Tag Archives: college

The Week My Son Went Missing

The Week My Son Went Missing

So, here it is, it is Monday. Since it was my last week of work before embarking on an adventure to move my career forward in the fields of Organizational Development, I went to work and was diligently putting together standard work for all my job functions, cleanup files, plan what else needs to be done. Go to the chiropractor to get rid of severe pain between my shoulder blades, then go home and start to organize for our upcoming move. I enter the house and say hello to my Coco in the kennel and she just looks at me with a sad look…. I went to kick my shoes off and notice that the front door is cracked open…. Weird. Denny, my husband, ran to basement to check on Brian and ran back up worried because he wasn’t there and told me to check upstairs. I started freaking thinking someone came in and kidnapped him, but when I didn’t find him, his iPad, his phone, nor his clean jeans that were on the floor…. And then….. My heart skipped a beat when we called his phone and it immediately went to voice mail- it was off. Then we sent text messages to family and friends that were in central Illinois asking if they took him somewhere or heard from him…. No on both. While I called 911 and explained the situation 18 year old with Asperger’s, no government ID, no credit card, likely headed to LA unsure of how…. My husband was calling the airport and got nowhere due to the privacy act (who else thinks the HIPPA privacy act is a PITA??) (if not sure what PITA – you fill in the last word… Pain In The A**.). By this time my report was finished and I was listening for hope in my hubby’s conversation with the Amtrak station. I was hearing hope from the lady who understood his pain and worry, unfortunately it seems she didn’t know much about their system… “I see he purchased a ticket through the app via Galesburg but they wouldn’t let him on without photo ID so it was cancelled.” “Oh wait that was on August 1st, uhm, oh yup, same thing on today. You need to call Amtrak police and they can track this better and find him. Then she kept talking for like, FOREVER. So hubby handed me the number to call when it became apparent that this gal didn’t realize that he can’t call the train police when he is on the phone with her babbling about different scenarios of what he may or may not have done…. The Amtrak police were of little assistance telling me I need to file with local police.. “I just did, can help me before they get her to write it?” “No they will put out an alert and we will respond to that”. To me this was, “I’m really busy playing candy crush, about to beat level 141, and I don’t have time for your missing 18-year-old and I really need fired.” So I hung up and hubby STILL on the phone with the lady at Amtrak. He told her we called and they wouldn’t do anything. She then, bless her heart, asked Jason (last name unknown) to check the train and report back. Well, apparently Jason was busy reviewing what’s for sale in online Facebook groups because he NEVER reported back. Ever, even when the police called-stellar job performance dude. So, the police show up two officers. They search the house and didn’t find him. They ask questions about why we were concerned and then call their commanding officer to confirm we have an endangered missing person. Then, more police showed up… just a few….

LA IMG_6211
(Side note: if you have anyone that’s over 18, but they have medical issues- like autism, dementia, Alzheimer’s, you do NOT need to wait 48 hours to call police and file a report because they are missing and ENDANGERED. You MUST use the word endangered, and so read on to learn what that lil word does- one word, HUGE response.)

Anyhow, one officer was looking at his Facebook account for clues-recently added people on his laptop that was left behind, because he’s always logged in and likely didn’t take it because it is SLOW as crap, but we made do. I looked to see if I could get lucky to get into his email account but no such luck. One asked command to ping his phone no luck. They then asked for phone records for activity. While the other officer and I called people on his recently contacted numbers through our AT&T Billing, unfortunately it lacked the most recent 24 hours. (Side note: Sorry to the two friends who we freaked out a little!). While this was happening, within 15 minutes three more officers, including their commanding officer, came to the house. The new policeman asked me if I could get into his email account or “find my iPhone” account. I told him I didn’t know the password. He asked if I could guess it. Then I thought of when Brian and I met my friend Jennifer at McDonald’s and he went to check his Facebook and was seriously typing for a minute straight. He takes passwords seriously.

So our kitchen became command central. Each officer was calling a different entity. One officer thought of taxis and asked if we had a phone book. We actually had just gotten one the week before. He looked through a few seconds, then asked, “I know I’m not old school, but what would taxis be listed under in the yellow pages?” I laughed because I asked on Facebook several weeks ago who still used the book. So he found it and started calling. No luck. They contacted Amtrak to get ahold of Jason, who was busy looking for Brian and would tell him to call back. It’s amazing to me that the response to the police on the phone was little to no response. They contacted the bus station, no luck. So they decided to go out and canvas the area. Jason…. Must have gotten lost or something because he NEVER called back.

By then it was 8:00 pm and it was just Dennis and I. While I was freaking out, he was hacking his email account. He had helped him set it up, so our email was the back up for lost passwords. Boom we were into the mail. Not much in the inbox, but found a reservation for a taxi he used to get to the bus station. We called the officer and advised. A little bit later, an hour or so, the officer called back and advised that the people at the bus station remarried Brian. He came in and was holding the door for people and talking to them. (Is it bad that at this point I was extremely proud of him for being helpful?!) He continued on to say they were working on confirming that he was on the bus and would keep me updated. At about 11:00 he called back and said that he is confident he is on the bus and is working with St Louis greyhound and local police to assist. Although with the riots in St Louis he wasn’t sure how much help from officers he could get. He asked what they should do if it is him, do we have court docs indicating he can’t live on his own? I know so many recommended guardianship and I’ll explain in a bit why I didn’t do that. The officer and I discussed options and ultimately, I didn’t want them to detain him because he is 18, obviously determined and if forced to return he would likely just run again… I don’t want to do that because it would just frustrate him more. He said he likely couldn’t detain him anyways. I told him my concern was that (1) he was SAFE, (2) that we could contact him, and (3) through contact find out what he has lined up when arriving at LA. So they found him on the bus and ensured he was safe and recommended he turn his phone ON and contact us. Which he did and he kept in contact with us via text. We talked about what next? Would we come to LA? Would we let him find out himself? Could someone local meet him? We decided to have a local meet him so that he had some autonomy. At about 2:00 am Tuesday I went to sleep, then got up at 5:00 am to get ready for work. I’m one of those people that will drive myself insane if I don’t have something else to focus on. While I worked, my husband stayed home keeping in contact with Brian. My boss told me any flexibility I need to handle this, just do it. And I thought about it, but Brian didn’t arrive in LA until 330 pm Wednesday, so I had soak time. It wasn’t until I spoke with my other boss (Yeah, I have two…) Anyhow, he called me to talk to him. Not about meetings needed, or anything regarding work. Just to specifically ensure I was ok and if I needed anything. I told him I was ok, besides the fact that I had minimal make up on (foundation only) and frankly I had done my hair better to scrub toilets, I was ok and would feel much better when he got to LA and I knew he had a residence (not a shelter, group home) and was ok. Then he said something that flipped a switch. “You should be on a plane to LA. It’s not a good place for him to be alone. Don’t be sorry later.” Sorry, meaning my son is permanently missing or killed…. Then I got to my desk and texted Denny. “I’m going to la if you don’t.” He searched options, I searched options, and I left work because there was a 6:00 pm flight out. It was 2:30 pm and I realized when I got home I needed to pack, grab essentials Brian would need (SS card, birth certificate) and would surely forget something if I rushed/ you know…. like my clothes. Important stuff. There was a 6:00 am flight and I booked it. I told my hubby I didn’t care how much it cost because I would pawn everything so that I know he is safe- I didn’t want to call Melanie Schelling, my insurance agent to collect life insurance.

