Archive | June 2013

Art Contest

Hi Friends! So far my adult life is very full and exciting. I have lot of things that I want to write about in on my blog but they will have to wait until July. Anyway, one very exciting thing I did was to apply for an Art Contest: In/finite Earth asked emerging artist to showcase work that illuminated innovative viewpoints at the intersection of environmentalism, creativity, and disability.  It asked the artists `to present their artistic perspectives regarding the natural world, sustainability, and our collective future.’  Fifteen artists will be selected and their work exhibited in Washington D.C. from September to December 2013.

I worked on my pieces at school and my teacher Mr. DeGrandpre and my para-educator, Mark, helped me. At home my mom and my friend Rebecca helped me with the ideas about environmentalism and sustainability and my mom’s friend, Michele helped her with the artistic side of the project. I submitted images of 4 pieces—-you can see them at the end of this post—-and I submitted the following essay. We were so busy with graduation festivities that we had to rush rush rush to put it all together before the June 9 at midnight deadline but we made it. I thought you would like to see my work and read my essay. Let me know if you have any comments or suggestions that I could think about if I ever apply to another art contest.

My name is Mathalia; I was born with a disability named Down Syndrome which has certainly affected me as a person and my creativity BUT it has not stopped me or even slowed me down from engaging in many different forms of art. I will begin the story of my creative journey story with the story of my satisfying and profitable business.

When I was four years old, my mom wanted to give my preschool teachers a Christmas present to express our gratitude to them for their work with young children with and without disabilities. She certainly had in mind that we live in a finite earth with limited resources, when she was digging around in our attic for ideas. She did not want to go out and buy something; she wanted it to be from me; she wanted to use supplies on hand in our `finite’ home. She found the pot holder looms my brother and sister hand long since abandoned AND she found lots of unused loopers! So she sat me down, put my hands on her hands and we began to make pot holders. Little did we know at the time that presents for teachers would lead a friend to offer her store as a retail outlet, that the demand never slowed down, and soon more local shops were added. Now they can be found in seven shops around Missoula and I am frequently a guest vendor at our local summer markets. Often people tell me how much they like my pot holders—I love to meet satisfied customers and I love to make a product that people find useful and beautiful.

My mom and grandma help me behind the scenes with my business but I make the pot holders all by myself on a beautiful handmade maple loom. Sometimes my grandpa has to repair it but I take pride in the fact that I am still using those original looms and that my product is available in small local shops as well as the local art and craft markets. The loopers are 100% cotton and they come from a manufacturing company. In this way I am using material that has already been used to make another useful product: socks.

My tandem bicycle was my first major purchase; I can’t ride a bike on my own in traffic and some distances take too long for us to walk so my mom encouraged me to buy the tandem: we exercise together AND we don’t need to take the car to many favorite destinations around town: library, pool, business deliveries, etc. We also enjoy taking a ride out of the city to enjoy the natural beauty surrounding us in Missoula, Montana.

My public school education gave me many artistic experiences but it was a specific assignment in color values that caught my mom’s attention that this was something very important to me as a person. The teacher had us choose two colors: I chose red and blue; and we had to choose one subject: I chose my violin because I love to play the violin. My mom loved this painting; she framed it; she printed it to send to friends at Christmas. AND she encouraged me to take Introduction to Art as an elective my freshman year in high school. She showed the picture to the art teachers just in case they might have trouble seeing my potential behind the disability or the label, Down Syndrome. My two teachers encouraged me and the artwork which I am submitting for this contest was done under their instruction: my electives always included art: sculpture, painting, watercolor, drawing. My pieces demonstrate my life and interests: landscapes, animals, earthiness.

