Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Testing boundaries - measuring the human spirit

I was pondering today about all that Andrew has accomplished. All that he has lost in his struggles with his neurological disorder and all that he uncovers in the simplicity of his life.  The words came to me.. he just "is."  He has no past. He has no future. He only has today. The way his brain is wired he lives for what is "next"... be it lunch, dinner, going out, working, computer, bowling... whatever is in front of him is what his life is like NOW.  Being present for him is not a concept it is who he is.

In thinking about his life.. his disability and his abilities it came to me that he is a "conduit" a means to measure, a barometer of sorts of the measure of a person.  He cannot measure you by language, social banter, shared stories, memories or clothing styles, color of skin. He measures you by your inner worth.  His measuring skills are surgically sharp.   I have learned that he is usually right on.... dead on in his evaluations of people.

There are a handful of reality shows, which I admit I watch... Alone, Naked and Afraid... It is interesting to me that people measure themselves physically. What can I withstand. How hungry can I get, how fearful, how thirsty, cranky, tenacious. But you see its all about THEM. They are measuring themselves against themselves... there is no other measure but a self serving one. Can "I" endure. Can "I " survive.  Can I boast about MY feats, my tenacity.. Interestingly, although on the outside it seems to be self effacing, in fact it is quite self affirming. Not a bad thing, but I would have to broach the question what about ... integrity, compassion, tenacity for another, self sacrifice, kindness, empathy? How is that tested?

What I have seen as people come and go through our lives as "caregivers" that many  that have appeared on our doorstep as caregivers are in fact far removed from that premise of giving care.

Andrew has many facets of his personality that can be trying..he is noisy.. he is slow.. he is noncommunicative verbally, he needs help with just about everything.   What I have perceived over time that he brings out the very best or the very worst in the human spirit. If you are a giving compassionate person initially, you become more so after watching his struggles. If you are not a kind and caring person, it quickly becomes evident that those qualities that should enhance your compassion in fact brings out impatience, annoyance and neglect.

Andrew is in fact a wonderful judge of quality without ever saying a word, and I "LISTEN" to him. I listen to his eyes the way they gaze over someone, do they linger with interest, or are they darting, distant and furtive. For those who have gained his trust, he stares intently with his blue eyes locked on yours even fleetingly... it is a good sign you are in the trust club. Or for those who have not demonstrated patience or compassion, his glance is brief and/or nonexistent.

I learn something from him every day, and I have learned to listen to him nonverbally, watching his cues, observing his gaze. He tells me everything I need to know about people without ever saying a single word...  I am blessed that I am on his team...


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Fall - Finally - New ideas for the shop - Faux and Fresh

 A new idea for the shop  - combining the best of fresh florals with paper flowers.

Blending the beautiful Italian crepe papers with a lovely fresh mix, add a vintage twist and voila a sweet new idea for an old favorite. Flowers. flowers. flowers.  who can resist that little wistful bouquet... Cheers the worst days sometimes with bright blooms.

For fall I am working on some darker colors, but also thinking forward toward spring.... but one step at a time.

All will be available in our Etsy shop.

Cranberry Blooms 

Magenta crepe paper 

Italian crepe paper blooms in a rustic bouquet. 

crepe paper bloom in magenta

 Spot the imposter in fresh florals

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Petals and Stems - a new face for Papercatz - Etsy marketplace

I have had the time to think quite a bit these last few months... sales have lagged and then hit the wall with a resounding thud.. not sure why, but Etsy has become a corporate giant that seems to swallow up its little stores... in an effort to increase their revenue and visibility new rules and regulations have been initiated for selling, shipping, mass  manufacturing, that seem to make the "little guy" all but disappear..... and I am one of those little guys. I began to think that my shop was failing. My products failing, but I am realizing that no that is not the case. In fact my products have improved, become more diverse and more customizable and more one of a kind. As I improve and grow, my visibility on Etsy disappears. I am lost and drowning in a sea of products, shops and sellers.. Millions of listings, millions of views, how does one slog through all of that to get to me? They don't? They cannot.

It is not that my products have been viewed and dismissed, my products have never been found. On those occasions where they are, my buyers have been very enthusiastic and happy  with the products... no view equals no sales. No sales equals no work for Andrew who is the heart of this operation.

Recently he has been making custom hand stamped papers that are turned into flowers that are truly made with care and love and are one of a kind.  To see this all stop and come to a halting stop is heartbreaking for me. I would rather give the flowers away than stop.... I would rather pass them out at hospitals or donate to charities to cheer someone than stop. To stop is to abandon my dream that Andrew would have a job, a creative outlet.. but it is hard so hard to keep going sometimes. I only have to look at him stamping, smiling and engaged and I renew my self and begin again.  I do it for him. I do it for love.