I have never flown before alone, or driven in a humongous city like LA before… I won’t even drive in Chicago. :). So for me this was a new thing. I admit it, I was a little scared traveling alone, but had to keep my mind on the prize!! Not only was I afraid of just the travel, but also the fact that my flights could get delayed or cancelled them I would miss his bus!
So if you know me… Ya know, I don’t like getting up early, early and being somewhere before like 7:00 am but I do what I need to do for the things I’m passionate about. (So all you Decatur Cat folks that saw me at the plant digging around in a cooler for your choice of soda… Know that it’s because I love you all!!

And my hubby was on third shift for 9 years and I know he felt like the line ranger as far as things happening on his shift. Besides we had a fun time-serving dinners to ya!). So anyways, I set my alarm for 3:00 am. I got ready and while doing so, made sure I had everything we might need (SSN card, birth certificate, etc.). We got to the airport with NO time to spare, at 5:15 for a 6:00 am flight. Thank heavens for small airports and speedy processing, despite a change of security check in guards that delayed the line from moving for 10 minutes. Luckily, I had my shoes tied loosely, no belt, all my liquids in my carry on (no checked bags), boarding passes printed and license ready. So I made it… Now for a brisk walk to the gate, which for a small airport seemed like F.O.R.E.V.E.R. Away. But I made it, even got there before they started boarding. Yay!!

I have never flown before alone, or driven in a humongous city like LA before… I won’t even drive in Chicago. :). So for me this was new thing. I admit it, I was a little scared traveling alone, but had to keep my mind on the prize!! Not only was I afraid of just the travel, but also the fact that my flights could get delayed or cancelled them, I would miss his bus!

So if you know me… You know, I don’t like getting up early and being somewhere before like 7:00 am but I do what I need to do for the things I’m passionate about. (So all you Decatur Cat folks that saw me at the plant digging around in a cooler for your choice of soda at 3:00 a.m…. Know that it’s because I love you all!! ☺ Besides that my hubby was on third shift for 9 years and I know he felt like the lone ranger as far as things happening on his shift. Besides we had a fun time with ya!). So anyways, I set my alarm for 3:00 am. I got ready and while doing so, made sure I had everything we might need (SSN card, birth certificate, etc.). We got to the airport with NO time to spare, at 5:15 for a 6:00 am flight. Thank heavens for small airports and speedy processing, despite a change of security check in guards that delayed the line from moving for 10 minutes. Luckily, I had my shoes tied loosely, no belt, and all my liquids in my carry on (no checked bags), boarding passes printed and license ready. So I made it… Now for a brisk walk to the gate, which for a small airport seemed like F.O.R.E.V.E.R. away. But I made it. In fact, I even got there before they started boarding. Yay!!

So on my flight from O’Hare to Los Angeles, it went really smooth and I got WIFI! So since we have iPhones, I could text back and forth with Brian and hubby! I kept up to date on where the bus was in relation to my arrival time. My hubby was pinging Brian’s phone/ipad with the Find My Phone app through iCloud. If you have apple products and haven’t activated that app… do it. Now, we had originally told Brian we would find someone to meet him off the bus. It WAS the original intention but, after talking with my boss… I decided… Ya know what? It’s gonna be ME!! When you want something done and you kept up to date, it is best to do it yourself. Besides, I couldn’t inconvenience any of my people in Cali. Please note that it was not my intention to drag him back to Illinois, it was to help him set up shop in Los Angeles. If not, help him determine the next steps. However, since he ran away, I didn’t want to post that on Facebook because I was afraid he’d dart and get on a different bus. I know a lot of Facebook people thought I was crazy for not going… but I couldn’t let the cat out of the bag. When he asked if we found someone, I texted him and told him that “I have two prospects – one will definitely be there on Wednesday. You’ll recognize either from Facebook, I told them to wear a purple shirt, so they will and will call out your name. They both have your pic. :). Where are you at now?” So you can see that I kind of avoided the question. Ha! I really wanted to say… “My plane is above your bus! Wave!” But I didn’t. So we chatted back and forth a bit, and again he asked “Who’s gonna meet me at the downtown LA greyhound station?” I responded “Leslie”. Then he asked “Leslie who?” And I tried to step dance around answering it. Luckily I had to put the phone away because my plane landed and needed to pick up my car, or I should say figure out how to get my car! I found the shuttle bus, got my car and trusted Siri to direct me to the bus station. I made it, Siri didn’t let me down for once. Then after taking in the scenery around the bus station, I checked my messages and responded. “Sorry was on the phone. She’s in a maroon Nissan Maxima, wearing a purple shirt & jean shorts. What’s your location now?” He was still about an hour out… and let me tell ya, I thanked my lucky stars I flew out because that area was rather scary. I was happy he arrived at 3:30 pm, in the daylight… Homeless people sleeping all along the road, in parks, under bridges and when there wasn’t a person there, their shopping carts full of ‘prizes’ were left. The buildings had bars on all the windows and quite a group of people to watch. I saw this one gal that was rather chubby, wearing what appeared to be a tube top… as a dress. I mean for real… She was well endowed on the front and the rear. If she would’ve breathed in heavy, she would have lost both loads. I should have taken a picture, but I didn’t to protect her identity. There was a security guard posted right by my car so I stayed there as long as I could. While I waited I called several autism resources in LA to see if they can assist Brian in either talking out a better plan or helping find housing. One of them I left a message and the others needed an address within LA in order to provide services. I found this rather odd, as if I am seeking out housing, I don’t have an address.

