Monday, September 26, 2011

A Chair Affair

The eldest Miss Hat has studied dance for several years with an angel appropriately named Ms. Delight.  Ms. Delight teaches dance to individuals largely overlooked when it comes to recreation and the arts: kids and adults with special needs.

Over the years, I've seen wheelchair-bound students dance their chairs across the stage with rhythmic grace.  I've seen dancers with Down Syndrome choreograph their own routines and bring down the house with thunderous applause.  There have been kids trapped by the inabilities of their physical bodies who have shown the audience the radient spirit within.  Most special to me personally has been seeing autistic girls work together in teamwork, forge friendships, and bravely dance solo on stage.

These kids and adults get to experience what "normal" kids and adults get to do: express themselves artistically, have fun on stage, hear an audience laud their ability.  The benefits go well beyond dance and art to building confidence, strengthening social skills and improving physical coordination.

Oh, and if that isn't enough, Delight won't turn away students because they can't afford lessons.  Nope.  She works hard to raise money to help underwrite their lessons, costuming and performance space.

This fall, Delight's studio is having a fundraiser called "A Chair Affair" in which several local artists, her students and other supporters have donated and/or transformed random chairs into works of art.  The chairs will be displayed in various venues throughout the fall and auctioned off on November 5.

Enter my project.

I've long admired this unique double-seater in the studio and was so excited when it was offered up as fodder for A Chair Affair:

I snapped that baby up and transformed it to look like this:

Look at its amazing lines:

Clearly Cat Hat likes it, too.

And the best part of this is that IT FOLDS.  That's right - fold it up, store it, and pull it out when you need some extra seating.  I will never, ever come across something this awesome again.

I'm going to have SUCH a hard time letting this go.  I'll be bidding, to be sure, and as much as I want to keep this, I want the studio to make more on it than I can afford to bid, so I'll probably have to acclimate myself to living without it.  *heavy sigh*

If you are in the area and interested in stopping by for the event or want more information about the studio, let me know.  Come buy my chair so I can at least come visit it at your house.  Please?

Meanwhile, I'll be trying to figure out how to keep win it.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


The other day, my husband revealed he'd been holding out on me.

We live in the Great Lakes State and Mr. Hat has a rabid love affair with with sailing.  Nearly the whole of our official courtship was spent along the boardwalk in Grand Haven on the shore of Lake Michigan.  So naturally, our house has a rather "beach cottage" feel to it, especially in summer.  Sailing ephemera, a giant nautical map, shells, lots of white and get the idea.

Which why I was a little disgusted that he'd been hiding this:

An oar, perfectly colored, well weathered, cracked, telling stories of adventure.  He'd finally thought of asking me if I wanted to hang it after reviewing my pinterest boards.

"This has been sitting in the bottom of the sailboat."

I figured it was just some random oar that came with the boat, nothing special that would have helped him think of it sooner.

And then I noticed this:

That's right.  His initials.  Apparently it wasn't so random.  So I asked him about it some more.

"Oh, I used to use it on wilderness trips."  And this is when I realize that not only has he been hiding this   oar for 25+ years, it is more important than mere accessory.

Wilderness trips, for those of you who never suffered through one, were week-long excursions our church youth group used to take, canoeing our way through the lakes of Algonquin Provincial Park in Canada.  When we weren't canoeing, we were carrying said canoe and 100-pound backpacks overland to the next place to get into the water again.

"Wilderness" is also what he went on the week before I went (gotta keep those teen hormones well segregated, you know).  It was that absence (long story) that resulted in us "breaking up," if that term can even be applied to 15-year-olds.

"Wilderness" was lead by our wise, but obviously somewhat sadistic, youth pastor.  The same man we were preparing a grand send-off for when, several years later, he decided to pursue other things.  And it was during those preparations when, as Mr. Hat says, I threw the proverbial brick between his eyes that woke him up to seeing the "good woman" he was looking for was right there in front of his face.

That was June.  We were engaged in September and married the following July.

Since then, we've weathered much in our 20 years of marriage: multiple bouts of unemployment, pinched pennies, miscarriage, illness, infertility, failed adoptions, autism, the loss of his mother.  There are cracks and peeled varnish that, like on the oar, just serve to make it better.  They show the duration and the survival.  And there's beauty in that.

Which is why now, every time I see that oar, it'll be so much more than a weathered oar telling stories of adventures somewhere on the water.  It will be telling me of our adventure in marriage.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Healing Field

I had prepared a post for today, recounting that surreal morning 10 years ago today: how it felt, what we heard, the way we were glued immoveable to our televisions, how it changed us.

And then I went to The Healing Field, where today became far less about remembering the moments of that day and completely about the people: victims, heros, and survivors.

The Healing Field here in West Michigan was one of 16 locations nationally, where a flag was planted for each life lost that day.  One flag per life planted in rows and rows, columns and columns, more than 3,200 in total, arranged with military precision.


These flags told the stories of those who were lost that day.

They were firemen...

They were police officers...

They were fathers...

They were mothers...

They were mothers- and children-to-be...

They were children...

They were daughters...

They were newlyweds and fiances...

They were fathers who would never hold their sons...

They were grandparents...

They were uncles...

They escaped from danger, seeking a better future...

They belonged to other countries...

 They are missed by those who loved them...

They are missed by those who can still find humor in life that remains...

Walking among those flags with my family, two of whom weren't yet born on 9/11, was moving and overwhelming.  My oldest, who was six that day, stood next to me at the top of the flags, looking down at the field of flags before us, and expressed how awful she felt for these people and their families.  I spoke to her of how, yes, we do feel awful and we wish for a world in which they could have lived out their potential and realized their futures.  We wish to have the innocence back that was taken from us that day. And how we should be thankful - so thankful - that there are not additional fields of flags representing people lost in later events; thankful for our police, leaders and military for the ten years we've had of homeland peace. 

And that's when I saw this:

Innocence.  Joy.  Hope.  A bright future.  The proof that they did not win that day.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

It's a Strange New World

I'm sitting here, downing my second cup of motivation coffee, catching up on email and blogs like I do most mornings.  Except this morning, like yesterday, is strange.  It's quiet.  Really, truly, quiet.

They're all in school.

I've never had a morning with all my kids at school while I was home.  Ever.  My oldest is 16 and before that I worked full-time, which says something about how long this has been in coming.

All three of them talk incessantly, which generally leaves my husband and I looking rather shell-shocked by the time they are all in bed.  And above all the talking is usually other noise: games, music, banging on things, toys in motion, the cat (which also never shuts up), the clunking of all their feet on wooden floors.

But yesterday, my oldest became a junior, my middle a fourth grader, and... my littlest little started kindergarten all day, every day.

Cars: don't head to school without it being on everything.

I had a lot of work to do yesterday, which happened without interruption.  I made phone calls without having to offer lollipop bribes for silence.  The cat lazed on the couch without torment. Today, I will run errands without pleas for merchandise or having to figure out how to keep a five-year-old happy while waiting in line.

And at the end of the day - a glorious, cool, sunny, blue-sky day - we rendezvoused and finally hit the trails at the nature center, talking over their first day at school, new teachers and old friends.

It was conversation enjoyed.  Talking that wasn't mere noise.  I missed them.

It's a strange new world.