Jackie, a Disney superfan, says exploration has played a critical role in her healthy family. Join us as she encourages families with special needs to travel often.
Jackie left her beloved career as a middle school music teacher when her beautiful son was diagnosed with autism at age three. Always brave enough to acknowledge her feelings, she is open about how that sudden shift was difficult, but not paralyzing, for her. Thankfully, through a love for Disney Parks vacations, she has discovered a whole new, inclusive and supportive community of families of all types. From her gratitude, she loves to share her stories to help families with special needs travel and enjoy beautiful vacations of their own.
With creative pre-planning, Jackie has toured the world with her whole family and witnessed incredible development and heartwarming moments thanks to the magic of travel. She joins us today to remind you to give yourself grace when life shifts your path, and to take your next step forward with courage and compassion.
For more from Jackie, visit:
Blog: The Path to Happiness
Facebook: The Path to Happiness
- What is courage
- Meeting baby Andrew
- Diagnonsis and then treatment in the house
- Leaving the workforce
- Toxic positivity
- How did Disney come into your life
- Disney makes me feel like a typical family
- How could you see yourself ten years ago
- Community and the saftey net
- Self care
- Pre-planning is just like with any other family
- Upcoming transitions
- Giving yourself grace
Hey, everybody, welcome to Finding Finish Lines. I am Sally Bulavko. I am your host and the creator of Finding Finish Lines, the blog and the podcast.
And before we get started, I just want to thank everybody who has been sending me emails about the show or leaving a review. I appreciate that so much, and if you have a chance to leave a review, I would love it. It helps people find the show. Also, if you have a story of courage or bravery or sass that you’d love to share, I’d love to share it, too. So please email me and let me know and let’s see how we can get you on the show. Or I could just share it with everyone for you.
And today I am bringing you a story of my real life friend Jackie. She’s incredible, my friends. She lives her life with no fear. Is not what we all kind of want? Just a little bit more. I don’t know… boldness as we go throughout our lives.
Her life did not go exactly the way the plan in her brain had laid out. And I’m assuming that yours is the same. Our circumstances might look different, but how many of us actually are living the life that we planned for ourselves? Not me. And I’m incredibly grateful for that.
As you learn about Jackie and her resilience, you will be hearing stories about her adult son, Andrew, who was diagnosed with autism at age three. You’ll be hearing about how they I have not hesitated to travel this world, and about how that has brought incredible joy to both Andrew and Jackie and the rest of their family. I’m so excited for you to hear from her. And I hope that you find some inspiration, if for no other no other reason than just to throw your stuff in a suitcase and go explore.
Sometimes the way that we think that the world is gets turned on its head and sometimes that’s a good thing. So without further ado, I bring you my conversation with Jackie.
Hi, Jackie. Thank you for joining us today.
Jackie: Thank you very much. Nice seeing ya, Sally.
Sally: It’s always so good to see you too. I just want to start right out of the gate with what does courage mean to you?
Jackie: For me, it means you can cry. You could break down, but then you have to look at You have to look at because it’s okay to be in that place for a little bit. Did you need to let it out? But you have to look up and you have to get going because that makes you feel better. You feel like you’re doing something that you’re accomplishing something and that is healthy and it puts you in a better place.
Sally : Speaking of getting going, I’d like to hear a little bit about your life when you first met Andrew. Kind of where you were in your life at the time and where that then took you. Can you share some of that with us?
Jackie But he was he was a typical pregnancy. No problems when he was born. And I first met him. It was It was a Shasta moment. It was, like, the best thing ever. He was born normally. Everything was perfect. And he smelled so good. I remember that was a really good baby. Like he was always giggly and responsive. And I just knew that he was, they’re different, you know, the first from the second. The 1st 1 was very needy and and all of that, he was just easy going and happy and giggly. I thought things were were gonna be great. And they were, and they still are. But then he was diagnosed at age three with autism. Severe autism.