At about 45 minutes till arrival, I went inside the bus station. Denny was pinging his iPhone and updating me on his location periodically. This feature came in handy because at one point, I asked, “Do I have time to pee??” He said yes, and I went! So when I finished with that necessity, I waited for the bus. LA IMG_6234It seemed like I waited…..and waited…. Then I started to worry I was at the wrong station, so to calm myself, I asked the lady at the counter if this was where route 1351 would arrive and if they were delayed. She told me she had no clue what route 1351 was….. So aggravating as later I found a board. They have one arriving daily…. Argh, good help is so hard to find. That’s ok, because I looked outside and realized, my wait was over, as the bus arrived!! I photographed the bus arriving and posted to Facebook so all my friends would know… Mom to the rescue!! So many were worried, so many had shared our missing picture and status and those that also shared it, who didn’t know us, were afraid for him. Since the original posting of the missing persons status, I had all my status updates as public. I know there have been times I have shared a status and you don’t know what ever happened – did they find them? So I wanted to be fairly transparent – except in telling everyone I was going to LA to meet his bus. That I had to keep a secret.

Since it seemed like it took forever to see him get off the bus, I will tell you why I never went to get guardianship for my son. I am a firm believer that labels create limits. I have always told my kids that they could be anything they wanted to be when they grew up and I hoped that they would believe it too. When you have doubts, you can be your own worst enemy, keeping you from reaching your true potential. I was afraid of getting guardianship because I didn’t want Brian to think that I didn’t believe in him. Do I believe he can live on his own? Most definitely. Do I think he is ready now? No. I also know that he inherited my, what some would call stubbornness, while others would call it determination, goal oriented. What he wants he is going to go after and if someone tells him he can’t he is just going to show you otherwise!! Which in most cases, I would be so proud of him for being that way – independent. However, at this time, I knew he didn’t have a plan when he arrived as far as living accommodations and without a government issued picture ID and credit card, he wasn’t going to be able to obtain a hotel room, forcing him to sleep in a shelter or the streets. While I want him to learn about life, I don’t want him to learn about it in such negative ways that it scares the begeezus out of him. Remember he held the doors open for people? He is a kind person and I didn’t want someone to take advantage of that. Remember he had some cash on his person… So, in summary, I didn’t want to label him as needing a guardian. I think as parents we are always guardians, it’s our job to help teach them the ways of the world no matter what age they are. Labels can cause limits and I don’t want either of my kids to think that they have a limit to their potential… because they don’t. And, if you have teenagers, with Asperger’s or not, and lived with them when they are mad at you, because they aren’t getting their way… it’s not a happy environment! I want a happy home, not a hostile one.

So, it probably took about that long as Brian was looking at all the bags, went back on the bus to see if his bag was there, but he came in with only his back pack. I started to worry about what his reaction would be when he saw me. Would he be mad? Throw a tantrum and run? Would he hug me? Or would he just say “hi”. As he walked in, the guy was telling him where to go to check for it. He was looking around, without his glasses on I am sure everyone was a little blurry.

LA IMG_6240So, I called his name, and he walked up to me and realized it was me, he said, “Mom?!! How’d you get here so fast?!” And gave me a hug! Then I told him I flew because I wasn’t going to let him be alone in LA. ✈ I asked him if he missed me and he said yes, but he was just so shocked to see me!

So, first things first… LA IMG_6241
we took a selfie in the bus station to post on Facebook for all those that have been looking, praying and following knew he was in good hands. I looked terrible after traveling all day and getting up before the roosters, but I posted it anyways because I was so happy that he was happy to see me!! Then we went to the counter to check on his luggage, it was not there, but they have buses at 730 pm, 9:30 pm and 10:30 pm. They would call if it came in. (I had no plans of going there after dark!!) I told him we would see what we could find in the line of clothing if they did not find it by the next day. But first, we should go and check out LACC and see if we can get the assessment testing completed. The school was relatively clean and seemed to be on a nice street, and it was open. (The show “The Community” was filmed here.)

