The Cobbler’s Wife

 

I have often thought of my self as a cobbler’s wife, you know, as in, “the cobbler whose children have no shoes.”  But seriously, for a woman who never even got a printed album of wedding pictures, here is an example of how blessed I am, photographically speaking.  Good grief.  He spends a few minutes diving into the multiple drives full of our digital life and 3 hours of photoshopping later, voila!  A gem.  Thank you love.  Thank you for preserving methodically and obsessively every living last capture you ever made.  

Jacqui

 

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#NoBanNoWall

#NoBanNoWall

#NoBanNoWall

It’s Sunday, January 29th, 2017. Yesterday, Donald J. Trump signed executive orders banning immigration from seven predominantly muslim countries in the name of national security. Last night hundreds of travelers were caught in the midst of a nonsensical, poorly executed, and poorly communicated policy shift. Many of these weary international travelers were detained, treated like criminals, and separated from loved ones. The fear must have been visceral for those families. Thankfully, the America that we recognize rose up. Lawyers brought legal action and the people filled the airports and the streets of our cities in immediate and passionate dissent. They still haven’t gone home.

This afternoon, our family participated in a protest near the Federal Building in Peoria, IL. It was cold outside, but it is not really a time to be concerned about being comfortable. The world seems to be turned upside down and all that we value as Americans is at risk. We must make a stand. Together we rise as a nation.  We resist through protesting in the streets, a public witness of our commitment to the principles of  a welcoming and free America. We hope our actions give our politicians the courage they need to act on their own consciences. State and federal legislators, if you stand up — we will stand behind you and beside you. We, in Peoria, are not urban by most standards. We are not on the East or West Coast — we are teachers, farmers, machinists, office workers, librarians, restaurant owners, etc. We are everyday Americans in the so-called “flyover states” saying, “No ban, no wall — it is love that conquers all.”

We are all the children of immigrants.

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

– Emma Lazarus

Writing by Jacqueline F. Gauthiér
Photography by Christopher, Jacqueline and Caleb Gauthiér

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Women’s March 2017 — Together We Rise

 

We are exercising our first amendment rights today with many in our community (Peoria, IL)  and millions across the United States! We will hold to the values of  inclusivity, caring for the vulnerable among us, equal justice under the law, and equality for all and we will not be silenced, shamed or intimidated. The vision of the masses of humanity moving through the streets of our cities, pulsing like the heartbeat of a nation gives rise to hope for the future.  We the people, are a glorious and diverse people and together we rise.  Hope returns.


Writing and Photography by Jacqueline F. Gauthiér

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Ignite Peoria

We attended Ignite Peoria — what a great event!  We participated in pour art, printmaking and soft sculpting and we met many creative tech/art/maker people.  The entire family took a turn making photos of the event. Madeline and Caleb really enjoyed walking around experiencing the scene through the lens of a camera.  Not surprisingly, they are both developing an eye for composition and design.   Ironically, and a bit sad to note, we met an R-2 D-2 model on the very day Kenny Baker, the actor who played R-2 D-2 in Star Wars passed away.

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Great News!

 

I am excited to finally be able to let the cat out of the bag!  As of August 1st, I am officially joining the art and communications faculty at Illinois Central College! We closed on a home in Germantown Hills, IL  on Friday and will be moving on Monday!  We are packing up the truck and getting ready to roll!

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Wisconsin, A Year in Pictures

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1,381 Miles

We’ve traveled 1, 381 miles to get here.  1,381 miles.  The journey was punctuated with sight seeing stops, bridge closures, bathroom breaks and an occasional opportunity to climb rocks.  Separated from the ABF truck with all of our worldly possessions, we chose to drive at a leisurely pace, a long deserved vacation of sorts.  Road trips are an essential family event. Forever memories are made in those sometimes tedious hours in a car.   “Are we there yet?” is not a punch line.  The phrase should come with a PTSD trigger warning.  But all joking aside, we arrived in one piece, and were warmly greeted by  grandparents eager to get some time in with Madeline and Caleb.  Wisconsin.  It’s seriously green here.

“When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.”

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A Storm in the Desert

On our farewell Spiral Jetty excursion, Mother Nature pulled out all the stops.  Toward the end of our visit (and after making a few really nice photographs), a rare storm blew in off the Great Salt Lake.  The clouds, sand, salt, rain, lightening and hail punctuated the raw ambivalence of the moment… Best. Jetty. Experience. Yet.

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Jeremy “The Yeti” Crocker, Hardcore Autism Parent

Jeremy is a kindred spirit. I photographed this towering man, “The Yeti” (his words) because I deeply resonate with his hardcore passion about advocating for children (and adults) with special needs.  I asked him to write a little about his life and he took the soap box and ran with it.   Jeremy, thank you for sharing your personal story here and for using your voice to empower fathers facing similar challenges.  