Sally What had been happening that made you think maybe we should go to the doctor? Maybe we should Maybe there’s something a little different. What? What first made you think that?
Jackie Oh, something happened after a particular medication dosage and kind of overnight e stop being who he was. He stopped responding to his name. He stopped talking to us and then, Ah, these really strange behaviors began and he would be all over the house, like running around and hiding under things and to stripping the beds off of the sheet like the sheets off of the beds and all of that just rare, very weird behaviors. And I’ve been around a lot of toddlers, and I mean, some of them do antics, but not like this.
Sally And this is at three.
Jackie At age three. We took him in and they, you know, we had to do some assessments and he was diagnosed with severe autism at about three and half. Life changed.
At the time I was on maternity leave, and I was supposed to go back to work. Um, but as soon as kids here in my province are diagnosed there, then placed on wait lists for behavioral therapy modification and it’s funded, but the wait lists are very long years long back. So we just wanted to start programming right away because he was young and because he was adaptable. So that meant that one of us had to stay home the right because we ran the program in her house. We hired therapists, and the program was running six hours a day upstairs in one of the spare bedrooms. And, yeah, we had people in here all day long. Yeah,
Sally and before that time, you were a music teacher, right?
Jackie I was. Full time. And so, from being in a position where I was on mat leave and I was supposed to go back to work, it all changed. I had to stay home because I was the second lowest income earner in the house. So it was became about money and whoever made the most state doing that and whoever didn’t have to stay home with Andrew.
Sally And how much older is Pamela than Andrew?
Jackie Five years, Exactly five years, uh, to the day
Sally since she was in school. Then she was How did that feel? To lose, I guess lose and probably the right word, but how did that feel to change your your life plan?
Jackie Well, um, from doing something that I was really passionate about, Like I was a person in the band room at 7 a.m. And the last person in this school, it’s 5 30 quarter of six to all my lunch hours being for band practice or just band rehearsal or whatever to I gave that up. And I love teaching middle school because that group just appeals to me. They’re all over the place, and I love that. So because I’m up over the place so we relate. You know, I’m a gem in eyes, so I can I can just like that, right? Though it worked out really well for me, and I had had a great time for 14 15 years. And, uh, it was hard because I studied for so many years to become a teacher, and I worked at it for so long. It became ingrained in my life, and I was trained differently, like I was trained in the arts. So to go into Freud and all of that was really hard. And Skinner and all those psychoanalysts and everything that was like, “Whoa, what’s this?” Um, so I had to pick on a new trajectory, and it was a new learning curve, And it was wild because not only what I have to learn stuff, but I had to go through it with my emotions, because my kid was involved.
And then I wasn’t bringing home any money. So there was that aspect, too.
So there’s still there’s resentment. There’s envy of neuro typical family’s, all kinds of things, and I just felt like I was just hung out to dry. And it was tough because now I had to deal with that. And then I had to deal with trying to advocate for Andrew, which that was a whole new thing for me advocating, you know, like, Holy cow, how do you get your point across without yelling at someone because you’re talking about your your child? Like I had a really, really fine tune that.
Sally but really, Don’t we all?
Jackie Yeah, and I discovered quickly, it’s It’s how you say things that gets you places as opposed to the way you say things. And how you come across, you know, If you don’t come across nicely then you know.
Yeah, so there, that’s what happened.
It’s still pops up. Those little demons pop up once in a while and, you know, but I know how to keep everybody at bay. Now, I missed my job, though I have to be honest,
Sally even still?
Jackie Oh, every day. Like if I see, uh, orchestras and things like that. And if I see any of my US friends with their marching bands, I’m right in there. Oh, Jesus. Like I could all be standing right there on the bleacher and listening to those is that it’s just it’s the same feelings, so it never goes away.
