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We’re coming up on the new school year’s IEP meeting and I couldn’t be more nervous. New school year, new *school*, new teachers (as in 4 of them!), new classmates…new new new new!

I don’t want to rush into a judgement here but, I’ve gotten little vibes here and there that tell me that *this* IEP team may not be as easy to work with as last year’s. I think that to an extent they wonder exactly why does Trace have an IEP in place. Granted, he has made some incredible strides over the summer that have helped him to be a little more open socially, but there are still other issues and LD’s to contend with. I blogged before about the equine therapy he’s doing and I believe, thru the therapy, he’s becoming more confident in himself and his skills/talents. He’s reached out to a few boys in his class that his teacher refers to as his “crew”, lol, they eat lunch together and play at recess. I’m beyond thrilled that he’s come so far since last year when he walked the playground by himself, picking up rocks or trash or whatever else he found. Yet, at the same time, put him in a social setting outside of his “norm” and all of his Aspie quirks come out to play. He’s stretched out more shirt sleeves and shirt hems than I care to count…he get’s anxious/nervous and he’ll pull his sleeves down over his hands and twist and pull, same with the shirt hems.

Don’t even get me started on his sensory integration issues. Oh my word. The boys had to get haircuts Friday evening because they were having pictures taken the next day with grandma, so off we went. Trace has always been a little skittish about haircuts but not too bad, and Landon is just fine as long as you don’t try and wash his hair. But, Friday night? Holy moly, Trace was off the charts skittish…he shied away from the clippers (the sound *and* feel of them) and when the lady tried scissor cutting, he would pull his head away every time she combed up a section to snip at. Bless her heart, she was very understanding and finished his cut and said it was no problem…sigh… Landon however, once he realized she was *not* going to wash his hair was just fine and sat perfectly still. Go figure.

Anyhow, back to what I started with on this entry. Nervous, anxious…I haz it. I’m almost treating it as if I’m starting the whole process from a blank slate. I’ve been scouring the interwebs looking for new information, finding some of the same information that I’ve already collected and reading it all again as if it were brand new to my eyes. Thankfully it’s been a reminder to me to stay on my toes with the teachers and IEP team members. I’m also learning about certain assessments and testing that I can request that have no been done but probably should be….and I’m learning how to make these requests as an advocate, not just a parent.

Which leads me to my final thought in today’s entry. Over the last few months, as I started my research anew, I decided that I want to write. Not a book, no….more like articles/papers, regarding ASD’s, Aspergers’, advocacy, experiences we’ve had….a whole variety of things. To accomplish that efficiently, we need a computer at home…specifically, I’d need to get a laptop or netbook etc. Does anyone here have a preference or referral? I need to be able to do word processing, interwebs browsing, some pictures….oh, and it needsto be cheap. Right now, we can’t justify the purchase (what with speech therapy and equine therapy etc etc)and, as much as I dislike doing so, we’re going to have to put it off until we can save for it.

So, opinions guys? Pretty please? =)

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LOL….sorry for the squeeing, I never expected to win any kind of blogging award! I need to apologize first and foremost for taking so long to respond to this!

Laura, I’m humbled and thrilled that you thought of me, thank you! You all need to check her out at iamtheglue I think you’re quite an amazing person….what with having a newly dx’d kiddo on the spectrum (and plunging head-first into all the reading and researching and googling that goes with it) and spear-heading the pilot Autism Ambassadors group for Derek’s school; you also work a FT job that has been stressing you out, suffer physical pains every single day…. you ALSO are an incredible mom to *7* children (shoot me now, gah….I don’t know how you do it!). I am tired just *typing* all those things out….and I’m quite sure I didn’t hit everything (like, oh, I don’t know…cleaning the house? Taking care of hubby? Doing laundry? Etc etc).

Now! It is my turn and here are the rules…
• You must thank the person who has given you the award.
• Copy the logo and place it on your blog.
• Link to the person who has nominated you for the award.
• Name 7 things about yourself that people might find interesting.
• Nominate 7 other Kreativ Bloggers.
• Post links to the 7 blogs you nominate.
• Leave a comment on each of the blogs to let them know they have been nominated.

