Showing posts with label Alzheimer's Illustrated: From Heartbreak to Hope. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Alzheimer's Illustrated: From Heartbreak to Hope. Show all posts

Monday, May 23, 2022


Ikigai is a Japanese concept meaning a purpose for being or "a reason to get up in the morning."

Everyone, according to the Japanese, has an ikigai. Finding this deep meaning, this purpose in life can vary for all of us and it can change as we journey through life. But it usually requires a deep and often lengthy search into one's self. And like all journeys, in the very end, it is often that journey that is more significant than anything, or everything one may do, or accomplish, or even achieve in their lives.

For the journey can often be the purpose. It can be the meaning and the reason for getting up every single day and allowing the spirit of wonder and expectation to enter. To focus the energy of being, the spirit of wanting to learn, to know, and to grow to enter. And then to access that deep inner energy, that drive, that creative impulse to center and to ground to become one with that purpose.

Pronounced :                                                    
"Uh key gay I"

For me, my 'Ikigai' has always been about using my gifts - physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally - in service to the greater self. And the greater self for me, is expressed in helping others. Sometimes, it has been someone I already know and care about. And sometimes it has not. 

Sometimes, people are directed into my path or found along my journey. Sometimes our meeting is for a reason, or a season, or a lifetime. I never know which until the path unfolds.

This journey has always been a challenging one for me. I always know what I had to offer and it can vary from day to day. I always know what I want to give, to do, and to be in a greater sense. 

But that has so very often conflicted with what I had to do, or to give, or to be in order to fulfill this purpose, this meaning, this greater destiny of spirit catalyzed into action here on earth.

The word "ikigai" is usually used to indicate the source of value in one's life or the things that make one's life worthwhile. Secondly, the word is used to to refer to mental and spiritual circumstances under which individuals feel that their lives are valuable. It is this combination that creates the spiritual impetus for doing good for doing that deeper spiritual impulse's purpose in this life, through love and not ego.

The term "ikigai" is composed of two characters : iki and kai. Iki refers to life and kai is a suffix meaning roughly "the realization of what one expects and hopes for."

As we mature, as we realize our own courage, our own deep need and our abilities to survive beyond all that which we think we are capable of, all that we think we can achieve, and are often surprised to discover that it might not have been what we originally thought we were meant to do, to give, and to be in this lifetime.

And so today, I share my doing, my passion, my being, in one tiny little form..creating from fabric and bringing forth the manifestation of a greater gift..the gift of love, of giving, of doing and creating. Not just for myself, but through myself for others. My reason to get up in the morning.

So, today I ground myself, my purpose, and my spirit with ikigai. I share this little embellished art quilt begun a very long time ago when my mother was still alive. My mother who loved all things Japanese, all things with deeper meaning, never knowing that one day, her own family, my own family with have members of Japanese descent that we love dearly marry into our family and begin the process and finalization of the healing of many wounds from World War II. 

A war that cost one of the five members of my Alaskan family his life by the hands of one once seen as the enemy but now seen as part of ourselves, our family, our earth, our humankind.

We gave up the anger, the blame, the polarization that leads to division and separation of our true spiritual self and our incarnated soul. It's not easy to stay in spiritual radiance. One has to always remember who we truly are and what it is we were sent here to this earth to be and to do.

I honor that journey, this earth, my life, and the grounding that I find along the way - that balances the darker shadows of life and its challenges as I always do.  I use.with the brilliance of the light, the sacred power of divine energy and that desire to do more, be more, and give more. 

One of those things in life that never fails to give me joy is creating.  All of these little quilts were begun during my work with the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative and my caring for my parents in my childhood home on Douglas Island, Alaska. 

I made and donated my 75 little 8.5" x 11" art quilts to AAQI from 2006 to 2013 for sale on site or at auction for them to earn money towards research funding towards finding a cure for Alzheimer's Disease.  The ultimate form for not remembering who we truly are. 

And perhaps for me, the ultimate reason for getting up with love and purpose each and every morning.


Caring for my beloved mother over the 9 years of her disease progression was an act of steadfast love and determination traveling back and forth from Oregon to Alaska as many as 4 times a year as I was needed by my dad who cared for her with the help of other family members the rest of the time. 

It was hard, hard work but still filled with love and joy no matter what, each and every day. And in between I sewed and donated my 75 tiny art quilts to AAQI. The most blessed and deeply personal work of a lifetime of service and volunteering with and for others. 