Sally So it’s so interesting that you say that because I’ve known you for five years now. And when I see you, Jackie, I always just see this energy that says, “Nothing stopping me,” right? And so that is why I was so excited that you agreed to share your story with us. Because when I see you, I see you traveling the world with your with your whole family. I see you saying, “Nothing is stopping me.” I see you saying, “I’m advocating that the Disney company add different style bathrooms,” right? I see you raising your voice in advocacy for people and not being afraid of how large the company is that you’re trying to change
Jackie or yeah,
Sally everyone who might be around who doesn’t understand the moment that your family is having.
Like, I just see you. I see you just doing the big things and know it’s still it’s It’s almost comforting to hear that even somebody that from the outside we look out and we say, “Look at how she has this all together. Nothing must phase her,” to hear that the truth is, “No, something does affect you, and you do it anyway.
Jackie Well, you have to. You have to because you could stay in that miserable place. And what happens then is not healthy, because what you’re doing is you’re building walls around yourself and you don’t want to hear anything negative. And that’s… you’re sheltering yourself and that’s not healthy. Like I want to hear about other families who have people in my predicament or worse, because I take it as a learning opportunity and it’s healthy for me because then I feel I’m not alone, whereas I won’t have what they call “toxic positivity” with someone.
If they expressed to me that they’re feeling that or lonely, I won’t turn around, say. “But be grateful for all that you have” or whatever. That’s terrible,
Sally right? It’s such a good lesson.
Jackie You need to validate those feelings because if that person’s expressing that at that point, been a good friend, will say I hear you.
But you know what? It’s okay to feel this way, but let’s look at something that makes you happy together. Let’s focus on something that could take you out of this or potentially lead you down a better way of thinking for now because you have your moments and I’m telling you I have moments every single day, but I pushed through them because it doesn’t lead anywhere good. So you have to pick yourself up and say, OK, that’s it. Dust yourself off and move forward as they have been accomplished something today. And if I have to do that, that’s a good thing, because now I feel like I’ve done something and it could be the tiniest thing. Could be tidying up a corner on a desk. Yes, it makes you feel good.
Sally People who know you know of your love for Disney Parks. You’ve served as a Disney Parks mom’s Panelist. You are active on social media for Disney Parks. What began that experience for you?
Jackie My daughter back in 98. We… That was our first visit, and it was supposed to be our last visit. One of those bucket list things, because it’s expensive and it’s just we thought it was just the once in a lifetime thing. And she was four, and we were living through all the Disney movies by watching her and watch them, and we just had to take her, and then it just it didn’t become a once in a lifetime thing. It became an annual thing. We were bitten and smitten. And then even when Andrew came along, I had a lot of trepidation. But then I discovered a lot of support. Online
Sally online support communities have been helpful to you in this experience
Jackie very much. When I started off on computers and things, well, there was a Yahoo chat site called The Mouse For Less at the time, and that’s where I met everybody back in, oh, heck 4 2005 even earlier, and I connected with a lot of people. In all of a sudden, there were a whole slew of people that had some form of disability, and were managing the park so well. So I started reading more and more and more about a lot of online support than Facebook came along and all these groups came up and people are sharing their tips and their strategies. And then, as I got more into it, I discovered that the official, uh, the places the destinations Disney and all these other, I won’t say them. They, too, have a lot of resources that you can download and used plan your trip and it makes it even more easier.
And And people are more aware of these disabilities at at the Disney Parks. So we found that we felt like a typical family, even though Andrew wouldn’t get out of a stroller or he would be under a table at the Crystal Palace. We still felt like a typical family because somehow we weren’t ostracised. And that to us, that was golden. Because that we’re okay. Here we are. Yes, as we are. No judgement here, you know? I mean, there was the odd the odd time. You know, somebody would be you with the guest assistance card back in those days, it was called and they’d be like, “You don’t look like you need it”, but, you know, you just glide on through.
