Doing for Others

Published by Amazon KDP in Paper and E-book.

In the early 70’s, my brother returned from Vietnam. He is five years younger than me, and he was a young kid when he left to be in the Air Force as a Demolition Expert. He spent most of his service time out near the end of the runways, where the planes would come in, sometimes with bombs they did not drop, and one of his jobs was to neutralize and unload them until they were needed again.

When we had the first family reunion after he returned, I could hardly recognize him. He is now considered 100% disabled, though when he returned he was considered 40%. He had a TBI and had multiple surgeries to try to put in a plate, but none of them worked and they made him pass out repeatedly. He also had a spinal surgery that was blotched and so he could not walk well at all, and spent a lot of time sleeping because of pain. And then he had PTSD like so many others, his from having to shoot tiny children who came onto the runway, wired with bombs. It is difficult to imagine how people become so brainwashed or terrorized that they could ever harm their own children and babies.

Seeing him again like that when he had still been a big kid in his mind and spirit when he left, full of mischief and the joy of being young was almost too much. It gave me a heart to work with physically, developmentally and emotionally challenged children and adults, something I have done for the rest of my life.

I first began to work with special needs children in the Torrance and Redondo Beach school districts in California as a substitute, and I worked every single day and absolutely loved it. Many if not most of my children were preschoolers, kinders and middle school aged then, and had multiple challenges. I did this work throughout Southern California for more than 15 years, always as a substitute Paraeducator, Aide, or Teacher (uncertified). I think over the many years, I learned more from my children than they did from me, though I was always an innovator with the ways I did things.

I do not believe that special needs children who are likely to end up living at home or in a group home or other special facility need to be tormented by having them do repetitive work unless they really show an inclination to like that, and yes, some of them are very good and very happy and excellent workers doing repetitive work. My belief is that every child should be given an opportunity to do something that makes them happy, even if it is making beaded necklaces or weaving or whatever else they enjoy.

The book above is the cover of a book by Barbara Williamson and me. Her name, though not on the front of the book, is on the back with the other authors. Besides telling her own story, she made major contributions in the way of decision making and adding creative input through the journey of the creation of the book. Just ahead of the time I was working as a substitute, I decided to start a nonprofit to assist physically challenged fiber artists (art quilters, though many of them work in many mediums besides quilts). Because I too was involved with art quilting, I realized how difficult and expensive it was for them to enter juried shows, often to not get accepted after paying an entry fee that most could little afford. So I wanted to find venues that gave them a lot of excellent exposure and at the same time wanted to teach them professional development. Barbara Williamson and I became excellent friends and she became the Secretary of the nonprofit. We ran it successfully with just her caregiver, Rob as our treasurer, and no money in the kitty, which made running the nonprofit very simple.

The first exhibit we ran was called My World in Black and White, and we had s121 participants from various countries and the United States. The exhibit had some 10 live venues in one year (what we call traveling venues) and the exhibit museums, galleries and quilt shows were only too glad to help us send all the quilts as a group show for free. I only had to get the quilts to the first venue, and from then on, everything went from one venue to the next seamlessly. At the end of the last venue, the quilts were returned to me and I was able to ship them all back home to the ladies. If the venue was local, I was there to help hang the quilts and take care of other chores and greet the visitors as needed.

We ran the nonprofit for some ten more years, with back to back exhibits the entire time, and we did a lot of things besides that, helping after provide school projects and materials for the children of migrant workers, providing donated used sewing machines for other ladies who could not afford to get one on their own, donating quilting materials to the American Indian ladies on Pine Ridge and other things. During this time, Barbara grew her own art and developed her fiber arts as a profession. She is successful in everything she does now even though she is confined to a wheelchair.

We have changed our focus now as we are both older. Barbara lived in Paradise, CA, where the entire town burned down November 2018, causing her to lose basically everything. She has started life all over again and is busy settling into another home in a different city and working on her continuing career. As for me, I am studying a fantastic correspondence and event class called The Silent Eye Mystery School led by Steve Tanham, Sue Vincent and Stuart France. I still tutor special needs children and adults as well as ESL adults, and I will likely be a volunteer in some capacity the remainder of my life. I am currently a volunteer court-appointed volunteer advocate for CASA (a nonprofit located through the U.S.) for foster children. So life is never dull and when not doing these things I am working on more books and caregiving for my significant other, Richard, taking care of my garden and our six chihuahuas, a cat, two huge goldfish and two alien catfish. I am 77 now and intend to stay busy for whatever time is left. Although I have very little in the way of material goods, I have been immensely rich in life experiences and lifelong friends, and for that I am eternally grateful.

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Dancing Man Collaboration

I supplied his essence.

Years ago, I had something hanging on my fence called the “Living Art Basket.” When I would go walking down by the shore in San Pedro, California, or in the park along the edge above the shore, or wherever I decided was a good place to walk each day, I would find treasures that would come home with me. Once home, I would add the treasure or treasures to the Living Art Basket, and then spend time enjoying it as I rearranged it until it looked like something magical. The treasures could be exotic looking pieces of paper, neatseeds (seeds I did not know the name of), pieces of wood, broken china pieces, shells, or anything that captured my fancy.

