Sunday, January 1, 2012

A Must Read for Anyone Who Loves, Provides Care For, or Teaches Someone Who is Autistic

I am an artist, teacher and mother who first learned of Seth and Debra Chwast on the Today Show in January 2008. Inspired by Debra’s tenacious spirit, passionate resilience and commitment to the discovery of her son’s brilliance as an artist who is autistic, I immediately emailed Seth and Debra for permission to share their story and Seth’s artwork with my middle school art students. Each semester since Debra replied to my email, my students have researched Seth’s website, watched the videos about his journey, analyzed his paintings and often shared their own stories of friends and family who struggle with the anxiety and stress of living with a loved one diagnosed with autism. Finally they created their own animal paintings, not only informed by Seth’s sensitivity to color, shape and form, but also to his ability to see, hear and process the space between the lines. While Seth and Debra’s journey may be very different than other parents who have an autistic child, there is a strong common thread that binds all who struggle against misunderstanding, ridicule and fear of the unknown.  As an educator who often works with students who are autistic, I recommend “An Unexpected Life” to anyone who seeks a world beyond apprehension and darkness, beyond the bleak wall of denial, to a celebration of life and a kaleidoscope of possibilities.  The book An Unexpected Life is available online at

Upcycled Hand-Dyed Dresses from Indonesia and Beyond Timbuktu (Part 2)

Made from the Indonesian hand-dyed dresses purchased at Beyond Timbuktu in Edwardsville, IL (described in the earlier post - Part 1), the small quilt, pillows and computer chair cover now reside at 
my daughter's condo in sunny Southwest Florida.  

Although Betsy and I discussed (texted) color choices for her guest room / office, as well as measurements for her computer chair, I was a relieved to see that the colors coordinated with her new futon and the chair cover fit. Phew!

The brown cotton polka dot fabric and the off-white flannel backing was purchased by the yard, but the turquoise blue panels and the olive green ruffles were part of the dress. Since I only used one dress, plus a bit of one sleeve, there is still more material for perhaps a couple larger solid turquoise pillows for the living room. Both the top and bottom chair covers were made with adjustable openings in the back. The bottom cover also had a drawstring to pull snugly under the seat.

My return on December 30 was sunny and mild, but January 1 has blown in from the north with grit and gusto!  Good-bye Ft. Myers Beach. Hope to see you again real soon.