But for the most part, it was so positive that it was pushing us forward and he was coming into his own. All the stuff that that Andrew was doing was like, Holy cow, this kid. This kid really knows his way around and he’s saying hello. And he is to us. He was part of our world now. It wasn’t like we were trying to get him into our world. He was into our world.
Sally How did you get up the courage to take him for the first time? I’m sure. So you live in Canada, so that involves a flight and all of the loud, noisy, different things that come with that.
Jackie he started going when he was in my belly. His first trip was when he was eight months. Then we kept going every year thereafter. Ah, it involved a lot of people ending the same way that you know any parent plans to take the child, even to a restaurant or to a grocery store. There’s all this pre planning you do in your head with us. It’s just a little bit more. There’s a few more sensory toys. There’s a few more things that’ll mute him, but they’re not too loud in the restaurants, though it was just a matter of of, you know, taking the headphones, taking the video, that we had a little video. What are those things called, Um, where you pop the disk in
Sally like a DVD player?
Jackie yes! Those things. Yeah, we Oh, my gosh. Way went through about 15 of those. Seriously, he would just press the button. Stop, press, rewind, stop. It was just and that’s that’s how we did it.
We read, like all other families, who travel of these bigger planes. Um, there’s a lot of planning involved, but with that’s just a few more, things. It’s just that when he said, uh, get off plain and you’re like 30,000 feet up. You honestly think “Oh, is there any way I could get off this plane?” You go to a meltdown.
Yeah, I remember that one. Putting him at the window really helps. And then you inform your airline, you know, they usually ask, you need any special accommodations, and if not, you just go up at the counter when you check in and you tell someone quietly and they’ll call you on and help you get settled. There’s a lot of accommodations, and it was It was It was around back then, due back in 2004 when we started taking him every year I found that. You know, if you explain to people, you know that you need a bit of help, people have the compassion.
I found that with my experience, the odd time that was somebody that would, you know, raise an eyebrow. But for the most part we had. We had a lot of help getting getting on the airplane, staying on the airplanes and all of that. And then at the Disney Parks at Disney World was just, you get there and someone’s always looking out for you and someone’s always around you turn around, there’s a cast member and that you could go to no judgment. Just what can I do for you?
You know that I’ve never forget the cast member who came up to us while we read that the monorail station at Thea Transportation Ticket Center. It came up and just gave him all kinds of stickers in the whole crowd of people. Like and I thought I was in trouble. Perhaps my first thing. What did I do? Did I do something like that? Did I swear?, I say something are, you know, seems to happen a lot there, and you don’t come to expect it.
But you just know that somebody’s around, and that really helped. And there’s so many accommodations down there that worked for him. Really well, so they kept us coming back.
SallyDo you have a favorite Andrew Memory? I know, whenever I think of Andrew of the Buzz Lightyear moment.
Jackie Yeah, well, uh, 2012. Um, there we were coming out of Toy Story Midway Mania, as it was known back then,
Sally back in the day
Jackie back in the day.
Ah, I am writing with him and, um, knocking myself out, you know? And he is doingthe same thing, and I’m trying to hand over hand to get him to shoot targets the place that he’s, you know, flapping away in the car and doing all the autistic thing because there’s so much stimulation.
But he scored into the thousands and he knew it! I couldn’t believe it were walking out. He throws his glasses in the bin. He turns to me out of the blue. Now he’s as tall as I am at this point.
“I love you. Give me a kiss”
And I’m like, “What?” He was so happy.
And so I told them I love them. He wouldn’t let me give him a kiss, but he said it to me. So that’s enough. And that was the one of the best days of my life. I
I’ve never heard it since. I haven’t heard. It was the first time I heard it from him, and so far I haven’t heard it yet because when you try to touch him, it’s like you’re electrocuting him. And that was a big moment for our family.
And now this guy’s 10 paces ahead of us and he tells us, “I want to do this. I want to do that.”