Seven things about me that are interesting…well, at least seven things about me, lol

1. I crochet to help relieve stress and unwind.
2. I love love love reading!
3. I volunteer with a dog rescue, breed specific Small Paws
4. I absolutely loathe doing laundry
5. I have a secret obsession- I love Kid Rock’s music!
6. I am awful at Mafia Wars on Facebook.
7. I have enough yarn that my husband says I should open my own yarn shop

Seven amazing bloggers that I want everyone of you to go and visit-

Amalah
I don’t remember exactly when or how I came across Amy’s blog, but I *can* tell you that it’s been a mainstay on my list of “must-read” blogs, lol. She is incredibly gifted -She’s funny and serious, snarky and sympathetic, all the while not afraid to say it like it is. She’s got 2 gorgeous boys and shares pictures of them all the time. She’s fun to read, she can (and will at any given time) make you laugh, cry and/or say “Exactly!” or “Whoa, been there, done that-not fun”. I’ma shut up now, go read Ms. Amy!

Yarn-A-Go-Go
Rachel is a truly remarkable woman. She’s a knitter (which is how I got “hooked” on her blog-sorry, couldn’t resist the pun!), she’s a writer (her first book comes out April of 2010…watch for it!) and lives in sunny California. She’s got mad skillz in her knitting (she makes gorgeous sweaters), and her writing is fantastic.

The Kerrie Show
What to say about Kerri….wow. What *not* to say? Kerrie and I go waayyyy back, lol, clear back to high school (20 yrs this year! YIKES!). We recently reconnected thru Facebook and I’ve been reading her blog since! She’s an awesome homeschooling mom of 4, with another on the way! She’s also a writer, she’s got an e-book out there, as well as lots of parenting articles!

Motherhood (Oh, And Everything In Between)
I just recently started reading Danielle’s blog after “meeting” her (online) thru a mutual friend we have. She took the time to indulge me in a question re: special needs kids and teachers. Danielle is a stay-at-home mom of 3, 2 boys and 1 girl. Her blogs run the gamut of topics….I especially love reading about the antics of her kiddos!

Mariposa Farm Alpacas
Have you ever seen an Alpaca?? The owner of this blog is my cousin Deborah, we grew up spending parts of our summers together and I love her to pieces! She’s an alpaca owner as well as a research scientist; she dances (and teaches dance), she sings and volunteers at her local zoo, she “tweets” and is active on Facebook as well. I don’t know that there’s anything that she *doesn’t* do, lol. Give her a read, check out her Alpacas!

Fiona’s Blog
Ahhhh….Fiona. Fiona is the daughter of another cousin of mine (Hi Aimee!). There’s not tons of writing on Fi’s blog, but whenever you need a “pick-me-up” you will always find beautiful pictures of Miss Fi! Her mama,Aimee, is also my cousin Deborah’s sister- keepin’ it in the family 😉

My Life with Aspergers
This is a blog that I’ve learned so much from. The keeper of this blog is John Elder Robison- also author of “Look Me In The Eye: My Life With Asperger’s”. I’ve only recently started reading it, going back to the beginning, and it’s helped me to understand so much about Aspergers. His blogs have taught me how to look at situations from the POV of someone who has Aspergers and challenges me to search out alternative solutions that I encounter with my oldest.

Holy Moly…. I am truly tapped out right now! I hope you all enjoy the blogs that I’ve linked too 🙂

The Gift of Aspergers Syndrome

I normally don’t pay much attention to movie reviews. However, with the movie “Adam” coming out, I’ve been reading some of them here and there, eager to see what others think of the disorder that I deal with daily in my almost 11 yr old son. And then I read this review of the movie by Mr. Rex Reed.

http://www.observer.com/2009/movies/hugh-dancy-his-way-superstardom

I honestly didn’t think my dropped jaw would be able to make it back up from the floor. I was shocked, upset, indignant, sad….goodness I can’t even begin to list all the things that went through my mind. But the one thing that stuck there after reading it was……people are going to read this and get completely wrong ideas about people with Asperger’s Syndrome, they will think that Mr. Reed knows what he’s talking about…but, outside his circle of two Aspies, he clearly, *very* clearly, doesn’t.