We went to the counseling office to speak to a counselor on what classes to sign up or, etc. They asked for his student ID, which surprisingly he didn’t have memorized. We needed that in order to speak with a counselor. They directed us to the kiosk and if that didn’t work, to the admissions office to retrieve it. We tried the kiosk but it was not helpful so we headed to the admissions office. The guy behind the window said that he didn’t give those, that we would need to go to room 105. As we headed to room 105, I saw room 101, 103, but no 105. So, we just went into 103, which was the assessment office. The gentleman was apologetic as he directed us to the admissions window for the number. I told him we had just come from there, but since we were here, we needed to take the assessments and could Brian do that today after retrieving his student ID number? He said that he didn’t have any openings until the 20th of August and that they fill up FAST. I had called previously on the assessments and while they didn’t have to be taken at LACC, they could be taken at any community college in California… just not in Illinois. So I didn’t get too upset since I knew we had alternative options. So, we headed back to the window, where the guy told us room 105… I told him that they sent us here, we have a number and we just didn’t know it. To which Brian handed his high school student ID and received the number. We then went to the counselor’s office, which closed at 6:00 and it was about 5:30. Luckily someone was able to speak with us and told Brian if he was planning to transfer to University of Southern California they liked A’s and gave the list of general ed classes needed along with the film and cinema program courses. She also explained the costs of tuition – in state vs. out-of-state and that he needed to establish a residence as soon as possible. I told her that was next on the agenda. She also directed us to the financial aid office that we should go into the courtyard, turn between those two buildings and then there are bungalows on the right, one is financial aid, the other is student services to discuss Brian’s IEP. As we walked to the first turn, Brian said that he was tired and I agreed, “me too.” He said he didn’t sleep for the last two days on the bus and asked what time I got up. I told him 3:00 a.m. and he said, “Oh my gosh, what?” I said, “Yes, I got up at 3:00 a.m. to get to a 6:00 a.m. flight to LA so that I wouldn’t miss your bus arriving. See how much I love you?” To which he responded, “I am starting to see that, yes.” Well, by this time we had turned the corner and I saw buildings for Radiology Technology and other things, but not the financial aid or student services building. Since it was nearing 6:00, I told Brian, let’s just come back tomorrow after we have gotten some rest and can maybe find the building? He agreed, so we left for the hotel. He did ask me if I wanted to see some sights that we didn’t get a chance to see when we were out here on vacation several years ago, like the La Brea Tarpits or the Santa Monica Beach? I told him we could do that if we got his apartment, college classes and job secure because that is what I was out there for.

We checked in and walked up to the room to find that the key cards they gave us didn’t work. So, we went back downstairs… and they gave us new keys. We went to the 8th floor and this time, they worked! Brian said he needed nail clippers and I said he needed a shirt that wasn’t able to stand on its own. There was a Walgreens caddy cornered from the hotel, so we went on an adventure. We got the clippers, a California t-shirt, some breakfast bars and chocolate milks to drink. Then we decided to walk a few doors down to Chipolte to grab dinner and return to the hotel to relax/rest. We got to the room to find that they didn’t have a fridge in the room. So, we just drank our chocolate milk like dessert. That was pretty much it for that day.

Tuesday morning I wake up rather early in California time, about 4:30 a.m. – it would be 6:30 a.m. in Illinois. So, I got up and got ready, then woke Brian up so we could go looking for apartments. First he tried calling Greyhound to see if they had his luggage, but kept getting a busy signal. Brian found two different studio apartments that he felt he could afford and would be relatively close proximity to LACC. We started by calling them. The first one, the landlord answered and said that he had no vacancies, but to check back at the end of the month and he may have some once he knows who gives their 30-day notices. I thanked him and called the next apartment. I got a message machine, left our name and number and what we were looking for. Then we started looking at other options. I looked up the second apartment on a review sight and told Brian it said that they intermittently shut off the water during the day with no notice, the electricity goes out often and that there was a considerable amount of gang violence. He said we could mark that apartment off the list then (the landlord never called back anyhow.) Brian found another studio, so I dialed it up. Lucas answered and was very helpful. He said he didn’t have any studios, but did have a one bedroom that rented for $2,900 a month. I told him that was a bit out of Brian’s budget (about $2,400 over). He looked at sister properties but they were all higher rent than what he offered. Then he gave us two great websites to use. The websites sorted by price and I started with the lowest and called about 15 different entries. Out of those 15, 12 had disconnected numbers. I told Brian that I was kind of concerned if they couldn’t keep their phone on! Two of them I left a message and the last one there was not a message machine – so it was crossed off the list. If I can’t get ahold of you to rent, how much better will it be when I have an issue in my apartment?? Then the person from the autism resource center that I had left a message for called me back. She was very helpful without being helpful. Again, since he didn’t have an address, she couldn’t help him because they serve by address and that it would take 120 days for intake to determine services needed, etc. I asked if she had apartments that would be a good fit for Brian but she said she did not. Once he establishes a residence, they can start the intake process and will offer life skills, budgeting assistance, provide student advocacy – all of which will be important for Brian starting out on his own states away from his family. So, we will keep that information for when Brian does go to LA. At this point, I had given up on apartments, but thought, a call to University of Southern California might be a place to try – if nothing we could get the assessments taken maybe?

This conversation was one of the most pivotal turning points. While they had no counselors on site (they just finished summer semester and everyone was on break until fall began) she said she could try to help me. Essentially I told her that Brian wanted to go to LACC, then transfer to USC and what would be the best classes to take, is there a documented transfer student plan, etc? She told us that USC really prefers that their students for the film and cinema production only take their general education requirements then transfer. They do not want them to take the film classes because they will not get credit for the class itself, only for the credits the class was worth. So, any film classes he would take at LACC would not credit him with film classes at USC, meaning he would have to take all the film and cinema classes over … again. At this point, I told Brian that a residence wasn’t in our cards for the day and I could not leave him to be on his own without a place to stay. Based on that, I looked at how much USC was a year (Wowza… $60k), how much LACC was a semester and housing. Then I drew up the cost picture for Brian. Since he wants to attend University of Southern California, I left it out of the picture:

Attending LACC (no campus housing)
In State fees $46/credit hour
Out of State fees $246/credit hour

Typical full time is 12 credit hours a semester – 12 times 2 = 24
Best case – say he has In State fees at $46/hour 24 x $46= $1104.00
Books $1500.00
Apartment – $500/mo. (best case) 24 x $500= $12,000.00
Food – $100/wk x 104 wks (2 years) $100×104= $10,400.00

*He would have to work close to full time to pay his rent, tuition, and food bills.
*He needs to keep in mind he HAS to get A’s and B’s to enter USC
(Even once you enter USC, if you get a C, or below… you are dropped
from the program.)
*Mom and Dad cannot pick up costs, it is all on his pocketbook.

Alternative – take General Ed classes and live with mom and dad:

Tuition Mom and Dad pay $0
Books Mom and Dad pay $0
Housing – lives with mom and dad Mom and Dad pay $0
Food Mom and Dad pay $0

*Time – he wouldn’t have to work full-time, could work part-time if wanted. *Allows more time to focus on homework and get A’s and B’s.
*Saves him $25,400 minimum.
*Mom and Dad pay for ticket back home
*When general ed is done and accepted to USC, we will pay for his ticket out there and travel with him to get him settled.

