I recently decided I wanted to pick a charity or cause to highlight each month, and use some of my time and efforts for a good cause. I'm starting a little late, but I have a great cause in mind!
Back when I was pregnant with my daughter in 2007, I joined an online messaging board of other moms who were also due in February 2008. That's how I met Rachael, who is the indirect inspiration behind this month's choice. Like me, Rachael runs a shop on Etsy called The Doo Dad Emporium. When I decided I wanted to highlight Autism for this month's cause/charity, I sent Rachael and email to ask her to pass on some info about her life, the journey with Daniel's diagnosis, and why she got into crafting.
Tell me a little about his Diagnosis.
Daniel has been informally diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. I say "informally" because no one wants to give an "official" diagnosis- the neurologist puts it on the school district, and the school district puts up a massive fight. The only thing we know without a doubt is that he is on the Autism Spectrum. The school district (who should be offering him early intervention testing and services) has fought us every step of the way. When they finally agreed to allow us an independent evaluation at the district's expense, they started fighting about the amount they'd pay for it, which literally makes it impossible. Luckily, he's a super-smart little guy (albeit with some gnarly behavior issues) and he receives weekly visits from an Occupation Therapist in our home for FREE through the California-Hawaii Elks Major Project. That has been a great help, and we are finally seeing some improvements with him.
What's a day in your life like?
My life is daily chaos. Every little thing is a struggle. From sun-up to sundown, from meals, to dressing, to interactions with other family members. I cannot leave the house without chaos, a fight, him screaming, crying, and having meltdowns. Simple things that the average person takes for granted are nightmares for our family: a family dinner at a restaurant, going out to a movie, an amusement park, a library, the grocery store, etc. All elicit images of horror in our minds. We know that our child WILL (without a doubt) cause a ruckus in these public venues. He WILL (without a doubt) have a meltdown over the color of his dinner, or the lights in the store, or the tag in his shirt, or the sound only he can hear with his bionic ears, or the temperature, or his socks (you get the idea). We are all-too familiar with the stares from strangers, the snide comments and "helpful advice" from family- things like "that child needs a spanking!" as if we can beat the Autism out of him. Our family has abandoned this child, as if he is a leper. They attribute his behavior to "bad parenting." Our older children miss out on our attention, and their own achievements often take a back burner to the current freak-out. We've missed choir performances, outings, sporting events, etc because we cannot take Daniel, and no one is willing to babysit him. We do not take vacations anymore, and only have "date night" once or twice a year (which has been cut short each time because of problems at home with Daniel). Just to give you an example-- I have had to stop typing this no less than THIRTY TIMES (NOT an exaggeration!) to stop fights, meltdowns, etc.
It's an unrealistically difficult life. But I do it because God gave this child to me for a reason, and I know that I must do the best job I can with him, for one day, I will have to answer to Him. What will I say when he asks me how I raised this little miracle of His?
All the bad things aside, I cannot imagine my life without this very unique little boy. He is playful, charming, articulate, loving, and kind (sometimes, lol). When you get to know him, you see a little being inside that has the potential for greatness. His mind is amazing. He never stops moving, but neither does his brain. He can memorize an entire movie, countless songs, etc. He knows shapes that I didn't learn til high school (just the other day, he was cutting paper with his OT and shouted "Look! A parallelogram! Oh! Now it's a Trapezoid!" lol).
What made you get into crafting?
I've been crafting since I was a teenager. I've always had a fascination with creating things and have tried many different art forms. Three years of Ceramics in High School, and another year in college-- I was hooked. I'd love to be able to do more with that particular medium. In fact, I recently started teaching myself different methods with the polymer clay. Aside from Ceramics, I've taught myself every other "art" that I've been interested in: paper crafting, scrapbooking, jewelry making, quilting, and most recently: loom knitting. Each craft I've learned has been for the sheer enjoyment of it. Only recently have I ventured into crafting for money. It will never make me rich, but it allows me to continue my hobby and helps keep my sanity.
When did you decide to open your shop and what's your aim for it?
I've toyed with the idea of opening an online shop for about a year now. It mainly came from the compliments and such that I received from friends and family when they saw my crafts. Until this point, any item I made was either for my personal use, or (more often than not) to give as gifts. When people online saw these silly hats I was loom knitting, they went nuts for them. Suddenly, everyone wanted one. I couldn't make them fast enough. That was the final catalyst that pushed me to try out etsy. My goal with the shop is to provide myself a creative outlet-- to de-stress if you will, while at the same time contributing to the household income a bit.
I was always a working woman- working long hours in EMS. But ever since Daniel came along, I've been stuck in the house 24/7/365. I had to quit school and give up the idea of working outside the home for any time in the foreseeable future. It has been stressful, to say the least. Not only on our finances ($24,000 in student loans with no degree to show for it), but on my psyche as well. I NEED to do this. Being a stay-at-home-mom is hard, but its insanely hard with an Autistic child. If I don't give my mind a break from it, I will go bonkers. And, since my husband travels a lot for work, I rarely even get a moment to myself. Daniel is up early, never naps, and goes to bed late.
Rachael makes her home in Southern California, where there is an organization called TACA (Talk About Curing Autism now). I'll be donating 10% of sales from my shop in the month of January to them in honor of Daniel!
I was proud to be one of the first customers in her new Etsy store, when I picked up this Autism awareness keychain. :)