This is the paragraph that I wished he would have researched before he’d written it; talked to doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists….even….I know it’s a stretch here but….maybe even talked with some Aspies (besides the two he knows)? Hugh Dancy, who portrays Adam (and does so very well), will tell you “no two persons with Aspergers are the same”….

Far from just another exotic Disease of the Week, Asperger’s is an incurable neurological disorder similar to autism that turns outwardly normal-looking people into high-class idiot savants. I know at least two people with Asperger’s. They are incapable of thinking of anyone or anything outside of themselves. Challenged by social interactions and given to obsessive routines that revolve around a single subject of interest, they do not like to be touched, they feel incapable of explaining things and they cannot cope with people in general. Emotionally blocked, they say things that hurt and sting without meaning to be rude, and are weak at understanding, receiving or exchanging the emotions of others. They cannot look you in the eye. Adam is a fascinating study of a rare affliction in which all of these qualities are evident, in carefully researched scenes that are humorous and touching. It is lethal to get involved romantically with any person with Asperger’s syndrome, since they care nothing about other people’s feelings, needs or priorities

I read that and just shake my head. Apparently he has had some bad experiences with the Aspies he knows. Unfortunately, there are people who will read his words and take it to mean that all Aspies are that way and that couldn’t be further from the truth. Perhaps the two that he knows (and I’m willing to bet he knows more and just doesn’t realize it) are exactly as he describes, but to paint all Aspies with the same brush does them a huge disservice.

Please know that I am writing this to be specific to Aspergers Syndrome (AS). I realize that while Autism and Aspergers are included on the same “spectrum” there is a world of difference between the two. I’m not an “expert” on either of them by any means…only on my own child who happens to have Aspergers.

To tell you what I mean by “spectrum” I’ve copied and pasted the following from the website of NINDS (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke):

AS is an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), one of a distinct group of neurological conditions characterized by a greater or lesser degree of impairment in language and communication skills, as well as repetitive or restrictive patterns of thought and behavior. Other ASDs include: classic autism, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (usually referred to as PDD-NOS)

There are no two Aspies who are the same, there just isn’t. There are characteristics of the disorder which you will find in one Aspie, but not another. And characteristics that you find in one won’t even be a blip on the radar for another. Not to mention, the degrees of severity of the characteristics are different for each Aspie as well. My son Trace is almost 11 yrs old and he has Aspergers. However, he is not even remotely like the description that Mr. Reed gives us in his review. Trace is intelligent, yes (in the top 5% of his 4th grade class last year) but not a “high-class idiot savant”. He is a loving, sweet, funny and caring child…..especially with family. He has a few friends and their interests tend to run to the same activity which, right now, is Pokémon….especially the cards, but he also likes Transformers and Star Wars. He loves hugs and to be hugged, or sitting next to us or playing with his little brother. Trace has no problem explaining things….unless it’s something he doesn’t know and then he will ask. He is honest, almost painfully so…but, I’d rather he tells the truth than lie. And he is not emotionally blocked- he loves, he hurts, he cares. He will look you in the eye. To say that it is “lethal” to get romantically involved with an Aspie….well, it’s apparent that it’s written by someone who is misinformed about Aspergers and those who have it. Trace may have certain things to learn and issues to deal with so he can be in a successful relationship…but, you know what? That sounds pretty typical relationship to me….and with the right person, you work together to help the relationship survive.

Almost without exception, they leave you perplexed, riddled with doubt and totally depressed

Ah, the last sentence. Does Trace perplex us? Sure….but, show me a child/person (with a disability or without) that *doesn’t* perplex their parents/family/friends sometimes. I will admit to the “being riddled with doubt” point. I absolutely doubted myself when Trace was first diagnosed with Aspergers. I doubted that I could be the parent that I needed to be for him because…”hey, it took me (us) *10 yrs* to find out what was wrong with our son.” ….and “hey, there’s a TON of research that needs to be done and dr’s and specialists to find and therapies to research, and IEP’s to be fought for and teachers to talk to and the educating of family/friends/John Q Public and laws that need to be in place but aren’t so they need to lobbied for and more research to be done and advocating to do….and …and …. and….and….” Depressed, oh yes….even prone to panic attacks. I was overwhelmed with the diagnosis, by all the “things” that needed to be done, all the things that I need(ed) to learn.

