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.

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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.

Of Tears and Smiles of Joy

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Photo courtesy freestocks.org on Pexels.com

Although I am normally of a cheerful spirit and am always trying to provide inspiration for others, today is a truly difficult day.

I have been working with physically/developmentally/emotionally challenged children and adults perhaps since the 1970’s when my younger brother came home from Vietnam, 100% disabled with a TBI, a spinal injury, and permanent PTSD.  It gave me the heart for this work and I have done it ever since.

It has been a good journey, and I am glad that sometimes in the face of tragedy, we are led to do things to help our communities and to help others who are going through challenges.

Yesterday morning very early, I got a call from one of my best friends who helped me to create and run our tiny, but successful nonprofit for some 15 years, providing exposure and professional development for physically challenged artists. Barbara Williamson is a paraplegic lady I met more than 15 years ago when she was looking for help to become a professional with her own business selling her fiber arts work.  It was natural that we came together to do the work we did with virtually no money for all these years.

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Barbara Williamson, “Buddha’s Garden,”

one of three pieces left because they are in an exhibit in another town

Barbara was shot point blank by a felon when she was in her mid 20’s; the bullet missing her heart by one inch, and leaving her permanently physically challenged.  She was approximately four months pregnant at the time, and miraculously, the baby was born early, but survived, so today she is a mother and grandmother.  All these years, Barbara has been a productive fiber artist, a writer, and she has contributed so many things for her community and for others in need.

The phone call was short; she, her caregiver, and her dog had to evacuate their town.  There was a huge fire coming up the mountain in the valley below her home.  As we tried to hear the news throughout the day yesterday and today, we heard that the hospital has been destroyed (all patients evacuated) two blocks from her home and the fire is blazing through the entire town.  My friend is presumably safe for they got out early, but all of her artwork and her sewing machine and everything else had to be left behind.  This is some 15+ years of art quilts that have been in many exhibits including international ones, and which we were preparing to sell on a website we were creating for her.

But they were more than just that.  They were the reason she has survived cancer, a burst artery, a stroke, and any number of other physical challenges through these many years.  There are tears in my eyes, but there is joy in my heart, for what is taken from us today will live on in our memories over the many years.  Perhaps I have impacted her life in a positive way, but she has brought so much more to mine.

 

 

Mom-isms

 

I remember that my mom had more “mom-isms” than probably most of the moms on my block.  If you don’t know what a mom-ism is, your mom probably never had one, but you might ask her what mom-isms her mom or grandma used to use.  A mom-ism is when you make a remark, such as “Oh Mom, I can’t.”  And your mom replies, “Really?  Did you know that there is no such word as ‘can’t’ in the English dictionary?”  Or perhaps she might say, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”  Think back on some your mom or grandma might have said.  I know some of you have some in the back of your memory. They were intended to have us not give up easily, or perhaps guide us in some other area of life.  The quilt that is painted and stitched below is one of my mom’s mom-isms.  I would say something like “I just am not sure if I can do it,”  or perhaps “Mom, I am afraid to do it,” and she would reply, “Oh, take the bull by the horns.”  I have no clue where these mom-isms came from, but they were definitely an important memory in my youth.  I will look forward to seeing some of yours.  Perhaps you have pop-isms, or grandma or grandpa-isms.  And you know, these worked too.  Look how worried this huge bull looks compared to the little cowgirl.  Have fun remembering!

Take the Bull by the Horns

“Take the Bull by the Horns” by Anne Copeland

 

Art Exhibit – Part I

I would love it if each of you who follows this blog posts something about something you absolutely LOVE to do, be it making a good pot of spaghetti, painting something that means something to you, or whatever brings Edison in all his brightness he created for us into your heart.  I am going to share some of mine here.  I am NOT a professional artist in the sense of having a degree of art, and have had very little professional training of any kind.  But what I DO know is what I like, and what speaks to my heart.  I love fiber art, or art quilts and others too, but I do the art quilts.  I love anything unique, and I love things made from nature or from recycled things.  And I love urban art and also what I call interactive art.  This is art that causes the viewer to need to interact with the art in some manner to perhaps try to figure it out or its message to viewers.  And I love to put it everywhere – not just in the house or an exhibit or publication, but anywhere my mind decides would be fun to have some art.  So if you are expecting some really polished stuff, you probably should go to a different place.  This is stuff that comes from the center of who I am.

Annies Wild Car 2011 Drivers sideAnnie's Wild Car Back 2011Annies Wild Car Top 2011Annies Wild Car Front 2011Anne's Wild Car Passenger side

Celebrating a Great Teacher

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The Learning Tree Classroom Door Decoration by Anne Copeland

In my lifetime, I have come across two teachers who have been the best teachers I have ever known.  The first one I knew as a young teenager, struggling through being a shy person, and one with very little to inspire me at school.