He wasn’t enthused that it wasn’t working out in LA for him to stay, and it sucked to see him disappointed…. but he agreed that scenario two was the most cost-effective for him and agreed for me to book his ticket back with me. We did agree on a “to do” list for the day we had in LA:

-Go by Greyhound to see if they have his luggage
-Drive by first apartment building Brian found, observe area.
-Drive by second apartment building mom found, observe area.
-Visit Griffith Observatory
-Visit the La Brea Tarpits
-Eat at Yogurt Land
-Eat at Buca di Beppo
-Go to Santa Monica Beach if time
-Meet up with my fantastic scriptwriter friend

So the first order of business was to go to Greyhound. Low and behold, they DID have his luggage!! This saved us a bunch of shopping, as all his jeans were in the case and 29×34 are HARD to find on the shelves!

Drove by the first apartment, it looked like a possibility, as did the second. Then we drove towards Griffith Observatory…. I was not prepared for this drive up Mt. Hollywood…. I got sort of dizzy at the top and we couldn’t find a parking spot for anything so I begged Brian if we could just go to the tar pits. Reluctantly he agreed and I was relieved to be on regular roadways. The tar pits were neat and they really did smell like hot tar.

We took a few photos there, then headed out for Yogurt Land. After we left Yogurt Land, my scriptwriter friend, Lisa called us. She couldn’t meet us for dinner at Buca di Beppos, but did have a conversation on what Brian should do to break into the business. He will start looking at internships in the spring.

Then we took off for the Santa Monica Beach and to eat at Buca di Beppo, where the stars are seen eating at times.

Well, we didn’t see any stars at Buca di Beppo, but we ate a dish of cheese ravioli with meat sauce and headed out to the pier. We walked the pier, then walked the beach, then returned to the hotel and began preparations for our departure the next morning at 7:00 a.m. While this trip did not occur in a manner that I would have preferred, we did have some fun together after working to find a place for Brian to live. And he is still going to go to LA, it is just a matter of when. Brian says 5 months, but I don’t think he will get the general ed classes completed in that amount of time. I told him if he gets all the general ed classes done while living with us, going to internships in LA during the summers, when he transfers to USC, he will have housing there, food there and it will be an easier transition.

While we were in LA, I asked Brian if he remembered how he felt when he went out to feed the dogs and bring them in the garage because it started to snow and Beau was missing and he couldn’t find him before he got on the bus? He did. Told him that was how his dad and I felt when we came home and he was gone, times 100 at least and then we couldn’t reach him on his phone. I asked him to promise never to do that again. All I can do now is pray for the best and help him get his general education requirements done, scholarships applied for, and college admissions forms completed.

It’s tough being a parent. I have an Asperger’s son and a non-Asperger’s daughter. Each came with their own challenges. One thing I can say about raising an Asperger’s son is that he has taught me more about how to interact with others in the workplace – Asperger’s causes them to see things and understand things in black and white, they take things very literally. So, you have to be careful how you word tasks that need completed. In addition to that, not everyone thinks the same, sees things the same, and when you let all those different aspects out in a room, you can make some wildly innovative ideas. People might say that people with Asperger’s have quirks… I argue that we all do and we need to learn to understand each other.

I do want to add that I am so grateful that my Facebook friends shared my status when Brian went missing and how many kept following along, praying and keeping in touch to make sure Brian was found, that he was okay, and that we were okay. So many people messaged us and it really was heartwarming to know that there are people out there that do care about the safe keeping of others. Within an hour, I had 1,000 shares on my status. By 2 am, I believe it was up to 5,000. Simply amazing and we are overwhelmed by your concern and assistance in finding Brian. We even had people offer airline miles, to take a collection, etc. Not necessary, but so very heartwarming. Thank you for your shares, prayers, and concern!


Overcoming Adversity


I am sharing this for ALL my friends. I am a pretty positive person. I have goals and dreams, yet I have my own invisible medical combats fighting me all along the path to achieve those goals and dreams. This guy is truly an inspiration to me. Maybe he is stubborn like me, but I have always, always continued to believe I can achieve my dreams. I didn’t always believe in myself, but as soon as you reach the first milestone and you look back at what you have accomplished, wow, you know the next milestone is just within reach.