But, see, one thing I’ve learned over the last year and three months is this. There will always be research to be done, advocating to be done, learning to do, laws that need changing or needing to be put in place. The medical community is learning more and more each day about Aspergers. They are learning about the causes and the things that will help our kids- so they can learn to cope, learn to be (at least somewhat) comfortable in social situations, and learn to recognize what emotion is playing across the face of the person they’re talking to. And as we learn more about this disorder, the less I doubt myself.

I realize now that while I may have “off” days (and who doesn’t?) I am totally and completely blessed with this child of mine. Yes, Trace will always have Asperger’s Syndrome, it *is* incurable (guess Mr. Reed did get one thing right), he will always be more than average intelligent. He will probably not ever be totally comfortable in social situations (but neither are a lot of people I know who are neurotypical or, NT’s) but will learn to be more so than he is now because we have researched and sought out the help that he needs. He has the ability to focus and learn everything there is to know about whatever subject/topic that has caught his attention…and as that is subject to change every year or so, I expect that he will learn so much more than the average person. He will always hug me and accept hugs from those that he cares about.

Most importantly, he is, and always will be, my quirky “Little Professor” who is intense in his focus on certain things, who pals around with his little brother, who won’t always get the idioms that we utter, who will read and re-read books that he loves, who may say something “politically incorrect” but still be 100% honest, who may always include an awkward little pat on the back when he hugs, who may not always express his emotions outwardly, or understand the emotions playing out in front of him, who probably won’t look you in the eye for more than 2 seconds at a time because it’s just “too much”, who may never take a picture where there is no light in his eyes and the smile isn’t forced, who will never (by his own admission “Mom, I don’t *do* spontaneous”) do anything spontaneously and will always get so intensely focused on his Nintendo DS game that he won’t hear you call his name when you’re right next to him….but he will always, without fail, tell me “I love you MORE” when I tell him that I love him.

You have no idea what it means to be gifted with Aspergers Syndrome.

What can I say? Life is busy….work is busier than life. It makes my head spin. But, I’ve found some new blogs to follow and I really just need to stop being lazy! I can post from my cell phone so really, no excuse.

A brief rundown…. Bubby started the 5th grade. It’s in a different building that the elementary grades so we were afraid it would be a hard transition for him. Apparently not. At the back to school night 2 weeks ago, we were amazed at the things his teachers were telling us. You may (or may not) remember me talking about how at recess time Bubby would walk around the playground, picking up rocks or junk or trash, all by himself because he didn’t know how to approach the other kids to ask to play. This year, 2 weeks into it, and he’s got 2-3 boys that he plays with at recess (!!!) and sits with at lunch (!!!!) and in general, calls “his buds”. Be still my heart. I never, ever, thought I’d hear this about him. Don’t misunderstand me, he’s still my Aspie (and always will be, there’s no “cure” for AS) but, in some situations, he apparently can feel comfortable enough to initiate contact with a couple of his peers. And though we can’t prove it, we believe that the equine therapy he’s been doing over the summer has played a large part in that. He’s been doing a program called H.O.R.S.E. (Helping Others Reach Success and Excellence), you can visit them at http://www.horsehelpspeople.org and we’ve seen some changes in him, good ones. If you’d asked me at the beginning of summer if I thought this therapy would help, I probably would have been iffy with my response. But, he went from never having been around anything larger than a Rottweiler, to actually *RIDING* the horse just last week. Color me surprised. And ecstatic!

On to Lil Man….ahhh….Lil Man. He’s 3 and a half now, with an attitude of a hormonal teenager. One minute he’s giving us kisses and in the next breath screaming at us for something. Or from sitting quietly next to the dog, and the next smacking them…he’s gotten himself snapped at recently for doing just that. He’s talking up a storm….though you can only understand about half of it. Speech therapy will be starting in the next few weeks (thru the school district’s early childhood center)…he’s excited about going to “school”. I’m beginning to see early signs of ….well, *something*….and probably something on the spectrum, I just don’t know what….it’ll show itself eventually and we’ll deal with it then I suppose.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a paper (an essay? a letter??) on Aspergers. It was mainly in response to a poor review of the movie, “Adam”. Hugh Dancy is the titular character, a 20-something man with Aspergers who falls for his new neighbor (played by Rose Byrne). The movie had, up to that point when I read this one review, gotten nothing but glowing reviews and praise ….not only from NT’s but from the ASD community-and at times, that can be hard to get. I’m going to share my “paper” with you in a new post shortly.

