"Look At Me"

"Look At Me"
monotype and screenprint

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Artist's Statement!

My show opens on January 1st and I have to hang everything this Tuesday.  I spent most of my weekend preparing:  Framing, writing an Artist's Statement, etc.  I'm wiped.  Anyway, this is what I came up with.  A lot of it I've probably already said in one post or another, but I condensed it. 

Artist's Statement
     Everyone has a story to tell. Unfortunately, for people with autism, communication is difficult. Some people on the autism spectrum cannot speak at all. They must rely on sign language, PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System), or even computers to communicate. This can be very frustrating for children. I want to speak for them through my artwork and tell their stories. After all, just because you don't talk doesn't mean you have nothing to say.
     My son Derek was diagnosed with autism at the age of 20 months. This literally turned my life upside-down. All of my expectations for parenthood went out the window. I was devastated, but determined to get my son "back." I dropped everything, did research, and started working with Derek. He had stopped responding to his name and made very little eye contact, so I started with that. Then I worked on milestones that he'd missed, like trying to get him to clap and wave. Progress was slow, but once Derek started ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapy at the age of 2, he began to improve rapidly. Derek is considered non-verbal, so the language barrier has been one of our biggest challenges. His receptive language is limited. His therapists and I had to teach him that words had meaning with flashcards. Derek has begun to speak some in the past year, but he has a hard time pronouncing words correctly. When he does speak, he is often misunderstood. Derek cannot speak for himself. I am literally his "voice."
     I have been an artist for as long as I can remember. I became a printmaker in college and fell in love with making monotypes. I love the effect I can create by layering colors on top of each other. Making a monotype is hard to explain, but it is relatively simple to do and there is a lot of freedom to the approach. The artist can work either positively or negatively and use either oil based inks or water based inks. They can also incorporate other materials if they want to. I work negatively with oil based ink.
     To make a monotype the main things an artist needs is a plate, some ink, an etching press, and heavy-weight printmaking paper. I use Plexiglas for a plate and lithography or etching inks. The paper I use varies. Then I use a large rubber roller to apply a transparent layer of colored ink to a sheet of Plexiglas. I use rags and cotton swabs to wipe away the areas that I will want to remain white on a sheet of printmaking paper. It is like doing a painting in reverse. I do this every time I want to add a layer of color, and sometimes I add up to 10 colors. An artist could also paint directly on the plate with a paintbrush, toothbrush, sponge, or whatever else they could imagine if they wanted to get an interesting effect! Then, a few weeks later when the image is dry, I manipulate the image by sewing other prints (usually etchings or screen prints; sometimes handprints and footprints), paper, and other materials onto my pieces.
     I also thought it was important to include artwork by some of the children. Since they have a hard time communicating, sometimes it is easier for them to express themselves through artwork than it is for them to speak. They are able to say things that they cannot say verbally. For instance, Derek's snake picture: most of the time when Derek paints I assume he is just painting to paint. When he painted the snakes, he picked up my hand, put it near the paper, looked at me, and said, "Sssssssss." That is what he says for "snakes." For the first time ever, I knew what my son had painted. It was an amazing moment because my son was able to tell me something he couldn't say in words.
     1/110 children are diagnosed with autism now. But those are just numbers. One of my main goals with this project is to put real names and faces to these numbers. Autism is extremely common, yet no parent ever expects to have an autistic child of their own. There is no cure for autism. There is no treatment or therapy or magic pill that is guaranteed to help improve the "symptoms" of autism. Having an autistic child is difficult. It's not just about the medical bills or the time invested in hours of speech, occupational, and physical therapy. It is learning how to love a child who cannot tell you they love you in return. It is watching your child fall behind his peers and learning to cherish every single milestone he or she reaches--no matter what age they reach them. It is finding joy in simple things, like watching water come out of a fountain or watching birds fly, because your child finds them fascinating. I would like to help raise awareness and pinpoint some of the more common autistic "traits" through my pieces so that the general public isn't as quick to judge when they see a kid having a meltdown in a supermarket or if they see a kid flapping his hands when he or she gets excited about seeing a balloon. Autism is not necessarily an illness that needs to be "cured". These children are amazing and extremely intelligent, and each one possess special qualities. I want the world to see these children the way I see them: as beautiful and unique.

Friday, December 16, 2011

MY FIRST SHOW!!!!

My most recent pieces:
"Dexter:  Finger Painting"
Monotype/ Mixed Media
December, 2011

"Tres:  Bring Me Home (Project Lifesaver)"
Monotype
November 2011


My first show will be at the Nebraska Nature and Visitor (www.nebraskanature.org).  It begins Jan 1 and goes until Feb 28, 2012.  I have 9 pieces done now, and I'm hoping to get one more done by then.  Plus all the kids' work will be hung.  I'm hoping to have a pretty decent show. :)  Lots to do before then though--matting, framing, an artist's statement to write (eeeek), a book to make, yikes.  Oh, and an opening ceremony to plan. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I have SO MUCH to be thankful for I don't even know where to start.  That can't be a bad thing, right?  :)

First, I am thankful for my beautiful, amazing children.  Derek said his first multiple word sentence tonight.  Kind of.  I'm counting it, anyway.  He was playing with his rocketship and all of a sudden I heard him say, "Bye, two, twee...basoff!!!"  (Interpretation:  "One, two, three...blast off!!!"  He has always said "bye" for "one" and I'm not sure why.)  He even counted on his fingers.  Incredible.  This kid has made so much progress in the past year.  He also said the word "Gobble."  I showed him a picture Tyler had colored at school of a turkey, so I showed him it and asked if he could say it.  He said, "Goggle."  Close enough.  I love is little voice.  It is so quiet, and so sweet, and it always surprises me when any word comes out of his mouth.  I guess when you wait 4 years for your child to start saying sentences, it seems magical when it finally happens.  Almost miraculous.  I LOVE knowing that he is finally understanding language, since he didn't for SOOO long.  I think back to the endless days when we went over words with flashcards for hours and hours on end and it seemed like we made no progress.  It finally feels like all the pain, all the tears, were worth it... Between 1 year and 18 months my son disappeared.  Since then I have trying desperately to get him back again.  Today, I realized that even if he cannot communicate as well as other children, my son is back.  He really, truly is.  And I can't stop crying...

And then there is Tyler, who is the sweetest, smartest kid in the world.  Just last night when I was tucking him into bed, he told me ""I'm not going to let you go I love you so much!"  Derek was sick all day yesterday.  Like, EXTREMELY sick.  He started vomiting at 4:30 in the morning and literally threw up every 10-15 minutes for the next 4 hours.  He doesn't understand enough to make it to a toilet, so he soiled all of the sheets and blankets in the bed, about 6 towels, and numerous sets of clothing--including mine.  Oh, and did I mention that about 2 hours into the madness he started having diarrhea as well?  I literally had to hold him on the toilet (as he vomited all over me) because he was too weak to sit upright.  Poor kid.  So when Tyler said that at night, it was BY FAR the best part of my day.  How do kids know when you need to hear something like that?!?!?