One day I encountered this wild piece of wood, well washed and worn by the ocean tides, and I immediately named it “Dancing Man.” It did not look anything like it does here except for the head area, and that was not decorated. It was named because one piece stood out on the right side, looking like a man kicking up his heel and enjoying dancing. He moved into the Living Art Basket and stayed there for a long time. Then one day some friends and I decided to do a collaborative project where we would take the piece we got and turn it into something else. Each month we would switch and whoever got the piece next would add his or her part of it until we got them all finished over time. I had a lot of really cool projects to work on too from the others, and honestly I wish I could remember them better but I don’t remember if I have photos of them or not. We each kept a notebook of what we added, and what we felt when we were creating it. I think there was a photo too.

When I got Dancing Man back, I could hardly believe his transformation. What a magical character, and so full of life. He really did get to become a dancing man, complete with his rainbow colored pants, his soft vest and the face all done up with yarn and beads, and copper hair. He had decorations on his vest and his beaded necklace, along with the wonderful bells on his pants, and best of all, check out the wonderful slippers.

I have him to this day. He was photographed against a pieced vest made and given to me by a friend who has since passed on. Isn’t it fun to see what we can create from the things we find? I no longer have that Living Art Basket, but I have plenty of found art everywhere in my home and in the yard that will eventually visit these posts. It’s funny how when we work on something that we think of as art, we are transformed by what we are transforming.

Writing Your Obituary

Courtesy Pexels

It seems an odd thing to think about when we are still alive and perhaps still young. Writing your obituary is a good idea though because if it is left to others to manage, they may write things that you would not have wanted to have written about you, or perhaps they would leave out things that were important to you.

It is a good way to remind yourself of all the things you have accomplished in your lifetime, and to remember people who others might not remember who were important to you in life. We don’t have to be thinking about dying, but we don’t really know what life has in store for us.

I often think of the story of Anne Frank, and how her story of her life in those last days was captured and has been an inspiration for so many people because it is the story of someone who lived a life with such meaning in just little everyday things. That is something I think it would be very difficult for another person, no matter how close they were to you, to capture your life the way you would have thought of it.

I think of my father, and I have not a photo or anything left of his life. He was not a role model for a father in some ways, but he did take care of us to ensure we had a roof over our heads, food on the table, and clothing always. He once got me a Ford Taunus, and I drove it out to White Sands Proving Grounds with him, and it went on the fritz out there. I could only drive the whole way back in 1st gear, not being able to shift at all. It seemed that drive was forever, and I never wanted to drive that car again. Tomorrow is Father’s Day, and I wonder how I might have written his obituary while he was still alive. I think the same for all of my relatives who are gone now, and those I particularly loved, and I so wish now I had captured their lives for my own children and their children and grandchildren.

Perhaps this is a good way to spend a bit of Father’s Day. If you can’t capture the life of your own father, perhaps you can capture your own growth from being a child to growing up and then becoming a father. I know someone will be glad someday to read about who you were as a human being and the things and people that were important to you in this life.

My Shoe’s Got Soul . . .

By Yours Truly

This is who I am. I love to recycle things that have meant something to me. I found these shoes in a thrift store years ago. I fell in love with them because the shoe brand was something like Sam and Jane and they were about the most comfortable shoes I ever had with a soft sole and leather that seemed to breathe. The original shoes were brown, not gold. But one day as I went to get my shoes to go someplace, the sole of one was literally falling off of it. Of course I was heartbroken, but then I had this idea to make a play on words and to give one of the shoes a whole new life, so I came up with this idea.

The “wings” are on a base which is made from the sole of one shoe, and I found the most wonderful colored organiza with a nice stiffness to it that allowed me to cut out the little leaves. The leaves seemed appropriate to me because shoes wouldn’t tend to go up in the air (except for the kids who throw them over the telephone lines). And I remembered in the compass of my soul how much fun it was as a kid (and ok, I confess, as a grownup too) to jump in a pile of leaves). And I had to make her a happy and bright color full of life, for that is how I remembered those old comfy shoes.

It’s so many years later since I made her, “My Shoe’s Got Soul.” She’s still with me, and I imagine that she will still be when I take my last jump into those leaves. And it’s funny because she led me to write a story called “Tenshoes and the Skittyfoot” about ten orphan shoes who live in a trash dump, and every Saturday, the animals up in the meadow above hear “sootspeak” because the dump is putting out ugly smoke and it is mixed with the angry and sad words from the ten orphans arguing because they were just thrown away like they never mattered after living lives with adventure. They were never appreciated for who and what they were, and the dump is a horrible place to live.

The Skittyfoot is a little boy with red (really red) hair who comes to visit the creatures in the meadow every day, and the little boy can talk to them and they to him. They tell him about the Tenshoes, and that they want him to go and rescue the Tenshoes from the ugly dump and bring them up to the meadow where they can live safely. But before they can come up to the meadow, they have to find things and fix themselves up as best as they can. Just because they are orphans doesn’t mean they cannot have pride in themselves.