My Senior Year I took Ag Ed which included plant and animal science. As a freshman someone had suggested that I shouldn’t take it because I am often reluctant to touch new

textures like dirt, plants, or moving, unpredictable animals but when my mom asked me before my Senior year, I said `Yes’! I suppose that my disability affected how I engaged in the whole experience: I was cautious and a little afraid of the animals when I learned about livestock judging; and my mom had to help me use the sharp knife when we were preparing beef jerky from the elk that my classmate had bagged on his hunting trip. But after a little hand-over-hand work—just as I learned to make pot holders—I embraced these experiences. In August I will show my lamb or my goat at the fair. I hope to take my chickens home in order to try my hand at urban farming as I begin to create my adult life. I have learned to walk my animals on a halter and guide them along even when they get jumpy. My mom likes to tell the story of when I got frightened in the chicken coop, knocked the heat lamp into the wood shavings, and almost burned it down . . . that was at the beginning. Now I love going into the chicken coop, holding the chickens, offering my arm as a roosting place, even tolerating a chicken walking around on my head!

My paintings demonstrate my interest in animals and in all sorts of creatures. My bowl says so very many things about my life and my personality: it shows that I could rise above tactile resistance to clay; and cat feet as my subject shows that I could rise above my skittishness with cats and other animals. The assignment was to make a bowl and so I did. Right now it sits prominently on our living room coffee table, mostly it remains empty. My mom likes to keep it empty because it shows openness to the world around us, mostly openness to my future in the face of the uncertainty of my adult life as a person living with a developmental disability.

I graduated from high school on June 1, 2013 and began my life as an adult on June 2. I do not know what the future will bring for me but I plan to continue managing my pot holder business in Missoula and perhaps beyond. I may expand my business to selling new products. For my Senior Project I explored fiber arts: I learned to weave on a four- harness floor loom using another leftover upholstery material; I learned to spin wool fleece into yarn; I learned to make rugs and trivets using Australian locker-hooking techniques. My mom’s `fiber’ friends have given us leftover supplies for me to try working with. I don’t know if I will continue my work with clay, watercolor, acrylic or oil but I do know that I will continue to draw. My art teacher mentioned to my mom that whenever there was free time in class, I always pulled out my sketchbook and colored pencils. I know that when I finish one sketchbook, she will take me shopping for another. And I always make my own cards: I write my message on the inside and draw a picture of something that I have been thinking about: lately chickens, sheep, goats and graduation from high school have been on my mind.

Disclaimer: Mathalia has a developmental disability which means that she is cognitively delayed. Her mom helped her write this essay. The life, the interests, and the work is all Mathalia’s. Her mom sought to find words to express Mathalia’s delight in the world that God made. Her artwork is less a philosophical statement about the earth and its limits than it is a visceral response to what she knows, sees and experiences in that world. Her love of the earth engenders a care for that world and its creatures and her art is her way of helping people see the world as she see it full of delight and wonder.

Guatemala here we come!

I graduated from high school on June 1, 2013 and my adult life started Sunday morning on June 2nd and now I am getting ready to go to Guatemala!! On Friday, June 21 my mom says that I need to get up at 4:00 in the morning so that we can get to the airport by 5:00 and catch our plane at 6:00!  I am so excited!! The trip is a graduation present to me from my grandma and grandpa: they are sending me and my mom and my cousin Schyler and his family and my Uncle Jeff on a short mission trip: we will build a house for a family with Casas pro Cristo. My brother, Matthan, and my sister, Morielle, have already done this and now it is my turn!!

So in many ways my life right now is in between adult life and Senior graduation activities. Maybe it should be called young adult fun life because I am still enjoying being a Senior: I get to go on this trip and I get to work with my animals everyday and take them to the fair in August and I get to enjoy all kinds of fun summer activities. Yes, I am still making my pot holders and working at Prudential and at the Writing Center but I am also doing lots of other fun things! It is crazy! I will write all about my activities when I get back from this trip but for now I will show you pictures of packing and getting ready. I also wrote a blog post about an art contest that I entered but for now my other activities will have to wait until I get back. That is all for now!  I have to go out to the garage to find a hammer, tape measure, and tool apron for my Uncle Jeff and then I am off to bed!

