Last week the new Somerset Studio arrived. My column in this issue features our son Sam and his new venture: Painting with Purpose. Look at this face - it says it all. He was so excited to see his work on the pages of the magazine that regularly arrives here. Our thanks to Stampington who recognized it was a worthwhile story - art making a difference.
We've already gotten some lovely emails about the article, and a handful of orders from new customers! We are adding more selections this week.
Thanks for sharing your kind words and enthusiasm for our story and our project to create purpose for our special guy.
Link to our store: ETSY: ForYourSpecialNeeds
If you missed the post about our shop, see HERE.
Before the day is over, just wanted to say - thanks for all the wonderful messages on facebook, and for all the cards, gifts, texts, and calls from friends. It's been a fun birthday - started out with coffee this morning with mom! She was visiting for Fallon's graduation. We visited my roses to see if there was a sign from Shannon. With many about to bloom, two stood out. One for her, one for me. Below is mom in the garden - the original rose bush is nearly twice as tall as her. Ok, she is pint-size, but the roses are also enormous. Another few days of sunshine and we will have dozens of roses.
On Saturday Fallon graduated from Raritan Valley Community College. She moving on the Rutgers in the Fall - studying Art History. It was a grand day, and so special to celebrate her achievement. We gave mom a tour of the new campus she'll be at soon. Well, not so new - Rutgers marked their 250th anniversary this year. *tosses confetti for Fallon*
It's a big day here. Sam is 24! Tomorrow he will join a community of friends and former classmates in a talent + fashion show at our high school. Sam's painted cards will be on display as a 'talented entrepreneur'. It's been so much fun watching these kids practice the 'runway'. After lunch out with his girlfriend Brianna we go the final dress rehearsal for the big show. It's going to be an action packed weekend. Lots of favorite memories in the collage below. Can't believe ~ 24!
Thanks to all of you who have shared your enthusiasm for his new enterprise of Painting with Purpose and the launch of his Etsy shop. We sold out and restocked the shop twice, and have been busy painting and folding more. Super fun!
SAM AND I HAVE BEEN BUSY!
We are excited to launch this new venture together, and are making our announcement today,
the beginning of Autism Awareness month.
SPECIAL NEEDS is a phrase that has a double meaning. Yes, Sam has 'special needs' in the way most people think. He has autism. But don't we all have special needs? Rather than shy away from the term we are embracing it to remind us that sometimes you just need a little something special. We hope you like our offerings and will choose to purchase when you want a card to send a personal message.
PAINTING WITH PURPOSE: Our goal is not to make profit but to cover our costs, and more importantly, give us a daily purpose. Our products may not be perfect, but that's the beauty of being handmade with heart. We will be donating a portion of our profit to make a difference in the lives of families who are affected by autism.
CREATING OUR OWN DESTINY: After years of working with agencies trying to find appropriate employment we've decided to create our own destiny with the self-imposed ambition to have a daily purpose. Painting with Purpose has become one of our mantras. Sam loves to sit at the easel and paint piles of paper everyday. Painting, cutting, sorting, counting, labeling, packaging and mailing will be a fun way to insert productive activity into our day.
RIPPLE EFFECT: (And the secret behind our logo) We hope that our choice to open this shop will have a ripple effect and inspire others to do something similar. If you know of a family that is also trying to gain employment for their adult child with special needs maybe you could suggest they find an item that could be handmade and sold too. When there isn't a clear path of what to do after graduation, this could be a worthwhile endeavor. I welcome any questions on how to get launched.
See our brand new shop, HERE.
As I mentioned here on the blog, a little while ago I had an epiphany. It wasn't a lightning bolt idea, it had actually been simmering for some time. After meeting with our sixth job coach in nearly three years, with grand hopes of finding appropriate job placement for Sam, it was becoming clear that we needed to invent our own plan for daily purpose. Sam has great skills and has had some work experience, but the applications and interviews were going nowhere. We couldn't even secure a regular volunteer position.