We will be focusing on "petals and stems" a branch of Papercatz focusing on the relationship of Andrew's involvement in our paper making.... he is responsible for cutting all of the stems for our flowers as well as stamping the papers.  I am responsible for assembling all of the stems. Together we make a simply determined team.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Autism ..Adulthood...Navigating stormy waters.. Yikes your compass has gone missing.

I have no magic bullets or silver bullets to ward off hungry predators destined to take down the unprotected or unaware. I am, after all,  only a parent. and I say that tongue and cheek since I believe parents are the singular greatest and most powerful force in the universe.

Parents effect change, stimulate growth, encourage conversation and promote opportunities for their children and in this case, their adult child with autism or in the case of many parents their adult children with disabilities.

My life has been forever changed by the sets of circumstances I have found myself presented with... navigating these stormy waters, floating to the top and maintaining bouyancy  is no laughing matter.  It can be a screaming matter - a crying matter - but no easy matter.

The demands of the job are not contained within any personnel manual and the  hours on the clock far outweigh the hours off the clock.   There is no clock to punch... no EASY button.. The answers are not forthcoming and the adult with the disability provides few clues to guide the solutions.

For many, myself included, autism was ONLY the tip of the iceberg... traumatic brain injury, seizure disorder, gait problems, toileting problems... only compounded the treatment, the response and the outlook.  How does one plan for something one does not understand? There is not a simple blood test, a snap diagnosis and a fabulous treatment strategy and voila  resolution of symptoms.  There is a guess. There is a trial of this and a trial of that, medications, behavioral strategies.. tried and true solutions? NO.

Parents and caregivers are in for the long term ride of their life... not much rest.. not much relaxation and far too much stress to deal with on a consistent basis and far too few  strategies to relieve this stress.  Services are different in each state, county and territory. Services are based on budget, monies dedicated to this cause, and the release of this budget each year. There are no guarantees and this just adds to the stress load.  You are expected and wish to care for your loved one, but this is NO easy task and it is expensive and convoluted.

Just maneuvering social security ( we were denied on the first round due to his lack of a "work record"). He had no work record as he is totally dependent on adult supervision just to function, eat, toilet himself etc. That had to be resubmitted and adjusted and eventually approved.   Guardianship, power of attorney, medicaid application, budget applications.. this is not for the faint of heart.  This is all sandwiched in between caring for this individual as well.

There is no "off time" or "paper work down time."  This is not a "real job" in the sense of having a lunch break or paid time off. All of this care, love and hard work has to be accomplished to keep the individual safe and monitored,  and when the physical tasks completed then and only then (and it may be at midnight) that the paperwork part of the job can be undertaken. Phone calls, waiting for messages, more phone calls and it is endless.  Taking care of the paper work portion of caring for an an individual with a disability is a job unto itself.  There is no one to call.. no one to ask... trial and error.

A full time job could be just the advocacy/paper work part of this process. If hospital stays are involved, more paperwork, more phone calls, more stress.  which reminds me the insurance company never called  me back about dental coverage and that was a week ago...

I created my little paper company to create employment for Andrew, since I knew there was not now nor would there ever be a job for him in the outside world. He is far too complicated. Far too needy and frankly scary for most people to want to deal with effectively.  He can have outbursts, behavioral melt downs and frustration. He can also experience a seizure.  All of these things complicate delivery of care. It takes two of us for the most part to care for him, sometimes three.

This last year has presented even more challenges in terms of employment for myself and his dad, some health issues and things outside autism that effect delivery of service. We are told we are "lucky" to have the services we have, but most days I don't feel that "lucky" to have a son who suffers in the way that he does. But I AM lucky to have him in my life. I have learned many lessons in tenacity and love in dealing with all of those things that surround his care.

There are not too many filters that soften the blows for parents and/or caregivers to ease their stress or their burn out. If family members support this individual you are truly blessed. I believe we have been checked off  on the friendship.family imaginary questionnaire in the box labeled "too complicated" and people have just moved on, I guess figuring that we'll get by or we'll figure it out... and so we do.

This is a common complaint among families of caregivers... What happened to the support? Where are friends or family members? Ahhh they drift away.. They mean well, but this is a long bumpy ride and few can maintain the tenacity it takes to continue the journey. I understand ....love fuels the journey and it is the only fuel on board.   Without love you do not survive this quest.

For you see, mental illness, autism, muscular dystrophy, Downs syndrome, traumatic brain injury, epilepsy, Alzheimers etc.  they do not resolve - they hang around and visit for the life of the family and it is the rare and treasured individual who can take this journey with you and  your son or daughter.  If you have these type of people in your life, hug them daily.

I feel each year I have turned another corner, tackled another obstacle, forged a new road, created a new strategy..hoped a new hope, and for the most part I try, but the road is isolating and difficult to maintain on your own steam and strength.

I finish off this summer with a bit of exhaustion, a trickle of hope and a wisp of a prayer for some relief, laughter and joy.

