Love in Motion

wheelchair race

Last week I met with two very inspiring Mums over a very chatty and enjoyable lunch. We could have talked for hours {in fact we did!}. Not surprisingly the topic was our amazing children. In these instances it is a perfectly performed double act of dedication and love of the Mums {and other carers of course} together with the tenacity, will, strength and humour of their kids. I throw myself in the mix of the untapped love and pride I have of my own 3 children {2 of which have their own challenges}. They all amaze me in their own wonderful ways…

But back to my friends. I am in awe of the daily tasks they take on for their cherubs. Not only do they deal with non verbal cerebral palsy, but that is only the beginning… But I’m not on here to talk about their challenges as I know they wouldn’t see themselves as any different from any other hard working Mum. I’m here to thank them for their wonderful smiles, both of which light up a room when they talk proudly of their kids.

When I met with them I had a small gift. Out of all the illustrations in my book this one jumped out at me as the one I should gift to them for inspiring me to finish my book. I didn’t know if this particular illustration would have a positive or negative impact on them. For some reason I was terrified that I might send the wrong message, but knowing from experience what it’s like when someone actually ‘gets’ your kids and has an understanding of your situation I felt in my heart this was going to be OK.

So I began by asking them out of all the illustrations which one was their favourite? I had goosebumps all over when they both replied with ‘the one with the girl happily racing the boys in her wheelchair’ – phew, and bingo there it is – framed and I happily produced it from under the table! This not only filled me with relief it gave me a sense of knowing that I am heading in the right direction with my message.

So I asked them both 2 questions about the purpose of my book:

  1. To give parents and families of children with special needs a story they can relate to?
  2. OR to raise awareness about kids with special needs among the mainstream schooling system and help kids and adults gain a better understanding of inclusion, acceptance and understanding?

Although they were quick to answer ‘both’ they agreed that the latter meant more to them.

Is it possible that being misunderstood {for want of a better word}, lack of awareness or ignorance could be more painful than dealing with the daily challenges with your special needs child?

“…our kids see it how it is, and teach us lessons on how people should be treated” Maria

“Thank you again Louise for the gorgeous picture. I showed {him} and he loved it and recognised the wheelchair in the picture straight away and pointed for it to go on the buffet. xx”

“Hi everyone I love the pic and have it in my kitchen on the wall where I can see it every day. This is my wall. What a match?????? Thanks Louise!!!”

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So to my amazing friends I thank you for the first of many wonderful catch ups and sharing of stories. Till next time x

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Sunbeams Over Dark Clouds

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AMF Book Launch 28th May 2013

Well it’s been a month since my little book launch and the sun has been shining ever since. I’ve been overwhelmed with the response, love and kindness of family, friends, school parents, teachers, followers and most of all the children reading my story and passing on their wonderful feedback. I was terrified as the day approached, but my nerves soon turned into joy as streams of loved one’s gathered around to show their support.

I was thrilled to see teams of kids and adults alike lining up to have a game of Bowling, get a book signed and enjoy the atmosphere and colour filled sugary temptations! For those who couldn’t be there I was sent beautiful messages of encouragement of which I am thankful for.

Apart from creating a fun environment for those wanting the opportunity to purchase “Dark Clouds Over Sunbeam” I had three reasons for holding my launch.

  1. Thanking the vast array of people responsible for helping me get to this point 13 years later! Without listing them all {as they can be found on my dedication page} they include my wonderfully supportive family extended and close; my beautiful friends near and far; my school community of parents, staff and students; work colleagues past and present and those who have inspired me. From their words of encouragement to editing and offering feedback, I am grateful for their input.
  2. To acknowledge those around us who face daily challenges. Whether it be the bravery of a diabetic injecting themselves daily; the child who endures endless trips to the Children’s Hospital; those who require physical or mechanical aides and modern day inventions to improve their day; those battling an illness which brings fear and requires daily bravery or even closer to my heart, those who’s appearance may not uncover the underlying challenges they face on a daily basis of moulding into a society that favours the norm, the strong, the funny, the resilient, the confident and popular. Furthermore there are the invisible challenges of sensory overloads, rigidity, being misinterpreted or simply not being able to predict or comprehend a situation leading to confusion, anxiety or even exclusion. But just as important are those who dedicate themselves to support and care for them with untapped love and daily devotion.
  3. To put myself out of my comfort zone and inspire kids to create their own success! I have learned through running a business to ‘Dream one size bigger’; ‘Picture the end in mind’; ‘Practice gratitude everyday’ and so on. Having such a crowd at my launch was part of my dream and I am grateful for that. My confidence and enthusiasm has at times stopped me from continuing and when I fell out with an alternative publishing house and lost some money I really wondered what I was doing. But then I found Lulu and ironically {because I’ve purchased large volumes myself} I have gone from no.4 –  no.1 in the top ten!! See – you really can create your own success! I have struggled from time to time putting myself out there because this story reveals many aspects of my personal life and creative abilities. The story of “Dark Clouds Over Sunbeam” is a story of acceptance and understanding. It can be related to anyone’s experience and represents not one but many people. I grew up on Sunbeam Avenue and in my childhood encountered houses that appeared to have a rain cloud hovering above them. I often wondered who lived inside them and what was their story? Perhaps they were dealing with something on the inside that required courage and strength or acceptance and understanding?