Hey, looky there….you get 2 posts in one d….wha? What do you mean that doesn’t make up for all the unposted months?? Hmmph….fine. I’ll post it anyways 😉

So…..what do you do when your spouse doesn’t GET the issues that your oldest child, who happens to be an Aspie, has??? I mean, c’mon….seriously. I *know* that it’s been difficult to deal with….I *know* that it’s hard to understand….but, damnit, we HAVE to deal with it correctly or there’s going to be bigger issues down the road.

We got Bubby a Nerf “protecter” for his Nintendo DS….much needed, especially since Lil Man likes to grab things from your hands and throw them….down the steps. Yeah. So, got the protector, put it on the DS and after spending about 10 minutes with it on, Bubby wants to know can he take it off….he doesn’t like the way it feels on his hands. Duh. It didn’t even occur to me (us) that he may have sensory issues with it…..he’s particular about what he feels on his skin….and he doesn’t like “rough” feeling stuff-no one does but what’s “rough” for him isn’t necessarily rough for someone without sensory issues. So, when he came to us and asked if he could take the DS out of the protector as long as he wasn’t up and walking around because it “feels funny” ….well, I didn’t really think it was a big deal. But nope, Randy had a fit over it. And when I told him that it’s likely a sensory issue and we should give him time to adjust to it. He said he (Bubby) needs to keep the damn DS in the protector and just adjust. *scoffs* Because it’s just easy peasy pudding pie for Bubby to “adjust”, right? He still doesn’t like to feel a shirt’s cuff seam on his wrist…..but now, about 5 yrs later, at least he’s not still tearing holes in the sleeves so he doesn’t have to wear them anymore. Or, what about the seams on socks? It’s pretty dang hard to find seamless socks let me tell ya, but I do it because it just bugs him so much. Any kind of ribbed or textured shirt? Not getting worn by Bubby….it’s either “itchy” or just plain ole “I don’t like how it feels Mooooommmm”. So, am I going to force him to use the protector all the time? Heck no……as long as he’s sitting down I don’t see that he needs to keep it in the protector…..but if he’s up and about? Yes, he’ll need to have it on.

Last week we had a pretty special night….. Thursday night they had an awards presentation at Bubby’s school for kids who scored “Proficient” or “Advanced” in Communication Arts and Math. He got medals and certificates for “Proficiency” in both subjects! We are soooo PROUD of him! He told us after the presentation that he wants to get “Advanced” next year and I was like “Wow! He’s got some high goals for himself” …..which he promptly shot down when he finished his announcement with “because the Advanced medals have way cooler pictures on them Mom!” LOL……

In other school news……Bubby has completed most of his IEP goals. One or two of them he’s having issues with, but, his speech therapist/case manager says that she expected it because the curriculm is getting more difficult. He’s still got all A’s and B’s on his report card so I’m pleased…..but, am accepting right now that the IEP will have to be redrafted for his move to 5th grade this fall. Hopefully I’m better able and equipped to deal with all the meetings and such this time around…..last time I was a nervous wreck and had major panic attacks. However, we’ll be dealing with the same people-with the exception of his teacher of course- so I expect that it will be somewhat easier on me.

Now I’m off to dig up info to share with Randy about sensory issues and Aspergers and ADHD…..wheeeee!!

Bubby brought home a bunch of papers from school the other week and among them was a letter that he had written to Santa Claus back in December…. Keep in mind that he has Aspergers and Aspies tend to tell you exactly what they think/what’s on their minds…..no social niceties here!

Dear Santa Claus:

I don’t want anymore wars or crime sprees. Wars take people away. Crime steals, kills and multiplys (sic) each year. So, please stop wars! Stop crime!

It’s for the army! It’s for mugged people! Its for kids! It’s for killed people! It’s for missing/killed kids!

So, stop wars and crimes! Help the army! Help everyone! Help us kids and that’s the reason.