I'm also thankful for all of the amazing things that have happened this year.  Since MARCH, no less!  I have a studio, a printmaking press, two gallery shows in the works, and an amazing project underway.  I've also met all kinds of incredible people along the way--parents of autistic kids, the kids themselves, and random strangers who have gone out of their way to help me succeed.  I have made so many wonderful new friends
--and I have autism to thank.  Who would have guessed that SO MUCH GOOD could come out of something that once caused me and my family so much pain?  I'm not saying that things are perfect or that the road is no longer bumpy.  Hah!  I'm just choosing to focus on the good rather than the bad...

"Bye, two, twee...basoff!"

Friday, November 18, 2011

WHY

When Derek was first diagnosed, back in July of 2009, I spent a lot of (wasted) time wondering WHY?  Why Derek?  Why our family?  Why autism?  I went through a lot of emotions.  Sadness, anger, bitterness...you name it.  I've got to tell you though, in the past 9 months I've done a lot of soul-searching.  The other day it hit me.  WHY NOT?  :)  Maybe I was chosen to be Derek's mom.  Maybe Tyler was chosen to be Derek's brother and Dustin to be Derek's dad.  I don't know.  It's just a thought.  Through this project I have met so many people that I NEVER would have met if I hadn't had an autistic child.  I have never been so passionate about anything before in my entire life.  This project continues to grow in ways that I never dreamed possible.  So many doors have been opening...  I'm becoming more and more convinced as time goes on that everything happens for a reason and that people come into our lives exactly when they are supposed to...

Deep thoughts for your Thursday. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ssssssnakes! :)

What a great day!  I got TWO new pieces started (that's right, I said TWO!!), Derek made a major breakthrough (more on that in a minute), I think? I added another kid to the project, I was commissioned to make an art piece, and I may have booked another art show!!  Ok, so a lot of those things are just possibilities, but I'm determined to make them HAPPEN!  I can't go into detail on them yet, since they aren't finalized, but...I'll just say that career-wise?  Today was awesome. 

Now for Derek's breakthrough.  Derek likes to paint.  Always has.  Tonight he wanted to paint.  He brought me paper and a paintbrush.  Ok.  So I got out the watercolor and cleared a spot for him at the table.  Next thing I knew he started painting lines.  Not normal.  Usually he paints in circles and in totally random places.  I have always thought it was just abstract colors on paper.  Not tonight.  Tonight he painted lines.  Then he put my hand on the paper, looked at me, and said, "Ssssssss."  That's what he says for snakes. Holy crap.  My mouth dropped open.  For the first time in 4 years, I KNEW WHAT DEREK HAD PAINTED.  My eyes filled with tears.  I've wanted to know what he's been painting for so long!!!  Today he painted snakes.  :)  Beautiful.  Absolutely beautiful.
 

Medical Diagnosis: 11/10/11

I can write about it now.  I knew it was coming, but for some reason it still made me sad.  Derek got the "official" diagnosis last Thursday.  The scarlet letter.  The stamp in the book.  The irreversible words in the medical records that will forever make it hard for Derek to get health insurance, additional life insurance, even a job.  He will forever be known as AUTISTIC.  Up until last Thursday he had only been known medically as "developmentally delayed."  He had the school diagnosis of autism, but we'd been trying to avoid the medical one for all of the reasons listed above.  We didn't want it to be permanent--in case he made some miraculous recovery.  But it was becoming pretty obvious that even though he has made great progress, Derek is always going to have major challenges in life.  SOOOO, I decided to take him to a specialist.  I was not happy with his old pediatrician (she didn't know ANYTHING about autism), so I decided to take him to a new one.  :)  This one was "Board Certified in Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics."  :)

The second we walked into the office, I knew we were in good hands.  The nurse tried to weigh him, but of course Derek refused.  She had to weigh both of us, then I put Derek down, she weighed me, and subtracted the difference.  Then she tried to get his height and he slumped to the floor, put his hands over his ears and screeched.  I asked the nurse if she'd been told he was autistic.  She said no, but that she kind of figured.  Haha! 

When the doctor came into the office, I asked whether we needed a medical diagnosis.  He said no and that normally they had to observe my son complete a series of tests.  We continued with the office visit and he asked a bunch of questions.  During all of this Derek played with dinosaurs on the floor--talking to them in "Derek babble."  Not a single thing he was saying could be recognized as an actual word.  The doctor asked about Derek's eating habits and I explained how he eats primarily crunchy foods and is extremely limited.  He said that right there is indicitive of autism.  We talked about his sleep problems, the communication problems, everything.  Then the doctor examined Derek.  Derek freaked when the doctor shined a light in his eyes, he wouldn't let him look in his ears or mouth, and hated having him press his stomach.  Can you say SENSORY ISSUES???  The doctor recommended I take Derek to a pediatric clinic that specializes in OT, speech therapy, and has a food clinic.  The food clinic sounds interesting--I just hope our insurance pays for it...He also wants me to keep track of Derek's "space outs".  Derek has episodes where his eyes glaze over and he stares off into space.  You have to snap your fingers in front of his face or clap your hands to get him to come back.  It's scary.  The doctor thinks he might be having mini seizures.  So he might have to have another EEG.  We had one 2 years ago for the same thing, but it was inconclusive because Derek kept pulling the electrodes off his head.  He never fell asleep during the test even though he was sleep deprived, and he never had an episode during the test.  So we didn't find anything out.  Sigh...I doubt he'd do any better this time.  He is even MORE sensitive to things.  I'm guessing he'll pull the electrodes off AGAIN. 
Anyway, right when we were leaving, the doctor said, "I am going to give Derek the medical diagnosis of autism.  I don't need to do the formal tests.  Just by observing him today I have enough information to give him the diagnosis."  OUCH.  I know it's obvious there is something wrong with my son, but when a specialist can diagnose him within 30 minutes????  Wow.  I'm not going to lie.  It stung a bit. 

The rest of the day wasn't much better.  Derek is going to be in a documentary about autism.  They wanted to get a haircut on film.  So we did.  20 minutes of Derek sitting in my lap--doing everything he possibly could to escape.  He screamed, cried, gagged (on the hair that got in his mouth), and looked at me like I was the worst mom in the world.  I hate haircuts.    