Now with the app, the My Disney Experience App, that everything lined up all the fast passes him. That’s like a visual schedule board, so he knows what’s coming next. So then I guide him through that and then with the DAS, he knows what his day it’s gonna look like, but he’s still navigates the park he knows where you know Buzz Lightyear is. He knows where Tomorrowland Terrace is. He knows where all these places are. He knows you can go there and hang out.
Sally Be covered and not super busy.
Jackie He knows. He knows, and he knows how to get.. You tell him, “I want to go to Winnie the Pooh.” He’ll know. And it’s amazing. It’s amazing. And and it’s he who wait in line, too. We were 30 minutes. Now we can do 30 minutes, you know, if I’m driving in the first and then and then I used the Disney at the plate games, the interactive. So there’s so many things that you do that make your life easier there that you forget that you’re dealing with a disability.
Sally Thank you so much for sharing the buzz Light your story with us.
Jackie That’s a big one.
Sally Do you consider yourself an advocate for special needs families?
Jackie A mini advocate. But there’s there’s some pretty big people up there. Do some pretty big bangs, and I think I’m I’m kind of like if they’re up here, I’m kind of like down here.
Um, I do my part in any parent support groups that I go to with regards to travel because it’s had such a big positive impact on my family. Especially traveled to Disney because there’s so many accommodations that they help you navigate your way through this nonsense of travel, whereas like a resort down in Mexico or something like that, it’s not to say thanks, Um, and because of all of our trips with Disney, we sailed the cruise line, like we’re on our 14th sailing. We even went up to the Mediterranean.
Sally I was gonna ask you about that. How how were you able to navigate?
Jackie Amazing. Easy because you’re on Mickey’s boat.
He knows what’s happening. He knows that, you know, we’re gonna go on the bus to see the ancient ruins of somebody, and, you know, it really helps that the Port Adventures Guide is carrying a Mickey sign that Andrew carried all the way to the Athens Acropolis.
It’s the, it’s the positive reinforcers with with the cruise line and with Disney. It’s instant. It’s instant.
It’s like, “Get to the top of the hill. You get to hold the Mickey sign.”
“You do this at night. We’re having dinner with Mickey or we’re gonna go get a hug for Mickey” and so the first and then really plays well. It works with us, and that’s what propelled us to keep going.
And we were able to sail with two other cruise line to Europe. Can you imagine? He does so well. He does so well in it because of all these here.
Sally So because he learned on the boats where he has, like, a Touchstone something that he recognizes, he was unable to sail through another line like. That’s incredible.
JackieAnd then I could just use very small tokens, Token re-enforcers at that point, you know, Then he got watch his Disney movies. “Okay, so we’re gonna go here and you get to watch this or you get to see this” and he’s all good with that now.
And because of that, it’s been he’s now able to integrate into society more than I ever expected them do at this point in this light, like I can pull them up and say, We’re going to the market. There’s no transition. He just comes. It’s amazing.
And so this is what I’m trying to do with families in my predicament because we have a guilt factor with it. Yes, these vacations cost a lot of money. But if we hadn’t gone on this path, I think the family unit would have been dissolved at this point. Because you can, you can put all your money, awards, therapy and equipment and whatever you need. You can put all the money there, and then you’re running ragged and then you’re emotionally drained. And if you’re not feeding yourself, you can’t feed anybody else.
Sally That is so true.
Jackie So while there is a guilt factor with, you know, I’m spending thousands to take him on a Disney cruise that could have gone to speech therapy. If I’m not good, he’s not good. And he needs his happy moments, too, because those air learning moments for him do.
Sally It sounds like he may be learned just as much being on the cruise.
Jackie Well, I’ll tell ya, he’s learning so much social. A lot of his his knowledge, his verbal skills come out is he’s identifying things. He’s relating to things. The skills he’s learning are immeasurable, but you not each in a room.
For example, when they do, A-B therapy, applied behavioral analysis therapy. They work for re enforcers. So you do trials. Well, for him to have joint attention with the therapist, they had to do about 100 trials of 10 tries down each trial. And he still he still won’t look at you if he doesn’t want to.
