Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Go ahead, ask me!

I'm very creative. Lots of people tell me so, and I agree.

I love sharing my ideas.

And I love a challenge.

So I'd like to invite you to go ahead and ask.....

Have you got some fabric you don't know what to do with?

Are you wondering what to do with your mom's old tablecloth---such pretty embroidery but it's stained or requires an hour of ironing?

Are you like many of my sewing & quilting friends that found a cute pattern but just gets overwhelmed when you walk into the fabric store or try to shop online?

Did you make something that didn't come out the way you wanted it to but can't stand the thought of throwing it away (especially at today's fabric prices!)

I've got ideas....lots of 'em!

So please....go ahead an ask me.  I'll give you some suggestions, maybe even Skype with you to show you what I have in mind!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Quilt Art: Uncle Ray's Place

My husband, Ernie, has a big family reunion every year in far southern Ilinois.  It's held on an acreage that has been in his family for generations.  Uncle Ray built a pavillion, enclosed on 3 sides and landscaped the area with beautiful flowers.  He works really hard each summer getting everything in top shape for the September get-together.  One year, as a thank-you, I created this wall-hanging from panoramic photos I had taken.

 This wall hanging is done in raw-edge applique, embellished with thread painting and decorative yarns/threads.  I didn't use any pattern for this---I just eye-balled it, as they say.  Doing it this way gives it more of a folk-art look, which I like. What I really wanted to do was experiment with texture.  Texture draws people into the piece, and touching is allowed on my quilts.

The pavillion is has cedar siding, so I used a scrap of wide-wale corduroy to make mine.  I used a satin stitch around the roof line and on the appliqued windows.  For the flag, I had some flag-print fabric from which I cut a little flag and folded it as it hung from the flag pole (no breeze down there on that hot summer day!)

The trees on the hillside are done in a variety of batiks, commercial prints, and maybe a hand-dyed cotton or 2.  I cut basic blob shapes similar to what I saw in the picture, then did various free-form stitching around the edges---trying to soften them a bit.  Then I thread painted (a machine technique I've posted a tutorial for) the trunks and branches with various shades of brown embroidery thread.  I also thread painted some of the flowers in the garden, as well s the 2 bushes behind the fence.

 The other, very textured flowers and greenery are made by couching decorative threads.  I used long tweezers  (like what come with a serger, or what you use in surgery if you, dear reader, happen to be a surgeon) to hold the threads/yarns in place as I free-motion stitch them into place with clear nylon thread.  Bunching and scrunching the yarns give a very full look, which also screams "feel me"----so you may not want to do this if you don't want people touching your wall hangings!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Dreaming of Hope

I'm feeling conflicted around the discussion of profit in my HSHB course, "where passion meets profit".  We creative types want to be able to generate income with our ideas and talents, and understand that everyone needs income.  Everyone has their own comfort level for lifestyle, supported by their income.  But something, somewhere deep inside me, feels troubled.

I was raised by a father who was a "company man".  He was smart, worked hard, was dedicated, and was rewarded by promotions over the course of his career to the point when he retired with wealth.  His basic feeling is that he earned that money, he deserved it.  And he has continued to profit from investments over time.  (I can't help but view "investments" as "gambling", both of which require education about odds and risk-taking. You win or you lose.  Winners think they're smart and deserve their winnings.  Losers had bad luck and hope for better luck next time.)

In contrast, I am married to a man raised in extreme poverty.  He was smart, but college wasn't even a consideration.  He, too, has that old-fashioned "company man" mentality.  He's worked hard for over 20 years in his field, is extremely dedicated, had a perfect work record and many instances of going above-and-beyond, and was rewarded by a demotion when the corporation took out the middleman (the contractor for whom he worked).   

I'm raising 4 sons who were in their late teens to early 20's when this happened.  My father always thought he was setting such a good example for his grandsons, proving how hard work and dedication pay off.  I asked him when my husband lost his position how he could justify or explain this to his grandsons.  I asked him how you can inspire someone to work so hard, make those sacrifices to achieve a position you can be proud of when this is the reward.  He, of course, had no answer.

This isn't the view I wanted my sons to have of the future, but there it is.  When we were discussing CEO multi-million dollar salaries, my father said those people earned their salaries.  Really?  I know he is justifying his own wealth.  The corporate side of the economy appears so out of whack to the 99% that it's hard to get our heads around.  Huge rewards in spite of huge losses.  Demotions for the little guys at the top of their pay scales to "trim the fat".....trimming self-esteem and aspirations in the meantime. 

My son with Down Syndrome lives and works at a not-for-profit organization in a nearby town.  This place so so wonderful, so caring, so compassionate and we feel so blessed to have Dean there.  Our state (Illinois), run by the same mentality of folk who run (other) corporations, has so much red ink in their books they've run out of red ink.  Trim fat they must----and my son's place of work and residence had ALL their grants taken away.  Now, of course, there will be lots of money for who knows what kind of waste.  But these innocents....without a choice as to their conditions,  without a voice to scream with, without the money for lobbyists.....they are an easy hit.  And they have been hit.