Sincerely,

(Bubby’s real name)

_________________________________________________________________

Kind of threw me for a loop when I read it the first time. I mean, we all know these things are going on…..but do we really know what our kids do/don’t know about it all? I admit it….I didn’t know he was *that* aware of what’s going on in the world….it was Christmas time, I would have expected to hear about Pokemon and Transformers and the Warrior Clan books…..

I know that I’m going to be paying attention even more now…. With all the little things that Bubby stresses over, he doesn’t need to take on the weight of the world right now too. Don’t get me wrong….I’m proud of him that he wants these things to end (so do I and almost everyone else in the world) and that he thought of them over his favorite games/toys/books etc. But if these things are weighing on his mind, it’s no wonder that the “little” things stress him out enough for him to pull out his eyelashes/eyebrows/hair. He’s moved on to his hair now….has a little bald spot going right on the crown of his head. We took him in for a haircut over the weekend, so now that it’s shorter the spot isn’t as noticeable. He has fidgets to play with…..to keep his hands busy….even got him a new one this past weekend with the hope that it will help keep his fingers out of his hair/off his face….

Oh!!! Some good news where Lil Man is concerned! A while back I blogged about how Lil Man wasn’t being cooperative at bathtime ……and about a week and a half ago, he did a complete turn around. TOTAL turnaround. You couldn’t have shocked me more if you’d used a cattle prod….well, maybe….but you get what I mean right? When we got home from the sitters, I gave him a forewarning…. “Lil Man, we’re going to take a bath tonight ok?” and he said “Ho-tay” …I didn’t take any notice of that…it hadn’t meant “ok” regarding bath time in months, I didn’t expect that it had changed. But….we’d been inside all of 5 minutes, I sat down to go thru the mail etc and all the sudden Lil Man slaps my knee and yelled “Mama! BAFF! NOW!” I about fell off my chair. Seriously. I looked at him and said “You *want* to take a bath?? Right now???” And he squealed “Yayyyyyy!!!!” I hopped to it let me tell ya…..if he wasn’t pulling my leg, I was taking advantage of it! And, glory be! He wasn’t pulling my leg! He joined me in the bathroom (instead of me having to chase his hiney down), started stripping off clothes, squealing and laughing the whole time. He got in the tub and started taking the washcloth, dunking it in the water and putting it on his head…..something that when I’d done it just a day or two before, he’s screamed bloody murder over! I called the sitter and demanded…. “Who is this child??? And what have you done with my Lil Man???” They couldn’t believe it either…..neither could daddy, who came into to investigate all the squeals and laughter. It’s a dang miracle but, after almost a year of red-faced, scream-til-you-almost-puke, tantrums…..Lil Man is back to liking to be clean!!

Sweet!!!!

Holy cow!! I got a comment!! :::woot::: LOL…… Busy doesn’t hardly cover Deb, seriously….. Ok….so, the rest of the story….

