My sister, against all odds, is an artist and special needs educator.She was told when she was in grade school that her paintings were unrealistic and that she was just not doing them properly. She was sent back repeatedly to the drawing board but nothing would stop her from painting the apples, oranges & eggplants in all the glorious colours she saw!
Her Mandarin teacher called me in and asked why my sister would not apply herself to the learning of Chinese characters. She could after all, speak Mandarin perfectly fine. Why was she so lazy & naughty? I remember shrugging my shoulders and then running off to play.
I recall studying with her in university for a Freshman General Science exam: she was able to promptly & competently give me all the answers to the questions I posed her, and yet, when the exam results came back, she had once again scored so much lower than we’d expected & hoped.
This was pretty much the pattern of exam-taking all her life, until she was diagnosed with dyslexia as an adult. Despite her undiagnosed learning disability, she managed to graduate with a Bachelors in Studio Arts, and a Masters of Theology with Biblical Languages.
She recently went back to get yet another Masters, this time in Special Education, with a focus on Learning Disabilities and Behavior Disorders, all the while practicing as an artist and doing relief teaching.
There are many reasons I admire my sister.
- She is full of life & joie de vivre: the glee from a good glass of wine or the awe at an unbroken stretch of beach.
- She preserveres in pursuing her dreams, in spite of the difficulties she faced: her difficulties were never excuses, but were in fact, challenges to go beyond herself, like retraining so that she could contribute to special needs education.
- She picks up languages at ease with little or no formal instruction: I recall one summer she went down to Juarez for a mission trip and returned fluent in Spanish!
- She can talk to anyone, stranger, long-lost relative or friend, and whether it is a short chat in the playground while the kids are playing, or a longer association over years, she has the capacity to makes them feel significant & important.
Any of the above would have been wonderful reasons to pick her as my topic of Admiration, but I picked her because she is an inspiration: she challenges me to look beyond myself, to see the possibilities, to be a part of those around me and to make our world a better place. I do not have the energy nor am I extroverted enough to do what she can, but I am challenged to try.
As a practicing artist, she has & mentored many young artists. As a special needs educator, she continues to be the advocate for children for learning difficulties. Her sphere of influence continues to expand with each life she touches.
Here’s to you, Kemmie: thank you for the joy & light you bring to our lives!
The first painting is entitled Seascape. It is one of her first major large works (acrylic on canvas, 6 x 12 feet)