For me, it was attending college for the first time, and second time, then the third. I was an A, B, sometimes C student in high school. I didn’t believe in myself at that time. As soon as I graduated high school, I took Psychology with Dr. Bopp. Which is pretty funny since I am pretty sure in high school we prank phone called his house and sang “Unskinny Bopp” as soon as he answered. (For you young ins, that was before caller id.) But I let my insecurities down and I just enjoyed the class. I did my homework and I got an A. Wow… an A in my first college class. Then, I dropped out in the fall… I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I graduated, I didn’t have a goal or even a dream to follow, so I was meandering about aimlessly. Then, I got married and had two kids that I loved with all my heart. I knew deep down that in order to provide for them, I needed to get my rear end back in college and get a career. I took a leap of faith, as soon as Brian was off of formula I quit my part time job at Von Maur and enrolled full time at RCC for radiology technology which at that time was a co op with Springfield. I completed the classes – full time, while still taking on the responsibilities of being a mommy and all that entailed – through sickness and health. I maintained a 4.0 on a 4.0 scale. In fact, the hardest classes, Anatomy and Physiology 1 & 2, I scored more points than possible due to extra credit. Honestly in A&P 1, I missed very few questions, I flipping rocked it – broke the curve. I was a nerd… Sorry if you were one who dropped out, but for me, this was a reward for a job well done. You don’t get an A or a certificate for changing a diaper or mopping the floors. It was a satisfaction of knowing that I could DO IT! Then came the time for clinicals… in Springfield. After determining the hours of day care since both my kiddies were still too young for school, the lack of financial aid, I would be paying $250 a week in daycare without any income to back it up. So, I switched gears. I changed to looking at a bachelor’s in science. Then, I was again thwarted by the 5 math classes RCC required and I lost my focus and obtained a job in a law firm. Something that I never, ever thought I would do, but it was just as a secretary so I could do that. Ha ha. It was a legal assistant. I learned SO much from working there that I then took a correspondence course for a paralegal certificate. It was very interesting to me and I continued that same field until I discovered that I had Multiple Sclerosis. It was at that point, along with turning 30 that I realized – I don’t have any benefits at this law firm. I don’t have any paid leave if something were to happen. I don’t have an education to get me in another position, I am stuck unless I take action. And I DID. I looked into programs and found the PACE program at Millikin, the answer to my needs. One evening a week for almost 2 years and voila, bachelors in management and organizational leadership. I moved to working at a Fortune 100 then, now Fortune 50 company as a contract employee. The same month I graduated with my bachelors and was hired on full time with this company. And I just keep going, and going, and going. Much like this guy… my friends, it is inside of YOU. I could have gotten my diagnosis declared SSI and sunk into despair. Instead, I continued into my dreams and goals and I showed MS I was not backing down. Sure in the beginning it was hard to cope with the diagnosis, but after the first flare went into remission, I just kept thinking that I don’t know when the next will be, or if it will ever be, and I can’t stop my life for what might be. I must live it until I HAVE to stop. It has been almost 10 years since that diagnosis. Look at all the things I would have lost out on if I had just stopped and gave in? I have even connected with other MS patients and encouraged them to keep a positive attitude. They lifted me up by telling me that my story and determination helps them. They are the ones that encouraged me to share my story to help others, so that when they are diagnosed, they know that there is hope for them. That medicines are good, but no matter what you are facing in life, you can be your own worst enemy, your attitude most certainly determines your altitude. You can either settle for what you are given or you can show the world what you deserve. Look at this guy… no arms, no legs… yet he continues to overcome and shares that with people to help inspire them to overcome and achieve their goals. He is leaving a significant impact on every life he has touched… That is what this life is about, helping others, helping to make a change in the world.

This is Nick Vujicic. Take a look at yourself after watching this video. What can you overcome?

I am a Community College Dropout!

I am a Community College Dropout!