Sally He’s a man
Jackie But when he saw Buzz Lightyear, Buzz took his attention in two seconds and held it for 25 minutes!
Wow, no therapist has ever done that to this very day.
The look, how how strong the pull is there. You see where I’m going. But we capitalize on that now, and we pair therapists with things that he liked the now right away. If he sees a picture of buzz next to his mean therapist, he’s pairing and saying, OK, so she’s a good thing because she’s with Buzz that anybody with buzz is good, though pairing happens. Automatic.
So, yeah, it’s the big spin off on why these vacations have been so but breast. I found your family unit probably would have not been together
Sally when you think back to the days of, um, getting to the diagnosis. Do you think Jackie and those days could have ever seen where you would be now.
Jackie No, Because when he was diagnosed, all the Greek people in my family were like, Oh, don’t worry. He’ll be fine in 10 years, you know? And they kind of wash you with this false optimism that takes you away from at times the things that you have to do to get your child on track.
I didn’t know what kind of impact these vacations would have on him and his growth and his development. And I didn’t know the healing it would have for our family is we’re very strong. And, you know, Sally, that’s not very common with families in my predicament, if you look at his stats, they’re very sad.
Sally I’ve heard you mention the online groups, and so what I’m hearing is community. Very much. That community has been just critical there in the success of your family. I mean, even when you say you turn around and there’s a cast member there, you’re still talking about community, even if it’s just someone you’ve just met,
Jackie and it’s this security net. It’s the safety net that’s around you. It’s invisible but it’s there. And this is what people don’t understand. They think, Oh, my gosh. Another trip to Disney? Oh, I can’t. No, no, no, no, no, no. I’m like, No, you have to! You have you have, you know, here’s what. And here’s what it did for us.
And then when they hear that… They also like Disney’s Magical Express. A lot of these people I’ve talked to up here. Like what? You don’t see your luggage until it gets to your room?. Are you
Sally I have neuro typical kids and I like Disney’s Magical Express.
.Jackie When they hear my experience is, it’s like, Okay, because they know Sally, Andrew was very severe. I mean, it was so bad. Um, think of towels down toilets. Think of, uh, all the bedding off the bed multiple times to go up there and, you know, and then I gave up. I mean, we’re talking hiding under the beds, and it was so hard.
Sally How did you care for yourself at that time? Or did you not
Jackie did I didn’t I did not care for myself properly.
Um, I wasn’t sleeping at all built to this day like you’ll be up all night. I did not take care of myself, but when we would go on vacation and I wanted to look nice for my vacation. So it started small spurts like that and while I was on vacation because I was afraid I was gonna run into somebody that I knew.
There’s now with communities, now it was time to, you know, pull my hair back and maybe put on a little bit of makeup and maybe watch what I’m dressing as. And so it started like that.
And then at the end, with spa treatments there, you know, there’s a lot of things that I could do there that I can do here. It’s very interesting, but I have the support to do more things when I’m vacationing on the ship or at at the World than I do back home. It’s just much easier for me. So self care, really started down there.
Sally That’s incredible that people think of traveling as being difficult, but you’re saying “NO! it’s really it opened all of the doors.
Jackie It really did and parents, all parents, know what it’s like to try to drag a kid into the car. It’s no different for us. It could be I could take a little bit longer. You might have another bag or two, but it’s all the same.. That’s all that pre stuff in your head. Well, it’s to say it’s the same just a little bit longer and a little bit more
Sally So you’re entering a new phase.
Pamela has had some incredible successes lately, and Andrew is transitioning into a new day program. Sounds like maybe you’re gonna have some more time for yourself up coming. Do you have any plans for yourself in the future? Or how are you handling this time of transition?
Jackie Very carefully. Like I’m treading very carefully because, um, I’ve realized that I have to capitalize on all of Andrew strength.
