THE 70273 PROJECT with a side of Jeanne Hewell-Chambers

Nancy and Jean Hewell-Chambers

Nancy is a special needs lady who is 64 now and she and Jean are very special friends of mine who attracted my attention when my friend Barbara Williamson and I had our tiny nonprofit to assist physically challenged fiber artists. Although Jean is not physically/developmentally or emotionally challenged, I was touched by how she was taking Nancy’s scribblings and turning them into fiber arts pieces which were exhibited at various museums and sold to raise money to contribute to Nancy’s needs.

Jean’s Fiber Arts Recreation of Nancy’s Attempts to Write courtesy of Pinterest.

Jean has always been an advocate/activist for the children and adults with special needs, and our friendship grew out of that shared advocacy/activism. The bigger story of Jean and her sister-in-law, Nancy, is in our book, Artful Alchemy: Physically Challenged Artists Creating, available from Amazon.com.

The 70273 Project has been her latest project to help bring awareness of the ways special needs people have been viewed over time.

“Between January 1940 and August 1941 under a program called Aktion T4, Nazis murdered 70,273 physically and mentally disabled people – men, women, teens, boys, and girls. Though they never even laid eyes on the disabled person they were evaluating, the Nazi doctors read the medical files and, if from the words on the page, the person was deemed “unfit” or an “economic burden on society”, the doctor placed a red X at the bottom of the form. Three doctors were to read each medical file, and when two of them made a red X on the page, the disabled person’s fate was sealed.

“I will commemorate these 70,273 voiceless, powerless people who were so callously and casually murdered by gathering 70,273 blocks of white fabric (representing the paper the doctors read), each bearing two red X’s (representing one person), and I will stitch them together into quilts. 

“I can’t change history – can’t unring that bell – but I can commemorate the lives of these 70,273 disabled people in this small way . . . if you’ll help. (I’ve done the math, and I just can’t do it alone.) This site, (Http://www.the70273project.org ) will take you to more information on how to get involved if that is in your heart.”

Thank you one and all most kindly.

Advertisements

Don’t Let Them Take Your Mind

Courtesy Facebook Free Photos
This is a great video, and says so much about our sacred being. The music is fantastic.

This is one of my favorite pieces of music. It says so much about our integrity and sacredness as human beings. I hope you enjoy it as much as i do. It is definitely on my regular listening

The Gift – Part IV – The Final Chapter

“The Center” courtesy Pexels.

When we work on a painting, we often work from the center or point of focus outward, and when we work on a puzzle, we often work from the outside edges inward. There is no rhyme or reason why we do it, but it is just the way we tend to see things. If you look at the picture above, you are drawn to the center, and if you were to paint it, you would likely start from that point.

As we go through our lives, many things happen to us that start at the outside edges- some absolutely beautiful like making friends and falling in love, and some start at the center, like losing a good friend or loved one who may be lost in some unexplained way. And then there are the horrible things that happen in life – wars, or people with mental problems who hurt others mentally and physically, perhaps even ending their lives. These things affect us both on the outside edges and the center, until no part of the puzzle or painting feels safe.

I guess in my lifetime, I have lived both sides of life. I’ve been through the utmost joy in life – falling in love, bearing children, and working to serve others. And I have been through the horrors of life too. I have had those bad days when I did not believe I had the strength to go on, but life somehow had my back. There was a purpose for me in the long run. Perhaps suicide was an attempt to rid myself of those horrors in life, to reach out and fight them in the only ways I knew how at the time.

But in the end result, despite those things, I have taken the high road. I have served my fellow human beings – women, men and children, all of my life. I taught illiterate and ESL adults how to read; loved, cared for and protected special needs children for 15+ years; and advocated/mentored physically challenged artists with starting their own own art businesses for 20+ years. I have served as a volunteer in one capacity or other since I was 14 years young, and will likely serve through whatever time I have left here.

“We resonate with one another’s sorrows because we are interconnected. Being whole and simultaneously part of a larger whole, we can change the world simply by changing ourselves. If I become a center of love and kindness in this moment, then in a perhaps small but hardly insignificant way, the world now has a nucleus of love and kindness it lacked the moment before. This benefits me and it benefits others.” ― Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life

The Gift – Part III

“Lady in the Dark” – courtesy of Pexels.