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Derek's 4th Birthday

"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." -unknown
Derek turned 4 this week.  I'm having a hard time with it, for some reason.  Derek seems frozen in time at 20 months for me.  The older he gets, the more obvious his delays are.  When you are a toddler it is ok to not talk; to babble.  When you are 4?  Not ok anymore.  I want to protect him for as long as possible from all of the cruel people in this world.  But he is getting bigger by the day.  I won't be able to protect him forever. 

I finally have my first show lined up.  It will be this summer at the University of Tulsa.  I have a lot of work to do before then.  I'm supposed to have 20 pieces done.  At the moment I have 7...this is my latest.  It's about the bond between mother and child.
"Kyle: Love (The Bond Between Mother and Child)
Derek and I are also going to be in a documentary about autism.  A professor from Creighton University contacted me--he wants to film what life is like for a family dealing with autism.  He's going to come to the house and video tape us doing our "thing."  :)  I'm not sure when it's going to take place or what it will entail.  I'll keep you posted. 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Happy Birthday!!

Happy late birthday to two of our kids in the project!  Brook turned 14 and Lilia turned 3!

I finished Part 1 of Alec.  This is going to be a slightly different piece.  I'm excited, but nervous!  I've never done anything like this piece before--I'm trying something new.  It will be a two-part piece--one part will be Alec's portrait and the other part will be an ocean scene of him running on the sand.  Alec loves the water.  :)  I'm anxious to see what it will turn out like.
"Alec:  Ocean (Part 1)"

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Les Femmes Folles article, new kids, artwork by the kiddos

The article about me in Les Femmes Folles is up! :)
http://femmesfollesnebraska.tumblr.com/post/10042676441/beth-hanson-artist-activist

Also, there are a few new kids in the project--check out their pictures.  :)

Here is a watercolor by Aiden Hysell, a pastel drawing by Joey Madere and below it is a new watercolor by Derek.   
Watercolor by Aiden Hysell

Pastel drawing by Joey Madere
watercolor by Derek Hanson





Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The "aha moment"

My "aha moment" was posted online yesterday.  I'm not sure how I feel about it.  I watched it and of course thought of a billion things I could have said more eloquently.  But I can't change it now.  So, here it is.  Be nice--I'm better at expressing myself through art than I am at putting my thoughts into words!  :)

http://ahamoment.com/moments/2403

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I have a facebook page!!!!

I finally created a facebook page for the project.  "Like" Autism Art Project for me!  I'd really appreciate it!  I'm just trying to get the word out about the project any way that I can... :)  I figure as often as everyone is on fb now, it will be easier to keep people up to date on what is going on.  Not everyone follows the blog...now if only I can figure out how to add a "like" buttton to the blog that connects back to fb...

Monday, September 5, 2011

"Joey: Turtle"

I finished my piece about Joey yesterday.  I spent the entire weekend sewing.  My family went to the lake; I stayed home sick.  It worked out ok though.  I'd finished the printing portion, so I watched a bunch of movies, cut out turtles, and sewed the rest of my piece together.  I'm not sure the rest of the world will understand why there are turtles crawling around the border of the piece, but I don't care.  Joey's mom said he's a slow-poke and that she's always telling him to hurry up.  He was the last one born, and he has also has a huge turtle collection from his father.  So the turtles fit perfectly.  :)  His mom started home-schooling him this year--I give her major props for that.  I'm not sure I'd have the patience to do that with Derek.  This print was a little difficult--I had some problems getting the landscape to look the way I wanted it to.  But I think I got it in the end.  I love the sunlight on his hat.  And the look on his face.  Another beautiful kid.  :)
close-up

Monday, August 29, 2011

Unanswered Questions

Sleepy Boy...

Yesterday when I was watching Derek sleep something occured to me...you know how we "think" in words? Does a non-verbal child dream in words? Or are his dreams full of beautiful images?  What does he even dream about?  I have 4 years worth of unanswered questions.  There are so many things I would like to ask my son.  So many simple, every day things that other parents take for granted.  I want to know what his favorite color is.  I want to know why he's fascinated with wheels and why he won't eat wet things, like noodles.  I want to know what his foot obsession is all about and why he likes to have two matching things at all times.  Most of all, I want to know if he's happy.  And if he knows how much I love him...

You know the saying, "Kids say the darndest things?"  It's true...Tyler has what I call "Tylerisms."  We giggle together all the time over things.  Lately at night we've been talking about how much we love each other.  "Tyler, I love you more than...chocolate chip cookies."  "Mommy, I love you more than...the moon!"  :)  I feel like I'm missing things with Derek.  By the time he learns to REALLY speak (more than one word responses), will he still be young enough to enjoy being silly with me???

Tylerisms of the past month:  "Sweetie, it's time to go!!!"  (when we were leaving a friend's house)
                              "Let's play Dingo"  (Instead of Bingo)
                              "Do I have to go back to that HORRIBLE place tomorrow?" (kindergarten)
and my personal favorite:
                              Tyler:  "Mommy, how does water put out fire?"
                              Me:  "I don't know, honey."
                              Tyler:  "Yes, you do.  JUST TELL ME!!"

For Derek, I have lots of precious, precious moments, but very few "Derekisms."  Maybe one would be that sometimes he calls Winnie the Pooh "Poop."  :)  He also sings (babble) when he takes a shower.  That's about it.  There are so many wonderful, beautiful things about a non-verbal child, but not knowing what he wants and not knowing what he is trying to say is NOT one of them.  It breaks my heart more and more each day that even though I know my child better than ANYONE on this earth, I do not know what he thinks and feels about life.  He is almost four years old...I've been waiting so long to hear his little voice.  If only he could get the words out.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Mutual of Omaha and my "Aha Moment"

Thursday was CRAZY!!!!!!  Mutual of Omaha has been touring the nation since 2009 gathering the stories of real people.  The stories are supposed to be "life-changing, inspirational" ones...they video tape people talking about moments that changed their lives.  The moments come from cancer survivors, Olympic Swimmers, musicians, basically everyone and anyone you can think of.  Anyway, somehow someone from Mutual of Omaha found THIS BLOG and asked me if I'd want to be part of their tour.  Of course, I said YES!!!!  They stopped in Kearney, NE on Thursday and interviewed me.  My video will be on http://www.theahamoment.com/ in a few weeks.  I have no idea what part of the interview they will put on...I'm hoping they edit it well and I don't look like an idiot!!!  My "aha moment" was the moment I realized I could tell my autistic son's story through artwork.  :)  I don't have a way with words like some people do.  And obviously neither does Derek.  So I try to speak for both of us (and for others with ASD!) through my artwork. 