In the midst of my searching….I had a job change. Now Jackie couldn’t contact me if she tried. I didn’t give up though….I kept bugging the people at the # she’d given me….kept searching the streets of downtown KC. Finally, *finally*, I got hold of someone at that # who told me he not only knew who Jackie was but *where* she was! Gah….I was soooo excited….I gave him my #’s to give to her and totally expected to hear from her in the next day or so. Didn’t happen. For several weeks I called the # and got hold of the same guy….he kept telling me he hadn’t been “over her way” yet but he was going “tomorrow” yada yada. Then, during one of the calls, he mentioned that Jackie’s “landlord” was about to kick her to the curb because she wasn’t paying any rent, she was like 6 months behind. Now, a couple of things that I’d found out while working with the homeless (and in particular about this “landlord”) is, if they think they have something you want, they will milk you for money the best way they know how. This “landlord” is basically a “slumlord” …..the # I was calling was one of his houses and he basically letting several people live there at the same time, collecting $$ from all of them. Real winner he is, for sure. Another thing I learned was specifically about Jackie……she’s got pride. In all the time I’d known her, she’d NEVER ever asked for *anything*, much less money (exception being when she asked us to take her to drug rehab). She would actually get upset if we spent money on anything for her….very proud she was. So, I knew this guy was yanking my chain, so to speak. Jackie would never ask for money, or even hint that she needed it. I’d had enough, I called the Missing Persons unit of the KCPD to see what, if anything, I could do about filing a report on Jackie seeing as how I’m not family/relative. The detective I spoke with, God bless him, not only was able to tell me (in not so many words) about the “slumlord” associated with the #/house I was calling, he was able to confirm that, at least as of Feb of ’07, Jackie was alive. He checked with the morgue and didn’t find anything there either. He advised me to push a little harder on the person at the #/house and if I didn’t get anywhere, call him back. So, I pushed….I was plenty pissed off so there wasn’t alot of incentive needed. I called the #, got hold of the guy who immediately said to me “I’m so glad you called…I lost your #’s, really I did, and I’m going over there today” yada yada. I said that was fine, gave him the #’s again and then told him that I’d better hear from Jackie in the next 24 hours or I’d be filing a Missing Persons report, that I’d already spoken to a detective…that I was very concerned because I *knew* that if Jackie had my information and could call me, she would….that’s how tight our bond was. She wouldn’t let anyone, or anything, stop her from contacting me…short of being dead. Imagine my surprise when he said that the “landlord” was standing right there and wanted to talk to me. I immediately said that if he was going to ask me for money, he was barking up the wrong tree because 1) I didn’t have any extra to give and 2) Jackie wouldn’t ask for it. The guy told me no, it wasn’t anything like that. So, I talked to the slumlord….and within 2 minutes had Jackie’s cell #. Gah….I actually had her #……I tried to remind myself not to get my hopes up, that this could all be a trick or a lie…..something. He kept me on the damn phone for a good 15 minutes, all I wanted to do was hang up and dial that # he’d given me, but I tried to be nice and polite. Finally, he was done and I took a deep breath and dialed.

In less than 2 rings I heard a deep Southern, gritty Cajun voice say … “Baby girl?!?! That you?!?!” I’m a baby….I started crying. After searching for as long as I had, to finally hear her voice and *know* that she was alive and (at least sounding) well….it overwhelmed me. She laughed and told me to stop crying, that she was ok, just fine….”fat ‘n sassy”……in short order? She was….Jackie. Just Jackie. And I couldn’t have been happier about it. LOL. This all happened on a Friday, a couple of weeks before Christmas…ok, if you insist….it was December 12th, approximately 3pm….wha?? You didn’t think I’d remember something this important?? LOL. After talking for about 20 minutes, we made plans for me to come visit her the next day where she’s living.

We spent about 2 hours the next day, catching up, laughing, crying…..the whole nine yards. I wish I could say that things are wonderful and perfect, but, this is real life….you take what you get, right? She’s living in a basement, and I use that term very loosely, that I wouldn’t want my worst enemy’s dog to live in. She keeps it clean, cleanliness isn’t the issue….it’s the condition of the said “house”, her asshole neighbors upstairs and the slumlord. She has a roomie, a buddy of hers named Mike (it’s a brother/sister situation, no worries on that), he works thru temps services etc……she’s got bad knees and can’t work a lot but plans on working the sports arena when baseball season starts up again. Between the two of them, and the church up the street, they (barely) keep their heads above water. The jerks upstairs…..lordy but what a mess they are. White trash, alcoholic, meth-smoking punk ass jerks. And that’s just the “mom”. And I use *that* terms very very lightly. There’s mom (in her 50’s), 2 daughters (late teens and early 20’s) and an asshole son (late teens) …..and 1 granddaughter (a baby, belongs to the early 20’s daughter) and 1 grandson (4 yr old, part-time) that belongs to an older son who *doesn’t* live with them. Seriously…they are one hot mess. They don’t like Jackie and Mike living downstairs, stomp on the floors at all hours, the baby cries, the toddler throws tantrums, they (the “grown ups”, including the teens) yell and scream and curse at the kids……they play thumping, punk-ass music from morning til late late night…..”mom” spends her disability checks on alchol and drugs, the older daughter gets food stamps and WIC, the late teen daughter supposedly goes to school and the boy? He’s just a lazy ass jerk who thinks he’s all bad and intimidating. Ha. There’s a story about him that I’ll have to share on another day……it’s a hoot. I’ll give you a hint…..for some unknown reason the slumlord believes that I work for Social Services….I don’t, but he thinks I do….and he told the family that. Boy, are they on their best behavior when I come around…. LMAO……