Instead of warning parents that there might be something a child should not read in this post, I would rather talk straight to the child. If you are a child who is old enough to read this, I want you to understand that this is a true story of my own life. If you are having any challenges in your own life, I want you to be sure to find someone you can trust to talk to. If you are being bullied, I want you to understand that you are not the problem. You are a wonderful young person, and others who might be bothering you may have their own problems and they don’t like others who they believe have what they don’t have.

If you have problems with your parents, please call 211 and let them know that you need to talk to someone about it and they will help you. Don’t allow anyone – your parents, your friends, or bullies – to ever hurt you. There is nothing about you that deserves that, OK? You are a miracle in this world, and you are here because you are needed here. And especially, I never want you to ever hurt yourself – ever. You might not know it, but if you hurt yourself, you WILL hurt other people who love you. The earth needs you to help take care of it. And other children who hurt may need you to help them too. Be good to yourself and take special care of yourself. If you read this and it makes you feel bad, please talk to someone about it and why it makes you feel so bad. You are loved by others in this world. I love you and want you to be ok. Thank you forever for finding me.

“The boundaries which divide life from death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends and where the other begins?” – Edgar Allen Poe from The Premature Boundary.

What makes a person think about taking his or her own life? Is it a matter of confusion of his or her identity, whether physical, mental or emotional? Or is it something that is caused by others – parents, friends, or even people we really don’t know? Is it that the person cannot think of another alternative to stop his or her pain?

When we think of people wanting to end their own lives, we tend to think of adults. But children, some very young, think of and sometimes end up taking their own lives. It is really sad because this world needs all of us here to help it live. And we are here by some great and magical design.

I reached that point when I was just ten years old. One day, and I am not even honestly sure what happened to bring me to that point, I went into the bathroom at my uncle’s apartment where I was staying with him and his boyfriend, and I cut my wrists. My uncle and his boyfriend were at work, so there was no one there to help me afterward. I can’t say I felt sad. I couldn’t feel anything mentally or physically. Luckily I guess, I did not cut them deep enough to die, so after watching the blood coming out of my wrists for awhile, I got some bandages and put them over the cuts. That night when I went home and sat at the table with everyone in my family, no one seemed to notice or ask me any questions about why I did it. This was how my family was, and what I lived with every day I still lived with them.

I want to say that this would not be the last time I would do this or try to end my life some other way. I think there were a lot more than 20 times of doing this. I am still here to tell this story, so I was not successful, but there were several times in my life that nearly truly ended my life. But as I have told you, we are all on this plane because of some miraculous design. We need to be here to help each other and to help this earth. If we were not meant to be here, we would not be here.

So no matter how bad your pain is or how much it seems like a good idea, trust that it is not. You do not deserve to die. You need to live like me. Yes, I suffer with mental pain all the time, and it is hard for me at times to want to live, but these days I try very hard because I know that I might just save one other life, or I might find a way to help someone or some animal that might make a difference for someone else. This is the way the earth works. And so we can all live here and find something good to do for each other and for the world. LIVE!

The Gift – Part II

I was born November 22, 1941, very shortly before the bombing of Pearl Harbor and our full involvement in the war. My father was an Army non-commissioned officer for most of his days in service. He went off to the war shortly after I was born; I am not really sure how long he was gone or what countries he was in.

When I was perhaps two or three, my mother and father and I drove to Rhode Island from Ft. Jay, New York, where we had been living and where I was born. We drove to get my maternal grandmother, for my grandfather had passed away, and she could not afford to live on her own. In those days, a widow whose husband died in the army, a sargent I believe, got some $50 a month.

My father’s background was very strange. He came home from school one day when he was 16, at the heart of the depression. He had other brothers and a sister, but his family had abandoned him. So I think he might have struck out to live as best he could, and as soon as he was able, he joined the army. In order to be accepted, he had to give his salary to a poor family. He would receive room and board, but they would get his salary. He told me once that they never once sent him a card or thanked him.

