pumpkin latte sure wouldn’t matter then.  I emerged from my bathroom and stop dead in my tracks.

My boxer mix dog, who is significantly older than me, is standing just staring at himself in the full-length mirror.  I don’t think I have ever seen him do that.  I mean this dog is seriously checking himself out.  I swear he is evaluating himself for a selfie.  The thought makes me giggle.  He swings his head around and looks at me as if to say, “Really?  You’re gonna judge me, cowgirl?  Have you SEEN a mirror?”  With an indignant puff of air, he leaves the room.  Before I could respond (and yes I was going to go respond to what I believe are the thoughts of my dog) my husband came in with my pumpkin latte.  And I didn’t even have to try to seduce him for it. Ahh, true love.  I’ll just hide the pictures.  Now, where did that dog go?  We need to talk.    2013-11-03 12.00.38


Brondes Have More Fun

I have this misguided notion that I can do things without the education that others invested in, simply because I am determined. I know, right? Been that way all my life. On the upside, my many missteps along the way add a bit of flavor to my life. And believe me, I could major in mistakes.  Hey, look at that.  I am educated!  Anyway……

I am obsessed with hair color. I change mine, A LOT! And by a lot, I mean that my mother-in-law once got pictures developed and in a single package, I had three different hair colors. THREE! Who does that?

I colored my hair just hours before my very first date with my husband. My BFF, Neen, had worked hard at setting me up with him so she did not appreciate finding me with purple hair less than an hour before the date. In my defense, I think I should mention that Neen has no sense of adventure. Okay, she has a little sense of adventure – controlled adventure. Me? I am all out there. Which is why at the end of her very serious reprimand I replied “Oh, whatever. There is no sense in trying to dress all  this up. This man needs to know what he’s getting into cause lets face it, I got crazy you just can’t hide.”

My latest obsession is bronde hair. For those who don’t know, bronde is hair that is really neither blonde or brown but somewhere in between. I am a color-my-hair-at-home kinda girl with equal parts bravado and insanity so I trolled the web searching for ways to do it. When I discovered all the websites that advised not to do it at home that only spurred me on. Besides, it is only hair. It will grow out. I did mentioned the insanity part of my nature, right?

Obviously, I was not going to be able to capture the full beauty of these bronde ladies with a box color from Wal-Mart.



17th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards - Arrivals


A trip to my local Sally Beauty Store was required. My hair has natural red tones that are highly insulted when I try to color them. They rise up and turn my hair all sorts of unnatural colors- hence the purple hair. When you buy box hair color, you are given the hair color and the developing cream, which you must combine. When you go to a beauty supplier, you have to remember to buy both color and developer. I opted for Ion Intense Light Neutral Brown to mix with the standard level 20 developer. Because Sally’s is a beauty store that caters to the professionals, you have to buy the color and developer. This picture shows the Ion color box and the economy size developer. You can buy a bottle of 20 developer that is measured precisely for a single use. But we all know I can make good use of the mega size.

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The result was a beautiful rich color that made me consider whether I should stop there. Then my Asperger kid, who has no clue what tact is, says, “So, did you mean to color your hair black?” So, then I thought perhaps I should carry on. On to the highlighting stage.

Knowing, it is never a good idea to try to make someone else’s hair appear on my head; I studied multiple pictures of bronde hair and selected the things I liked from each. Placing highlights can be tricky business, which is why I use highlighting systems that come with a cap that designates where highlights should be placed. Now, I was going to have to choose between being bronde or the safety of the cap. It took nearly a second for me to decide. Bronde hair here I come!

Bronde hair has two levels of lightening so I purchased two packets of lightening powder and two small developers in levels 10 and 30. Before mixing anything, I used my pictures as a guide and determined where I wanted the highlights placed. I used small, colored non-tangling hair bands to section my hair. I used green ones to indicate the placement of the level 10 highlights and orange ones for level 30. That made it possible for me to compare the pictures I liked to where the highlights would actually be on my head.

I know the pictures I am using are not the best but …well; I do not have an excuse. I just did not want to take the time to make sure I had perfect pictures. Do not judge me. I am VERY busy. You have no idea the amount of time and energy it takes to maintain my insanity.

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As you can see, I once again went with the Ion brand. Normally I would have used all the developers in the same brand but my local Sally Beauty Supply did not have all I needed so I had to mix and match.

I placed the lower level highlights, the powder mixed with 10 developer, first because the higher developer (30) would not need as much time to reach the desired result. However, I love very light blonde hair with significantly darker ends that was not my goal. I wanted darker roots that gradually faded into a lighter color but with an obvious color difference between roots and tips. The result was a bit darker than my goal but I was still pleased with it. And apparently, my results were subtle enough that it has been 2 weeks and my father-in-law has yet to notice. Oh, I know what you are thinking. He is a man, he will not notice. Uh, wrong. The man is geriatric and still notice more hair changes than any self-respecting gay man is. Anyway…….

I started with this hair color

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And ended with this one.

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I may not have the overwhelming beauty of the stars whose pictures I included but i can certainly tell you without a doubt that brondes really do have more fun.

Pint Size Kid With A Gallon Of Inspiration

This kid is amazing. His call to action is delivered with the perfect combination of humor, wit and conviction. You don’t want to miss this.

Click on the following link to see this this amazing kid. Pint Size Kid With A Gallon Of Inspiration