A fabric self-portrait of Karen Sheppard
Betsey Johnson, American fashion designer
Karen Sheppard would probably be inclined to agree with American fashion designer and icon Betsey Johnson. If Sheppard could, she’d create at the sewing machine for hours. For her, sewing is more than a just a hobby. It’s a living and breathing lifelong forever kind of passion that she positively loves like no other. Ask Sheppard what she thinks about sewing and crafting and you will get the most direct and truly heartfelt answer:
“I love it.”
And it’s not just the words, either. It’s the body language, the tone. When she talks about sewing, even if it’s just three simple little words, watching her smile from ear to ear and her face light up with excitement and energy is simply breathtaking to witness. For Sheppard, this is the kind of spirit that has been with her for many years.
“I started sewing at 10 years old,” says Sheppard. “I had a little sewing machine and I made Barbie dresses. When I got older, I got to use my mother’s machine. I learned to sew on both of these.”
She still has both of the machines in her home; they are her treasures. While her sewing and crafting skills have been refined and developed over the years, the excitement and joy has always remained steadfast.
“It’s fun and exciting!” says Sheppard. “I can go and do that and forget about everything else.”
Ask her about her favorite thing to create and she just simply laughs.
“I love to make EVERYTHING! I just get a kick out of it. Even if I cut something too small, I still make something out of it. I have a “no-waste” policy!”
Sheppard has also been able to channel her passion with employment. She’s worked part-time at the local JoAnn’s Fabrics store for eight years. The work was personally satisfying for her—she loved interacting with the customers and giving them advice on their various projects. She describes the experience as “neat.”
However, Sheppard has plans. In fact, her plans and her current life circumstances may possibly rival her love of sewing. It’s that good.
Sheppard’s last day at JoAnn’s is December 24th; her new path is right here at the Brain Energy Support Team. Sheppard will serve as the Stitching It Up Coordinator. She is just thrilled be able to help teach and mentor to the group’s eager crafters and have lots of fun at the same time.
And speaking of fun, there’s another part of Sheppard’s life that she is simply over the moon about. It’s really big news.
Sheppard has just moved into her very own home. She’s been there for nearly a couple of months now and the excitement has hardly waned.
“I love it!” she exclaims. “I like the keys. I really like the keys to that house. I hold those keys like a treasure!”
Indeed. In the past, she’s either always lived with a family member or in someone else’s home. Having a space of her very own (along with her beloved dog, Charley and cat, Isabel, as roommates) and her own independence is something Sheppard savors.
“It’s my house. I get the say. I like the independence. I don’t have to do things I don’t want to do.”
“This house means the whole world to me.”
And just like Sheppard’s sewing and crafting projects, boy, does she have plans. In time, there will be fresh paint and perhaps a garage. However, it’s the garden planning that has Sheppard really excited. Besides growing her own vegetables and lots of pretty flowers, there’s an element in the future garden that holds a special place in Sheppard’s heart: a maple tree.
“I want to plant a maple tree as a memorial to my dad,” says Sheppard quietly. “I have some of my dad’s ashes that I want to plant with the tree and then put a special plaque there for him. I also want to have two other plaques on each side of the tree to pay tribute to my grandparents, too. I also want to have a bench there by the tree, so that I can sit there and think about them.”
Sheppard’s father, like her, was a quiet person, but someone who really understood her. His death was hard.
“My dad didn’t talk much; he just said a little bit. We went on lots of walks together. We just understood each other.”
“My dad would be so proud that I have this house.”
Sheppard does have a lot to be proud of: she’s the proud mom of two, she’s fulfilling her passion and she’s teaching others. It’s a lot of accomplishments; being a part of BEST helps.
Sheppard has been coping with TBI since surgery in the mid-1970’s. She’s been involved in support groups for over a decade and has been a part of BEST for three years; she’s been with the Stitching It Up group for two years and also attends the Puyallup Support Group.
“At the support group, I go to listen; sometimes to say something. My friends there (and at BEST) mean a lot. I can have something going wrong and here I can talk about things others just wouldn’t understand.”
The support is important. While Sheppard has good days, some days are harder. Speech has been the hardest thing for Sheppard. She works with online tools and a speech therapist. Sometimes, walking isn’t easy, or as Sheppard puts it, “…my legs aren’t doing what they are supposed to do.” Having the house has motivated Sheppard to keep active. Her dog Charley also keeps her moving, too. He loves frequent walks around the neighborhood. Sometimes Sheppard isn’t always in the mood for those walks, but she knows it’s important for her health and goes anyway.
“I think I have a bright future,” smiles Sheppard.
We think so, too.
Have a story to share? Contact Kim T. at email@example.com.
Education matters for everyone.
Through educational experiences, we grow personally and professionally, are better able to connect with ourselves and our communities and we gain the tools and the skills we need to help us live our lives to the fullest potential.
Education also can take us places on life’s journey through learning new and developed skill sets. As we refine our skills and develop new ones, the classroom setting helps us achieve goals through encouragement, looking at possibilities, gaining support and comfort, creating a sense of empowerment and so much more.
That’s why education is one of the most critical parts of our mission and vision at the Brain Energy Support Team (BEST). We are passionate and excited about providing a robust series of classes aimed to support, energize and inspire individuals with brain injury and their families.
Beginning January 2014, our BEST Learning Center located in University Place, Washington, is ready to help BEST participants kick off the New Year with a wide variety of classroom programming. Led by experienced and supportive instructors, here’s a taste of just some of the educational experiences that we have available:
- Action planning for the future.
- Life after brain injury.
- Brain injury and work accommodations.
- Brain injury and substance abuse.
- Listening and communication skills.