The show and the shop must go on... and despite the exhaustion I vow it will....

Cate :)

Monday, August 17, 2015

Summer Work - Fall expectations- The making of paper flowers

I am going to do one 2 day show this fall and have been trying to get products ready for it... thought I would post some pictures  to remind myself  how much progress I have made.

crepe flowers are a new addition to the shop and I believe a beautiful one - lovely as keepsakes from a wedding event, bridal shower, birthday, and especially anniversaries.  Flowers are too beautiful to throw away... combine fresh flowers with paper keepsakes..

August - a month of musings

It has been a tough summer... hotter than usual ...drier than usual and exceptionally challenging both with the simple things... garden and flowers and with the more complex things... selling,  creating, marketing, advertising... and continuing to hope that I have what it takes to make my Etsy shop reasonably successful.

This summer has challenged me in ways I have not felt before, perhaps I am in a different place, different mind set... more susceptible to self doubt... but I find myself dreading opening that page, looking at my shop, trying to avoid checking in, but feeling guilty that I have waiting for me to respond and I am missing in action.

Where have all the customers gone? I have been singing that tune most of the summer... crashing precipitiously in June into the true summer doldrum of small shop stall.... It challenges the owner to think a bit differently... what other clients/customer/or buyers might be out there. Etsy cannot be my only venue, outlet and experience... but I often hogtie my own hands afraid to branch out further, afraid to try new lanes, roads and pathways to selling and marketing...

Self doubt creeps in and acts an invisible cord, not around my hands, but around my mind, my creativity, my spark, and my belief in myself. without a believe in oneself most forward motion cannot take place... and so I sit with flower "block" not sure how I want to proceed, why or where, and YEt at the same time, my flowers have grown on their own time and space into better products than the ones that were original to the shop... Have I lost my confidence? If so what do I need to do to find it again?

Life is a game... full of steps, ladders, mountains, streams and oceans... some are bigger obstacles to tackle than others, but all need to be dealt with. I never quit till the last chip falls and as I close I whisper to myself "flower power."

we all have our hurdles, grab a hand, say a prayer and leap....

cate :)

Thursday, August 6, 2015

How I lost and found myself - musings from the brink....

I have always felt that overall I have a cheery disposition...not smiling all the time, funny, laughing and robustly and overtly friendly and outgoing and full of good cheer, but the more intimate type of cheery... i.e. happy in one's own skin...happy with little things...clouds...blue skies..mountains...nature...silent vistas and ocean views... opening my sun roof and watching clouds zip by above brings me great joy.. and almost embarrassingly a feeling of elation...

I don't share much of this happy internal frenzy with anyone as I don't think they would understand or perhaps think me daft or  simple... and simple is a term I can proudly own... simple... sincere... and tenacious.. I'd like to hope these are some of my qualities.  I aspire to be all three.

I have done much thinking this last year and had just reason to reexamine EVERYTHING... where I am going with my Etsy shop... how I will care for Andrew... the reason, after all, for the very existence of the Etsy shop, how to promote my business, how to continue, how to feel successful and creative.   Mixed in with some personal concerns about health, business and parental concern are other factors, most of which I cannot control... jobs, spousal health and well being, and overall sense of a crazy upside economy..the last of which makes no sense to me and seems to be on a crash course for disaster.

I try to remove myself and inwardly retreat from as much of the perils of civilization that I can possibly achieve and still live in New Jersey, land of what seems to be a BILLION people... all at arm's length and ready to intrude and happy to intrude  in your personal space at any moment.

And so it came that I had to find a "happy" place for myself.. a sanctuary from all that is impossible to maneuver, redirect or change... a place and a time to ask myself - ask my very core of being..... DO YOU NEED TO HAVE A PARTNER IN LIFE TO BE TRULY HAPPY - OR is happiness a state of mind that does not rely on a partner?

How often have I said "You make me sad or you make me happy."  WHY should anyone rely on someone else to make them sad or happy. Is this is a coexistence society... where isolation is the root of unhappiness and togetherness the root of happiness?  And what if the "togetherness" you yearn for does not meet your expectations? Are you then doomed to be unhappy eternally until and/if/when you meet another "partner" to share your life with?

I am always impressed by successfully happy people, creating, exploring and enjoying life on THEIR terms... and I believe it is the ONLY way for me to exist, thrive and return to a reasonably stable state of contentment.

I don't believe every day can or should be happy, but I am diabolically opposed to the idea that one's happiness must depend on the attention, love or companionship of another..

I suppose that is why Thoreau spent so much time alone... perhaps he, too was exploring the realms of "aloneness" as a means to determine his own worth, or sense of self satisfaction.

To gain happiness in the small things... to be willing to explore..stretch your boundaries and unfailingly try new things should be the seed that you sow not for others but for yourself and only yourself...

Ponderings on this beautiful Thursday.....

Cate :)