About Uncle Dave
Learning the hard way
I heard it early, and I heard it often.
Generally speaking, people like a good underdog story. But living an underdog story is something else entirely.
Hurtful words were something that I knew well in my early years. And although sticks and stones don’t always break our bones, we all know that words hurt more than anything. This is especially true for the awkward little five year old that would one day become an award winning children’s author. AKA, me.
Bullying is never okay, and I speak against it whenever I do author visits at elementary schools. But I’ll admit that even in kindergarten I stood out. At five I had been wearing glasses for over a year. I was in special education classes. And I had undiagnosed Asperger’s (autism), dyslexia, and ADD.
This underdog had a lot to overcome. And it didn’t happen quickly.
I struggled in school for years. During that time, art was my sanctuary. It was my safe place. It was a world free of bullies and full of dragons, heroes, and anything else I could imagine. I lost myself, first in drawing and painting and later in writing. And when I lost myself on the page, in a way, I found myself there too.
But even my great love for art and creativity wasn’t enough to make me who I am today. That credit goes to my great-niece, Aubrey.
In 2009, my niece was pregnant with Aubrey. At the baby shower, others gifted clothes and diapers. I wanted to do something different. I wrote and illustrated my first book and presented it to Aubrey’s mom.
Others may say this, but I have lived its truth: you cannot measure the value of a life by the number of its days. Tragically, Aubrey passed away at just two months old from SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). But even though her days were few, her impact was big.
With Aubrey’s book, I had become an author. I had presented myself and my work for all to see, and it had been received well. The kid who had so much to overcome in kindergarten had come to the climax of his underdog story. (Cue the dramatic music.)
After her death, I rewrote Aubrey’s book, and it became “Lady’s Day to Play.” It was just the first of many books I would write, illustrate, and publish.
I never heard my great-niece call me Uncle Dave, but without her I wouldn’t be the man I am today. Her short life impacted mine in ways I cannot even measure. And that is why the world knows me the way she would have, as Uncle Dave.
I want to be like Aubrey. I want to inspire others to embrace and develop their creativity, just as she inspired me to do. And that’s why Uncle Dave’s Art Studio is open to all. So you can explore your creativity. So you can create beauty. And so you can live a little more and maybe learn a little bit about yourself. Stained glass, painting, pottery, and even perler beads…it’s all here waiting for you to explore.
It doesn’t matter if you wish sticks and stones were all you had to deal with. I believe that when we feed our imaginations, each of us has a masterpiece waiting just around the corner.
Yes, I would say my life is an underdog story. But I am physical proof that learning disabilities and other barriers are not an inevitable ticket for failure. And that’s what I want to tell you.
It doesn’t matter how much you have to overcome. It doesn’t matter what limitations life or circumstances have put upon you. You see, my story is an underdog story. But yours is too.
Pablo Picasso once said this: Every child is an artist. The challenge is staying one as an adult.
Your art may be painting pictures. It may be telling stories or writing books. It may be dancing or any of a thousand other ways of expressing yourself. I don’t know what your art is, but I do know this: Inside you is an artist.
Aubrey’s impact doesn’t have to stop at me. May you also be inspired to create. To share. To release your imagination and let your own masterpiece out. I would never wish for you to deal with a loss like that of Aubrey, but I do hope you can and will be inspired by her, and perhaps in a little way by me. Feed your creativity. Ignore your limitations. And let the world see you as I see you. A person with a creative gift the world desperately needs to see.