Fiber Arts Festival

On Friday we got up early because we signed up to volunteer at the Fiber Arts Festival in Hamilton! We picked up our free tickets and then checked in at the animal barn with Sondra. She needed help watering the sheep which was fun. Then we helped our friend Libby get her Cashmere goats into the pen. Each mother goat had a pair of twins. They were so cute! Libby needed a wheelbarrow, rake and shovel so we went to the Fair office to get them. Then we helped Libby set up her booth with pictures of the goats eating Leafy Spurge and bags of their fiber. We waited and waited and waited for more animals to come because we wanted more work but they didn’t come so we went around to each stall and I took pictures of the them with my new camera. It was fun! My mom showed me how to take pictures, and how to go back and look at the picture that I just took. I learned very quickly, she said. So then she started taking picture of me taking pictures. CRAZY! We waited some more and then we went to get some lunch from the 4-H Booth:  breakfast burrito. I forgot my purse so my mom paid for lunch—she said that I had to remember for Saturday and then I could pay for lunch. I won’t forget.

After lunch the very cute alpaca’s came—ohh they are cute! So I took some pictures of them and then I hung out with friends waiting for more animals to come; I made three pot holders which was just perfect because I was hanging out with three friends:  Sondra, Leslie and Molly. I gave them each a pot holder and then we said goodbye to friends and to the animals.  On Saturday is the animal show which will be fun to watch.

That night, after supper, at the Ag. Center I tried to take a picture of my mom running after Domino in the field but I am not sure if you can see her in the picture—she was wearing a grey/black sweatshirt—the the black spot might be a cow or it might be my mom. I suppose she would not like being compared to a cow but from where I was standing. . . and then she fell down on the grass and Domino darted away, yet again. That was funny to see but then she didn’t bring Domino with her when she came back:  I couldn’t catch him today, Mathalia; I am sorry. I showed her that the camera had broken while I was trying to take a picture of her but she said that it was just the battery was exhausted just like on my iPod.  She said that we needed to charge it over night and then it will be all ready to go for Saturday to take pictures at the animal show. Kanga was really nice; he walked with us and he ate treats and he didn’t scream or stop walking with me so that was fun. But then two of his friends got out of the big field!! My mom did not panic—she just knew what to do:  get some feed, lure them into the pen—-they lost the privilege of grazing in the field—-while they were eating, she pushed the gate closed and latched it.  Gotcha!!

My mom running after Domino.

My mom running after Domino.

On Saturday we got up early again and drove down to Hamilton. This time I remembered my purse so that I could buy lunch. On the way down, I made two pot holders and I looked out the window. While we were driving I saw the very pretty mountains with the snow on top and I suggested that I take a picture. My mom was so nice to stop the car, and get my camera out of the bag so that I could take a picture while she was driving.

Picture while driving.

Picture while driving.

We got to the Fiber Festival just in time to meet some new friends with very cute little shetland sheep. They were getting ready for the sheep judging and they needed some volunteers to show their sheep with them. My silly mom volunteered me! So I got to show two shetland sheep. We walked into the arena in a circle each lamb following the next one and then we stopped and tried to hold our lambs so the judge could look at them carefully. My lamb was a little jumpy but it was fun. Then we watched the rest of the sheep judging. It was a lot like the livestock judging that I did in October for FFA.

Then I bought lunch for us: we had pulled pork!  It was delicious. After lunch, I took my spinning wheel in to the spinning circle and I was spinning wool with friends. One friend remembered be from when I was 2 years old! She was so happy to see me and my mom again and she was so excited to see me spinning wool. My mom showed her my locker hooking and the scarves she has made out of my yarn. She remembered me because she is a speech therapist like Mrs. Huffman and she encouraged my mom with speech and language ideas back when I was 2 years old! She and my mom were talking about things while I was spinning my wool. The next thing I did was trade 10 pot holders for a 10 minute massage from my friend Rebecca. First she gave my mom a massage so that I could watch and see how it went and then it was my turn!  It felt good. After that we walked around all the booths and I took pictures of all the pretty colors with my new camera. I saw my friend Ed, my friend Rickie, and the woman who sold me the locker hooking kit last year at the MAWS Conference. She was very excited to see my work, too. On the way out to the car, we stopped again to say `goodbye’ to all the animals. It was a fun day!

I wrote a poem while we were driving in the car:

Fiber Arts Festival

F riends to see

I nto Hamiliton we drive

B athroom water

br E ak before

R egal goats to

A ssist with water and clean pens

R escued llamas

T o visit

S pinning wool into yarn with

F iber Friends

E ating pulled pork with mom

S heep showing to the judge

T alking to friends

I llustrious colors

V isions of projects

A rranged in our heads

L onging to sit down and knit!