I treasure that journey of its purpose and its creation and I bring those energies into my new day. Quilting with grace and with purpose and with deepest meaning and joy.  

A journey and a process and a joy created with love from my heart and with my hands.

I blog on a Galaxy Note 9 mobile phone using only mobile data signal in a no wifi home.. Not easy but I am a determined woman who doesn't give up easily 🤣

Michele Bilyeu Creates With Heart and Hands as she shares her imaginative, magical, and healing journey from Alaska to Oregon. Creating, designing, sewing, quilting, and wildcrafting from my heart and with my hands.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Intersecting Art, Science, and the Mystical

I loved discovering that my art quilts header from my blog "With Heart and Hands" was featured on a site where its photo and an astronomy photo "Earthrise" taken by NASA Astronaut Bill Anders from Apollo 8 became a dual photo slide show of contrasted meaning and beauty.

Both photos were used to interchangably illustrate a Sunday Sermon that first appeared in a worldwide ministerial site that creates Sunday Sermons online. 

Discovering that my work was not only being featured on multiple websites online but discussed in Sunday Sermons all over America and even in other countries was a huge honor.

Especially when combined with a message about looking beyond the surface layer to see the double meaning where there is both physical and inward illumination.

They are the perfect photos for today's post on July 27's Blood Moon Eclipse, the longest Lunar Ecipse we will have this century and therefore the longest any of us will ever see.

Out of all the lunar activity we will ever feel or experience, July 27th's Blood Moon Eclipse is going to be one of the most intense.

Falling in the air sign of Aquarius, this total lunar eclipse is so strong that it’s going to pierce into the heart of our soul, in order to shift and transform our very beings.

Now,  more than ever before we are being asked to see and to feel the dual meaning of an inward and outward event with the potential for deep spiritual illumination.

Now more than ever spiritual warriors are needed to feel the light and love within them and radiate that love to the darkest corners of hearts and souls everywhere.

Still your hearts from anger, fear, or hatred. Fill them up with love and peace.  Our spirits know who we are, why we chose to be here during these incredibly challenging times.

Allow the power of both the seen and the unseen
to open your hearts to manifestating pure potentiality.

Become the change we need to be to manifest that illumination to pierce through the shadows of our own inner darkness to transform a very dark world with love and light.

 Lift up your hearts and souls to create a new and better world, one we all believe is possible and this world desperately needs to be.

Today, with my own full heart....

I will strive to see the peace

that is everywhere.

I will call in the abundance of

beauty and joy that lie in every moment.

I will strive to set aside everything I have learned

and presumed to know, in order to allow new

experiences to flood my being.

I will do everything in my power to clear my mind of

the negative energies that have confused my view

and distorted my words and actions.

I will create a new paradigm that helps me

to recognize only the good qualities in every

person, place, and thing that creates my environment

and the world I live in.

I will raise my energy and my light to the highest frequencies of

love, generosity, charity, compassion, forgiveness, and truth.

I will fill my head with constructive thoughts and images that will help me to grow inside and out.

I will fill my body with the nourishment it needs.

I will fill my heart with the beauty of all that is and ever will be.

I will fill my spirit with the divine energies that reach out and surround me.

I will love because I can

 give because I can

be gracious because I can

be humble because I have every reason to be

and speak from a place of love, joy, and gratitude.

I will practice random acts of kindness.

I will write a poem.

I will make art.

I will fill up my life with my heart's song.

I will volunteer to help loved ones, family, and friends.

I will reach out to my greater community, my nation, and the world.

I will recite my own personal affirmations or mantras.

I will laugh and forgive myself when I forget

that I made these promises at the beginning of my day.

And at the end of my day I will celebrate and congratulate
myself for what I have accomplished.

For as Helen Keller said "The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched- they must be felt with the heart."

Michele Bilyeu Creates With Heart and Hands as she shares her imaginative, magical, and healing journey from Alaska to Oregon. Creating, designing, sewing, quilting, and wildcrafting... from my heart and with my hands.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Alzheimer's Illustrated: From Heartbreak to Hope..Final Auction Quilts for AAQI

It is an incredibly bittersweet experience to have my two small format quilts from the Alzheimer's Illustrated: From Heartbreak to Hope exhibit, up at the AAQI  December Auction.

