Life is Larger

Within my new job, I am working with a lot of people who are at the end of their lives. Many of them are only 15 to 20 years ahead of me in their age. Many are coupled with children and grandchildren. Machines breathe for them because they cannot breathe on their own. Machines feed them because they cannot eat on their own. Much of the time, they have a lot of pain and tend to be anxiety ridden because of their fears of the unknown.

 

It can be overwhelming to watch this type of thing day in and day out. I’ve allowed the situation to teach me about the importance of coming out of my comfort zone and what is truly important. People with backgrounds of trauma build walls around themselves to keep the outside world out. It is understandable given what previous situation they came out of. But working with this population makes me return to my own life thinking that my comfort zone may not be the thing I should always defer to after all.

Within the past week, I have noticed a few events in popular media that may have drew my attention: An article written in the New York Times about relationships and Viola Davis’ Emmy speech. Please get this right: I can appreciate loneliness just as much as I have compassion for trauma and the aftermath. Also please understand that I am happy for Viola Davis, her win and for pointing out the opportunity disparities that exist within Hollywood (Or anywhere else for that matter):

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/20/fashion/modern-love-quirkyalone-is-still-alone.html?_r=1

 

http://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2015/sep/21/viola-davis-speech-2015-emmys-video

 

However, my current work assignment has also given me a very different perspective on loneliness, trauma and the fact that favor isn’t sometimes fair. One day, everyone, regardless of health status, background, relationship status, race, creed, color, religion and/or sexual orientation will have to do a life review and ask themselves if they have lived fully or if they have wasted precious time, energy, money on people, places and things that they cannot control.

 

My current work assignment has made me take better care of myself with eating the proper foods, drinking water, getting adequate rest and exercise. Otherwise, I am no good to myself or my patients. I have returned to my creative pursuits with more rigor than usual. It is especially important to the things that I set out to do because after all, I honestly do not know what kind of time I have. None of us can answer that question for ourselves really.

 

Life is larger than trauma. Life is larger than a relationship status (or lack thereof). Life is larger than secret societies that may or may not accept you. Don’t let any person, place or thing get in the way of enjoying your life. Never let anyone steal you joy. You always have yourself, your art and your spirituality to turn to. Come out of your comfort zone and do what you set out to do in this life while you can.

Effects of Domestic Violence on Children

This is a fourth overdue conversation.  I have to share this information for people who need to hear it. These are the effects of domestic violence in children:

 

-sleeplessness

-nightmares

-headaches

-stomachaches

-agitation

-anxiety

-fear of losing parent

-difficulty concentrating

-academic problems

-fears of going to school

-clinging to caregivers

-fear of exploring

-feelings of not belonging

-low self esteem

-withdrawal from people, places, situations, activities

-depression

-feeling lonely and isolated

-emotional numbing

-feeling responsible for violence

-aggressive behavior

-substance abuse

-stealing

-talk of suicide

-fear around abusive person

-acting perfect, overachieving, acting like perfect adults (good student, makes the family look good, involved in lots of activities)

-bed-wetting

-temper tantrums

-eating problems

-medical problems, such as asthma, arthritis, ulcers

-avoidance reminders

-Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), flashbacks

-Developmental delay

-sometimes labeled as the “problem child” or scapegoat

-tries not to bring attention to oneself

-“Class clown” and “acts out”

-behavior problems in school

 

Obtained from the book Children of Battered Women by Peter Jaffe David Wolfe

Chelsea’s Shawl Yarn for Chelsea’s Law

A lot of people asked me over the years, “How do art and activism come together?”
Let me explain.
Chelsea King was a San Diego high school student who was murdered by a convicted sex offender named John Albert Gardner in 2010:
http://chelseaslight.org/programs/chelseas-law/

Chelsea’s Light Foundation was established by the family to create laws to protect children. Dream in Color, a yarn manufacturer, created skeins of yarn to make shawls (or whatever you want really). A portion of the proceeds from the yarn sales go to Chelsea’s Light Foundation:
http://www.dreamincoloryarn.com/2013/09/11/chelseas-shawl/

Further, Chelsea King’s brother was 13 years old when his sister was murdered. He created a documentary about his experience stating that creating a documentary was actually better than therapy. I also heard that same sentiment expressed by Mariel Hemingway about her own family challenges and how she became an advocate:

This is how art, albeit making documentaries or textile arts, and activism come together. I buy my Chelsea’s Shawl yarn at Gentler Times Knit Shop in Naperville, Illinois, just a block away from where I meet my writing group. 100% super wash merino is one of the better textures for me to work with. Needless to say, my next bohemian strippy scarf will be made using Chelsea’s Shawl Yarn.