What else happened this week?  Well, I decided that I'm not going to torture my son and make him ride the bus for an hour every day on the way home from preschool.  He'll still ride it on the way there--it only takes 30 min to get there.  But they have to drop a kid off in the country on the way home, and by the time Derek got home Tuesday he was a mess. He had 3 potty accidents this week.  He slept in my bed every night.  I think it's safe to say he was a little traumatized.  So...I picked him up on Thursday and things went MUCH BETTER.  He was super happy to see me and seemed relieved when I strapped him in the car. 


Tyler at the NE State Fair!
Last night I took the kids to the NE State Fair with cousins and their aunt.  We had a blast.  This was Tyler's reward for doing so well his first week of kindergarten.  He went on a bunch of rides and said, "I'm having so much fun I never want to stop!!!"  Awesome.  Derek refused to go on the rides.  I think he was a little overwhelmed.  He stayed in the stroller and looked around at all of the people, the lights, and the spinning rides.  He also wet his pants.  Oooops.  That was my fault.  I didn't take him to the bathroom often enough I guess.  Too much excitement.  And then later, when the fireworks started, he had a meltdown.  Usually we watch fireworks from inside the house--behind a window.  It was too loud.  He panicked.  We went into a building and he refused to come back out until 10 min after the fireworks had stopped.  But considering everything?  He did really well.  At least he didn't freak out the second we got to the part where the rides were.  That was what I was scared would happen.  Both kids ZONKED out on the way home. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Derek's 1st Day of Pre-School

Derek's 1st day of pre-school was rough.  He cried on the walk to school.  He cried when I put him on the bus.  He looked completely baffled when I left him on the bus.  I have no idea what he actually DID at school since I can't ask him...but when he got off the bus after the HOUR LONG bus ride home, he whimpered, jumped into my arms, and slammed the bus door shut.  He didn't let me put him down for 30 minutes.  Uh-oh.  Poor buddy...
On the way to the bus...

Monday, August 22, 2011

Joslyn!

I added a picture of Joslyn finally!  :)  I now have 2 girls in the project.  It continures to grow...

Working on framing Aiden today.  I want to get it done before my interview with Mutual of Omaha on Thursday.  I'm NERVOUS!!!

Friday, August 19, 2011

"Aiden: Spinning"

My first new piece is DONE!!!!!!  Here it is!  It took 7 days, over 30 hours, and has 13 different layers of color.  :)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Working on "Aiden"

The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity and an understanding of life that fills them with compassions, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.
-unknown


I've been working on my print about Aiden all week.  I started on Friday and have worked on it every day since then.  I haven't slept much.  I've already put 11 layers on it and put over 30 hours into it.  UGGGGGHHHH.  It's wonderful to be back in the studio again, but I'm exhausted!  I forgot how much work it is.  And the difference between now and grad school is that now I have to take care of kids too--I can't just take a nap when I feel like it.  :)  I'm hoping to finish it today.


Printing "Aiden" layer #10

Also today, Tyler started kindergarten.  :)  My kiddo is all grown up!  I can't wait to hear how his first day went!  I've been thinking about how fast kids grow and how GLAD I am that I stayed home with my kids.  I was there for everything--their first smiles, their first steps, their first words (even though Derek's came late--I was THERE!!!)  I wouldn't trade it for the world.  Being a mother has been the most rewarding thing I've ever done with my life.

"These are the days to remember, cuz they will not last forever..."  --Billy Joel

Saturday, August 13, 2011

My 1st New Piece: AIDEN

I used my press for the first time last night!  I started a new piece about a little boy named Aiden.  (If you want to see what he looks like click on the tab that says "Other Kids Featured in the Project."  He is 3, just like Derek and I met him a few months ago.  He's in the same ABA program as Derek too.  VERY cute little boy.  Reminded me so much of Derek it actually scared me.  :) 

Anyway, I got 3 layers of yellow ochre done last night and I'm hoping to get a couple more layers done tonight.  This piece will probably have at least 10 layers, so it's going to take me a while to finish.  It feels GREAT to be back in the studio again.  Pictures of my new piece will come soon!!!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

More Kids!

I now have two more kids in the project!!!  (I know, I know...I've got more work than I can handle...)  Add Michael Vaughan and Joslyn Cameron to the project!  (There is a picture of Michael up and hopefully there will be one of Joslyn soon.)  I've also started the piece about Aiden.  I will post pictures as soon as possible.  In the meantime, Tyler starts kindergarten next week and Derek starts preschool the following week.  I have a LOT to do before then!  YIKES!!!!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

"One Day"

I just got chills...I started reading the book "One Day," by David Nicholls (it comes out in theaters in a few weeks--Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess).  It's about the relationship between two people over 20 years.  They meet every year on the anniversary of the day they met--JULY 15th.  Ok, halt.  First of all, that is the anniversary of Derek's Diagnosis...and second of all, on the very first page there is a quote from Charles Dickens, Great Expectations:

"That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me.  But, it is the same with any life.  Imagine one selected day struck out of it and think how different its course would have been.  Pause, you who read this, and think for a long moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on that memorable day."

Funny how quotes find you...

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Window...

You know that saying, "When God closes a door, he opens a window?"  I'm beginning to think that's not necessarily true.  Sometimes it's just not that easy.  At some point in life, we are all given a difficult burden to carry.  But I have heard some AMAZING stories lately.  Stories about perseverence, about beating the odds, and about the will to survive.  I think sometimes God closes a door and sticks us in a room with a window that is stuck tight just to see what we will do.  He wants to see if we have the strength to pull ourselves off the floor and break through the window on our own.  After Derek was diagnosed, I wallowed around in my own misery for a good year and a half before I broke through the window.  Something finally "snapped" inside of me.  I was tired of waiting for my life to begin.  I realized that I could either embrace my son the way he is and live life to the fullest, or spend the rest of my life miserable.  I decided to do as much for my son as possible (through therapy) and promote awareness at the same time.  The best way I knew of to do that, was to tell Derek's story through art.  I wanted to be an artist (not just a person who did art in her spare time!!), and I knew that if I didn't do something about it THEN, I never would.  Nobody else was going to do it for me--everything was in my hands. 

It's hard to believe, but my dream is finally coming true.  I told my parents when I was in grade school that I wanted to be an artist.  It's all I have ever wanted to be.  Now, after 9 years of college, and 6 years of WAITING...it is happening.  I have a studio.  I have an etching press.  I have a PROJECT that I care about and can't wait to see come alive!!!!  And almost all of this happened because I decided in March to put my fears behind me and go for my dreams, whether I failed or not.  I have amazing friends, an incredible family, and wonderful neighbors.  Thank you to EVERYONE who supported me along the way...I never could have done any of this without your help.  My studio is ready.  I have paper on the way.  ELLIE THE ETCHING PRESS IS GOING TO HAVE A TRIAL RUN THIS WEEK!!!!!!  :)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Week at the Lake

"You Say it Best, When You Say Nothing At All..."
Derek's eyes freak me out a little.  They are identical to mine.  It's almost as if everything I've been through in my life, he's been through too.  When he looks at me, and I mean REALLY looks at me (like in this picture) it makes my heart melt.  He says so much with his eyes...who needs words when you have eyes that say everything???? 

