Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sept 11th Picture Book

September 11th. 2011. Today is the tenth anniversary of what no one had ever imagined in their worst nightmare. We have had ten years to ponder and make sense out of this most senseless day in my mortal memory. What sense is there? There are no words adequate to quantify the loss on that day. There are no words. Like other events in Camelot we will remember where we were and how we learned what unfolded.

The staggering loss of life is one grievous toll, but the unfathomable loss of innocence is what wracks an entire nation, an entire planet, a decade later. My heart is full as this day gets underway. I personally have decided to leave the television turned off as the visual memories are already seared into my brain. [I am one of those creative types who is easily overwhelmed by the nightly news & have learned that for myself, I must carefully ration the world's horrors to 'protect' my optimal functioning.] 

Instead I will contemplate what I have personally contributed to the making of peace. I will contemplate the power of my book. I will contemplate the power of the Arts. I will consider the power of children and the hope that they offer -- even in the face of the unthinkable. [After all, it is the children that provide potential to improve upon this experience of our sharing Planet Earth -- peacefully and together.] I will contemplate the power of my book for all patriotic moments: Veteran's Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July and the morning pledge of Allegiance -- it could be the perfect contribution for any and all of these.

It is those young & innocent children for whom I first wrote my simple dittie, "Red, White and Blue." Written so that together we might have some means to remember what we hold dear about this amazing and diverse country of ours. Written in that time of crisis. Written with the assumption that one day we would have an observation for the tenth year anniversary. We would persevere. As would our flag. Waving flags and the vast history those colors represent. Perseverance. Surviving. Keep it simple.  

Children + Song + Flags + Hope = Debbie's contribution.

Then somehow, somewhere in the midst of these past ten years I learned how to become an author/illustrator!!!! What would you begin if I could promise you that in a decade it would bring fruit? That's probably the topic for an entirely different blog-post. The truth of the matter? Get underway. Begin. Start. Move. Make a list. Take a step. Trust. Believe. Just do it!!

Today I can sit here on another singular, spectacular, sunny, September morn and see the very first evidence of my idea taking root, of a contribution being made, of a book making a difference. These first pictures are from my summer library programs for the Richland County library system, in and around Mansfield OH.

That first picture was taken in a small town Americana-library housed in the basement of the village post office. Here I am sharing my labor-of-love. I am sharing with children what it takes to make a book. In my case: fabric and guts. Plus the biggest gift of all for a cancer survivor? The gift of time. I am sharing with them that we who survived that day ten years ago owe a debt of gratitude to those who have gone before us. We make payment on the debt by using our talents and capabilities for the service of our wider world. Here we're using sign language to convey the other significant lyric in the song, after red, white and blue comes I love you.

It doesn't matter if we don't know how to get things done when we begin. We still owe it to ourselves and our communities to get underway. Volunteer. Seek a mentor. Ask questions. Attend a seminar. Learn. Use your talents. Expand your capabilities. Stretch and Grow. 

When I began the quilts-as-illustrations for the book version of "Red, White and Blue" I didn't even have any idea of what all 16 quilts subject matter would include. I knew I needed 6 'flag' quilts: 4 verses + the book's cover + the endpapers = six. That left me with 10 more images to conceive and create. Yet I began. I knew that I wanted my book to be about the diversity of our country -- from the diversity of our geography to the diversity of our people. 

So one of the first quilts I made was of a small village, Ephraim WI. I'd learned that the word Ephraim translates from Moravian to the word 'peace'. A suitable place to begin. Iconic two white churches on the hillside and red & white striped awning for Wilson's ice cream parlor. (That's us together with THE Wilson family -- my BCO/Breast Cancer buddy Saint -- whose gift of time was all together way too short IMHO.) From that extreme microcosm village-America I next began the quilt of the big city. 

It wasn't until last summer, watching the Bailey's Harbor Fourth of July parade, five years after I'd first begun the quilts, that I had the brainstorm that the image of fire trucks was the perfect complement to the big city quilt & to reference the events of September 11th in an 'appropriate' manner for children. Every child is fascinated by fire trucks. Our community helpers. Those who respond when we need help the most. How had it taken me five years to think of that connection?? No matter. When I was ready to begin that quilt the inspiration came barreling down the parade route, in the form of a 911 painted boldly on the front bumper. This quilt is the one that I frequently share with children, with students. That illustration out of all 16 quilts, is the one overt reference to today, to September eleventh. Here it is just getting underway.