Dad apparently found out where his birth family was living, but they never accepted him back, and to this day, I live with the mystery of what caused that. I do know that his only sister who was younger than he was committed suicide, shooting herself in the head. Even after my dad and mom got married, his family still never accepted us and so we never knew them at all and no one spoke about the issue.

Neither my mother or father ever finished high school, so schooling was very difficult through all elementary and high school learning. We lived in the same town in El Paso, TX until I grew up except for a couple of years when we were sent to Okinawa. But we returned to El Paso afterward and we always lived on the outskirts of town and only my mother had friends, and that was later in life. I was not allowed to have friends except the little girl my same age next door. And she never came into my home; any playing we did was outside or at her home.

I cannot remember when it began, but my father began to molest me. I might have been as young as three or five. For a young child to have to suddenly think of the people who are considered the world and all the child knows and learns from to suddenly be faced with people they somehow know but who have turned into monsters is almost unimaginable. Everything that is known must be unlearned because nothing seems to make sense anymore. The mother is not there for the child, but accuses the child of being the cause of the issues when she is confronted with the truth. The world was suddenly shaken on its very foundation, and the child caught amongst people who were no longer there to attend to her most basic needs.

Every little child has a sacred little place in his or her mind where he or she goes into and no one else enters it. It is the place of childlife magic. It was as though someone went in that little sacred place and broke all the dishes. Even if the dishes were to be repaired, they could never be capable of magic again.

This was how I lived my early life. I felt ashamed and yet there was no one I could trust to tell, and in my mind, I was probably the only one in the whole world with such a burden on my soul, one that I struggle to understand to this day. But somehow other children saw something in me that conveyed my shame at being a victim, and they bullied me all the way through school. I hid on the playground in the bushes at recess, and would only go home when all the other children had left. But as hard as I tried to avoid them, I often failed. One day another young girl held a knife at my chest; to this day none of it seems real. Another day some boys grabbed me after school and threatened to cut off my fingers with some kind of equipment that looked like a guillotine and was used to cut cigars. They ultimately let me go, but the layers of needing to hide and not being accepted were building up thickly.

I often wonder which nightmare was worse. I ran away several times, but always got caught, for I had no place to go. And I could not give a reason to the police who found me riding my bicycle after dark down the streets not so far away. I was punished of course, often staying in my room for a month or two at a time when I came home from school, even eating my dinner alone, and no one speaking to me, though my grandmother shared my room. I think she would have, but she was a vulnerable hostage as it were too. She did manage to whisper good night, but that was it.

We went overseas to Okinawa with my grandmother for a couple of years when I was in 2nd and 3rd grades. By then, my younger brother had been born sometime before we went to Okinawa. He was five years younger than me. I remember his innocence and how I felt a need to protect him even though I had no one to protect me.

The whole world seemed to be insane. The wives and children of the men there seemed really crazy. One day a woman who lived nearby in another quonset set her home on fire and ran down the street naked screaming. The children were even worse, and bullying was an everyday occurance, and this time instead of one or two children it was a gang regularly. I was shot with a B B gun, luckily with no long-term damage from where the B B hit, and I wad “crowned” with a skull as I was tricked into going into a cave in the hills. And once again, I was threatened with having my fingers cut off with a film cutter that looked a lot like the previous cutter that I had experienced.

We lived through typhoons that threatened to topple our quonset, and weekly practices of having to run into foxhills on the beach and take shelter until we were released verbally. My father shot and killed a boa constrictor that somehow had found its way into our quonset. The beaches were littered with the remains of landing crafts covered with rust, and the hills and mountains contained many jars filled with bones and belongings of native peoples who had died in the war. The native peoples were extremely impoverished, and the military people were ordered to take in at least one person to help with household chores and make sure they were fed and cared for. When we got sent home again, they ran all the way to the ship we had to board, holding onto my parents’ legs and sobbing to have them come with us.

This is a long and painful journey to recount to you, so if you have difficulty reading this, you may want to stop reading now. I will be posting the next episode within likely a few days, There IS a good message to come from this living nightmare and pain, but as in all horror movies, you have to watch the bad parts first. This is written to all those who have suffered in some way in their lifetimes from painful memories whose doors they have not been able to close. Most of us have chosen over the many years to hide issues of identity and abuse away because it is too difficult to deal with and we are living in fear that society will judge us negatively and perhaps hurt us physically. In the end result, we hurt ourselves more than anyone else possibly can.