 

 

Guest Blogger, Jeremy Crocker

My name is Jeremy Crocker and I am a stubborn, over protective, confrontational advocate and supporter of the special needs community.  Some people might consider me to be a bit too sensitive and quick to anger when it comes to individuals with special needs being mocked or mistreated in any way but I’m 100% proud and unapologetic about the choice I’ve made.  My journey began when my younger brother was born and diagnosed with down syndrome.  I was just a young child then so I didn’t know anything about what that meant or how he would be treated in the future.  I just knew he was my brother and that our family loved each other very much.  Of course, my naive outlook on life began eroding as soon as I started elementary school and witnessed how kids treated those who were different than what they considered to be “normal”.  I was just a chubby kid who was often outnumbered, so as you can imagine I got roughed up frequently when standing up for the children in the special education classes.  It was painful and humiliating to the point that I usually tried to hide what had happened to me but I don’t regret a single second of it.  My life continued down this path with all sorts of twists and turns but we don’t need to get into all of that.

Fast forward to the year 2007, when I became a father and I discovered an entire new definition for the word “love.”  All of my priorities were instantly rearranged and the focal point of my universe became a tiny little human named Caden, who could melt me with his big blue eyes.  After a year passed, we noticed he wasn’t passing certain developmental milestones and eventually we received a diagnosis of PDD-NOS (pervasive developmental disorder – not otherwise specified) which is just a confusing way to let us know that our child had an autism spectrum disorder.  I remember this hollow feeling crept through me as my brain refused to process the information it had just received.  I became quiet and withdrawn to the point that the only person I wanted to interact with was my son, regardless of the many attempts my wife and parents made to break through to me.  Eventually, I knocked down the walls and rejoined my family in the land of the living after doing some spring cleaning in my skull.  It was at this time that my wife and I both focused on becoming well-informed advocates who could always fight for the best interest of our child no matter what obstacles were thrown in front of us.

As we took our first steps down the path to earning a black belt in autism parenting, it became quite clear that we had an advantage that others in our situation did not have.  We had an ace up our sleeve that could lay waste to anyone who would dare deprive our son of any resources and/or opportunities that might help him reach his full developmental potential.  We had a weapon so powerful that it could simultaneously teach my wife and I how to become the best possible advocates we could be and bake delicious homemade cookies at the same time!  The name of this wise teacher and defender of Caden was none other than GRANDMA!!!! (Please try to imagine some dramatically ominous music playing in the background.)  That’s right, my Mom had already racked up 25 years of awesomeness by being the best damn advocate she could possibly be for my brother.  Our training began immediately and we took everything in as quickly as we could.  After some time we started finding additional resources through local organizations, therapists, other parents, and a great new pediatrician who has been a huge part or our family’s evolution.  We still try to educate ourselves more and more as we go, but we’re careful to sort out the misinformation and glorified opinions that some people in the special needs community are trying to pass off as facts.  It can all get overwhelming at times, but when we step back and look at the progress our amazing little boy has made over the past four years things suddenly seem a little more manageable and our motivation levels tend to increase dramatically (we also go through a lot of coffee).

In closing, I want to make it clear that my crazy little family wouldn’t be where we are today without an amazing support system consisting of family, friends, teachers, therapists, doctors, fellow parents, etc.  We are beyond grateful to everyone who has helped our son along the way and look forward to meeting new additions to “Team Caden” as we continue to roll with the punches and celebrate every victory no matter how big or small.  My wife and I would also like to let everyone out there know that parents of kids with special needs are not something to fear or feel awkward around.  We may seem a little disheveled and sleep deprived at times but we enjoy having “grown up time” as much as any other parent.  Just because we have different stories and experiences than most parents doesn’t mean we can’t find some common ground to agree on.  All we’re looking for is some acceptance and inclusion for our children so they can have some of the same childhood experiences that so many kids take for granted every single day.  We are a loving bunch of folks to anyone who is decent and respectful to us and our children.  Of course, on the flip side, if anyone ever messes with a child who has special needs (especially MY child) then they’d better run like hell because we will tear them apart and then go out for ice cream when we’re done.  I dream of the day when the special needs community unites under one banner instead of splintering off into “the autism group” or “the down syndrome group”.  If we could all work together with minimal bickering and just stick to the basics of what we all want for our kids, we could accomplish more than any of us have achieved up to this point.  Maybe I’m just developing a brand new naive outlook on life, but I really like the way it looks in my imagination and it’s going to take more than some schoolyard bullies to make this one erode away.

 

 

Posted in Advocacy, Art, Autism

Jennifer O’Toole

Meet Jennifer O’Toole, author of the Asperkids book series, speaker and the winner of the 2012 Temple Grandin Award.  Jennifer was diagnosed as an “Aspie” in adulthood and is the mother of three amazing Asperkids.  As a father of an Aspergirl, I especially appreciate her feminist perspective. She passionately advocates for women and girls on the spectrum because girls with autism have historically been under recognized and misidentified.  With a style all her own,  Jennifer wowed the participants of the 2014 US Autism and Asperger Association Conference with her 10 minute talk titled, “My Ruby Slippers” which will be available for purchase on the US Autism and Asperger Association site next week.  We made this portrait at the conference.  It is very different from her lovely promotional pictures, but I believe it reveals an authentic intensity that will resonate with those who know her.

Posted in Advocacy, Autism