Cultivate Your Orchid Child

Our “Cultivate Your Orchid Child” design has been a long time in the making… over two years, in fact. It all started with me reading a Scientific American article, “On the Trail of the Orchid Child”, outlining kids’ biological sensitivities and susceptibility to different environmental factors. The article explores how most children are like dandelions, hardy and capable of adapting to virtually any environment they may find themselves in. In contrast, orchid children are more sensitive and, like their floral counterparts, need specific environmental ingredients before they can truly thrive. If they don’t receive the care they need, they wither away.

The idea is that orchid children are more sensitive to their environments than their dandelion peers. The article goes on to explore the role that genetics plays in kids’ capacity for resilience, and identifies one gene in particular that may have a critical role in the development of orchid children: CHRM2. Interestingly, this same gene is linked to alcohol dependence, and behavioural disorders. But more intriguing to me is what happens when orchid children receive the nurturing they so desperately need. Those rare yet sensitive children have the potential to become “a flower of unusual delicacy and beauty,” according to the authors of the original study, Bruce J. Ellis and W. Thomas Boyce. Ellis and Boyce are human development specialists from the University of Arizona, and the University of California, Berkeley, respectively.

Here at Tilted Windmills we believe in the power of diverse skill-sets, abilities, lived experiences, ideas, and ways of being in the world. When I read this article I thought about the many kids out there who are born with what society labels a disability, or kids who exist outside of typical gender norms. We focus specifically on issues around (dis)ability and gender nonconformity, because we have lived experience with them. With my partner Athena, I started to think of ways we could raise awareness and celebrate the wonderful diversity that makes up humanity, especially when it comes to these children. But of course this doesn’t apply to them alone – any child who has ever experienced being an outsider in one way or another can benefit from a loving and nurturing environment.

Athena, our resident artist, took the ball and ran with it, and the result is a beautiful design that captures something of the ideas I just described. Tilted Windmills’ Orchid Child campaign is about embracing the beauty and vulnerability all children represent.

The design is a layered, multimedia creation that includes Athena’s original acrylic painting of the dandelion field and digitally manipulated photographs of the orchid and child. It suggests a field of dandelions outside a greenhouse that shelters the delicate orchid and curious child.

Want to show your support? Buy your own “Cultivate Your Orchid Child” merchandise and let us know what you think!


Cultivate Your Orchid Child

Concept by: Stefan // Design by: Athena

Horace & Abigail wish you happy holidays!

Horace and Abigail Christmas card 2017

Dear friends,

Don’t know about you, but around here, 2017 came with many surprises, challenges, and memorable moments. Some of those memorable moments included my acceptance into the Master’s of Social Work program at University of Calgary, and Athena participating in her first two art gallery showings in Vancouver, both of them a rousing success. Lola, our furry four-legged partner-in-life, had a healthy year of belly rubs, and chasing squirrels.

The upcoming 2018 promises some big moments too, with Athena and Lola to join me in Calgary in the fall, as I enter my final year of graduate school. Until then, we are stuck in separate cities, an experience Horace and Abigail shares in our end-of-year webcomic.

Hoping 2018 is a year of laughter, love, and light, for you and your dearly beloveds.

Happy Holidays!



Horace & Abigail: My Hero

off to CalgaryStefan and Athena embarked on a different sort of adventure at the start of September. Stefan began his Masters in Social Work in Calgary while Athena is holding down the fort in Vancouver.

Athena considered writing this new long distance aspect into the Horace & Abigail story as well, but ultimately decided against it. Drawing Horace and Abigail by each other’s sides felt therapeutic and also still very true to the lives of their semi-autobiographical counterparts.

Adaptive Kayaking Camp 2017

Adaptive Kayaking Camp

There is no view quite like this.

For over twenty years, paddlers with a wide range of disabilities have come together for a weekend of adaptive kayaking at Alice Lake in Squamish, BC—about an hour’s drive outside of Vancouver. This was my third time at the camp and the second where Stefan was able to join me.

As you can see from the photos, we had absolutely spectacular weather this year and a great time out on the water.


The kayaks are outfitted to accommodate different strengths and abilities. I unfortunately wasn’t able to paddle this year because my back was being particularly cranky, so I left all the paddling work to Stefan while I took pictures. I have however paddled in years past thanks to this special paddling rig invented by Bruce Fuoco. The rig holds the weight of the paddle so that the person with a disability only needs to swing it. It can also be repositioned if someone has more strength in their right or left arm. Some of the kayaks are also outfitted with pontoons for extra safety and stability.

Read more about Bruce’s adaptive paddling system

I love being out on the water—just the sway of the kayak and sun on my face. When I am able to contribute to the paddling that adds a new dimension. I get to feel the resistance on the paddle when it hits the water and know that I’m helping to propel the kayak forward. It’s an amazing thing to experience.


When the paddlers aren’t out on the water, we stay at the nearby Easter Seals Camp in Squamish. The camp is especially outfitted for people with disabilities, so it’s more like ‘glamping’ than camping. We sleep on beds in dorms, swim in the indoor heated pool and toast s’mores at the bonfire in the covered gazebo in the evening.

The first year Stefan and I went to camp together we found a wheelchair accessible treehouse in the nearby woods. You got to the top via an enormously long ramp, but unfortunately the gate to the ramp was locked so we had to content ourselves with a photo from the ground. This year however we found the gate unlocked and spent quite a bit of time inside checking out all the views. Hanging out in a treehouse is certainly not an everyday experience for a wheelchair user!


As always, many thanks to the staff and volunteers from the Vancouver Parks Board, Power To Be and InterFit. Their time, energy and commitment is what makes the camp such a awesome experience every year.

We’ll be back!

Horace & Abigail go kayaking