Chelsea's Shawl Yarn 1Chelsea's Shawl Yarn 2

International Quilt Festival 2015

This year, the International Quilt Festival had a Rubies quilt exhibit. The International Quilt Festival is held each year in various locales throughout the country: Chicago, Houston, Long Beach and Cincinnati. Although the International Quilt Festival was a few months ago in Chicago, I feel writing about it in light of the patriotic holidays (Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Veterans Day) is appropriate, hence all the red and white fabric from the main quilt exhibit. I love Americana fabric (fabric with a patriotic theme). I donated my proceeds from working the festival to Quilts of Valor, an organization that makes quilts for veterans.

Considering my father is a Vietnam veteran, the Quilts of Valor organization was of interest to me. Also, because Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR), a very breakthrough trauma treatment I personally had for PTSD due to rape trauma and domestic violence, actually originated in the veterans hospitals. I felt my donation was a way of giving back for some of the help I received, thanks to the veterans and their advocacy for appropriate trauma treatment.

Other than that, the International Quilt Festival is one of the most wonderful times of the year for me. Other people live for the holidays. As a healthcare worker, I usually work the holidays. So, I live for the International Quilt Festival.

I adore being a part of the quilting process, whether it is making them myself, packing them up at the festival, unpacking them and/or displaying them. It is all pure joy for me. Quilters from around the world send their quilts to be exhibited within these conferences. There are a lot of traditional designs as well as art quilts that are featured. I meet all kinds of different people and it is a lot of fun. I appreciate being around other people who know what goes into an endeavor like making a quilt. I also appreciate the fact that they understand the psychological benefits of creating something by hand and I do not have to explain it to them.

International Quilt Festival 2015

Strippy Scarf Delight!

“Howl or you won’t find your pack.” –Women Who Run With the Wolves by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Quiet as it is kept, I am not high maintenance as far as textiles are concerned. Knitting a strippy scarf is just fine for me. A picture that a vendor took of me at Yarn Con 2015 of a strippy scarf she created and put on display reminded me of this fact. A strippy scarf was the first knitted pattern I ever made when I lived in New Mexico in 2006. My first knitting teacher had just come out of a 35 year abusive marriage, moved out of state and discovered the joys of textile arts (and a wonderful new husband)! As a direct result, she was eager to teach me everything she knew.

There is an excerpt in the book, Zen and the Art of Knitting by Bernadette Murphy, about someone who taught knitting at a domestic violence shelter. Unconsciously, this same scenario was being reconstructed each time I sat for my strippy scarf knitting class. “This will quiet your mind and build your confidence,” she knitting teacher said. I appreciated her taking me under her wing to give me professional textile arts instruction. She learned everything: knitting, crochet, weaving and quilting. She was so active that the local yarn shop hired her to work for them.

She also taught me about the various textile arts conferences I didn’t know about, such as Stitches, the International Quilt Festival, the Taos Wool Festival and the Midwest Weavers Conference. Just as Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes had advised, I had found my pack and I loved it. The old world of textiles was becoming a brand new and expanded world for me.

I learned Fair Isle and intarsia knitting, the harder stuff, but I never evolved past the beginners mind and enthusiasm of my strippy scarf pattern. For those people who have advanced more than I have in their skills, I aspire to their greatness, but no worries. I was told that there are people who knit in garter stitch (knit one, purl one) for years and it is okay if that is the way I rolled.

Besides, I had other concerns. I was born and raised in Chicago. I found that a strippy scarf went with most of my winter clothes and looked decidedly bohemian and stylish. And given the weather conditions, I needed to have that scarf quick, fast and in a hurry!

Some people get into textiles for meditative purposes, not necessarily to win best in show awards. I found that working in textiles was a new way of relating to the world. Life became more sensual. I wasn’t just sitting back, watching things happen. I became more involved, even if I was moving my fingers with my attention focused on one spot. Life became about living in the present moment, which is great for post traumatic stress disorder. There is no past and no future. Life was taking place right now right in front of me and it was actually enjoyable. And for some strange reason that I cannot describe, anything that was troubling worked itself out better than I could have ever planned.

“Don’t worry,” knitting teacher told me about my nonexistent love life. “I got involved in textiles and found a new wonderful husband in the process. He is very supportive of me and my crafts. Just focus on doing what makes you happy. Then the people, places and situations that match you will come to you.” She also said the same thing Tina Knowles said about her recent marriage to Richard Lawson at the age of 61: “You are never too old to do anything, including find love.” She inspired me!

My New Mexico knitting teacher and her husband didn’t live happily ever after at first, though. “Four days after we got married, my husband was diagnosed with cancer,” she said. “I knitted him socks and prayer shawls during his chemotherapy and radiation. He pulled through and we were just fine.” Leave it to textiles to save the day! Then they lived happily ever after!Strippy Scarf Love!