Domino Up-Date

Lamb Weigh-in at the Ag. Center was a long time ago and I am just now writing about it! So much has happened since then and I will try to bring you up-to-date. Lamb weigh-in was very easy for me and it did not seem to be too sore for my little lamb, Domino.  Friends helped me with the paperwork and then we led Domino on the leash and we waited in line. I remembering hog weigh-in was so noisy; the pigs were squealing and kicking and fighting the whole way. Lamb weigh-in was very quiet—maybe a little `baaing’ from the lambs but no squealing and kicking and dragging while they moved down the line. Maybe when it was each one’s turn, we would hear a little `baaa’ but no squealing or squawking. When it was our turn, they took out Domino’s yellow tag with my name on it and they put in another tag with the number 322.  And they painted some green paint on his ear and gave him another stamp. He `baaed’ a little bit and we had to get him on the scale:  34 pounds.  Mr. Venier said that we would work on it so that he would grow bigger and stronger before the Fair. We took him for a little walk and then we put him in the outside coral while we went to talk to the chickens.
Lucas helped us find my chickens and we painted green finger nail polish on their feet again. We only painted the feet of 6 chickens, not 8.  Lucas said that my two Polish Hens didn’t make it—they are very hard to take care of when they are little he said. My mom said that six chickens is very good—now we are completely legal if we decide to move them to our house in the city sometime this summer.
When I was in school, we took Domino for a walk when we were not busy with something else. One time we went for a long walk and then it started to rain!! We were very far from his pen so we all got wet. My mom wanted me to walk fast but I usually slow down in the rain so she took Domino back to the pen as fast as he could walk. My mom called Kayti to see if he would be okay or if he would get cold. We were very cold and wet but Kayti said that Domino would be just fine.
And sure enough the next when we went to take him for a walk the next day, he was warm and dry. This time we did not go very far away from his pen. Then we visited the chickens and they were much calmer than the day before when it was raining. Sometimes the chickens are CRAZY; they are always pecking and trying to get out the door and then other days they are happy and softly clucking, making their nice soft chickens sounds. On those days we go into the coop; I bring in a chair and sit down and my mom puts a towel on my lap to catch the chicken poop. I like to put out my arm hoping that a chicken will fly up and roost on my arm. My mom catches the chickens one by one and puts them on my lap so I can pet them and talk to them. It is really fun. I mostly like it when they roost on my arm, my shoulder or even my head! One time I had seven chickens on my lap and I was not scared! It was fun!
After lamb weigh-in day we had 4-H Extravaganza which was really fun for me because I learned a lot of new things about animals and how to take care of them and I won a prize that would help me with my new lamb. We started with the a BBQ dinner with hamburgers, salad and cake for dessert. Then we had The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag. I liked that part and I liked the part about winning prizes! My name was called and I got to pick a prize. Tianna helped me choose a green halter for Domino. Then we learned about goats and about showing sheep and pigs. My mom thought it looked like a lot to learn: holding the lamb by his head, leading him in a line with the other lambs and owners, making the lamb stop and stand straight, looking good and strong, keeping his legs out straight, watching the judge and changing sides as the judge moves down the line looking at all the lambs. The older FFA students tried to encourage her and said that they would help us and the best thing we could do was to go to the Ag Center everyday to take Domino for a walk so that is what we have been trying to do.
AND then Domino got sick and didn’t grow. My mom was wondering about why he wasn’t getting bigger like some of the other sheep and then some friends told her that other lambs were sick too—they had caught an upper respiratory infection from the goats and that two lambs had died. Oh, no, now what do we do??!!  Fortunately, Mr. Andres talked to her about it and told her that he gave Domino some medicine and that he had a red line on his back because they were watching him. Okay. That sounds good.  And then he said that he thought I should take a goat instead of Domino to the fair because he did not think Domino would `make weight’ which means that he has to weigh 110 pounds by the Fair. So he got all the paperwork ready and I filled it out and signed my name; he signed his name and my mom signed her name and then Mr. Andres showed me my goat: # 608. He was not a very friendly goat because the FFA student who chose him at first didn’t take him for walks or give him treats so then I was able to take him. He was very jumpy and feisty as my mom likes to say. I tried to take him for a walk but he did not come with me so my mom had to take him for a walk:  he jumps; he squawks like a goat, not like a pig; he sticks his tongue out, puts his bottom on the ground and squawks: I will not walk with you!! and then he pounces! Sometimes it is scary so that is why my mom takes Kanga on the leash and not me!! I named him `Kanga’ because he jumps like a Kangaroo and I like the book `Winnie-the-Pooh.’
Of course my mom did not want to abandon Domino completely so now when we go to the Ag Center. We catch Domino and then we catch Kanga and then we go for a walk together. This is on a perfectly good, normal day. Some days, my mom spends a long time running around the field trying to catch Domino—he does not come with the other sheep when she brings a bucket of grain for treats. And some days some of Kanga’s friends come out of the pen when they are not supposed to and then my mom ties Kanga’s leash to my arm, otherwise I will let him go when he gets a little jumpy and then she has to run around, chasing the other goats back into their pen, getting them grain to try to make them want to go in their pen. Every day at the Ag Center is a little bit different!  One day while my mom was out trying to catch Domino in the field, four pigs got out and they took our shoes and started to play with them and snort around with them! It was CRAZY! I was all by myself and I might have said, `stop it pigs.’but my voice is very soft so they didn’t hear me but I was too scared to shoo them off our shoes, like my mom had to do when she got back with Domino. So anyway, after the walks and the treats, I always want to go see the chickens! My mom tries to talk me out of it sometimes when things haven’t been going well with goat and lamb chasing: aren’t you tired, Mathalia?  Don’t you want to go home? and go to bed? NO, I want to see the chickens. And I always win! In the chicken coop, my mom calms down; after she grabs me a chicken or two, she will pick up one or two herself to hold and talk to. She is getting very good at grabbing chickens; they are much easier than a feisty goat or lamb who only likes to eat grass, she says; well, they are easier if they stay in their coop—if they get out, then I watch my mom chasing after chickens and they are pretty tricky because they can fly and they can go under the porch. As soon as I learn how to take pictures on my new camera, I will take a picture of my mom running after the sheep!