Derek and Tyler at Lake McConaughy


Tyler eating breakfast...he looks like his father.  :)
 We just got back from a week at the lake.  We didn't quite "Rough It."  We had a Lake House to stay in...otherwise I'm not sure I would have survived.  I like showers.  :)  The boys did pretty well.  Tyler had a BLAST.  He discovered how much fun it was to jump off the dock into the water, jet-ski, roast marshmallows, look for snakes (yes, snakes), and play in the sand.  Derek...well, Derek was Derek.  He did well, considering it was his first time spending more than a weekend there.  He wasn't overly fond of the 100+ temperatures.  He swam for a little while every day, but definitely didn't want to spend all day in the water.  He wasn't into lake food, so he survived on dry cereal, juice, and chips.  Uggghh.  He also didn't like having to wear a lifejacket.  Too bad, son.  On the plus side, he learned two new words.  "Shoe" and "Ski."  He said "shoe" (he pronounce it "sue") when he wanted me to take his sandals off and he pointed and said "ski" when he saw someone on a jet-ski.  :)  Yay for new words!!!!!  

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Add Another Kid!

Add another kid to the project!  :)  While we were on vacation at Lake McConaughy last week, I met another parent of an autistic kid!  I had a great time discussing therapies and food and just life in general with someone who actually UNDERSTANDS the demands and challenges and rewards of raising a special child. 

So add Riley Fogarty, age 8 to the project!  He is from Bismarck, North Dakota.  I now have 11 kids from 7 different states!!!!!  And I should be able to start my next piece within the next week or two!  Pictures to come (of course)!  And I'll probably post some lake pictures this week too.  I got a few good ones of my boys. 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

DDD: 2nd Anniversary

I really should have written yesterday.  It was the 2nd anniversary of Derek's diagnosis.  I call it Triple D Day.  Derek's Diagnosis Day.  :)  I have mixed emotions about the day.  I can't help but remember how painful the day was.  But I'm trying to focus on the positive--how far my son has come in the past two years.  It has been quite a journey.  Maybe this day will get easier and easier as years go by.  It's really the day my old life ended and my new life began.  Two years ago autism wasn't even a blip on my radar.  Now my life revolves around it.  I have to remember what time therapy sessions are, think about situations and whether or not my son will be able to handle them, and prepare for meltdowns.  But on the positive side, my perception has changed entirely.  I don't take a single milestone for granted and I notice EVERYTHING!!!  Derek sees ladybugs on flowers, hears the buzz of fluorescent lights, and feels the grass between his toes. So I do too.  :)  Derek is the very definition of innocence and beauty.


This picture was taken July 17, 2009...two days after his diagnosis.  I had no idea at the time how much it would come to represent.  I have it hanging in the house in a frame I found that reads "The Road Ahead Lies Within."  PERFECT. 

Yesterday I tried to have a "Celebration Day."  I wanted to have a good day...I didn't want to dwell on the fact that it was DDD.  So I loaded up the kids, took them to McDonald's (Derek didn't eat anything except the french fries, but so what???) took them to the pool, and then attempted to go to the movie theater for the first time.  Well, it was actually Tyler's 2nd time, but it was Derek's 1st.  COLOSSAL MISTAKE.  For once, I forgot to put myself in Derek's shoes.  And I wanted to kick myself in the face for it.  He freaked.  The movie theater was too loud, too dark, and there were too many people.  I thought that once Winnie the Pooh came on the screen he'd be ok, but nope.  He wanted OUT and he wanted out immediately.  Poor kid.  I felt terrible.  I guess movies are out of the question...



On another note, the art studio is coming along GREAT!!!  The French Doors are up and stained.  The tile is done.  The walls are painted.  The trim is done and the chair rail is up.  I got the plexiglass for my table.  All I need to do is bevel the corners of the plexiglass and duct tape it down (so I don't slice up my forearms) and I'll be ready to get to work.  That and unpack some supplies.  I've been waiting 6 years for this!!  Actually, I've been waiting most of my life...

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Autism Art Project T-shirts!

I am ordering t-shirts from the Buckle for the project!  This is what they will look like.  Let me know if you want one!!!  :)

Friday, June 24, 2011

My Press Arrived!

Ellie the Etching Press!


My press arrived on Monday, June 20, 2011.  I named her Elissa (a shortened form of Elizabeth) and call her "Ellie".  She is the little girl (big girl???) I never had.  (If Tyler or Derek had been a girl we would have named her Alyssa, so this is PERFECT!)  She weighs over 400 lbs!!!  We've been working on the studio all week.  I'll post more pics asap.  Must sleep...

Oh, and there are now 10 kids (including Derek) in the project!  9 boys and 1 girl, ranging in ages from 2-13.  They are from 6 different states--Wyoming, Missouri, Tennessee, Florida, Nebraska and Pennsylvania.  Pretty exciting!  I'll post pictures of the newest kids as soon as I can too.  :)  Welcome to the project Alec and Paul!   

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Purple Studio!

I've been working on the studio all week.  I'm desperately trying to get it (somewhat?) put together before the press gets here.  According to tracking info (who knows how reliable that is!!!) it will be here on Friday.  So Tyler, Roxie (my awesome mother-in-law), and I got to work.  The area was serving as a storage unit and was full of boxes, so we had to move everything out first.  Then we primed the walls.  That was all on Monday.  Tuesday we painted the walls two different shades of purple.  (I LOVE IT!!!)  And today we went to Menards and picked out French Doors and tile for the floor.  :)  The door is in, but I need to stain it.  The tile will hopefully be done next week.  I am so excited that everything is finally coming together.  I've been saving money for this for 6 or so years now.  FINALLY!!  My own studio...

The Purple Studio


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Other Kids in the Project!

Check out the pictures of the other kids who are going to be in the project!  They are located in the tab above titled "Other Kids Featured in the Project!"  I am so excited to get started.  I'm cleaning out my studio and getting it ready to go.  I talked to the people at Takach Press today and they are working on my press as we speak.  It should be here in 1-2 weeks!!!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Friday, May 27, 2011

105% funded and then some...

Yesterday was the final day to donate on Kickstarter.  I made $6825 on the Kickstarter website, plus what I made at the 2 fundraisers.  I can't believe it is over.  I'm excited for the next step though.  It will take two weeks for all the money to transfer over to the amazon account and I have to completely pay off my printmaking press before they will ship it, so in the next few weeks I guess I will do my best to prepare.  I need to clean out the area I'm going to use as my studio, set stuff up, order more art supplies, and start working on the "rewards" for my donors.  I am going to get t-shirts designed at The Buckle Screenprinting today. 