Uh, he’s not where, you know. My mother was telling me he would be at 20. Um, realistically, he’s not there yet, you know, on paper and all the charts and all that.
But in my heart, he is who he is, and it’s about making Andrew happy. So if that means that he’s an art and music and participating is physical-ed to get the bubba down, then we’re going to do that. And so I have to tread carefully and find the right place where he will be properly taken care of.
And listen to this, you know, he might not be able to say here, but you can see it here spin on his whole face. So if if Bubba’s happy, then we’re all happy. And so I have to be very careful with with where he’s gonna be. And until I have that sorted out, I could make a pull back a little bit, take a deep breath and say, “Okay, now where am I gonna go?
And so the writing. I love writing. I love it. I just love it. I love reading, and I’ve opened up a personal blog. It’s not only about Disney, but it’s about life because I’m opinionated. But I want to write more. And, um, help more folks get down to Disney and the cruises then and however that pans out, I don’t know. As long as I’m writing about it, I’m happy.
Sally So we’re going to see more of Jackie’s words.
Jackie so, yeah, yeah. When I sit down, It’s not. It’s not a routine thing. It’s like when something pops into my head. That’s what I’m like. “Okay, here it comes,” you know? And then I go full throttle. Then I pull back for you, and then I’m back into it. So it’s like a wave, you know, Not a consistent.
.Sally I have to tell you, it strikes me as incredible that you are coming into a point where you might have some more time for yourself. And when I ask you what you’re gonna do with it, you say, “I’m gonna dive into writing and advocacy.”
So as soon as you get a chance to do what you want, you’re choosing to serve other people. And I wonder if it’s that spirit that has really kept you going and enabled you to to do all of these incredible things and being a healthy place where you were
Jackie You know, Sally, the first word out of my mouth apparently wasn’t Mama or Dada. It was light.
How that’s the first.
Yeah, I was the first word out of my mouth in Greek for us, which means light. And, uh, that’s what my mom says, she says, “You didn’t call me Mama. You didn’t call anybody dada. You said light.”
Well, I have my pity parties and I do. You have to. You have to. It’s cathartic.
I like to lift people up and say, “Hey, have your have your moment. But you know, here’s how you can get out of it. And here’s what you can do to change your family’s life and that’s what happened to us.
And it was epic, and that’s why I’m so passionate about this thing.
You know, people used to laugh at me. Little Mickey Mouse. No, you don’t understand. You don’t understand what happens when you go down there. It’s It’s something very unique. It’s very personal.
But the one thing that it did for us is that we go down there, we feel like a typical family. Whatever that might be to you. I feel normal and you know what? That’s good for me, and that’s why I want to push it out there. I want to get that message out there that you can take your child down there and you will have a magical magical experience because it’s different for everybody. But you know what? For families like us, it’s very important does it feeds your soul and it gives you strength to propel forward.
Sally Does faith play a role in your life or in your family?
Jackie Absolutely. He prays, and I’m gonna record him. He says a prayer, not kneeling at his bed. He’s already in bed, all snuggled up like a big bubba and of, you know, like a big sausage in a blanket. He’s so cute! And he says this prayer, I’m gonna write it out for you. He says the whole thing and we go to church as often as we can.
And he now receives the Holy Comunion, which, uh, are orthodox. It involved, uh, wine on a spoon and he never used to want to take it. But now that’s it. And that’s the blood of Jesus. So, yes, we are very faithful. And we do pray. And I have a comfort cross that my class said to me when my father passed away.
No, it’s a big part of our lives, their icons all over the place. And I do sageing and he knows to cross himself. Oh, yeah, he knows the whole, but you know what that’s important because when I find when I go to church, I calm down, it down is that you feel good, you feeling good, and I think that that will help translate the week ahead.
Sally Do you have a personal mantra or a favorite quote?