Dean's rent had to go up.  We are grateful because he still has his home with friends and staff and activities. But now the rent takes every bit of his social security check.  His rent includes a food allowance, but doesn't include toiletries, personal expenses, medical expenses, activities (Special Olympics bowling nights, monthly movie nights, etc.)  He works in a training facility, aspiring to a minimum wage job in the community.  His last 2-week paycheck was $43.  

I dreamed for better things for Dean.  And I'm hoping my poem about him, "I Dreamed", will generate some income to help him and Illinois Valley Industries.  I plan to create cards with this poem on them which  I think would be so nice for new parents.  I hope larger prints and posters could be framed in homes, hospitals, schools and other institutions to remind everyone that we can have our dreams AND be blessed with the unexpected.  

I'm troubled with senses of entitlement and justification for extreme wealth and materialism.  I also know that people like my son are entitled to a good, comfortable life.  And parents who think their dreams have been shattered are entitled to comfort and hope.  I'm hoping this poem, which I've always considered to be a gift to me, will be a gift to those who need it most.  I hoping, and dreaming, that "I Dreamed" will be a bridge of hope and support between souls in need.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


My son Dean has Down Syndrome and he's very bright (a mom can brag, can't she?)  But at age 2 he wasn't talking much yet, in fact he was still using sign language quite a bit.  But he had some words, and one of them was "yes".  Actually it was "yea".

So one lazy morning Dean, his dad and I were sitting on the bed talking.  We wanted to engage Dean in the conversation, so I started with the typical
"Do you love Mommy?"
Dean smiles, "yea"
"Do you love Daddy?"
"How about (brother) Ryan?"
Still smiling "yea"
"Do you want some milk?"
Dean's dad winks at me and asks Dean
"Is your hair on fire?"
Without missing a beat he chirps "yea"

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Dreaming of poetry and art

I left this meat tray with powdered paint sitting out on my kitchen counter (for days) after playing with some fabric painting.  The fabric didn't turn out to be what I needed, but I snapped a photo of the paint powder.  I love the bright, intense colors and the texture of the powder.  And I thought, "Hmm, that could make a pretty background for something!"

Coincidentally, I've had some new ideas about my poem, "I Dreamed."

 It came to me in essence as a gift, and I love sharing it when I can.  It seems to be as meaningful to others as it is to me and I've been thinking about ways to further share it.  There really aren't many poems about Down Syndrome or any other disability.  I guess it's not the kind of thing people get inspired to write about.  However, there is a need for meaningful, inspiring messages for parents and teachers and service providers.  So where I'm going with this is the possibility of a poster, a postcard (or some smallish size) and a greeting card.

The greeting card seems especially important----when a baby is born, people want to send a card.  They all say "Congratulations on your new baby" but I know people are hesitant to send such a card, knowing many times the parents are in some state of emotional shock or grief.

I imagine that this poem would bring a message of inspiration and hope, as well as acknowledging that this child is not necessarily what everyone dreams of.  And I think it's important to acknowledge that.

I'd love to know what you think, and any suggestions or ideas you might have!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Deserving Happiness

I just read the new A-ha's posted in my Hello Soul, Hello Business class and was especially touched by a class member's post about simply feeling the freedom to be happy (and to give that joy to her customers as well.) It's funny how such a small thing can have such a huge impact on your life.

I will NEVER forget being on the phone with my cousin 15 years ago, so miserable in my marriage, and he said "You deserve to be happy." Profound A-ha moment. No one had EVER said that to me before! My life's mission up to that point, as I understood it, was to make others happy. It had never occurred to me that I DESERVED to be happy.....simply because I'm a human being, I deserve that. He was a cowboy of few words, but what he did say mattered and I trusted him, and so I believed him. THIS was a major turning point in my life. And I still hear his voice telling me I deserve to be happy as a kind of mantra for my life now.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Dreaming of possibilities and opportunities

I was blessed to have the opportunity last night to speak to a group of about 60 teachers.  I began by reading my poem, "I Dreamed", then went on to discuss some of my experiences, passions and loves about raising a son with special needs.  This is the text of my talk:

I Dreamed

I dreamed he'd be born beautiful and healthy.
He was.

I dreamed he'd tell me that he loves me.
He tells me every day.

I dreamed he'd be bright and funny.
He is—his humor is wonderful.

I dreamed he'd ride a bike, catch a ball, and wrestle with his big brother.
He does and his brother loves it.

I dreamed he'd have big birthday parties with lots of friends and cake and presents.
He's had six.

I dreamed he'd one day get on a bus and go to kindergarten.
He did it yesterday – my heart full of love and my eyes full of tears.

I dreamed he'd make us proud.
He has.....and he's inspired us.

Dean has Down Syndrome.
I never dreamed that.                                                                                                                                                  

©Amy (Opalk) Cavaness 1994                                 

I just wanted to share something I learned almost 24 years ago when my son with Down Syndrome was born. I didn't know before his birth that he had this condition, and no one told me the night he was born. I didn't notice...and that's ok...and I wasn't told til my pediatrician came the next morning, 12 hours after his birth.