My first vision was to come up with a project that Sam could manage on his own, giving him a routine and a schedule - something that he loves. I purchased a die-cut machine with the intention that he could make sets of gift tags and sell them on Etsy. I buy tags from there all the time so it made sense. The endeavor would be a chance for him to be productive, and see results. Cut, sort, count, package. We began. Then, to explain better what we were doing this for, I pulled out some painted cards Sam had made back in middle school with his class. His teacher, Mrs. Reiss, had her husband make the boys some tabletop easels, and they painted papers which were made into card sets. The boys sold the cards from a table at school events, and even had a display at the church holiday bazaar. As I was reminding Sam about the handpainted cards he got really excited, and it was a *sign* we needed to drop the die-cut tags and focus on painting. So painting it is - and eventually we may circle back to tags, but we also have a few more project plans that will debut later in the year. Sam has purpose. Mom and Dad are proud. Family is supportive, and cheering, and tolerant of the dining room take-over during the painting sessions (he paints 30-40 sheets at a time!).
A few photos from 2007 when Sam's class was selling cards. Thanks to my friend Maureen Reiss, and the other teachers who got the boys started with the process of painting with purpose. Who knew this would become a daily focus? Awesome.
And a re-cap of our adventure - it's only just begun! Thanks for sharing your enthusiasm with us. It's made the process really fun!
Ready to ship! See HERE.
EDIT (June): See my story in Somerset Studio (July/August) HERE
Twenty-five years ago today, on a very frigid Friday evening in St. Paul, Graham and I were married in front of friends and family. While it doesn't seem like yesterday, it certainly doesn't feel like twenty-five years. We have built a happy life together. We have three great kids, we have lived in four cities in four states, have had six addresses, and archived a lot of traveling miles, good memories, and are ready for more . Our first wedding dance was a Bon Jovi song, and our secret private vows included the same lyrics, "I'll be there for you". Serendipity....that track is from the album "New Jersey", where we now live. 25 years ago we never would have believed that NJ would become our home.
Silver anniversary! I married a good one. Graham is my best friend, a wonderful man, partner, and father. I always say I'm a lucky girl, and he continues to make me feel that way. I know he doesn't like to be featured on the blog, but I can't pass up celebrating US today. Love you.
Last week I went home to Minnesota for my Grandmother's funeral. While it was definitely tearful, and she will be dearly missed, it was also, in a way, a celebration of her life and how present she was in all our lives. Born in 1913 as Mary Batchelder, grew up in Granite Falls, MN, attended University of Minnesota, married Fallon Kelly in 1935, had four children - Kitty, John (my dad), Anne, and Molly, who gave her 18 grandchildren, and they gave her more than thirty great grandchildren. In the last few weeks I've been filling a journal with stories of her, from my childhood until now. Lots of beautiful, sweet, funny, and sentimental memories. I smile as I think of them even this very minute. I've flipped through photos, both here and at my parents home, and even more memories flooded in. It's hard to think of her not being at the other end of the phone, or opposite me at the dining table, but it was her time, and we are grateful for a full, happy, healthy life she enjoyed.
After the funeral last Friday we had a family dinner with all the relatives (there were alot!) and there was encouraging chatter about sharing stories. You may not know this about me, but I am a total chicken when it comes to standing up in front of a crowd, even if they are loved ones. Several of my cousins got things started and confidently stood up to share a favorite memory or two. This one spoke, then that one. We laughed, we toasted. Dad spoke. Mom spoke. I squirmed in my seat, wondering which story to share, hoping I could muster the courage to join in, and refrain from crying before I finished. I wasn't sure I could do it. But I didn't want to miss the chance to say she mattered. That evening It became a running joke between cousins, as each took a turn, claiming they were the favorite grandchild. When I did leave the safety of my chair at the corner table, I managed to squeak out a few sentences before my throat clenched and the well of tears was ready to burst. I said that we each knew Grandma's qualities, which were many - including hunter, hostess, golfer, great listener, matriarch....but that she also knew everything about US. She *got* us. Each and every one of us, of every age. She knew what we were each about, what we were into, what was going on in our lives, because she was genuinely interested in even the smallest of details. For years she was sending me newspaper clippings of articles I would enjoy, she was the first person to take me to an art museum (Walker Art Center), she gave me my first book of poetry, ..... later she wanted to know what my latest project was, we'd exchange thoughts about books we'd read, she wanted to know what Graham was cooking, where Peter was working, what Sam was doing, what Fallon was studying. It was the same with all my cousins and their families. It occurred to me, after I sat down, that in addition to making the statement that she *got* us, that it was obvious I left out one important observation. I can't get a re-do, so I will finish my thoughts here. I can see now that the reason we each felt like we were the favorite grandchild, was because that was her gift. That connection of feeling important and special is what she gave us, and hopefully she felt in return. What a great life lesson. To make each person in your life - relative or friend, feel like they are your favorite. Thank you Grandma. I will try to live up to your example for the rest of my days.