Can’t you hear the song from Grease as Pinky contemplates quitting beauty school? Well, I have been a community college drop out, not once, but twice. Sure we can blame it on getting pregnant, played around too much, didn’t focus on school or “taking time for myself”, but really, I think it was just another reason for people to validate why I dropped out. Those excuses really are not the root cause. If you are a teacher or a parent, maybe even a high school student I hope that this helps you. I know I use(d) these as a guide for helping my kids. Let me just start by saying that I do hold both a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Management and Organizational Leadership from Millikin University and Benedictine University, respectively. So, it turned out okay, it was just far more of a struggle than I think really had to be. In high school I was, what I call an average student – A’s and B’s. I hold education important, so I don’t feel that C’s are ‘average’. To stay competitive, we really need to up our game in the educational system. So, back to the story. I started college with a summer course immediately after I graduated. Pshychology 101, at 8:00 a.m. three days a week. Hind sight is always 20/20, I am not a morning person by any means now, and as a teenager, sleeping until noon during the summer was a necessity. Why I chose that time, I will never know. But, I did great at it and got an A – woo hoo starting out college with a 4.0! Then the fall semester came and I was signed up for a full course load for the nursing program. I was kind of lost, as all my friends were drifting away. We went to the same school, but their class schedules were different than mine and I don’t think I was sure of what I should do. That is really weird of me to see that as I have always been an independent person. Growing up as an only child, you kind of have to be, but in high school my friends and I hung out between classes, hung out at lunch, after school, etc. It is something you wait for your whole child hood, but when graduation happens, you really aren’t sure what to do, who you are, where you are going. It can get lonely. I was struggling with my course load, keeping up with the assignments, my heart just wasn’t in it, so, I dropped all my classes. Not really a stellar time in my life, it didn’t really make my parents happy. Neither one of them had a college education, so it was important to them that I attend. They of course, were in the working world and saw the importance that college educations had. Me? Well, I was a teenager, and what do all teenagers think their parents know? Squat. Yup, like I said, hindsight is always 20/20. But, we have to learn those lessons on our own. Best lessons are the hard lessons you learn by making mistakes. The love of my life (well, at least the last year at this time) was in his second year of dorm life at a four year college an hour away on a full grant studying engineering. He struggled with some of the roommates he had, calculus classes, and I think that same feeling I had… Where are all the people that I know? Who are all these weird people? 🙂 When he lost his grant, during the summer semester, he obtained loans, but those were weighing on his stress level. Ultimately it was all too much and he decided to return home to attend community college, the same one I dropped out of. I was thoroughly enthused as I missed him VERY much! Well, I bet you can tell exactly where this is headed… we were in love, I was almost 18, he didn’t want to move in with his parents, I was ready to get out of small town living so we got an apartment together. Really intelligent, since I worked at K-mart part-time and he worked for his dad’s machine shop that had just opened a year before, part time. I wish that I had that same belief that everythign would be great and just jump into decisions like that…. We were invicible! 🙂 Christmas came and I learned that a few months prior, he purchased an engagement ring which he gave to me Christmas day. On December 27th, reluctantly I took a pregnancy test that turned out positive. Well, that kind of put a little bit of a damper on our cloak of invincibility, but everything happens for a reason. Sure the first thing our friends asked was, “What are you going to do? Keep it? Abortion? Adoption?” Dumb question in our minds, as abortion was not an option (I will have to blog another time on the story behind my being an only child.) No way were we going to give a product of our love for each other away to someone who may not raise them with any morals or worse…. We did it, we were already planning to be together, this just sealed the deal. We planned a wedding and were married about 6 weeks later on February 20th. I can publish this as I have never hidden the fact from my kids that I was pregnant before we were married. Remember I hold education very important, I wanted them to learn math and the gestation period for a human being. 🙂 Obviously the story doesn’t end there, I said in the beginning that I had a bachelor’s and master’s degree. And it doesn’t. Basically through living life without a college education, I learned that I was the one who didn’t know jack squat. Frankly, I didn’t know jack or squat. What my parents saw was what I learned. If you want to be successful in your climb on the career ladder you need a college degree. My husband learned first. He worked for his dad for my pregnancy and he had a dream to work for Wagner Castings as a CMM programmer, which came to fruition when Alyssa was just a month old. A full time gig with benefits, but on third shift. Almost a year later, he obtained a position at a Fortune 50 company as a machinist when Alyssa was about to turn 1 year old. This gave us far superior benefits as well as an 80% raise. He worked a lot of overtime in this job, many 12 hour days, many weekends. Started out on 2nd shift, then moved to third shift. It was rough on a family. I had worked odd jobs as needed to get a little extra cash and obtained a full time job at a local credit union. After a few months there, Alyssa’s respiratory infections got progressively worse until they just didn’t go away. Poor thing at 18 months old we thought she would cough up her toe nails. Many missed days of work for me as I couldn’t take her to the sitter when she was sick. This continued for several months. Meanwhile, we were planning on expanding our family and after trying for a year, when Alyssa was just about 27 months, I found out I was pregnant. I stopped working full time and focused on family. We found out when we switched pediatricians that she had Asthma. With that diagnosis and breathing treatments, life was hunky dory again. Well, remember my husband had two dreams, well, his third was to become a processor at the Fortune 50 company. However, when he talked to the supervisor about moving, he was told that he would need an Associate’s degree. He was really reluctant to get it, but I nudged him to go for his dream. He graduated from the community college and guess what? He did not immediately move up. Very aggitated, he kept applying with no success. He went back to talk to the supervisor again and this time was told that now it required a bachelor’s degree. He was throroghly aggrivated and refused to do so. After several times of being told the lack of a bachelor’s degree was what was holding him back, I finally nudged him to follow through. He graduated after countless hours of studying and weekend classes. After six months of passing around his resume, he finally got that dream to become a processor. Even better benefits, day shift job and the sense of achievement. And no loans, his schooling was paid in full by the company. So, throughout all of this, I worked several more odd jobs here and there to supplement the income since he was not working as much overtime. I worked full time at a criminal defense law firm, which was somewhere I never imagined in a million years that I would work at, much less enjoy. I took a correspondence course and became a paralegal and moved to a bigger, civil law firm. Another job that I really enjoyed the work. I enjoyed my co-workers. My boss? Depends on the day. This law firms method of employee retention was to pay far over what other firms pay so that the employees do not feel that they can take a pay cut. Well, several things changed during the time that I worked there. Push was on velocity and quality. Well, we all know what happens when you rush through things – you make more mistakes. These mistakes were simple errors in transferring of information, but in the legal realm of representing banks in foreclosures, it can mean thousands of dollars in fees and lost time fighting to correct the error. Each of these errors was never forgiven as if they were etched into the drywall. When you work in conditions like this and they continue to push for perfection at a higher velocity, the only thing that happens is the pressure causes more mistakes. My boss was your best friend one minute, but the second that you crossed her (in her eyes) you were the spawn of satan. In my four years working there, I called in ‘sick’ the day of work only when it was a true emergency – people, I came to work with strep throat eating ice cream all day if I could. I came to work with a respiratory infection that I took the cough syrup with codeine as directed when I got to work and ended up passing out in the break room. I had a spinal tap done that ended in a spinal headache, but I attempted to come to work. My boss saw the pain on my face and increasingly getting worse and told me to go home and get well. This day she was caring. when that headache lasted a week, I had become the devil. This was when the light switch flipped on. not only did her ridiculous reactions annoy me, but the spinal tap confirmed a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. This diagnosis meant that I can’t plan for the future as if I am invincible any longer. I had to start thinking about how my life could change in the next minute and not be able to walk or something as equally as strange. I needed to work full time to get my kids ready for college and if I was going to want to retire someday, I had to do something different. So, my husband knew how frustrated and upset I was getting with my Jeckel and Hyde boss and told me to do the same thing he had – go back to school. As I look back some things that I think would have helped me would have been: – Having a specific career goal by the time I was a sophomore in high school to work towards. I just took whatever was on the schedule, if I had a choice, I generally chose a study hall, which didn’t build any skills for me at all. Sure, it was a good time with the other students and the teacher if you chose the right study hall, but nonetheless, not very academically challenging. – Career Cruising Assessment available to determine my strengths and weaknesses (or really anything of that type). If you don’t know what Career Cruising is, please check out their website. This is a skills, needs and preference assessment to help you determine what careers you would be good in/happy in. If you want to learn more about it, you click on the career and it gives you a host of information – the job title, description, average earnings and the education needed to go into the field. The down fall is that your school has to participate in it and actively push it to the students. And, I feel incredibly old saying this, but alas, when I was in high school, we were just getting computers…. the internet was years away. But something of the same nature would have been a great tool. – Once completed, some type of mentorship program or job shadowing opportunity with someone in that field. – (Neither of my parents went to college, so they couldn’t guide me. Students with parents that have not been in school need the extra coaching and guidance. Or workshops for the parents, support groups.) – RCC programs – have classes in blocks that compliment each other. Instead of fitting the classes into your program when able to, a nice schedule to follow. – RCC Counselors to schedule classes to fit the schedule of the student. No 2-4 hour breaks between classes. Maximize their time, they get bored between – it is not high school anymore not everyone is free at that same time. It gives you time to realize you are alone…. When I returned to RCC, I talked to a counselor and they had me going every which direction. I took the course book home and courses required by the program and I did the schedule myself. Took out an unnecessary class and as a working mom, utilized the evening classes to maximize the time I was at school so I could maximize the time I had with my kids at home. – Positive support of teachers and counselors throughout school, starting in Kindergarten. Help support their excitement, show them how to get there. One of the times that I will neverforget, when I realized that the radiology program was not going to be an option, I sought out my Bio 202 teacher, Mrs. Godin to pick her brain on her thoughts. She told me, “You are smart, you can do Anything you want. Can you be a Physician’s assistant? No doubt in my mind. No doubt in my mind that you could be a physician. You are very intelligent and I know you would succeed at any of those.” That one moment in time, changed my life. I no longer did status quo. I went for the gold! Excellence in everything I did. – Job shadow opportunities in careers the student feels that they would like to be involved in. At my son’s IEP last year, he had mentioned Auto Tech and they were going to put him into vocational. I asked that they not, I know Brian and he would not like it. Later that week, my husband said that he needed to take his car to the dealer for an oil change. My son said, “Why don’t you do it at home?” My husband asked if he wanted to help? Brian said, “Ok, as long as I don’t get squirted with oil, I don’t want to be dirty.” If we had put him in vocational, he would have failed. With his Asperger’s he never would have come to us and said, “I don’t like that”. He would have just been non-compliant. For me, in school, if I had been given a job shadow opportunity, I might have fell in love, it would have been visual what I wanted to do, I would have developed the dream/goal. – I went thorough several degree options. Rad Tech, nursing, biology, legal. The biology is an interesting one. I tested in math placement at RCC and I needed FIVE classes to qualify me for the program, so I gave up and went to work full time thinking that I would never finish – That is two and a half years added onto my school time. When I started Millikin’s PACE program, I didn’t place any higher but I only needed two 10 week courses to fulfill the void. More expensive, but well worth it. RCC and Millikin should partner up and leverage the accelerated classes to help people get up to speed, get their degree and get done. The longer you drag it out, the more likely they are to get discouraged and drop. (I was discouraged twice and MAD when I found out that I could have taken 2 classes at MU.) Put the options in front of them instead of them having to figure out how to make their plan work. To me, the counselor was more focused on RCC profit instead of my school ‘career’. Anyway, not that any one of these things was the driving force, ultimately it was my decision to drop out. And it was my decision to return to finish my bachelors and masters degrees. Unfortunately not every one of the drop outs will return.