She was a young teacher, very pretty and she drove a red convertible Corvette.  We all loved her.  She would bring photos and newspaper clippings and jazz music to the classroom, and we would all write about it.  She taught us so many things just by all the things she was introducing to us.

After one of our writing assignments was being handed back to us with our grades, when she got to me, she whispered in my ear, “You are going to be a great writer.”  My heart soared and my paper had an A on it.  I went home smiling in my heart, and the first chance I got to have money to pay for it, I got some business cards that said my name and address with “Writer” on it.  How clearly and easily I had made that decision.

Years later, I ran into an old classmate from that class and I told her about how great that teacher was.  And then she told me that the teacher had told all of the young people in the class including my friend the same thing.  What a lasting legacy she left with all of us.  I wish I could ever find her again to thank her.

I have another more recent friend I met in an online correspondence course, The Silent Eye Mystery School, a fantastic class that involves Archaeology (one of my degrees), History, Philosophy, Psychology, Science and Spirituality.  Three wonderful people founded and run the course:  Steve Tanham, Sue Vincent, and Stuart France.  We have been traveling via posts all over England studying all the great ruins, the churches, the castles and the amazing forts.  All three of them have written lots of fantastic books.

In one of the posts online, I met a lovely lady named Jennie, and she is one of the most dedicated preschool teachers I have ever known. https://jenniefitzkee.com/author/jlfatgcs/ is her writing, and her blog is called “A Teacher’s Reflections.”

Jennie writes: “I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It’s the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That’s what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease’s bestselling book, The Read-Aloud Handbook because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.”

I would like to give each of these women some sort of certificate of honor if I could.  I have worked in the school districts myself, and I appreciate a truly incredible teacher as these two women have been.  Thank you both for helping to make a positive difference in young lives.

Five Roses and How They Grew (or Not)

rose-blossom-bloom-red-rose-87469Photo courtesy Pixels.

I have five rose bushes in pots in my yard. It is interesting to watch the way they grow (or dont). These were rescue rose bushes – I got them in one of those very cheap waytoolateforbarerootroses sales and they were literally bare root – no sawdust or other wrapping to protect them.  It looked as though the grower simply plowed up their fields, threw the survivors into a box and brought them to the storeI looked carefully through all the ones that were available and picked the ones that had some signs of growing or trying to grow.

Watching the five rose bushes grow is a good analogy for life and how people choose to live itOf the five rose bushesdespite great care and lovewatering and fertilizerone of them didnt even try to make it and died within daysIt just plain gave upfor it had plenty of greenand it could have chosen to growbut for whatever reasonsit didnt even give it a tryI took it back and the store let me pick out another oneso againI brought the new one home and gave it the same treatment.

This one didnt look THAT promising – it had two spindly little greenishwhite twisted branches coming outbut somehow I felt good about itI wasnt wrong either because it took in all the waterthe fertilizerand everything it could get and it put out the largest leaves and healthy redgreen leavesand lots of them tooIt was really pumping to grow with everything it hasThe leaves and stems quickly reached up as if to catch every drop of available sunThis rose bush is not only was going to make itit was going to outpace all the other ones as if in a race to be the biggest and strongest.

One of the rose bushes had green on the trunks and it looked healthybut it is as though it hasnt made up its mind whether to grow or notIt just sat there with its green trunk but it hadnt even tried to put out any branches or leavesIt almost felt as though it was waiting for someone else to do its work.

Still another of the rose bushes was greenand it sort of sat there for awhileand then finally decided to growIt took a longer timemalingering day by dayseeming a little hopeful as it held onto its green for a long timebut then it finally just gave up without any little fight to survive.

The fourth rose bush tried toobut it was a such a timid little thingIt too had the greenish white branchesand it it put out little sweet leavesbut kept them close to the trunk as if needing to protect them from everythingIt grew slowlyas if not quite sure of each step it took like a baby that tries to take its first steps but has to hold onto the wall for security, not knowing how to trust its own self to make it .

The fifth rose was taller than the rest in its trunkbut it just put out one spindly branch and it had leavesbut only a couple and it grew so slowly that I often forgot to look at it to see how it is doing because my eyes were drawn to the most robust of all of them and how truly hard that one was trying.

I always think about these roses when I think about the challenges I hear that people are having in their lives and the ways they handle themI think about the ways they chose or chose not to go on and live fully no matter what the circumstances.

Like that robust rose bush with its huge leaves reaching out to grab everything it could to live fullyit was a trash rose to start out with as all of these werebut it was determined to go forward and it will make it in life and to be a rose that would cause people to admire it for trying so hardEven if this rose didnt get regular watering and fertilizer and a lot of good sunI have this feeling that it would be the kind of rose that would grow between cracks in pavementIt really wants to live and nothing will stop it as long as there is even just a little trunk and roots leftWhat kind of rose bush would you be in this life?