Yesterday I was reminded once again that my challenges with Derek have only just begun.  I took Tyler and Derek to the 1st day of the library's summer reading program.  They had a magic show.  A bunch of kids were there and a handful of parents.  All the kids sat on the ground in front of the magician.  Except mine.  Tyler is definitely a Momma's Boy.  He wanted to sit right next to me.  And then there was Derek.  He ran back and forth and spun in circles at the back of the room.  He had a big grin on his face and every once in a while tried to make a mad dash toward the front where the magician was.  I had to jump up and grab him before he got in the way.  I tried to get him to sit with me, and I even tried to pin him between my legs when he got really antsy, but he ended up screaming.  I am quickly learning that when Derek doesn't want to do something, I am not strong enough to control him.  That scares the crap out of me.  I also wondered what the other parents thought of me.  I don't think many of them knew Derek was autistic.  They must have thought I was one of those awful parents...the kind who have no control over her own kids. 

Derek also had his photos taken by Katie Arndt yesterday.  He won a package a few months ago from Time for Baby because he won a Cutest Kid Contest.  :)  So we went out to Cottonmill Park and took a bunch of pictures.  Hopefully a few will turn out good.  He was not overly cooperative.  Neither was Tyler.  The only thing that really made Derek smile was when Katie pulled out the bubbles.  Derek was much more interested in exploring the trees, looking at the lake, and staring at the birds flying in the sky. 


The picture that won Derek the Cutest Kid Contest at Time for Baby!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Axtell Pancake Feed

"Your life is defined by its opportunities... even the ones you miss."  --Benjamin Button (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)

There are moments in life that you look back upon and say, "Why didn't I do this?"  or "If only I had done something different..."   We all have those moments.  What we don't realize is how many near disasters we have avoided because of the RIGHT decisions we made.  Sometimes missed opportunities are blessings.  Sometimes saying no is the right thing to do.  Other times, you have to take a chance.  Don't be afraid to fail.  Don't be afraid to reach for your dreams.  Go out on a limb and TRY.  What's the worst thing that can happen?  I have 65 hours left on the Kickstarter website.  65 hours left before my project is fully funded.  I am sitting here in utter disbelief.  43 days have passed.  It has been 43 days of emotional turmoil.  I've never been so nervous, excited, terrified, frustrated or HAPPY in my entire life.  But what if I had listened to the voice in my head that said that this was impossible?  That I could never raise $6500?  What if I had never taken the chance?  You only have one life...live it to the fullest.



Yesterday the town of Axtell threw a pancake feed/silent auction to help me raise money.  They had a bunch of things donated, like a NU football signed by Suh, Tom Osborne, and both Pelini coaches.  They also had a grill, a bunch of giftcards to places, a 3 month membership to a gym, rounds of golf, and baked goods.  It was awesome.  Over 90 people came and there were a TON of donations.  I have a lot of thank you notes to write!  :)  Here is the link to yet another NTV interview.  Hopefully the last for a while

http://www.nebraska.tv/global/video/flash/popupplayer.asp?vt1=v&clipFormat=flv&clipId1=5876943&at1=News&h1=The+Art+of+Autism&flvUri&partnerclipid&rnd=40490031

Friday, May 20, 2011

NTV link Part 1

I was on the news AGAIN today.  My 15 minutes of fame is almost over.  I have to say I'm glad...I would much rather do the artwork than be on the news.  It's just not my thing.  I was on the air today because the town of Axtell is throwing a pancake feed for me on Sunday to help me raise money for the art supplies.  They wanted to make sure I was going to meet the Kickstarter goal before May 26.  I was really, really touched that they wanted to do this.  Not only are they having the pancake feed, they are having a bake sale and a silent auction.  One of the things they are auctioning is a football signed by Suh, Tom Osborne, and Bo Pelini.  Wow.

http://www.nebraska.tv/global/video/flash/popupplayer.asp?vt1=v&clipFormat=flv&clipId1=5870391&at1=News&h1=Autism+Awareness+Project+%28Part+1%29&flvUri&partnerclipid&rnd=40004985

NTV link Part 2

http://www.nebraska.tv/global/video/flash/popupplayer.asp?vt1=v&clipFormat=flv&clipId1=5870395&at1=News&h1=Autism+Awareness+Project+%28Part+2%29&flvUri&partnerclipid&rnd=79474458

Monday, May 16, 2011

100% BABY!!!

Fully funded as of May 16th, 2011 at 12:56 p.m.!!!  Woohoo!!!  (If you still want to donate, you have until May 26th at 2:28 p.m.)  I have never been so excited about something in my entire life!  I talked to Takach Press today and placed my order for my very own printmaking press.  It won't be ready for 4-6 weeks and I have to pay off the balance before it will be shipped, but I am officially the owner of an etching press!  I'm a REAL ARTIST!  :)  Time to get to WORK!   

Table Top Etching Press from Takach Press

JUMP! JUMP! 81% up to 97%!

Last night I was 81% funded, this morning I woke up and BOOM--97%!  Someone donated $1000!!!!  HOLY TOLEDO!!!  Happy Monday to me!  :) 



The Fundraiser was a success!  I got to see a lot of my friends, meet new people, HAVE FUN, and raise money all at the same time!  Not too shabby a night in my world.  Hah!  I met one couple that really inspired me.  They think their son has autism too.  In the short amount of time I talked to the mom, I was reminded just how painful it is to suspect that your child has autism.  You have no idea what is going on or how to help your child.  I was there two years ago, and looking at her was like looking at a reflection of myself.  Whenever I think back to that time I almost have to put invisible "shields" up around my heart so that I don't break down...it is impossible to describe to someone who hasn't been there how hard it is to watch your child slowly stop responding to everything, your voice.  I wish there was something I could do to reassure her that everything will be ok.  But the truth is, I can't even convince myself of that some days.  I just focus on the day-to-day and pray that therapy will continue to help my son.  Once in a while, like when Dustin and I changed our wills last week, I am reminded that when Derek is older he may need special care.  I don't like to think that he will have to live with us all of his life, but that very well may be the case.  Or if something happens to us, Tyler may have to be put in charge of his finances if Derek is not capable of controlling his own.  Strange to think about at this point in time, but it has to be done.  I wish he could stay 3 forever sometimes.  :)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

78%!!!