Life in the Fast Lane – New Parents should Buckle Up.

Life in the Fast Lane – New Parents should Buckle Up.

Regardless of how much you try to enjoy life, it seems to go 300 miles per hour after you turn 18. I always heard that as I was growing up, however, when you are in school counting down the days to graduation, it goes on forever it seems. But, they were right, once I turned 18, it seems like my life has been a whirlwind. From waiting to graduation, I have gotten married, had two children, gained new family members through weddings and births as well as lost some due to death.

Now that my daughter is turning 18 in a few short months, I reflect back at the last 18 years, which truly seems like weeks ago. I remember vividly finding out I was pregnant and the pain with bone movements associated. I remember labor and delivery, especially the delivery. I can see this little baby sleeping in the baby swing and being awoke to the sound of rewinding it. It was so noisy! Then came crawling and eating people food. I remember how she loved peas, but her father and I did not. I gave her all the foods that I didn’t like because I wanted her to get a taste of everything.

She started walking, running and then we had to get rid of the pacifier – oh my, that was horrible. I remember this little 20 month old girl with little blonde pig tails screaming, stomping and crying she wanted her “nanniefire”. But she couldn’t have it because it was causing her to get a rash around her mouth. That lasted about a week, then she adjusted.

It was such a joy to see the world through her eyes. One time, we got a really heavy snow when she was 3 years old.  When  she looked out the window she said, “Oh my! Pepaw made a mess!!”. I don’t know why she blamed my dad, but it was just hilarious.  Another time, she picked up a Polaroid camera and while directed at her, she hit the button, the flash went off and a picture came out. She ran to my mom and I and said, “It scared me so bad I almost peed my pants.” I saved the Polaroid. It was her first “selfie”.  🙂  Then she started school, made friends, did dance, gymnastics, learned how to read and write. She still was Mommy and Daddy’s girl. We were so proud of her. She cared about her friends and loved ones.  Especially her baby brother.  He was born just a week before her third birthday.

Baby number 2 on board!

Baby number 2 on board!

A few years later, when we went to the visitation for a grandfather of one of our friends, it was a good time to introduce her to the world of loss. When we entered the funeral home, she asked, “Why is that man in the box?” and I told her “Well honey, he died and went to heaven to be with Jesus.” And she just responded, “Oh, my, bless his heart.” She had never met this man, but still felt compassion for him. A very proud moment for parents.

I wish that we could have been at home more during their childhood.  Instead, she watched her dad and I both return to college to obtain our bachelor’s degrees, then our master’s degrees. Although that took us away from her and her brother, I know that this will instill in them the importance of education and making a solid plan for your future earlier in life as opposed to later. The one thing that I would change if I had a “do over” would be to finish my education so that I could focus all of my attention towards raising my family. But, we know that we can not do that. I do believe that did instill in her the importance. She is already planning on continuing her education at the local community college to become an Radiologist Technologist. She expressed that interest a few years ago and we worked to get an opportunity to job shadow. This is one thing I pressed hard for. It is one thing to have a plan to further your education but what a downer to get into the career and learn that you hate it. She observed two full days of different types of radiology, a very good experience. She has taken dual credit classes her senior year and work study to prepare for college.  Again, a proud parent moment.

What is the point in all this rambling? Well, if you are a new parent:

– Hold close the memories, big or small, that your children provide you with. Even the rough times, they can make you smile and proud.
– Take every opportunity to spend with your child. You have them until they are teenagers, then they start to sprout their wings and are no longer in need of your guidance, most of the time.
– Don’t be so quick to move forward. You always hear that you wish they could talk, then you wish that they would be quiet. Well it’s true to an extent. You want them to grow up and become a little person, but they grown into an adult faster than you want.

Literally, I feel like I have turned around, or blinked my eyes, and both kids went from toddlers to adults. So proud of the people my kids have become, but yet, still long for the little kids that came running to the door, so excited to see me and give me a hug. They are still in there somewhere and before long, they will come to us to ask us questions again. I think all kids do. 🙂