Now to contemplate the power of the Arts. It was my song, "Red, White and Blue" that directed a community to unite together last year for Veterans Day to honor the military families in their midst and the Veterans years of service. This year they will have the book to share as a part of their new and ongoing tradition.

It was the song and it's book version which inspired Carie to direct her kindergarten students to create a flag-esque quilt from construction paper that covers the gym wall -- all from marbles rolling through paint.  This is the mammoth project created by one who teaches K-kiddos now, but had served nine years in the Army previously and had a year stationed in Iraq. A truly amazing story of being heroic and being inspired by a book. Watch the YouTube version of Carrie's class singing and signing last spring.

It was the book that powered the USO style tour to Germany & Italy where I met our military members stationed abroad and sang with their children, the children of our troops during Month of the Young Military Child. My mind is still spinning at this opportunity. I am both grateful and humbled to have had the amazing good fortune to have traveled and shared this project abroad. Feel free to read the 39 posts here on my blog of that two week adventure earlier this spring.  [It was while in Europe that we had THE most amazing encounter with the LUV of America in Verona, Italy during their re-enactment of the US liberating them.... you can read that account here.]

This picture above is probably my all time favorite photographic image. Me-on-the-move with two uniformed daddies -- one holding the original quilt and the other soldier holding my open book (endpapers showing) with an adoring and onlooking toddler-daughter looking up in awe to her papa as I introduce the project to all the families gathered together. We are in Italy and we have just shared a meal together. Beyond my wildest imagination a year ago. The power of the Arts. The power of the book.

Yet there are limits to self-publication, when I am the complete creative staff AND the entire marketing and sales departments all rolled into one. This song & book, book & song of mine are still very much a 'word-of-mouth' enterprise. I have to remind myself that It is still a toddler. It hasn't yet celebrated its first birthday. It has not yet started to walk on its own. Receiving the national INDIE Award of Excellence was another exhilarating step forward.

What possibilities lie ahead? My responsibility this summer has been to reach out & get connected to a broader blogging educational community. As a result I have received an email that "Red, White and Blue" was used in Florida on Friday of last week, as they sought permission to circulate their video to the school's website. And I know that my book will be part of the second grade's efforts in Texas on Tuesday as they perform for their PTA. I think I can. I think I can. I think I can. I think YOU can!!! You can tell others of this effort.

Here's a quilt created in the BIG Apple, NYC, last winter in anticipation of my author visit to the preschool right in the heart of it all. This quilt was created by young hands of 3 & 4 year olds.

I will spend this day of observation taking a deep breath. I will spend this day in appreciation for the freedom that I have, that has been crafted by the effort of so many, which needs constant protection. (Click here for my Freedom isn't Free post which chronicles my son-in-law's return from one of his numerous deployments. He is today, now as I type, again in a place I can't spell, far far far from his family. I just received the text message from my daughter that she's fractured her foot. Life goes on with challenges, doesn't it?)

I will spend this day in prayer for those who work to keep us safe: our community helpers, our first responders and our military members here and abroad. I will pray for the many families whose world was irrevocably shattered a decade ago. I will spend this day using my talents. That is the one contribution I can make. That is the one way that I can stand up to terrorism. It is that I can stand up & stitch together my own unique capabilities. I will stand up and be counted. I will stand up and attempt to find teachers in search of this resource. I will stand up and put my capabilities to work. I will stand up in an act of hope. I will stand up in the hope that our children will improve upon this world of ours -- because we have taught them well.
This photo composite was created from my illustrations by Sunny Days

September 11th Kindergarten Lesson Plan
This photo composite was created by my friends at Kindergarten Lesson Plans
Children + Arts + Songs + Books + Literacy = HOPE

[Editor's note from 9-11-12. This song is now available in a digital download format. I am now a participant at Teacher's Pay Teachers where you can immediately purchase and use the song in Mp3 format. Click here.]

In my efforts to learn to 'market' to a wider audience I have learned much about connecting my blog to others. I have learned about linkie-parties. Right this minute Denise of Sunny Days-in-Second Grade is hosting a group link up of ideas that teachers are using to observe 911. I know you will find additional inspiration by going to her blog post. This is her classroom of children and their heart projects created at the end of last week. Go to her post to learn what the children have written on the back of the hearts.