Jackie You bet. You have to listen to your gut, so let your conscience be your guide. You have to because and I’ve taught my girly that, and to this day I’m still proud of her because she listens to her gut. I’m like, “That’s your red flag right there. That’s your voice.”
So you step back and you we re evaluate because something’s telling you that something’s not right. Absolutely.
Sally Do you have a favorite movie?
Jackie Yeah, It’s a Wonderful Life. So many lessons there, So many lessons there.
And I just wish that people have that spirit all year long. I think the world is such a tough place now, and it just breaks my heart where with boy, if only people could be like that,
Sally We have YOU!
Jackie It would be so, so much nicer.
Sally We have you and all of the light that you bring into this world just by being you and sharing your words. And your experience. I’m just so grateful for you, Jackie.
Jackie Oh, I’m grateful for you, too. So grateful, like my people, my 2016 people.
Sally Do you have any words of advice for a mom who might be where you were years ago, facing a diagnosis for their child and considering how it’s going to change their life?
Jackie Yeah, you need to hook up with the local agency for support because that they will help network you, and it’s all about networking. And it’s about community. And it’s about finding people who are in the same boat, whether it’s online, through social media platforms or in your community.
Start slowly, but then it just grows, and then people will take you into their lap and they’ll say, “It’s fine, it’s fine.” And then you get the right. You get channeled into the right path ways at that point. So that’s my biggest thing.
And then when you get your shoes on properly, don’t shy away from travel because it just does something magical for a family. Even if it’s a road trip. A quick little road trip, Whatever it is, just get out together.
Do it on your terms.
But get out together and experienced all those things and exposed your child to as much as you can because you don’t know what will click when you’re going somewhere. You don’t know what it is they’re gonna see. That’ll be the lightbulb moment for them, and then you capitalize on that. So, yeah, find community support whether it be in your real life, bring your cyber life and then travel. Get out. Don’t stay isolated.
Sally Jackie, thank you so much, for sharing your stories with us. I feel like this is just such ah, hopeful period of time. And I just know that there are gonna be women who find inspiration in your story and that start throwing things into a suitcase.
Is there anything that you I feel like you just really want people to know?
Jackie It’s okay to cry. It’s ok to cry. And don’t have shame If you’re feeling sorry for yourself. Feeling sorry for yourself is a natural thing. And and it’s something that you need to step into.
It’s like when grief washes over you, you don’t know where it’s going to hit you. Well, that’s what happens to people like me. Like you could be. I could be driving, listening to Aerosmith, and then all of a sudden I’m gonna have a moment with Andrew about Andrew, and then I’m in tears and that’s okay.
But then you have to find,, whatever it is. The smallest, tiniest little list thing that makes you happy. Wipe up the tears and keep moving and saying, “I’m doing the best I can and I’m a human being. I’m not a machine and that’s it.
Sally That’s amazing again, Jackie, thank you so much for joining us. I have really enjoyed spending this time with you, and I appreciate your honesty and sincerity, and I wish you all the best.
Jackie: This was so nice for me.
Sally: So there you have it. Friends. That is my conversation with a woman that I find incredible. And while of course, the discussion did involve her now adult son Andrew, I hope that you see that it was really more a chat about Jackie.
It was a conversation about resilience about giving yourself grace to feel whatever you’re feeling in the moment. It’s a conversation about your life, not looking exactly as how you had it planned and being unbelievably beautiful anyway. Or maybe even because of.
I hope that this conversation encourages you to give yourself grace for whatever you’re feeling in this season or in seasons to come. And if you’ve been hesitant to travel with your family, however it may look, I hope that this encourages you to pack that suitcase, my friends, and go explore the world.
If you have any further questions and want to chat with Jackie, I’m going to put the link to her blog and her instagram the path to happiness in the show notes. And if you are looking for any more from finding finish lines, you can always find us on the blog at finding finish lines.com, of course, on Facebook at finding finish lines.
That’s all for today. Friends until next time, carry on women of valor