This is my last chance to not only sell the 4 little art quilts that I still have available for sale at the AAQI website...quick link to mine, here...and look for the 'add to cart' buttons. And it also the last chance that we have to sell our quilts where the winning prices have the best chance of adding research funding monies to our coffers.

Alzheimer's Illustrated: My Own Heartbreak to Hope

The December 2013 Quilt Auction
Starts Sunday, December 1st.

(This auction website has been hosted, free of charge by BenefitBidding)

Please at least visit the site, and click on my two clicks to see them up close, and personal and see how they are currently doing at auction.  

This will be our last online auction... forever and ever.  AAQI closes up and finishes up all loose ends by December 31,  2013. 

Please support me, make at least an opening bid, today!,  on one of my two auction quilts to jumpstart their bidding, up their bids during the course of the ten day auction perio, or go for the goal by popcorn bidding and winning one of my two quilts up for auction during December 1-10, 2013.

Or please please please, spend as little as $33.25 and buy one of my four remaining 'sale' quilts, now! 

As for my two AAQI December Auction Quilts from the nationally touring Alzheimer's Illustrated from Heartbreak to Hope touring exhibit:

My first quilt was made in honor of my mother ,Mama's Brain Got Tangles...but Mama's Still Inside and my second one, The Alzheimer's Prayer, was made in honor of my father ,who literally died trying to lift my mother up from the bed, the floor after she repeatably collapsed, from mental disconnect over and over, and upright and sitting as we tried to feed her...over and over, day after day, for three years of her life that he and I tried so hard to care for her, together .

Both of my parents passed on during the next and final three years and it has been a heartbreaking experience to lose both of my parents when I worked so very hard to not only keep them alive and as mentally active as I possibly could. 

In Memory: Nell Grace Savikko
Born 9-1-1925 St. Martinville, Louisiana
Died 9-8-2013 Douglas, Alaska
Love you and miss you, my sweet little mama

Quilt #5211 - Mama's Brain Got Tangles...but Mama's Still Inside
Quilt #5211 - Mama's Brain Got Tangles...but Mama's Still Inside


My second quilt was made in honor of my Finnish father, Bernhart Michael (Ben) Savikko.  He died at age 93, after having two heart attacks as a result of the oxygen deprivation that comes from a combination of from sleep apnea and its resulting Vascular Dementia. The loss of my father was a kind of heart breaking, I can barely describe. I traveled to and from Alaska four times in 2010 to help care for both my mother and my father, and last saw my father, one month before he passed, when he had said to me: "Why do you have to leave so soon. Can't you stay a little longer?" and his final words after my own "I love you so much, Dad!" he replied "I love you dearly, too, Michele."

Bernhart Michael (Ben) Savikko
Born January 15, 1917 in Douglas, Alaska
Died August 21, 2010 in Douglas, Alaska
Love you and miss you so much, Daddy

Or simply buy one of my small format art quilts that range from the first one at $47.50 to the other three, each at $33.25.

 When The Heart Grieves...For Sale at AAQI...vintage fabric with art quilting effects and ink jet printing quotation.

13,891 - When The Heart Grieves
Regular price: $50.00
Sale price: $47.50

My indoor/outdoor Prayer Flags:
Regular price: $35.00
Sale price: $33.25

Regular price: $35.00
Sale price: $33.25

14,934 - Blessings of Love
Regular price: $35.00
Sale price: $33.25

Natural Burlap (imported jute burlap from India with hand crochet, machine embroidery, and other accents) for indoor/outdoor prayer flags. Just thread some jute twine through the sleeve to hang on in your entry way, in your garden, or in your own healing and memory spaces in your home.

Alzheimer's Illustrated: My Own Heartbreak to Hope

Michele Bilyeu blogs With Heart and Hands as she shares a quilting journey through her life in Salem, Oregon and Douglas, Alaska. Sewing, quilting, and wildcrafting, with small format art quilts, prayer flags, and comfort quilts for a variety of charitable programs, including the  Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative (AAQI) . And best of all, sharing thousands of links to Free Quilt and Quilt Block Patterns and encouraging others to join her and make and donate quilts to charitable causes.   Help us change the world, one little quilt at a time!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Alzheimer's Illustrated: My Own Heartbreak to Hope

 In a life filled with challenges, with so much heartbreak...and yes, still filled with so much was such a heart touching experience to finally view for myself, the amazing  Alzheimer's Illustrated: From Heartbreak to Hope  traveling exhibit of the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative (AAQI)

AIH2H as I like to personally call it,  continued its five-year journey across the United States with a stop at Portland, Oregon's NW Quilting Expo.