As of right now, I am 78% funded for the Autism Art Project!!!!  Unbelievable.  I never thought it would get this far.  I have absolutely AMAZING friends and relatives.  Most of the donations have come from them and they have been helping me with so many different things along the way.  I never could have done this without their support.  There are some donations from complete strangers too, and that warms my heart.  :) 

Tonight is the fundraiser at the Party Cove!  I'm pretty excited.  I will get to see friends I haven't seen in about 10 years.  I'll get to have some much needed fun, too.  This has been a pretty stressful month...11 days left to go.  Think I can make it? 

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Power of Words

The video below moved me to tears.  This is why I'm doing the project.  My son is not blind like this man is, but he cannot speak.  He cannot tell the world what is in his heart.  Words are powerful.  Words can cut like a knife.  Or they can make someone believe in miracles.  :)

"If ye have faith as the grain as a mustard seed, than nothing shall be impossible unto you." 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hzgzim5m7oU&feature=share

Monday, May 2, 2011

"Flapping"

Derek is a "flapper."  When he gets excited about something, he jumps up and down and flaps his hands.  Sometimes he runs back and forth or around in circles too.  I like to think it's because he just can't contain his excitement.  Maybe someday I will find out.  Anyway, he usually does this when he sees something with wheels--such as a lawnmower, or a cement mixer, or a garbage truck. 

Here is a video I took of him watching his father mow the lawn.  Every time the mower went by, Derek was thrilled. 

Friday, April 29, 2011

Tyler's Pre-School Graduation and The Minden Courier

Tyler graduated from pre-school yesterday!!!  I'm so proud of him!  He did great during the little skits.  He was the "Doctor" in 12 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed and he really got into it at the end--everyone was laughing.  :)  My little thespian.  All the kids had to tell everyone who they were and what they wanted to be when they grew up.  He told them he wanted to be an astronaut (no surprise).  He also told them his parents names were "Mommy" and "Daddy."  It was adorable.  He's changed a lot in the past few years.  You never would have guessed that the first two weeks of pre-school he threw up every day because of nerves.  Now he LOVES going and being with his friends.  He's become quite the social butterfly and is the first to help other kids when they are crying.  He's a sweetheart.  :)


Also, the article about the Autism Art Project finally came out in the Minden Courier.  I have 26 days left and I'm currently 41% funded.  I'm not giving up yet!!  May 14th there will be a fundraiser at The Party Cove in Omaha.  Here is the link for the Minden Courier article: 
http://www.themindencourier.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=388:autism-diagnosis-puts-axtell-print-maker-on-a-new-path&catid=36:featured-articles

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Meeting Aiden and KHAS link

Derek and I were on KHAS last night too!  Here is the link:
http://www.khastv.com/news/local/Mother-uses-art-to-express-autistic-sons-story-120831469.html

We also got to meet Aiden and Kim Hysell for the first time.  Aiden is going to be one of the kids in the project.  He has PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder Non-Otherwise Specified).  He's somewhere on the autism spectrum.  He's a CUTIE and reminds me a lot of Derek.  They both like to line up their cars the same way, and they have a lot of similar characteristics.  They even have trouble saying some of the same words.  Aiden is also 3-- he is just a few months younger than Derek.  He speaks a lot more though. 


Friday, April 22, 2011

Kearney Hub!

http://www.kearneyhub.com/entertainment/local/article_9bb4fba2-6c22-11e0-9748-001cc4c03286.html

I was in the Kearney Hub yesterday!  Attached above is the link to the article!  The online version is a short and sweet version of what was in the actual paper.  Also yesterday I was interviewed by NTV.  Derek and I will make our tv debut Monday morning!  :)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

33.3%

Today I hit $2200 on Kickstarter.  I'm 1/3 of the way there with 36 days left.  I'm still walking on eggshells.  I don't think I'll really be able to relax until this is over.  Even then, once the Kickstarter deadline ends I'm going to have to get my tail in gear and get cracking on the art pieces.  Exciting, but a little overwhelming.  In the meantime, an article comes out on Friday in the Kearney Hub about the project.  I had an interview with the Minden Courier today--that comes out next week.  I have an interview with NTV this Thursday and KHAS-TV next Wed.  I still can't believe all of this is happening.  :)  On the plus side, I think I'm getting better at the interviews--this project is important to me and I know what I want to say.  Once I get past the nerves, I can speak forever.  I know my son, and I know autism.  Or at least how it pertains to me and my family!  I also know how to make monotypes.  I realized today that I have a lot to say.  HAHA!

It was a rough morning in the Hanson House.  I was trying to get the house cleaned before the interview, Derek fell down the stairs, Paxson (the almost 4 month old baby I watch some mornings) got hurt, and Derek didn't want to eat (not unusual).  Lots, and lots, and LOTS of crying this morning.  I was oh, so greatful for naptime. 
 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Kickstarter Promotion

What a roller coaster ride I am on.  :)  Since I hit the "launch" button for Kickstarter on Monday I have been a nervous wreck.  I have so much riding on this project.  It has become more than just a "project" to me.  It has become a living, breathing part of me.  I want so much to see it happen.  I've already started lining up the kids to be part of it.  I've been talking to their parents--some of them for a long time now.  I can't wait to start working on the art pieces!!!  I have until May 26th--45 days total--to get the donations for kickstarter.  It is an all or nothing deal.  I either make all of it or nothing.  That's why I'm nervous.  It seems like a lot of money, but Kickstarter gets 5% and Amazon.com gets 3%.  Also, with the way Kickstarter's reward system works--if you donate $50, you get a t-shirt with the "Look At Me" image on the front--I really only make about half the amount.  I am trying to promote like crazy.  It takes a lot more effort than I expected.  I'm putting stuff on fb, I'm hanging up fliers, I'm having Derek's therapists talk to AOII alums, I'm talking to old printmaking friends...anything I can think of.  I had an interview with the Kearney Hub yesterday, so I'm hoping that will help also.  A friend of mine is trying to get me on NTV as well.  I also talked in front of my church last week and plan on talking to two separate autism teams.  I'm EXHAUSTED.  I hope it is worth it.  I have met so many wonderful people so far, and I don't want to let them down and tell them the project is going to have to be put on hold until I have the funds to continue.  If Kickstarter fails, I'm going to be REALLY bummed.

In the meantime, I'm trying to continue with life as normally as I possibly can!  We went to the lake near the mission twice last week since the weather was decent.  Derek and Tyler both love to be outside.  Derek watches the birds flying and runs back and forth "flapping" his hands.  Sometimes it seems like he's trying to fly with them.  :)  He's SO happy.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Taking Chances...I have 45 days!

