I Couldn’t See the Forest for the Trees

Dean disappeared from the house for hours. He had been out in the woods on our property, down a
100 yard mulch path which ends at a point overlooking a little lake. There is a little concrete bench there under a big oak tree, opposite our pet cemetary. It’s a lovely spot, peaceful, secluded, perched at the edge of a 50 foot drop on two sides.

The first time he’d gone out there, I’d seen him go. He was angry. And I was glad he was going out somewhere to process it. When he didn’t come back in a little while, I peeked out from the deck, through the leaves and saplings and got a glimpse of him waving a long broken tree limb through the air. “Good,” I thought, “he’s pretending to be a wizard, fighting his demons.” Sure enough, he came back to the house sometime later, relaxed and happy.

When I mentioned this to his brothers later, one said, “Oh yea, he went out there the other day when we were arguing with him. He went out there and we could hear him yell!” So. My 24 year old son with Down Syndrome has learned how to go process his feelings, work out his anger, in a way that many of us don’t. I wish his brothers would go out there and yell and wave sticks around sometimes instead of spewing their anger at each other or me. Not that it happens very often, but it’s not pleasant when it does, and there IS a better way!

A few nights ago I put dinner on the table for whichever members of our household were home. We gathered and I asked “where’s Dean?” Someone checked the gameroom in the basement. Someone checked his bedroom. No Dean. Hmmmm. Then one of the boys went out the front door and called him, and here he came down the path. He was happy and glowing and joined us for dinner. No one really questioned him about what he’d been doing out there, but I did later.
I took Dean on a couple of errands with me and on the 15 mile drive home I took the opportunity to ask him what was going on out there in the woods. We’d seen he had gathered some big sticks and branches and propped them up on the bench against the tree. “Are you building something?” I asked him. “Well, yea, it’s kind of my sacred place,” he responded. “Really? What do you do there?” He looked down and said, “I know it sounds kinda weird, but I sort of meditate there. I imagine I’m one with the wind. One with nature. And it makes me feel better.”
I was so touched. So inspired. And again reminded of what a special spirit Dean is. I assured him that no, it wasn’t weird at all…many of my friends and I like to think about being one with nature….and that is a wonderful thing to do.

We’ve all been just amazed at the transformation in Dean since he moved out of the residence and workshop where he’s been for the last 2 years. He has become so much more agreeable, so pleasant and thoughtful. I really had no idea that this young man was in there. I had always understood that being stubborn and arguing (read: difficulty transitioning) was just part of Down Syndrome. I’m afraid I “stooped to expectations” when dealing with the difficult parts of his personality. His difficulty with all the rules and the people were something I thought he just needed to learn to deal with (as the staff assured me he would as he matured.) When he has problems with specific situations, I know to look behind his words and ask pertinant questions to get to the root of the issue. But this was pretty much his whole life and I failed to look behind the big curtain and recoginize the big picture for what it was, and the damage it was doing to my son. Ah, well, we move on. And I’ve learned some important lessons. And I’ve been reminded, once again, that Dean is a very special gift indeed.

The world needs people who have come alive…

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it.
Because what the world needs is people who have come alive”

 Howard Thurman

Oh, I love this. Resonates for me in so many ways. As an artist. As a parent. As a spiritual being.

Yes, the world needs people who have come alive! I think this is what strikes me about some people I meet—their alive-ness. They have spirit, they’re vivacious, and it’s contagious. They make ME feel alive! I crave that and I bet most others do, too.

And then I meet people that I wish would read this quote. Like I want to tattoo it on my forehead. Some people meet me and seem to shrink or wither or just whine that they wish they were creative, wish that they had the time to ________, or some other self-deprecating remark. I just want to shake them and tell them “You have it inside you! Find it and go do it!!!” Envy, going one-up or one-down around someone gets neither of us anywhere. It doesn’t feel good. And I’m all about feeling good!

We’re all here for a purpose. You’re not here just to cheer me on (though I do appreciate it!) It takes some time to find one’s purpose(s). Some soul-searching (oh, that sounds so hard.) Some creative play time (that sounds like more fun, right?)  I wish you would indulge yourself and do some of whatever it is that lights you up.

And don’t think your efforts aren’t worthwhile. They are. If it’s something new to you it’s creative. Cooking, Taking pictures. Designing a flower garden. Just about anything. And it can be fulfilling—-that’s the “coming alive” part.

So I’m taking a blogging course right now offered by Liv Lane. I don’t think the world needs another blog, necessarily. I do know there are a lot of things that make me come alive–thinking about them, talking about them, sharing them makes me come alive. And my blog is my channel, my opportunity to do just that. I’m gonna try to make this place a fulfilling part of my life.  And hopefully your.

Porch cushion Re-upholstering

It’s not art, but you can sit on it!!  That’s how I’m comforting myself, anyway, as I spend time sewing lately,

I inherited this pretty wrought iron furniture about 10 years ago with its original pastel fabric coverings, which of course have faded with time and use. And I bought this outdoor fabric to do the re-upholstering probably 5 years ago.  It’s been shuffled around in my studio, tucked away in the “I’ll get to it one of these days” cupboard or bin.