This amazing traveling exhibit is a series of black walls, creating a walking maze, which consists of fifty-four small format art quilts (9" x 12") which all illustrate in a variety of ways and thematic emphasis, the impact that Alzhimer's Disease has had on the artists who created them.

These small art quilts are hanging among 182 "Name Quilts," each 6 inches wide and 7 feet tall, which carry the names of more than 10,000 individuals who have/had Alzheimer's or a related dementia. The names of these loved ones, written on fabric patches by family members and friends, honor the 5.4 million Americans in the United States struggling with Alzheimer's disease.

As a volunteer for AAQI, with **13 family member names among the "Name Quilts"  and two of my own small format art quilts among the 54 art quilts, I felt so personally connected to both this cause, and to this exhibit. Perhaps, that opinion is based on my having two of my own little small format art quilts on display, and the pride that I felt also viewing the two quilts from the members of my AAQI Liberated Quilting Challenge group, as well as the overall pride I feel from ALL of the quilts that my challenge group members have created and donated to this amazing cause!  

There is a depth, and a breadth, and a far reaching scope, to this exhibit that simply surpasses making beautiful quilts in an artistic fashion for any other kind of art challenge. So, no matter how creative the other challenge exhibits might have been there..and I visited each and every single one...and loved them....still, there was no comparison for viewing, and feeling, the hearts and the souls of true art quilters who create for a genuine cause of true purpose. There is simply no comparison!

As I wandered through the maze shaped exhibit, I found myself both slowing down to truly feel the raw emotions the quilts evoked, and then speeding up to not have to feel them so painfully and personally, each and every step of the way. You have to allow yourself to feel, but keep from going into the sheer tragedy of this disease and what it has done to your loved ones, yourself, and the dynamics of the entire family. And trust me, this is something that cannot be explained, but only felt through the tears, and the ripped out and torn seams of the inner heart.

My first 'go through' was a quick one. We were early, and there were few visitors as I headed to this exhibit first. But the lovely and gracious docent, Sue, who was just plain 'great Scot' awesome at what she does, and the magic she contributed there, immediately connected with us, listened with an open heart to my own story, and before long, there was a group gathered around me... to 'over hear' and 'over heart' my story.

As I looked at the faces of those viewing all of the quilts, one by one, I knew that each, and every person there had their own story... and my own heart opened to bursting.... so that I had to pull back just a bit, in order to do what I had to do... and both feel, yet document this exhibit for all eternity within my own spirit. But here, at Expo, in this exhibit, I wanted....and chronicle the journey through this exhibit.

 But I could not help but mention that as I personally realized...somehow, for the very first time, I realized.....that my own two quilts in this exhibit were begun in May of 2010.....and that I had sewn them with a broken, and still healing from surgery, wrist.

I had just spent months in Douglas (Island) Alaska, caring for my mother (then in her 6th year of advanced Alzheimer's) and my father (who had two silent heart attacks during this period and was beginning vascular dementia) and myself, who slipped on the worst black ice in Juneau-Douglas's history, and not only broken my wrist in three places...but slammed three wrist bones into my forearm.

I had immediate surgery, the implantation of a titanium plate and 10 screws, and I just kept on going. Because, that is what Alzheimer's Disease forces us to do. It takes so very much away from us, and all we can do is cope with its ravages, day by day, bit by bit, until it all becomes a painful blur and we almost forget how incredibly challenging it is.  There is not even time to feel sorry for yourself when all the focus must be on those you are helping and the horrors that happen amidst family members through all of the stage of denial, and acceptance.

I had cared from my parents for several months, cooking, cleaning, giving shots and pills, and doing laundry with just one hand and a bit of the other arm's elbow...before I returned home to Oregon in mid-March and other family members came in to take over.

Without any time for physical therapy, I simply quilted to get my arm working again. Ami Simms had already challenged all of us to submit quilts for potential inclusion in the newest traveling exhibit and at first, I thought...

"How could I possibly sew anything? I only have one good hand and wrist?"

But then I realized how truly ridiculous that was! I had already worked every minute of every single day with that one hand and one arm, doing things that others wouldn't even have thought of trying. And now, at least, I was out of the stiff velcro'ed 'cast' since surgery and I was supposed to use this hand as much as I could to get it to working again.  My AAQI quilts were the result of that therapy.  From mid March to December, I made and donated 10 quilts and these were among those 10.

