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 :)

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Flowers take center stage in the fight against autism

How do flowers take center stage in the fight against autism you ask yourself, scratching your head and thinking I have gone off the deep end... well perhaps I have and perhaps it is hard to understand what flowers have to do with autism.

In fact, flowers, paper flowers, are at the root of my/our existence. They stand between lack of purpose, lack of engagement in the world around us and they create bonds, connections and common ground. They are my autistic "social media."

Without a purpose, a job so to speak, Andrew, who has been mute and unable to converse without an assistive device is left without a reason to engage, without a purpose to be part of this larger world. Instead he stays locked up and locked into his own very small universe.

By creating flowers and keeping our Etsy shop alive I feel connected and determined to give him and myself purpose.

During our work with creating paper flowers, he appears to have a sense of self worth... I cannot ask him, but I can see by the look on his face, the smiles, the eye contact that I have scored a home run.

There are jobs we have determined that he dislikes, by his vocalizations and facial expressions...painting being one of those jobs.... and NO he is not a savant.. he does not paint Picasso renditions or launch off into a self portrait. He hands the paint brush back with a look of disgust... too messy... to uncontrolled.. too something... he just does not like it.. and so we no longer pursue painting.

However, we have discovered a new passion for him... he loves to stamp.. and stamp and stamp, and so he has developed a whole line of flowers that are his alone... Hand stamped and hand created... hand painted by ME since I do love to paint. (We don't share the abhorrence for painting gene).

He recently celebrated his 21st birthday.. I am floored by all that has occurred over the years and discouraged by the lack of forward movement both in the job situation for adults with disabilities and the living conditions available for them. (Group homes with poorly trained rotating staff members does not entice me to think good thoughts about this placement for him or others with disabilities). We are not doing a good job as a society.  We have emptied the institutions only to find there is not  much better for these individuals in life after institutions and developmental centers.

And so it goes for Andrew that we start each day with flowers.. and flowers save us.. they give us purpose and hope.

Andrew had a hand or finger in all of the products seen below.. either cutting the paper or cutting the wire stems. I am proud of him and proud of our little flower business... we often struggle ... but we never give up..
Please visit our Etsy shop at Papercatz.etsy.com  to see more products...

Cate & Andrew

Friday, June 19, 2015

Catching up! - Summer begins...changing...growing..evolving

I have been negligent of my blog.. a place to sit and vent...talk to myself and think out loud...even if no one is listening..,. it feels good to speak to myself and perhaps gain some insight and hopefully wisdom... Reflecting on thoughts at times allows a glimpse into changes that needed to be made.

During this last winter I gave a lot of thought to change... and movement with my flowers. I am happy making flowers, but not necessarily happily if I don't change, improve, and transition to new ideas.. I am not enthralled with ho hum and repetitive and find myself flitting from one idea to another.. easily thrown off track by different styles, ideas...and  questioning myself what do I want to do.. how do I want to do it and how do I want others to perceive my little business.

It is important for me to stay true to ideals and to myself... not get lost or sidetracked by what is popular or what others are doing... to the point of emulating another's creation, but taking into consideration change, movement and improving what I have already created.

BIG flowers are BIG this year.. and I love them... CRICUT die cutting remains a staple of the trade.. do I change my patterns to meet these challenges and speed up the process of flower making or do I stay true to my own petite flowers... do petite flowers have a place... I had to answer my own queries... the answer was.is Yes... STAY TRUE TO WHAT YOU DO BEST but at the same time.. improving, change... grow... to meet your own standards and your own expectations... and so that question was put to bed. I am not going BIG and I am not going to die cutting... it would pull me away from my main goal and purpose... the only purpose of this shop is to give back... and so I will continue to make smaller flowers that andrew can help with ... to leave him out would be to leave my path... to stray from my purpose and I am unwilling to do that. He must be included injn our shop's products... if he is not I won't  feel fulfilled.

We continue our efforts to give back.. having made a donation  to the South Jersey Kids Trust in March of this year and we offer continue baking organic dog treats for donation to the Burlington Township animal shelter.

And so we move forward  and it seems right and proper to add some new pictures since I have been amiss at keeping up!!!
New Italian crepe paper party favors

Rustic hand cut birch slices

Some new color combinations for our Mason jar flowers

A colorful Mason Jar Pastel collection.

New Products coming soon! 

Monday, January 5, 2015

The new year

We ushered in the new year quietly ... it has been a year of hope, a year of change, a year of turmoil and a year of determination.

This year we joined the many individuals with autism who develop seizure disorders in their lifetime, and that was a club I was hoping not to join.

Little is said of adults with autism - and when I think of autism support - autism awareness  - I think of the preschool kids, the young toddlers newly  diagnosed struggling for answers. If I have learned something over these last 17 years I have learned there are no solidly true answers...there are only more questions.

With all of the support, all of the awareness the problems remain, the lack of activities, engagement and stimulation remains  outstandingly lacking.  There is an imaginary cliff that at age 18 or 20 drops individuals with autism into a swirling pot of uncertainty... where to  now? what's next?

The support these individuals and their families received  during the school years has been abruptly stopped. There is no "college or post high school next step."  There is loss of routine, loss of a purpose, loss of the social encounters that had happened daily  during school days turning into isolation, withdrawal, and regression. Skills learned now become skills lost.

Parents are left with tough choices: Place their now young adult children in supervised day programs... look for placement in group homes... hope for a budget to allow them to receive services at home and in the community.. or support their children themselves becoming caretaker, teacher, nurse, behaviorist, cook and chauffeur. It is a life long committment.  

It is not one that I shy away from but I am deeply in awe of all of the parents who do this every day like myself... it is overwhelming. Some days  more than others.

I live in the moment, as does Andrew... and we applaud the families who are making strides and providing an enriched environment to their sons or daughters with autism.