To me one of the amazing posts in the Sunny Days link-up is from a third grade teacher in Illinois, who devised a project with her class and the fellow third grade classes to have each student write 25 words to describe September 11th. (This was the number 3000 -- total lives lost, divided by the number of students working on the project.) Her project is described here on her blog, Lifelong Learning. The words were written to create two Twin Towers, to graphically demonstrate what was lost, with the power of words. Please take a moment to read on her blog what all was involved in the creation of this effort.
These photos are from the amazing blog, Lifelong Learning.
And show the 3rd graders twin towers and 25 words from each student. Please take a moment to read on her blog what all was involved in the creation of this effort. I know that I'm moved at the very thought. What difference can you make?
Just do it.

****To ORDER a copy for your collection, please follow this link to my WEBSITE!!!!
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  1. What a wonderful message! Thanks for sharing Debbie!

  2. Congratulations on the INDIE. A well-deserved honor. Your blog post is uplifting.

  3. What a nice blog. I like the contemplating peace and how the arts help children. Thank so much for writing all this and congratulations on a well deserved award! Carolyn

  4. Thanks so much, Debbie. I love this book and the message you've shared. I will definitely be buying the book/cd. Is there anyway to get an online version? I'd love to sing it with my class tomorrow, but didn't plan enough ahead... :)


    The Sharpened Pencil

  5. Wow! This is amazing! What lucky children to have been a part of such a wonderful endeavor! Thank you for sharing!

  6. What a wonderful tribute - and great resources, Debbie! I tweeted your post and featured it at the Living Montessori Now Facebook page:

  7. An enormous and totally heart-felt thanks to each of you, my fellow blogging bretheren. Each of you have taught me so very much about getting connected to the wider world & for that I am forever indebted. Your example, your kindness & your technological support & encouragement mean the the world to me.

    Thank you for your help in getting the word out to educators beyond those in attendance at my workshops. I am so grateful.

    And Janae!! Tonight I will attempt to email you the song for your use tomorrow. With your direction & Allen's supervision, I'm confident we'll get it figured out!

    Now everybody go give yourself a great big hug from me -- you each deserve it.

  8. I was lucky enough to have won Debbie's book, "Red, White and Blue" and can say that it was truly a work of "Love" for her! You can see it in through the beautiful quilts she made to illustrate her song!

    Her book is the answer for anyone working with kids, because It is a way to "Remember" that horrible event of September 11, without sharing all the ugly details. It makes me Smile and have Joy!

    What a great post Debbie,it's filled with so many terrific ideas and resources! Thanks for everything!!

  9. Debbie, I have read and reread your post for today. Your life is such an inspiration to others. I absolutely cannot wait for you to share your love for life with our students!


  10. Debbie---OH MY GOODNESS! I just read your comment on my blog and hopped on over here to check out your book and inspiration for your 9/11 projects---first of all, I am totally moved by your story, your book,and your mission with this book. Is it for sale? I'd love to buy it. It will be used in my class, no doubt.

    Second of all---My grandparents live in Ephraim! Small world, huh?! I frequented Wilson's Ice Cream every summer growing up.My grandmother also quilts and is a member of the Quilting Guild there. She has some smaller wall-hangings for sale in multiple galleries around the villages, and had some work accepted into the Anderson Gallery as well!

    Third of all, my husband is from Mt. Gilead, Ohio!!!! No one has ever heard of it, but I bet you have! We will actually be heading to Ohio at the end of the month to visit :)

    My students are still working on our tribute projects, things just took a lot longer than we thought they would. I will be posting more soon, I hope you check back to see our progress! So happy to have "run into you" in the blogosphere!

    PS- congratulations, survivor. i have walked the breast cancer 3-day FIVE times for people like you!!!

  11. Laura: I'm grateful for your vote of affirmation. Your sincerity means a lot to me & I'm grateful for your review. Thanks!!!

    Peggy: Our couple of days worth of fun is getting closer & closer on the horizon. I can't wait to return for your victory lap. Thanks to you, too!

    Welcome, JOANNA!!!! Little did I realize that when I left the link we would have so many over-lapping commonalities. What an amazing small world of serendipities! You've eaten at Wilsons?!?! And your husband's from OH? My appreciation for your participation in the 3 day walks goes beyond admiration and brings me to tears. What a huge contribution. Thank you and thank you again.

  12. Wow! Is all I can say! What a truly inspirational book, an inspirational person you are and wow to all of the inspiration you have had in your life! You are amazing and wonderful and as a Veteran I thank you for continuing to educate our children about patriotism and your support of our troops! And as an Educator I thank you for being such an inspiration to so many of us!

    And I must say, I absolutely LOVE the picture you posted above captioned "This is my hand saying I LOVE YOU"!!!! It melts my heart!


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