That they had been made 'then' and with my wrist, hands, and actually the entire arm in this state...was an aha moment for me during this exhibit.    How could I possibly have not realized this before? That is how the mind focuses on surviving and doing, and not running and trying to escape the horrors of all it all. And by that I mean my mom and the Alzheimer's Disease, and my dad preparing for his death in mid-August.  I needed to be present for them, as I do now, for my brother and my sister-in-law and their challenges, so I just simply do what I need to do and don't focus on how hard it all is!
What this has all taught me..the doing, the being, and now the finally, really, really 'seeing' was huge for me. Not only was I not alone on this winding maze of a path, but I was a survivor who was making it to the end of its way or another. But I was making it.

So, whether I am in Alaska, helping my family, or in Oregon helping my family, or now, in Oregon helping my Alaskan family....I'm still somehow doing it. And right now in Oregon, I am the only one helping them in many ways, as it has proved too hard for everyone else to find the time, much less deal with the constant emotional drain. I hate driving on 8 lane freeways, I hate getting lost over and over in big cities as I try to bring my SIL to visit my brother in his fourth month of hospitalization. It is hard visiting my almost 97 year old mother-in-law for two hours a day for the past 8 months..especially now when she has been admitted to hospice.  But I just do it!

It is just another challenging maze of discovery, just another series of art quilts in the making in my own life's journey!

As I looked at this Hearbreak to Hope display, than awareness made me feel so strong, so proud, and so capable. I had made them..these two little art quilts..during one of the singlest, hardest, most painful, years of my life....and I had done it with one strong hand.....and one healing hand.

This maze, this walking through the journey of awareness, has dark walls, but there were so many spots of bright color, of clarity, of awareness, understandings, and sometimes even of joy.

We all see and face many, many walls...but some hold up symbols of our progress and our strengths, as well.

Here is my first quilt on my own first wall...

And below, my second quilt on my second wall....

And there is always, always box of kleenex, a place to leave comments, a sticker that announces that you saw the quilts.....

.....and oh, yes...some chairs to sit down and have a rest. And then...there are more quilts to make, more hearts to touch, and let's face it...more money to raise for Alzheimer's research!  There IS hope!

My AAQI small format art quilts that are included in this exhibit.

Michele Bilyeu:
Among the 47 quilts that I have donated so far, are two of my quilts that I feel so very blessed to have on display as part of this traveling exhibit. They are:

#5211 - Mama's Brain Got Tangles...but Mama's Still Inside

Michele M. Bilyeu
Salem, OR USA

Artist's Statement: Like my mother's memory, this art quilt consists of many layers, tangles, and threads...with spots of clarity and light hidden amidst the colorful (but often chaotic) surface layer.

Dedication: For my mother who continually pushes through the advancing layers and tangles of Alzheimer's with infinite grace and humor.

#6399 - The Alzheimer's Prayer
Michele Bilyeu
Salem, OR USA

Artist Statement: I grieve for the loss of my father, and honor his strength, determination, and fortitude in helping my mother face the challenges of her Alzheimer's. He lovingly cared for her, helped her to retell those memories she still retained, and brought forth the bits and pieces of her fragmented life. With this quilt and my own prayers, I pray that other care givers will have the same love and devotion that he had and care for their patients and loved ones, as the people they truly are...and not just who they seem to have become.

In honor and memory of my father, a loving care giver, and with the deepest love for my mother who is now in her fifth year of Alzheimer's. In spite of being blind, diabetic, and unable to walk, she still reaches out her heart to us with love.

**the 13 purple name strips of my own family members include both parents, and 11 aunts and uncles with all kinds of Alzheimer's and Dementias   (did not include the two family members by marriage, and not DNA)

And check out my Liberated Quilting Challenge Group Members' Julie Sefton, and Jean-Sophie Wood's contributions to this exhibit on my other blog..just click on: 

Michele Bilyeu blogs With Heart and Hands as she shares a quilting journey through her life in Salem, Oregon and Douglas, Alaska and all of her AAQI Quilting. Sharing thousands of links to Free Quilt and Quilt Block Patterns and encouraging others to join in the Liberated Quilting Challenge and make or donate small art quilts to the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative (AAQI) Help us change the world, one little quilt at a time!