I began this journey as part of a Goal Achievers Program when working in Publishing 13 years ago. At the same time I was also blessed to be carrying twins which opened up another chapter into my book of life. Four years later another wonderful character entered our edition as well as the opening of a business the very same week! In a strange twist of fate these years have also touched us with our own family tale. The characters are clever and creative with warm and caring hearts, but too require daily acceptance and understanding. The chapters reveal ups and downs, good days and bad, darkness and light, enemies and heroes. One day soon I hope to pen this adventure as well.

May your days be filled with Sunbeams. Louise

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Left: Top of the charts “Dark Clouds Over Sunbeam” hits NO. 1 on LULU.COM {for a week, but who’s counting hey?!}. Right: Friends and book signing.

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Click above to Purchase Dark Clouds Over Sunbeam

Where it all began

As far back as I can remember I always had a pencil in my hand. Drawing was my one true indulgence and passion.

I even did it squashed in football crowds on weekend trips to the St Kilda matches! My parents inspired me to follow my dreams and keep building my folio. I pursued a design degree and graduated with my first job as an illustrator. My career has offered me a smorgasbord of job variety ranging from illustrating yardage patterns, designing logos, corporate identities, books, packaging and the general briefs a designer would experience. I later entered the colour and movement of the all intriguing world of Magazine Publishing in the exciting time of the 90’s. It was there that I was able to combine my skills of design, art direction, scene setting and copy writing for high end publications and it opened a door to many experiences. One in particular was for a “Goal Achievers” program. We had 6 weeks to achieve a goal and mine was to write and illustrate a children’s book based on a personal experience (or to at least plan it!). If only I had known it would take me twelve years overall! I recall being really disappointed with myself because I hadn’t completed it, but when I read it out to my colleagues there were tears all round. I thought I had done something wrong but it turns out they were proud of my efforts!

At the time I sought many opinions from editors and writers in my field open to criticism and feedback. This was all very positive and constructive, including feedback from Para-Olympian Louise Savage who encouraged me to pursue this story to represent children with special needs. The story has actually been a part of me my whole life. You see it describes my personal experience of witnessing my cousin living with cancer. At the age of eight I learnt of her battle and it seemed to me that life stood still for everyone involved. Days seemed darker and I began to wonder about other people and their lives behind closed doors. Were all houses happy? What was their story? I felt blessed that I had been raised in a community where on the most part people were accepting and caring. My childhood gave me the opportunity to interact with people with illness, special needs and challenges and I am grateful for that.

Whilst producing the next part of my life – marriage, children and running a business with my two amazing sisters I put down the pencils and packed away my folio, but drew from experience in so many wonderful ways. It gave me the time to mature, live, learn and develop the confidence to pursue this dream of being self-published. For this, and for those special people in my life, I am truly grateful.

This story has already touched the lives of some, and that fills me with such joy. Some poignant feedback from Mothers of children with cerebral palsy: “Yes it is very easy for a child to accept and not see the disability but if they are taught not to associate or talk to someone in a wheelchair then that child grows up knowing they are not an equal… We need books like yours… You are a marvelous woman and I wish you all the best of luck with publishing. You deserve so much credit for this.” and “Oh and loved the last page about the boys liking her wheels because that’s how we describe our son’s wheelchair. And he loves checking out everyone else’s wheels as well… our journeys into the world of disability has definitely taken us into an amazing place where we would never have even thought possible pre kids. We are very blessed to know and be involved with such amazing little people that we can’t imagine a life without now. They are very inspiring children.”

I thank my parents for placing me in a loving community where I built strong foundations and friendships and learnt to see people for who they are. None of us are perfect and we all drift off track sometimes, but I guess the main lesson is to look at people from the inside and don’t judge a book by its cover.

There are many stories inside me waiting to come out! My goal is for the pictures to tell the story and for the children to make their own conclusion. I would be so proud for this story to end up in Schools and homes to convey a simple message or to be an aid for those with special needs. I would like to thank the teacher and children of ¾ F at St Anne’s Primary School (they know who they are!) for their wonderfully creative and untapped feedback.

If this story has touched you in some way please order one for your School or inform your local library or education department. I would love to hear feedback and stories of whether it has made a difference to you or someone you know, but even more so the reactions from the children.

Enjoy! Feel free to follow on facebook 🙂

Louise Weston