The Gift

The Tin Woman by Anne Copeland (She says, “I always had a heart.”)

This may end up being a series post because it involves the story of a life. It is my hope that this may serve to help anyone who is having difficulty coping with life. It is a true story. It is my story. And I am feel blessed to be able to share it.

I was inspired to write my story when I read a beautiful and touching post by a person whose blog I follow, http://www.3Bones.wordpress.com. Almost everyone in this life goes through some sort of tragedy or issues that can change a life forever. Challenges, no matter what the nature of them can be, are a blessing. The reason they are a blessing is that without them, we might never learn compassion for others, or how to help them when they need it most. We might never experience the beauty of life because life is full of valleys and mountains, sunshine and shadows and darkness. And we might never develop a sort of strength and true understanding of a journey. We might never develop faith in some form, from a belief in a God and a loyalty to that belief, or a sort of spirituality that we recognize in the things, people and places that surround us every day.

And lives – all lives – are sacred in this world. They are here by design – all of them. All forms, all shapes, all colors and names we have made to categorize each of them. They are needed to help the earth and the universe to survive. Even the smallest grain of sand is sacred. It has a special function though it may seem insignificant. Nothing is insignificant in this world.

I want to let you know that this story contains elements of life and death. It contains elements of goodness and love and kindness. And it also contains elements of evil and hatred and the horrible acts that human beings are capable of enacting upon selves and others. This is an opportunity for anyone reading it to perhaps change your thinking about human life on this plane.

The Tin Lady is not only an art doll that I created from found objects. If you look at her carefully, you will see that she is imperfect. Perhaps we can all be both imperfect and sacred a the same time. Most of my art falls into the Wabi Sabi category I have written about in the past; it is an appreciation of the imperfect, the impermanent, and the miracles that can be appreciated in the simplest of things. It serves to remind us that we are all here but a short time in the overall scheme of things, and that life is not a destination, but a journey every day that we live.

So with this brief introduction, the next part of the story will be told in a second post. I do not have a schedule for this. I will write more as I am able to continue. Thank you one and all very kindly for being here.

Honoring a Special Woman

Elizabeth Jameson

Elizabeth Jameson is an magnificent imperfect human being – or as she puts it, a human being living in an imperfect body.

Elizabeth married the love of her life and had two boys. She had a degree with honors in law and was a human rights attorney. She was in the prime of her life, and looked forward to serving others with a variety of needs.

Then one day, when she took her boys to a playground, she suddenly suffered from an attack on her brain. It turned out to be a rare form of MS that starts at the brain stem, and it very quickly took hold of her body, ultimately leaving her a quadriplegic. In the early stages of her illness, she became depressed because she had been living to be able to help others and to serve in the best ways she could. She first turned to fiber arts as a way to express having a body that no longer communicated properly with itself.

Mind on Fire (left) by Elizabeth Jameson.

As her body’s functions continued to malfunction, she turned to another art form – the MRI’s of her brain, and they became her way to link science and art and to see her brain in positive ways.

Elizabeth’s Brain Images as art, Health Services Building, University of Texas, El Paso

I have known Elizabeth for many years; she is one of the artists in the book that I edited with other assistance from Barbara Williamson, Artful Alchemy: Physically Challenged Fiber Artists Creating.

One of the many things that I love about Elizabeth is the way she continues to evolve as her bodily functions are continuing to deteriorate. Her latest art endeavor is called “The Waiting Room.” She got permission to leave paper for notes in one of the medical waiting rooms she frequents, and the medical facility now has an exhibit of people’s thoughts on visiting the waiting room.

You can find a talk by Elizabeth about her challenges on Ted.com, and you can get a copy of the book in E-book format or paperback from Amazon.com. The book has the inspiring stories of some 23 physically challenged fiber artists, and the ways some of us challenge the nature of what constitutes a physical challenge and the use of the word “disability.” Thank you very kindly.