Monday, December 31, 2012

Beating winter blahs

Although I am a big fan of winter - I am NOT a fan of sissy winters - those winters where rain predominates and snow is pushed  aside for gusts of rainy misery.

Our yard is going through a period frost and freeze sequence. First we freeze up giving us the illusion of reasonable footing and then we have the big slushy thaw with your feet sliding  around like a walk in a bowl of pudding. Actually the mud does resemble some very creepy mocha or deep chocolate  pudding. We have resorted to putting a bale of hay in place to give traction to our boots and create the ambiance of dry in a world of wet slushy  mud.

The studio is undergoing some minor renovations in the way of new modular units to hold the never ending supply of paper products, tools and equipment.  So the motto of a "place for everything" is the theme for 2013.

Was able to put up a string of little pink hearts this weekend - ready to wish the holiday season good bye in anticipation of spring and Valentines Day.  Will be posting this little garland to the shop in the next day or two.

The flower business is in full swing with new bouquets being readied every day with an emphasis on soft and warm pastels.  A little mini bouquet of pistachio is getting ready for its photographic debut! So pretty.

Muslin ribbons are also getting their spring colors with teals, blues, lilacs,  peach and rose just really lovely to look at and fun to think of uses for all these recyclable ribbons. 

Think spring... Cate  oh and Happy New Year !

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Looks like we made it

Looks like we made it through another Christmas... sometimes the "peaceful" holiday is anything but peaceful with shopping, gift giving, wrapping and cooking at the top of the list and relaxing and enjoying at the bottom.

I often wish and I still hope that I could have the luxury of going away for Christmas to a quaint (but warm and cozy) cabin in the woods with a few close friends/family and just being. Not worrying, not rushing, not overwhelmed, just being in the  moment with the woods, the quiet, nature, and serenity.

I have never done this, but it is a life long wish. Where the cabin would be exactly I am not sure, but I can picture it in my mind's eye and I long to fulfill that wish. 

I believe nothing can happen unless one wills it to happen and then takes the steps to activate that dream, so to that end I have  no excuses other than I allow life to get in the way of dreams.

 Dreams are so important - they are the fiber of life - not work - not success - not financial gain - not a big house or the latest must have gadgets - dreams ARE the fabric  and the foundation  of your mind's happiness. Without dreams, without aha moments  - life is quite flat.

I think we all know when we have reach the flat zones, and it is what we do to shake it up and climb out that will forever influence the way we live our lives.

And now we wait for the new year - with some hope but also trepidation ...what will it bring? I will live it by being present in the moment ...maybe tentatively laying down some longer range plans.

The shop continues by the grace of God and grit. It is not without a lot of work but it is all "good work"  creative, mind happy work.  We will look to add new products, change products and perhaps  move in different directions. I think our path is clear now - what we are and what we will be as a shop.

We have many challenges with Andrew, many many challenges. He challenges us just to keep him moving forward on some days and on some days moving in baby steps is the best that we can do - but I live encapsulated in the belief that hope and faith and love are powerful motivators.   I believe that what will be will be and I will do everything in my power to make the very best situation for andrew as I possibly can and fulfill my own dream of selling quality, hand made products with the help of my friends with autism.

My goal is to add another young man with autism this year and begin the process of  integrating another individual to the shop to learn the tasks that make a shop run successfully. With autism it is always one step forward and 3 or 4 back - but it is the nature of the game, and we play by their rules not ours... 



Monday, December 24, 2012

Twas the night before Christmas

New Year is looming - Christmas Eve is an eve of eating - relaxing - and eating some more.

Our tree is a balled Noble fir decorated completely with paper products from our shop! 

We have a nice bonfire flaming  - it feels wonderful  and looks wonderful - very festive.

We had a light snow tonight, but I think it will melt  by the a.m. so we need to enjoy our pre White Christmas now  with our little bonfire.

Pandora Radio is a good substitute for carolers - as Nat King Cole sings a happy, merry tune and Bing Crosby croons a vintage tune.

Happy and merry!


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Learning the language -autism speak

Recently, we have come to the conclusion that Andrew can understand much more than we had realized and in fact tunes in to our conversations regularly. His eye contact tells us that he IS listening and tuning in. This is a new event, since in the past he did not make eye contact,  nor did he appear to tune in, but instead seemed to shut everything out.

We see this need for shutting people, noises and the world out by the use of planned "eye closing."  He will purposely shut his eyes to block out those things that are stressful to him or overwhelming.  He will then peek out when he feels ready to accept the challenge offered.

I have felt that way myself at an extremely noisy event or over stimulating colors, noises and just plain masses of sounds and sights.  I feel the need to step back a bit and observe from a distance before I plunge right in.  I eventually get there, but I usually do not dive in but take a leisurely stroll instead... maybe that helps me understand his need for eye shutting as a blocker.  

This intentional "eye shutting" is an effective way to shut down stimuli or just decrease and stay present in the task or place.

We have also noted that the introduction of new, interesting tasks brings about "eye opening" and attentiveness which leads us to believe the simple theory that interesting things, stimulating tasks bring about an ability to get past the desire to block out stimuli and to engage.