And that’s not all. Take advantage of the BEST Cyber Sale and save big! Register for classes beginning now and up until December 24, 2013 and receive 50% off all class registrations! Register between December 25, 2013 and January 5, 2014, and receive an early registration discount of 20% off for classes that are scheduled for or begin in January or February.
Now is the perfect time to take advantage of to giving the gift of education for yourself or a loved one.
Registration is a breeze through our handy online registration system right here on this website. To learn more, see full class descriptions, dates, times and prices, click HERE. Do you have questions? Please don’t hesitate to contact us. We are happy to help you with your educational needs and look forward to meeting you at our beautiful new learning facility.
Here’s to the New Year!
Happy Cyber Monday, friends and supporters of BEST! We are pleased to announce that our Stitching It up online store is up and running! Handcrafted quilts, totes and survivor bracelets are lovingly made by our BEST crafters. Perfect for gifts for family, friends (or yourself!), all proceeds from the sales of these items benefit the programs and services at BEST. Make your holiday shopping a breeze while supporting a great cause. Check out the site right HERE! Happy shopping!
Photo credit: Paul Bishop
Paul Bishop is a believer.
There are a number of reasons why he believes in things: his strong faith in God; the love and support from his children and grandchildren; his vast travel experiences around the country and the world through his work and life experiences; his deep love of nature; his independent thinking and focused reflection; surviving a near fatal stroke; his new role on the Brain Energy Support Team (BEST) and the relationships he’s been blessed with at the organization.
However, there’s one particular thing that keeps his ability to believe even stronger. Call it a mindset, a gut feeling or a spiritual awakening. There’s one thing he knows for sure.
“I think I have something I’m supposed to do in life. I may not have all the pieces to that yet, but I believe that with all of my heart,” reflects Bishop.
Definitely a telling statement from a self-described adventurer and thinker, Bishop started doing things in life in a unique way. Born to a military family in Germany (his father served in the U.S. Army), Bishop developed a case of wanderlust by circumstance. He spent his formative years being in Germany, Japan, and the United States. Seeing new places, having adventures and being immersed in different cultures really resonated with him.
It was no surprise when Bishop took to the road as a trucker and the job took him all over the United States. It was a 25 year career.
A Self-Portrait. Photo Credit Paul Bishop
Bishop would head out on the open road for four to six weeks at a time (with a week off in between gigs). The results of his work are astounding. Bishop logged 140,000 miles per year; at the end his career, he logged a total of 3.5 million miles on the road.
“I’ve been in every state except Vermont and Maine,” chuckles Bishop. “I spent a lot of time alone in my truck for years. There were definitely lots of reflection and lots of time for thinking.”
And there was lots of time taking in the scenery and savor it. He definitely has some favorite places in all of his years on the road.
“I love the Painted Desert,” shares Bishop. “It’s very beautiful and calming. One of these days I would love to set up a camera to tape all day long just to see the colors change.”
Speaking of colors, the changing of the leaves marking the fall season on the East Coast was another passion to see and experience. Bishop even shares his memories of his adventure traveling in his truck through Montana’s Glacier National Park in 14 feet of snow. While the driving was treacherous, the serenity and beauty of the land moved him.
Travel remains in his blood, even today.
“I really want to visit Alaska,” says Bishop. “I would love to keep travelling. I’d love to see Scotland, England, Australia and return to Asia.”
Of course you’d think that with all of this travel, Bishop wouldn’t be grounded necessarily; but that wasn’t the case at all. He’s the loving father of three children and proud grandfather of three. He is really grateful for the strong relationships he has with his children and their families; it means the world to him.
Bishop and his family have a also strong philosophy of positive self-pride and acceptance; it’s something that carries them forward as they support one another.
Bishop’s daughter has a form of spinal bifida; while not the most invasive type, it still posed challenges.
“We raised Kendra to be proud of who she is and not to be ashamed of any physical limitations,” explains Bishop. “She ended up making lots of friends and did fine.”
Bishop’s grandson was recently diagnosed as autistic; Bishop’s view remains unchanged.
“We accept people where are at and for who they are. For my grandson, life will be as good as it can be, and I personally think he will have a great future.”
Bishop appreciates a future for everyone; especially his own. Why? Right before the holidays in 2010, his future was nearly lost.
Bishop was out of town working and back in his lodging when he suffered a severe stroke. With no ability to talk or move, he was unable to summon help. Eventually, after a long period of time, he was able to get assistance, but he was worried.
“I had all of the odds against me,” says Bishop. “I had no medical help right away and I was feeling my whole body shut down.”
“It was a bad nightmare.”
While medical experts weren’t optimistic at first, Bishop held his own and recovered. He credits being in the right hospital (they had a dedicated stroke unit), his faith in God, his belief he had more to do in life and his hard work in the recovery and the rehabilitation process.
Today, Bishop still has challenges. Reading and understanding reading can be hard in particular. He plays lots of word games to exercise his mind, along with some good tools he learned through BEST. There’s also a lot of trial and error, too. For the most part, there are more good days than bad days and Bishop feels he’s found peace and happiness.
A lot of those good feelings come from his new found role at BEST. Bishop has been a part of the BEST family since early 2013 and now serves as its Outreach Coordinator. He assists with administration work, working with volunteers, community outreach and coordinator for special events.
He savors his role.
“I really like being involved in something, while being productive and helping people,” he says.
He continues, “Right now it’s an exciting time at BEST. I am so grateful to Penny (Condoll) for seeing something in me and wanting to work with me.”
“We have a really good mutual respect for each other and a unique relationship. We are honest with each other and we don’t judge one another.”
“I am really looking forward to seeing BEST take it to the next level, to really sustain ourselves. The peer support (aspect) is really neat. Those visiting and social connections are so valuable.”
“At BEST, everyone has something to offer.”
Spoken like a true believer indeed.
Have a story to share? Contact Kim at firstname.lastname@example.org.