Sunday, April 21, 2013

Birdcages, Family Trees and Tragedies

A couple months ago I signed up for Kerry Bradford's History Project. I've always been interested in genealogy, and I especially love anecdotes about characters like my great-great-great grandfather who had flaming red hair and was a soldier in the Prussian army, or the story of how my great-great grandfather lost an eye (it's a bit gruesome), or my great-great grandmother Wilhelmina who loved to sew. I wanted to record those little details about myself for my kids and their kids -- why zucchini gives me the willies, why I kicked a nun, why I love nature.

During my reminiscing, I thought a lot about things I did and experienced that led me to here and now. It's funny how, in the midst of things, nothing makes sense and at times it's utter chaos, yet years later it's crystal clear that one thing definitively led to another which led to this moment right now, and things DID work out just fine after all.

Or, everything happens for a reason. And, things always look better in the morning (as my parents' Dutch friend John Hoomans was fond of saying.)

I knew from the time I was three that I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. In college I assumed I'd be a painter, exhibiting in galleries and working odd jobs in the side. However, my first job after college was laying out supermarket flyers for mom and pop grocery stores in Chicago. I hated it. I hated the stress and the cigarette smoke in the art room and especially hated putting so much effort and care into something so disposable, something that made no difference to anyone in the world except the owner of the store and the owner of the printing company I worked for.

I tried some other things... children's book illustration, mural painting, teaching, graphic design, crafts, jewelrymaking.... nothing really ever fit. Then serendipity led me to art licensing. It was perfect. I loved it!

Except there was still that nagging, occasional feeling that I wasn't making a difference. To me, my family, sure, but to the world at large, not so much. I volunteered my design skills here and there, but I'd think about it sometimes... what else or what more can I do?

My college friend Brenna was published in a book, which my husband bought me this year for my birthday (the book is hilarious, by the way.) I read it in a couple days and started following the blogs of some of the authors. Along the way I followed links to other mom blogs and, in addition to tales of normal mom life, holy cow... I read agonizing stories about kids just like mine that one day are bringing home backpacks full of schoolwork and odd little bits of paper and rocks, and the next day they spike a fever that turns out to be something much more, or they're in the ICU in acute organ failure, or they slip through the fence surrounding a pool... it's one of my worst fears as a mom of three, and reading these stories is truly 

In particular, one mother, Kate Leong's blog really stuck in my mind. Their little boy Gavin looks so much like my two year old. Gavin's story is amazing, he overcame RSV, botulism, and supposedly permanent hearing loss. He was doing SO well. One day last week he developed a slight fever, and went into cardiac arrest, and way too quickly he was gone, just like that. I followed along on his mom's blog. It was heart-wrenching. In the midst of it all, his parents made the decision to donate Gavin's organs... SUPERhero Gavin, off to save lives, read the sign on his bed. 

At the same time last week, a friend of a friend's little boy's liver suddenly quit working. He was fine, then one day he was jaundiced, then he was in the hospital awaiting a liver transplant. He just had the transplant and I hear he is doing spectacularly well.

What amazes me in all of these stories, and in daily life with my own kids, is how resilient and fearless they are. Reading about these kids going through chemo or surgery reinforces that for me. They deal with much more than most adults could. Like superheroes. Gavin's mom Kate wrote many times about how her son is a superhero. That struck a chord and sparked an idea.

So here's my plan. I designed a bunch of coordinating superhero-themed shapes, in honor and memory of these superhero kids and their families. The shapes are going to be available in the Silhouette store this week. I'm going to donate my royalties (my portion of sales) from the shapes to four charities, one per week, for a month. I haven't decided which charities, but I'll figure that out in the next couple days. The charities will directly benefit children, though, I do know that.

I hope this little thing that I *can* do will help someone, just a little bit.


  1. Three things:
    * great idea
    * those "super heros" look familiar
    * & it was your great-great grandmother Minna...............

  2. :o( Still can't find M-Z shield letters in the Silhouette Store, but I'll keep looking. Love the whole series. Thanks!

  3. I was hopping around the internet and found this Lovely owl which lead me to you! You do beautiful work and I love your superhero idea I hoped it worked out well! All we can do is try to help! I will be following you and your work I really loved your Farmers Market fabric

  4. Love this idea! I'm using your Superhero designs in my middle-school classroom this year because I really want to lead the kids to the idea that EVERYONE can be a superhero. I'm creating a bulletin board that says "A Hero Is..." and then putting your Courageous and Brave titles below that. There will be some space and at the bottom it will say "How have you been a hero lately?" and there will be post-its for them to write stuff and fill in the space.

    All that to say: Is there any chance you've got a "Helpful" title design in the works?