Here's a small view into her life....
My last photo with her, August 2014. She lived to 102....we were so lucky!
Earlier this year we road tripped home to Minnesota to visit family. On the return trip we detoured through Indiana to see a MotoGP motorcycle race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Graham's plan for the card this year was the perfect illustration of our adventures in 2014.
Have a blessed Christmas.
It's been six years since we began planting roses in remembrance of Shannon. While today's anniversary brings a tear, I am also filled with joy to have been blessed with such a sweet sister. I will never forget your arms wrapping around me when I needed it most, thank you. Here are two of the four walls of roses, and evidence of their rampant growth. I never imagined they'd grow taller than the fence! Reaching toward heaven.....xo
Fifty. Seems like a significant number doesn't it? Half a century. How did that happen? I have to say I loved my forties more than my thirties so I look forward to my fifties. Today I will enjoy being with my family, talking to loved ones, and we will all be remembering Shannon, and the special day we shared for forty years. She was born on my fourth birthday - a most precious gift to all of us. I'm a lucky girl. There are many roses on my table today from the florist - for Mother's Day, and for my birthday....red of course, but also pink. Perhaps the recent rain will prompt my the first rose bush blossom to open in celebration of Shannon, for they were all planted in her memory.
Here is a favorite from the collection of nearly-annual-dock photos. I love that her shoulders are raised in a fit of giggles. I can hear it when I listen really hard. Makes me smile. Happy Birthday to Us. Love you sweet sister.
Today we prep for a roast beef + Yorkshire pudding dinner, and bake breads for the neighbors, then frost a cake for baby Jesus. My large Nativity has a Mary who is holding the baby, so we resort to another infant Jesus who lays in a straw manger, made of plastic, to be set in a ring of candles and sung to Christmas eve. It belonged to the kids so they could play with the Holy Family. We used to make a cardboard stable, and pretended to act out the famous story....with the kings arriving after following the star. There were several years where couldn't locate the plastic Jesus and frantic-ness ensued to get him recovered and placed on the cake in time to celebrate his birthday. I began the tradition when our oldest was just over a year old. Getting gifts on your birthday is something we all grow up with, so it was the perfect way to explain Christmas to our children. So we don't lose Him, plastic baby Jesus spends his non-birthdays in our silverware drawer. He's never far away to visually remind us of His presence.....and today we honor Him as we exchange our presents.
My favorite track from the Very Special Christmas album series is by Stevie Nicks, with guest Robbie Nevil. This is the best video I could find. To see the 'making of', click HERE.
The final report card came in. Fallon's highest marks ever. Pretty good considering some seniors tend to slack off as the year winds down. At college orientation we learned that parents aren't given access to grades. ??? You'd think that signing your name on tuition checks might give you some privileges but it's time to let them fly, and trust that they'll continue to do well and communicate with you. I'll be filing away this last report, with some of the other remarkable items I've saved over the years. Onward we go!
We are so proud of you Fallon - bravo!
Had a great time with family last weekend. Mom and Dad, John and Renee, and my nieces Morgan, Mackenzie, and Meg joined us to celebrate Fallon's graduation. We spent a day at the shore, rode some terrifying rides, got in the ocean, and enjoyed walking the refurbished boardwalk. As the slogan on the airwaves keeps reminding and reassuring us: We are stronger than the storm. There's still alot of work to be done following superstorm Sandy but it was wonderful to see the crowds filling up the beach.
Summer is here! Be well and behave ;)
It was an action-packed weekend! The rain shut down the opening ceremonies Friday night for the Special Olympic Summer Games, but the remainder of the weekend was perfect for the event. Many athletes and their families enjoyed two full days of competition and awards. Thank you to our Piscataway Chiefs coaches, and the hundreds of volunteers who make this such an amazing experience.
It's been quiet here on the blog. I've been active in the studio wrapping up the last phase of an overhaul by clearing up piles, putting things back into drawers or on shelves, and bagging lots of old stuff - unused supplies that will be donated, unwanted clutter that is clogging up the space, and unfinished projects I'm releasing by discarding. It feels good to see the bags fill up by the back door. I've accumulated a small stash of debris that will go in my journal - clippings that I can't part with because they are part of a narrative of my creative journey. While I dislike blocking off time to devote to getting organized, I love the results. More space opens up on my table and in my mind. The process allows me to experience closure. A re-evaluation takes place, and I am clear about the direction I'm heading. I can part with materials that used to hold value because they no longer fit with what I'm interested in doing.