Graduation Day!

My Graduation Day was wonderful!  We started the day by getting up early so we could take Uncle Jeff to the Ag Center before breakfast. It was crazy but he wanted to see Domino and my chickens. My mom was very thankful that the gate was open so we did not have to climb any fences. Uncle Jeff got distracted by the pigs—he loves pigs because he had a pig project when he was in FFA. We got Domino out of his pen and walked around a little but we did not have much time because we had to get home and get ready for the BBQ and get to Graduation on time. My mom had chopped up the treats Domino did not eat last time but this time when they were in small pieces, he gobbled them right up. Then I gave him a regular-sized treat and he chewed it up! My mom said that it was because now he knew how good they were. Then Uncle Jeff started giving Domino’s treats to the pigs and to the goats! I thought it was about time to visit the chickens! But the chickens were were very pecking and pushy. I don’t know if they are like that every morning. Maybe. We could not even get in the door of the chicken coop because they were all pushing and pecking at us trying to get out AND some got out were fluttering around the barn and under the porch. My mom and Uncle Jeff tried to catch them and put them back with their friends. My mom caught a few of them—she is getting very good at catching chickens. Uncle Jeff was impressed. But then we had to go. We saw Mr. Andres and he said that the chickens would be just fine—they like to get out and then they like to go back with their friends.

Uncle Jeff meets Domino and shares treats.

Uncle Jeff meets Domino and shares treats.

So we said `goodbye’ to the chickens and headed for Rosaurs to pick up my graduation cake.  And then at home it was rush rush and `be quick Mathalia’ `be quick’ all the while my mom was scrambling to get ready for the BBQ after graduation. It was CRAZY. But she still had time to curl my hair and help me look nice. Finally we were out the door and on our way! My mom wanted to walk to the Adam’s Center so that we could relax and `enjoy the moment’ as she likes to say. I wanted to wear my gown and she took lots of pictures of my walking to my graduation. At the Adam’s Center my friend Tara helped me with my tassel and the white collar. Then my mom said `goodbye’ and `have fun’ and she went off to save good seats for everyone. My teacher WyAnn came in and took a picture of me with my friends Ashley, Dustin and Megan. She was a little sad that we were leaving Big Sky High School.