KICKSTARTER LAUNCHED TODAY!!!!!!!!
Here is the website address for my official page:
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1014390495/autism-art-project


Working on the video for Kickstarter with Bryan McAdams


The 2011 Nebraska State Autism Conference

   April 7-8, 2011 was the NE State Autism Conference.  It was incredible.  I went to some really interesting panels, met some fantastic people, and even had my own table!  I handed out fliers about the Art Project in between sessions and told people what I was doing.  Hopefully I generated some interest.  :)

   The best panel (in my opinion) that I attended was the one on how music therapy can be used to help your child.  The 3 women speaking had videos of how music has helped some of the children they work with.  Some of the children were a lot more severe than Derek--in wheelchairs, completely non-responsive, etc.  When music played, they would stop rocking back and forth, their eyes would focus, and they would even click their tongues to get the music to continue.  By the end of the panel, I had tears rolling down my cheeks.  Derek LOVES music.  I truly believe that if he ever has a really, REALLY big breakthrough, it will be because of music.  I wish I knew how to use it...I want to start having him take piano lessons.  Oh, and by the way--the three women speaking?  They deserve medals.  Talk about having an INFINITE amount of patience.  The 3-minute videos we saw equalled 6 months-1 year of their work. 

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Quite a Week


This picture was taken back in the summer of 2009.  Derek was obsessed with the Dukes of Hazzard car.  He sat there for hours opening the trunk and closing it and then opening the hood to see the engine and closing it.  Back and forth.  He'd scream when he couldn't get them to open.  Sigh...I was just happy that I got him to look at the camera.  :)




"The tests of life are not meant to break you, but to make you."
~Norman Vincent Peale~


I have a rough week ahead.  I'm going to attend my first autism conference this Thursday and Friday.  I'm really excited, but I don't know what to expect.  I was granted permission to set up a booth, so I'm going to bring my prints and hand out fliers about the project.  Hopefully that will help generate some interest.


Also, I was accepted by Kickstarter last week!  WOOHOO!!!!!  I am going to TRY to launch it before the conference.  I have my work cut out for me...  I don't know whether to be scared or nervous or excited or all of the above!

Friday, March 25, 2011

"Heads or Tails"




Technically, this piece is not part of the Autism Art Project. But I am posting it anyway. I made this piece as a part of my thesis show in Tulsa, OK (May 2003). I was at the critical stage in life where a woman has to choose between having a career and having children. I remember, at the show opening, someone telling me, "You know, you don't have to choose between the two. You can have both." The moment she said that, I got chills. It was as if, somehow, I knew that my role as a mother was not going to be easy. I had started filling out applications to teach at universities back in January. Then, out of NOWHERE, I put them aside. I knew it wasn't the right time. That June, I found out I was pregnant with Tyler. Maybe someday I will have both...maybe I can be a mom and have a career. But I know I will never teach at a university. My goals have changed. Things that used to seem important aren't anymore. What is it they say? "If you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans."

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

"Brothers: The Unspoken Bond"


monoprint (mixed media) March 2011

Autism has affected my oldest son more than anyone else in our family. I wanted to include him in this next piece. He has had to deal with so much more than most kids his age. First, he watched his mom literally fall apart. Then he had to deal with his own feelings of jealousy, anger, and frustration towards his brother. Tyler wants so much for Derek to be able to talk to him and play with him, and he asks me about it all the time. He doesn't understand why his brother is different. I wish Tyler could see how much Derek loves him, and how much he has helped Derek. I pray that I am raising Tyler right, and that having a younger brother with a disability will make him a compassionate, caring young man...rather than a resentful, bitter one.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Derek's Autism Journey: Year 1 of Progress (the video)



Derek was first recognized as showing enough symptoms of autism to "qualify for early intervention" on July 15, 2009. (He was officially diagnosed in December.) That hot July day was the day my world shattered. I had watched my son disappear. I had known for many months that he was autistic. I needed no formal diagnosis. Suddenly all the dreams I had for my son went out the window. All the plans I had for my own future were put on hold indefinitely. Everything revolved around Derek.

The video above is the short and sweet version of the nightmare I went through that first year. I made the video to commemorate Derek's 1st year of progress, and to remind myself years down the road just how far my son has come.

"Look At Me"

"You've got to follow your passion.  You've got to figure out what it is you love--who you really are.  And have the courage to do that.  I believe that the only courage anybody ever needs is the courage to follow your own dream."   --Oprah Winfrey
 

This is the first piece in the Autism Art Project.  It is a combination of a monotype (the middle) and a screenprint (the flower border).  It is titled "Look At Me."  I completed it in October 2009...three months after Derek was diagnosed.  The writing you can see in the background is basically babble.  I was in pain and I was telling the world how devastated I was.  I couldn't even get Derek to look at me at this point in time--I wanted my son back.  As you can see, Derek is beautiful.  :)
 

What the Project is About!

The Autism Art Project Begins
March 19, 2011


"Never let the odds keep you from doing what you know in your heart you were meant to do."
~ H. Jackson Brown, Jr

Well, here goes nothing.  I'm about to embark on the scariest journey of my life.  I could succeed as an artist, or I could fail.  But I figure I might as well try...

My 3 year old son Derek is autistic.  He is in therapy 25-30 hours a week.  My husband and I hired someone trained in ABA (applied behavior analysis) and four college students to come to our house 7 days a week and teach Derek every day skills and how to communicate.  He has come a LONG way in the past year.  He is now potty trained, has better eye-contact, and can even say a few words...just to name a few of the things he has learned.  Anyway, all of our spare money goes to therapy.  It is worth every penny.

I am an artist.  A printmaker, to be exact.  I make monotypes, etchings and screenprints and then sew them all together.  I can get some pretty neat effects by layering things that are nearly IMPOSSIBLE to get by painting or drawing.  That's why I love printmaking. But we have no money.  In the very near future, I'm going to put something on a website called kickstarter to see if people will help me raise money...I don't have the art materials I need to continue. I'm praying for a miracle. 

The Autism Art Project has been floating around in my mind for over a year now.  I have two pieces completed already.  I don't just want to do pieces about my son, I want to tell other kids' stories as well.  Most children with autism can't communicate very well.  Some can't speak at all.  I want to be their voice; tell their story.  My first goal is to have a gallery show (more than one, if possible!!) I would also like to tell Derek's story at autism conferences and eventually publish an illustrated book.  I think this idea could go far and reach a lot of people.  The numbers are growing and this project has the potential to raise a lot of autism awareness.  More than that, however, it will help to connect families who are feeling alone and don't know who to turn to for help. When Derek first started going downhill, I had no idea where I was supposed to go for help. I knew that early intervention was key, but it was surprisingly hard to find. I live in a small town. As far as I know, Derek is the only autistic child that lives here. I feel very, very alone sometimes.

That is what this is all about. To tell Derek's story and other kids' stories and to bring hope to others on this journey. Wish me luck!