The reality being that stimulating, interesting activities can block the need to escape. and in fact cross out the escape and cause attentiveness.

We introduced days of the week into the calendar to allow him more choice in the jobs he does and on what days he does them, allowing him, like a regular worker to have a sense of what lies ahead.

We are going to introduce soon a  more complex calendar that will allow more choice and flexibility. We learn, he teaches us - we listen - he speaks sometimes not in words but surely in his actions and reactions - he lets us know what works for him and what does not with an ever changing challenge of keeping up with not only a complex person with autism, but a complex person with autism and who is also a perplexing teenager!  Two strikes against us grown up humans...

We are evolving!  We are learning!


Monday, December 17, 2012

Thomas & Tabitha - furry sunshine

Last year was a difficult pet year - we have a menagerie of pets and when we lose we lose big as sometimes we will lose two pets at a time.    Last year was one of those horrible years - our shop's avatar and our faithful cat companion, Jack, was lost to us last year in February.  After 16 years it was time for him to go but we had such a hard time letting go it was palpably painful.

Thinking it could get no worse than that, we went on to lose Lilly and Obi to cancer. Lilly was our Maine coon who was only 10 and Obi our black lab also 10.  How did this happen - we kept shaking our heads - three pets in 6 months.

We held onto Obi as long as we could until we knew it was time to let him go.. and we did so, with great sorrow and lots of tears. He was a faithful wonderful companion.

True to our usual fashion, we began the search for new  furry family members  - special friends that accept us through all of our worries, troubles, dust bunnies, and poor clothing choices.  There is never a dog or cat for that matter, who will give you a sidelong glance of disapproval as you strut out the door looking ridiculous. I wish I could say that for human companions, but they will give you the raised eyebrow sending you scurrying to change! Not so with the furry friends... no disapproval there.

I have been known to walk out the door with two different shoes ... I usually catch myself, but were I not to do so, our dog would not miss a beat. As long as we move forward dogs will accept whatever your fashion taste dictates. 

So with that in mind last year Thomas Kitten (from Beatrix Potter fame), joined us in February. 

Not a week later we returned for his sister, Tabitha Twitchell.  He was such a super kitten, such a great guy we felt two might be even better. We were right. They are a delightful duo. We love them dearly and treasure every day with them. They have fulfilled their cat promise - to love, cherish, purr a lot and just plain like us a lot, and we  love them back with the same fervor. 

Both Thomas & Tabitha were willing, (albeit reluctantly) to pose for their birthday pictures - this month is their 1st birthday.   We are happy to have them in the family!

Happy Birthday Thomas and Tabitha.    

Thomas dressed in his holiday ribbon.

Sister Tabitha  looking so dignified and self possessed. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Working in the gloom

Today was one of those days that hangs overhead with a large grey gloomy looming foggy sky.  The fog and mist and rain set in,  and with a little bit of luck you might find something to cheer you from the gloom.

The misty, rainy, gloomy days can be good for the soul if you allow their grayness to feel kindly enveloping rather than suffocating. I tend to like rain, the sound of rain and the feeling of a gloomy day. I like to think it is a time to make soup, nesting day. 

I might go to Barnes & Noble and people watch for awhile while sipping a grande tea latte. I did that today and pondered the direction of our little studio shop.

We would like to add jobs for Andrew - label making, typing an entry into Facebook - always we move slowly and determinedly - never knowing what jobs will make the cut and what jobs will not - those jobs remain ours while we push him to do more.

So today was a day of contemplation, reorganizing, and settling in for the long fog.

I made a wreath today for the barn door. Long overdue - had I waited any longer - Christmas would have passed wreathless! There are worse things, but one should stop and celebrate the season no matter the gloom and hectic rush. 

Gathered natural wreath decorations for the Barn Studio

Our "paper tree" adorned with paper ornaments and garlands. It will be planted for the birds after the holiday.
It is often  hard to understand life - but the best we can do is to continue to try.

Carpe diem  ~  Cate

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Sharing simple Holiday Cheer

I wanted to share in the blog a simple ribbon, package and little bird that we had composed as a vignette for our Etsy shop.

It is a simple reminder that hand made and simple often times can warm the heart of the recipient as much as what is contained inside. It is really the thought and kindness that counts...

Simple packaging - Hand distress and dyed muslin ribbon along with a vintage musical bird! Enjoy the season and remember the simple pleasures.

cheers to all,

Gathering of the tree and....

Today we found a tree - a balled tree - so that after the holidays it can go back to mother  nature and be replanted. It will offer the birds a wonderful nesting area, a buffer from the windows and a natural air scrubber - adding its own form of air  cleaning that only  plants and trees can do.

It is a Noble Fir - and it is quite noble - smelling delicious - and fresh dug from a local farm.  It is a lovely tree and will make a great addition to our  landscape. 

Tomorrow it gets to come indoors for a bit of tree  trimming.

Took some time today to regroup, clean up and cleaning out the studio which seems to get cluttered  so quickly.  So to that end the antique buffet has actual counter space again, its warm brown bees waxed surface visible again! Little Christmas trees stand lined up, having been liberated from the clutter that had surrounded them. 