The occasion of a big party in June has made “one of these days” seem like it should be NOW, so I’ve begun the project! I wanted to do these right—not slip covers, not just something quick. I want the work and the investment in fabric to be worthwhile.

I began by tearing up a set of cushions. By tearing up I mean carefully de-constructing the pieces to create patterns for cutting my fabric. And I created yards and yards of piping. And I’m tearing the zippers out of the old cushions to use in the new ones (I’m the Queen of re-puposing!)

The actually construction/sewing time for each piece is less than an hour. Not too bad. I have 8 cushions to make (couch and chair) plus other seat cushions and throw pillows to make.

I’m happy with the results so far. No huge mistakes (crossing fingers!) I’ll post pictures when the porch is all finished and fresh!


Got some great news yesterday which confirmed what I already knew. My son Dean, who has Down Syndrome, is pretty darn smart. I’m not one of those parents who drives around with “My kid is on the honor roll” bumper stickers (partly because the other 3 are classic underachievers….like mother, like son?) but hey—when you’ve got a child with a disability, it’s OK to brag, right?

Dean got his IQ tested recently, at age 24. This is the first time since he was a real adult that this has been done. He scored a 70. I know—IQ tests are dumb, they don’t test the 7 basic intelligences, we shouldn’t quantify our brains—-I’ve sung those songs, too. However, there has to be some measure for him to get the appropriate care and opportunities. A score of 70 puts him on the borderline of “mentally retarded” (and, again, we won’t get into the antiquated jargon cuz it would mean I have to write a whole, long, boring post instead of what I wanted to say originally!) The folks that tested him were quite impressed. The case worker told me they’d never met such a high-functioning individual with Down Syndrome before. Now that’s the interesting part. He scored at the very top end of what is expected of a person with this disability.

I couldn’t have known his IQ when he was born. But I could see that twinkle in his eyes—he was alert, he was watching me and the world around him. I didn’t know what to expect and I really didn’t have fantasies of having a super-brainy mentally retarded child. I did, however, want to give him every opportunity to learn and grow—not “stoop to expectations”.

This brings me (finally!) to what I really wanted to talk about—-potential. I believed Dean had potential and by not listening to limiting or negative voices I gave him lots of support and experiences that allowed him to reach (I hope) his highest potential. I’m finally (!) starting to do that for myself, too. (About time, right?!) The limiting and/or negative voices were mostly my own, but I understand what a disservice I’ve done to my creative and spiritual growth by listening to them.

We don’t have to know what our greatest skills are to give them a chance. We don’t have to know the rules to play a game of our own devising. The important thing is to recognize we have potential and deserve the opportunities to grow, stretch, learn. All you need to see is that little twinkle in your own eyes, feel that slight skip of a heartbeat when you come across an idea or artistic technique (whatever it is) that tells you this is worth trying. this can take me forward. this can help me blossom.

What would Dean have been like if he’d been born 50 years earlier and immediately institutionalized? It’s a horrifying thought. What will you be like 10 years from now if you don’t embrace your own potential and give yourself the opportunities you deserve?

Creating Using Vintage Textiles

Barkcloth Handbag  Created for Indygo Junction Contest

Thought you might like to see an example of my other sewing passion—creating with vintage textiles!  I collect all kinds of vintage textiles—barkcloth (mostly curtains from the 1940’s-50’s), table linens including table cloths, runners, dresser scarves, etc. and doilies–some embroidered linen, some embroidered.

I recently entered a contest sponsored by Amy Barackman of Indygo Junction Patterns called “Vintage Inspired, Modern Design” wherein you had to start with one of their patterns and redesign it into something original.  I had three entries (2 purses and a blouse) but this one actually garnered special notice when they announced the winner. It didn’t garner special notice as in “Winner!” but WAS listed in a handful of creations they especially liked.

The exterior is some vintage material (barkcloth) that I found on Ebay (that’s where I’ve bought most of my barkcloth). The belt and handles are a really soft faux-suede from the upholstery section of a fabric store. The interior of the bag is a crazy shade of yellow-green linen, source un-remembered. And the button—it was a pale grey leather coat button I found in my collection. The color was blah…..so I got the great idea to paint it with my Shiva Paintstiks! I was able to blend the oil-based colors to match the pinks in the fabric, and the paintstiks have an iridescent shimmer that’s subtle and pretty.  The paint dries in a few days and is permanent.

This was the first contest I’ve ever entered. (I know, I should have started entering contests a long time ago!) The prize I was hoping for was to have my pattern published by the company. And I almost made it. You know what? I feel good about finally putting myself out there, and I feel especially good that out of over 100 entries, mine was one that they singled out as noteworthy. It has given me the incentive and motivation to put myself out there again….knowing I do have creative abilities worthy of noticing!

If you like to enter contests, tell me how you feel about it. I struggled with some kind of internal demon for quite a while once I realized I needed to get my stuff out there!