Then we got ready and put ourselves into the right order to go in. The Ceremony started right at 12.30. The teachers went in first and then we went in. We followed my friends Kate and Ana into the Adam’s Center Arena. My line followed Kate. I was so excited!! We did not sit down because it was time for the Star Spangled Banner. I liked it a lot. Maybe The Star Spangled Banner was my favorite part except the part about getting my diploma. Then we listened to speeches by my friends and a speech by Governor Schwitzer. He talked about his favorite teacher and how he wanted to go to Argentina and travel many places in the world and then he came back to Montana to serve Montana as Governor. He encouraged us to travel the world and then come back to Montana because Montana needs you is what he said. I wanted to tell him that I am going to Guatemala for a mission trip after graduation. Then it was time to get our diplomas. My last name starts with `S’ so I was in the second section. I went up with my row and I saw my mom, grandma and grandpa, Uncle Jonathan, Aunt Laura, Olivia and Bremen. They were waving to me. I didn’t wave back. I was paying attention. Ms. Helmer said my name very nicely:  Mathalia Adrianna Stroethoff—she got the `strut-hof’ part right which made my mom and dad happy. I was just happy to get my diploma and shake hands with people. I got to shake hands with my friend Michael on the stage and then they took my picture and then I got a little mixed up about how to go back to my seat but my friends helped me find my way. At the end of the ceremony, I threw my hat up in the air because I was so excited and happy and proud! And then it was over. I went out with my friends and there were lots and lots of people. My friend Brook helped me find my family. Then we took lots of pictures just like we did when it was Morielle’s and Matthan’s turn. Uncle Jonathan was being really crazy during the pictures because grandma asked him to try to distract me—she did not want me to smile for the camera.  Silly grandma. I talked to friends and took pictures with lots of friends and then we walked to the car and went home. My mom and dad and everyone were getting the BBQ hamburgers ready. This is when I found out that Schyler was sick and could not come to my graduation which is so sad. It is so sad to be sick when you go away on a trip.

We ate the delicious dinner of hamburgers, green beans, fruit salad, chips and, of course, ketchup! Then my mom brought out the cake:  blue and gold for Big Sky and graduation caps and a little diploma with my name on it in frosting. We took lots of pictures and everyone was being silly trying to get me to smile or not smile, I was not sure. Then I got to open my cards and presents. I got lots of money and some cool stuff like a new puzzle, a graduation picture frame, a workout outfit for the gym, and my parents gave me a camera. I kind of knew that was coming because my brother and sister both got a camera for their graduation. Then my mom asked me if I wanted to take a nap, yes!

I woke up just before Ally came to pick me up for the Senior All Night Party. She brought me a present too—a picture of the two of us at Big Sky last year when she was a Senior. I like it very much and put it up on our picture shelf. I got to ride in her little truck and my mom and Uncle Jeff followed because they wanted to see what the party was like. I remembered the tickets and then we registered for the GoKarts. While we waited, we played funny games like hit the fish with a bat; ride the motorcycle on a video road; dance on the spots on the floor and ball games. I saw lots of friends and I had lots of fun!  Finally, it was our turn to ride the GoKarts. I found a helmet and everyone helped me get into the Kart and then it was time to go. At first I was kind of scared and I went really really slow but the second time around the track I was going faster and then I bumped into the wall. One of the workers came to help me get unstuck and ready to drive again. I bumped into the wall a couple of times and so they helped me and Ally’s Kart broke down so they got her a new Kart. I went around the track twice and I think Ally went around 3 or 4 times, I am not sure. Anyway, it was really fun. My mom took some pictures and then she and Uncle Jeff said `goodbye’ to us. Ally and I played more games and tried some LazerTag I think it is called. Anyway, the last game was just too exciting for me and it did me in so Ally brought me home after that.  What a full, fun, fabulous Graduation Day from walking Domino to driving a little car and in the middle receiving my high school diploma.