A little garland hangs on the wall surrounded by the upright beams that carpenters had erected in a post and beam fashion back in the 1890's.  Horses were parked here back in those days and the beams shown signs of horse nibbling with some areas that are more worn down others I guess from the busy teeth of antsy horses waiting impatiently for their owners. 

So this barn has taken on new life as a studio for our little business and a warm and nurturing place to be creative, and to reflect on life  gone by -  those simpler times. 

A paper garland adds a little winter sparkle. 

In the 1890's carpenters left their marks with Roman numerals to guide their building. See the three hatch marks scratched in the beams along with the pegs to make sure all was well with the building!

Monday, December 3, 2012

When you come to the end of all that you know....

When you come to the end of all that you know and are about to step off into darkness, FAITH is knowing that you will be given something solid to stand or or you will be taught to fly.........

Letting go is not giving up, changing course is not withdrawing from the fight,  and reinventing the dream is not losing sight of your path.

I say that as much outloud to bolster myself as I would to another parent fighting the relentless fight we fight to keep our son engaged-productive-happy-safe.  At the same time we keep ourselves engaged in the process and try to follow our own advice to be safe, happy and engaged. Not necessarily in the same order!

The battle rages on so many sides that it is often hard to tell the enemies from the good guys and the goals and hopes often get lost in the trenches of the on-the-ground warfare that is waged with all sorts of agencies and providers. The fighting is fierce, and the casualty rates are high.  No one wins when no one listens or cares, and we have found apathy and callousness a major part of our dilemma in working with some individuals who would offer themselves as "experts."

I have learned, not without pain, that providers do not always live up to their name and essentially provide NOTHING. Can one call oneself a "provider" without providing something? But then again the definition of  "providing" is so loosely constructed that one cannot always tell if just showing up is  considered a provision of some sort... not sure about that ...

I recently attended a school meeting wherein I asked about their "providing of services to my son" - he was without educational services for 11 days - their definition of providing services was "showing up" though no services were rendered, they were not even in the same location as my son, and they did not make any contact with him.  What mom or dad sends their child to school with the expectation of their son or daughter never even seeing their teacher or any teacher? When one has autism apparently that can be the "new norm."

So, for those of you who might think "providing" means supporting or guiding or supplying something  - in new age educationalspeak - it may mean something totally different.  I learn something new every single day.

I believe that is a good thing, learning that is.

I attempt to face each road block with determination, not for myself, but for my son who is voiceless in this abyss.  It gives me strength, determination and sometimes anger to see anyone who would deny services to my son or ANY CHILD who might need them in such a callous manner.

But then I always thank andrew for showing me and continuing to show me how to manage to go on...what motivates him, what is meaningful for him.. and I listen and I learn and I am blessed to have some small options.

We have found a peace of sorts, our own peaceful spot in our creative studio. There he thrives, laughs and engages. He tells us by his smiles that we are on the right track... and so we are now the followers and he is our leader....


Sunday, December 2, 2012

New Year's Wishes

I guess I am early with my new year's wishes, but I hope that with good planning, hope, love and devotion my little shop can grow and employ and engage more people with autism. 

I feel so certain that Andrew's birth was not in vain, his suffering, his disability has to mean something...has to count.  For that I dream of a shop that will employ others with autism to  give  hope to other parents who have suffered through the ups and downs of autism - it's many cycles of despair and hope.

Having spent the weekend meeting lovely people in a determined city dedicated to rebuilding and regrouping after hurricane Sandy I have a new and renewed sense of urgency that we need to "do this"-- create this employment, create a legacy for Andrew that will live past me and provide hope and employment for others into the future.  To see the sadness on the faces of other parents with children like mine - the shattered dreams - the forgotten kids that reach 18 and 21 and basically fall off statistics and into the abyss of homebound and hopeless.  In some ways NOTHING has changed from years past. Instead of  institutions we instead have forced imprisonment in their homes with aging parents, unable to buck a system that has run out of ideas, out of passion and out of time.

I have no false ego  or pride, but merely a sense of self determination and a burgeoning sense of pride in all that Andrew can do when given the opportunity and guidance. He is one of the "lucky" ones who has found a little niche, an island of hope in a sea of despair.

I pray for strength, determination and maybe a bit of luck to get us to the next step.

Thank you Hoboken for having our little shop this weekend,  and God speed the rebuild!


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Hats off to Hoboken

Spent the day in Hoboken at a Craft Fair in an old, historic styled Town Hall.  Interesting city and fascinating to see Manhattan looming in the near distance.

Hoboken was hard hit by Hurricane Sandy and still reeling from the flooding, but rearing its head and fighting back. Lovely little city, enjoyed walking Washington Stree and I found a Starbucks right near by! Yay...

Met some wonderful people Laura and Allison - both touched by our endeavors and sparked by an interest to help.

Also saw the Cake Boss at his home base at Carlo's Bakery! Kind of cool to see the place of TV fame! I bet Buddy was home though maybe counting his money or his cookies!

Back to Hoboken for one more day!

For now though happy Saturday to all and to all a good night!