As we wind down the final weeks of school, I'm feeling a mixture of nostalgia, completion, and pride. There are lots of activities - like tonight, where I accompanied Fallon to the Art Show at the high school. She had several pieces hanging up from her Graphic Design class and her Photographic Design class. The exhibit was amazing - I love seeing the efforts of all the students, and got to thank the teachers for encouraging my daughter's creativity. This Friday is prom, then graduation on the 20th. This precious little thing, who arrived last to complete our family, is gliding right into this milestone with grace and charm and old-soul-wisdom.
The bags below are holding the dresses she'll be wearing to the two events. It's a very special time, made even more exciting as she has registered for her first semester of college classes. I'll be back with prom pics in a few days.
I've been saying it for years....even had a ring made that says it: I'm a Lucky Girl. And now we have one! Yesterday we adopted a little female kitten. She is precious - still very shy and skittish as she gets used to our home, but she is very loving and a cuddler. We are crazy about her already. Her name is Lucky.
I didn't think I would ready for another cat this soon as we are still mourning our Winston. But one day when I was driving in the car, sobbing to myself as I was thinking about him, a black cat ran across the street and I almost hit it. Swerving over to the side of the road I said to myself, 'that was lucky'. And for some reason it felt like a sign that it was time to visit the shelters and see if we might fit with a new friends, and open our hearts and our home to another black cat. It's commonly known that black cats are the hardest to adopt out, maybe because people think they are bad luck? I've only had two cats and they are both black. I guess, like this bowl of jelly beans, the black ones get left behind. Lucky for me, I love the licorice, and I will gladly invite a black cat home. So with the help of the kind ladies of Second Chance for Animals, and the Franklin Township Animal Shelter, we brought home our girl. They think she was born sometime in March 2012, so we are claiming today as her birthday. Fits, right?
I haven't had time to mess around with graphics to create a St.Patrick's Day greeting for you, so I am pulling up the one from 2009. They say you have to make your own luck....done!
A departure from talking about loving art, to talking about the art of loving. On this calendar day when we honor and celebrate those we choose to love, I want to share our sweet boy, who gave us so much joy. It is a sorrowful time for us and I don't mean to bring down the day by sharing this, but want to ackowledge him, and that he matters. Blowing kisses to all of you, especially those who have embraced me at this time to share my grief in an attempt to divide it. Thank you. Loss is painful, but I loved loving him, and always will. I read a quote by Hilary Stantin Zunin, "The risk of love is loss, and the price for loss is grief, but the pain of grief is only a shadow when compared with the pain of never risking love." Here's to us risk-takers, who love loving both people and the creatures who enrich our lives. Happy Valentine's Day.
I'm still wrapping. Are you? I thought I was on a good pace....numerous trips to the post office shipping gift packages and orders, nearly everything on the to-do lists is done but I'm still writing out cards, and still wrapping and baking....and tomorrow is Christmas Eve! No matter how much I try to be organized I am always down to the last minute with holiday preparation. I could ask for help, but that would take away the surprise and sneaky selections I've made as gifts. No, I am happy to be the chief elf. I am lucky to have that role. As I write out each gift tag I think about this great position I'm in to continue making Christmas a magical time - even though our kids are no longer little. It's the lights, the sparkle, the surprises, the LOVE....and tomorrow night at church we will pause, pray, and lift our voices in song. I'm rushing to beat the clock, but I'm grinning through it. As you enter into final-preparation-mode, like the rest of us, think about how lucky you are to be the magic-maker for your family.
I've mentioned this before - one of our family traditions is to collect souvenir spoons on our travels. Brought out each December, it is fun to remember places we've been together as we hang each spoon on the tree. This year we get to add a few new ones. I think this makes at least 6 from England, and now we have two from Italy. One purchased, one stolen (gasp!). If you sift through the box you'll see a newish one from New Orleans, an old one from Traverse City, several from Boston and Minnesota, and a special one from New York when the twin towers were still part of the skyline.
I would ask you to share with me some of your unusual holiday traditions....but you should be wrapping! We will talk about it another time.....for now, I'm raising a glass to toast you, the magic-makers.