Saturday, February 16, 2013

What Speaks to You

Goodbye Ron -24"x30" Acrylic on Canvas 2012
This painting will be on display in Lee, MA from
April 5th to May 26th at the Good Purpose Gallery

I love the Pier One commercial where the woman walks through the store and different items in the store talk to her.  Of course, no one else can hear what is speaking to her. Yet, she finds simple joy from the experience and surprise at finding what speaks to hear.   This made me think about what speaks to me and how this commercial illustrates something bigger.

For those managing autism, using the word “speaks” can be frightening - since by definition autism is a communication disorder.  To some extent, all of us struggle to speak, communicate and find our voice.   Perhaps, we should think of this less as a deficiency and more of a wonderful lifelong challenge in efforts to learn, grow and experience life to our fullest capacity.  

Girl from Egypt - 24"x30" Acrylic on Canvas 2012
I was recently reminded that we all start as a blank slate not knowing what speaks to us except the cuddles and comfort of those that care for us in our newborn helpless state. Our dear friend Jaci gave birth to twin girls last week.  Jaci cared for our five kids and worked with Jimmy for many years.   Before the babies were born last week, Jaci sent me a text hoping that “ the girls would pack their bags and come home”.  I chuckled understanding that a full term pregnant mom with twins will be happy to deliver her babies and be able to tie her own shoes again.  I reminded her that the girls won’t be bringing bags…they’ll show up naked, without money, instruction book or means to shares their needs and desires.…they are a clean slate full love for those that gave them life.  As humans, we develop our voice over time and our voice is influenced by many experiences. We learn what speaks to us as we become exposed to the world and develop a taste for life.  We learn what speaks to us with the help of those around us.

Elizabeth diptych with Jim - 16"x20"
Acryllc on Canvas 2012
Will be on display in Lee MA
at the
Good Purpose Gallery from
 April 5th through
May 26th, 2013
Jim diptych with Elizabeth- 16"x20"
Acrylic on Canvas 2012
Will be on display in Lee MA
at the
Good Purpose Gallery from
 April 5th through
May 26th, 2013

For people with autism, finding words and speaking is a challenge. But, that doesn’t mean that finding what speaks to them doesn’t or won’t happen. People frequently ask me how I found Jimmy’s love/talent for art? I didn’t.  He did.  All I did was be open to the suggestion of someone else. Jimmy’s tutor, Pat Pendelton asked, “I have a friend who is an artist and is interested in kids with autism, would you be open to her working with Jimmy.”  My response, “sure.” Why not? Boy, that was hard. I truly believe, that sometimes, solutions/opportunities are simple and in plane sight.

I am grateful that Jimmy is pursuing something he clearly loves and finds motivating.  I have often thought, what happens if he decides that he doesn’t want to produce art any more? What will he do? How will he feel? How will I feel? Art has given him opportunities that are truly meaningful in so many ways and it is a big part of our lives these days. Well, I’m not going to panic cause that could happen and I have no control over Jimmy’s desire to create art no more than I have control over my other kids choices. So, I will do my best to expose him to new things that he might find interesting that captures his attention. I try to do the same thing for myself in order to keep motivated…try new things, be open and grow.

Girl in India - 16"x20" Acrylic on Canvas 2013
I hoped for many years that Jimmy would be “normal.” I have changed my thoughts on the word “normal.”  Normal as defined by Webster “conforming to the standard or the common type”.  Hummm….that doesn’t sound too interesting does it? Conforming to a standard. Maybe normal is actually boredom and lack of interest.  Perhaps, life might be more dynamic than “normal” full of color, challenge and change.  Normal might also mean complacent. So, I’ve decided that “normal” isn’t a way I’d like Jimmy or any of my kids defined. I have hope for lives full of dynamic color, challenge and change.

Pretty Girl in Orange Dress and Pearls - 24"x36"
Acrylic on Canvas 2013
Donated to the Visitation Merrie Market for Live Auction
Maggie - 16:x20" Acrylic on Canvas 2012
Donated to the University of St. Thomas 10th Anniversary
Parent Network Scholarship Fundraiser fro Live Auction 
Brian’s grandmother died shy of 105th birthday.  I adored her. She lost her hearing at age 10 – a genetic degenerative disorder.  She graduated from Berkley in 1924 and received a Master in Anthropology at the U of MN.  There were no hearing aids then.  She learned to read lips and read voraciously.  In college, she clasped a rubber paddle in her mouth during class to help her eardrums vibrate so she could pick up a few words. She never complained about losing her hearing….it didn’t define who she was although it was a part of who she was.  In her late 90’s, she asked me to buy periodicals which described computers and new technology.  I was somewhat surprised.  She said, “ I have to read about mega bits and other things related to computers so I can do my cross word puzzles.” I thought amazing….life long learning. She was mentally engage until she was about 102 when she lost much of her eyesight affecting her ability to read text and faces.  She was very connected to Jimmy and his struggles to communicate.  She worried that Jimmy’s autism was related to her genetic hearing loss.  I regularly assured her that I didn’t believe there was a connection. I see Jimmy much the way I viewed her.  She was able to find ways to cope and over come her disability living a long, full and vibrant life.  While Jimmy needs others to place opportunities in front of him, Jimmy is the one who makes the choices of what speaks to him….only he really knows.

So, finding “What Speaks to You”, can be a wonderful life long mission full of color, challenge and adventure!

1 comment:

  1. Normal just means that you are average, and I do not wish for anyone to be "normal." A long time ago I realized that my hopes for my children were the same that any parent has - to be happy, healthy and people that make this planet a better place to be. Neither of my children is perfect, or "normal." Regardless of the challenges any of us face, we all need to contribute in some small (or large) way to making the world a better place. Lucky for Jimmy that he has already done that through his art! Hurray for him that he isn't "normal."