So the Skittyfoot goes down to the dump, and ultimately gets the tenshoes to clean and fix themselves up, and help each other, which they do. Ultimately they go to the meadow with the Skittyfoot, and the little creatures in the meadow all make them welcome and they will have a forever home where they are loved and treasured.

No, I never published Tenshoes and the Skittyfoot though I guess I could have. Some things just live on in our hearts and in the compass of our souls. I’ve been a sort of orphan too, and it took me awhile, for I didn’t have a Skittyfoot or other orphans like me to help, but I fixed myself up nice and clean (there is not and never has been anything related to drugs or other similar things but a transformation from being a childhood orphan), and now I can make things like “My Shoe’s Got Soul” to help others to feel good about themselves too.

Isn’t it strange how life brings little things into our consciousness to help us learn to grow and to care for ourselves, even if we were a kind of orphan in our younger lives? And using art to fix up an old shoe that brought happiness to a life can be a symbol of that. We don’t have to find fancy things or to do anything special to make it up to the meadow from the dump. The recognition of value in little things is what brings a true transformation to us in our lives. Your life, no matter how small you may think it is, is a miracle. Live it like the true gift it is.

Talking to Rocks

A rock is a rock, but is it?

Today after a doctor’s visit, I was sitting out on a little circular border surrounding a large tree. It was just about the right height for a bench so I sat on the concrete flat area that seemed made to sit on. Inside that was a ring of rocks. To look at them at first, they were all about the same size and most were round and there was a bit of change in color. I picked up one and began to study it carefully. This one seemed to have one end cut or broken off, and it revealed a much darker and varied , somewhat smooth surface, as if I were looking into it. Down one side of that top area, extended a crack that seemed as if another part of it might split off. And crossing that seemed to be attempts to cut it with a sharp object diagonally.

Something drew me to pick up other rocks in that circle and to look at them. I guess sometimes it seems that, for example, perhaps all grains or sand, or in this case, all rocks in a group are similar in size, shape, color and texture. But in this case, the more I examined the rocks, I saw how distinctly different each one was. And I began to think about how each rock might have formed and what must have transpired to make it so different from all the rest. In my mind were so many questions coming forth, seemingly spilling out like a dam that was overflowing. How could it be that stones that likely all came from the same source/location could all be so different in texture, colors, shapes and sizes. Where was this magical place and what other surprises did it hold?

As I was pondering all these wonderful mysteries, my Lyft showed up and honked for me. I grabbed the one rock with the top seemingly cut from it and put it carefully into my pocket. I wanted to look at it once again at home and I wanted to ask it questions. One thing I learned today was that we should never even take a tiny grain of sand for granted. There is mystery and magic everywhere in this world.

A New Day Dawning . . .

Our Evolving Relationship with God

I have been transforming my relationship with God or The One over the past year, and I have given this beautiful statement from Richard Rohr a lot of thought for its truth. I have become aware of how everything in the universe is sacred and it was provided for us to give us everything we could need or want for nourishment, for thirst, and for protection from the elements if we but make it our purpose to look for it and use it wisely. I have become aware of how there are many, many forms of humankind on this earth, and we were put here so that we could all learn how to get along, and to help this good earth to continue to survive.

I love this little piece of writing because it rings true for us all, and offers us a way to what spirituality or religion is intended to be. These days when I have to end the life of a bug or I cut a rose, or perhaps fail to appreciate so-called weeds of the earth, I stop myself and think about it, and suddenly I can see the beauty that surrounds us in its many forms. We have derived words that devalue even the nature of creatures and plants that were put on this earth for a reason.

Now I spend time each day meditating on all of these things and so much more that is related to my relationship with God and with the universe. Things look different for I am changed too.

A Prayer for Our Memory

I have seen too much for my young eyes.
Oh God, I come to you this day, my head bowed in sorrow.  You created this magnificent world. And look what we have done to it and to you.  Today, we celebrate Memorial Day to honor the soldiers who died fighting, each side with their own belief systems, somehow mistakenly believing that they were fighting for what was right.
We fight each other believing that we are fighting for freedom, but as long as we continue to fight, we will never be free.
When we think of the day of Memory, we need to remember not only soldiers who gave their lives, but for the millions of everyday citizens of countries who died, and especially the children, because the children are the future. The children are not old enough to understand the meaning of war. And yet they too lost their lives, or suffered physical and emotional damage that will follow them all the days ahead.
You gave us this abundant world, God, with enough food and resources to feed each person on this earth, and yet so many are going without food or warmth, or thirsting because we have failed in our ability to nurture the world instead of fighting to gain control over it.
Oh God, I pray to give us wisdom, and most of all, God, help us to learn compassion for all the others in this world and to see them as we see our own selves. We are all sacred because we are in you as you are in us. This I pray in your Memory.