My personal Covid Crafting Therapy

“Covid Crafting Therapy” is my ongoing personal process for relaxation, a type of journaling, a type of meditation. Every stitch a thought. It’s different from drawing, painting, writing. I’m not trying to find the style, the form, the character. I’m not trying find the perfect color, the perfect brush stroke. The perfect narrative. Crafting just… is.

The Little My Pillow

 

 

 

Little My, character from the Moomin stories by Tove Jansson, is a personal obsession. I draw her continuously. I aspire to be like her, though, according to all the Moomin personality quizzes I have taken, I am Snufkin.

I love drawing on cloth or layers of paper and embroidering along the lines. No end product in mind. No rush. Just a place to land those thoughts. This project (using an old tablecloth as canvas) has become a pillow. (still in progress)

The Covid Quilt


 

 

Sock Monkeys

10 years since “Olivia Saves the Circus” stop motion animation project at Keith Lynn!

Dolls and stuffed animals make me happy. Very happy. They always have. Some of my faves are hand-sewn little pig characters… but I will get to that.

I am 58 years old and I still have dolls, still rescue dolls, make dolls. love dolls, receive dolls.


I still have the first one (“Lisa”) I received from my parents in the early 60’s:

I also collect sock monkeys and crafts made by me and those made (and given to me) by my past students (of all ages) and friends:

I just dusted, aired out and re-organized my giant collection of old dolls and stuffed animals… Including a treasured basket of props from 2009-2010 school year at a school I worked at in North Vancouver:

I just realized it has been 10 years since that very special  stop motion animation project at Keith Lynn Alternative Secondary School!

During the 2009-2011 school years, I had the pleasure of co-facilitating (along with my colleague, Ian Powell) an animation course at Keith Lynn Alternative Secondary School.

In 2009-2010, the students recreated (with incredible ingenuity) the story of OLIVIA SAVES THE CIRCUS by Ian Falconer:

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A few years later, I rescued the collection of props from the project that were mixed in with items to throw out when the school had moved locations to become Mountainside Secondary.

Much love to past Keith Lynn students and staff and to all my present colleagues at Mountainside. Thank you for enriching my life!

A sock snapping turtle eating David Sedaris’ tumour. A handmade gift.

Does anyone else (well, I know my daughter does) feel like David Sedaris (and his sister Amy) is a family member? I am that kind of fan. Sorry. Reading his books, alone or in public, inevitably leads to me rocking back and forth in tears or in laughter or both. I have always fought against the word resonate, but oh my God, his words RESONATE.

His book, Calypso, emboldened me to dig further into my relationship with my mother and her hidden alcoholism.

 

 

On Feb 12 at 7 PM my daughter and I arrived at the Vogue Theatre for the Vancouver’s Writer’s Fest: an Evening with David Sedaris.

We had our books in our hands aware that after the show David would be doing signings. I knew if I was going to get a book signed, I needed to bring some Sedaris-esque gift. .

Those that know me, know I make sock creatures. Pretty obsessively. So, of course, I made David one based on his notorious story in Calypso about the snapping turtle and the tumour (3:40 mark):

 

I’ve had tumours taken out and thought similar things. So, again his words… RESONATED.

Here it is – an ugly snapping turtle eating David’s tumour:

Once in the theatre we headed up the stairs to the balcony and turned the corner on the second flight and first thing we see is David Sedaris sitting at a table already signing books!  OMG OMG OMG OMG

A NO PHOTOS PLEASE sign was on his desk, as well as a bunch of coloured sharpies, his empty plate and cutlery etc.

We went straight into the lineup. There are too many great stories about the people in the line-up chatting with David- but those are their stories to tell – glorious, heart warming moments. David is incredibly generous with his time. We felt welcomed. He is also so tidy and refined and fucking funny.

It was our turn and I have no idea what we said, but [be still my heart], I gave him the sock turtle and he seemed delighted and exclaimed. “Oh my! You are an artist!” Then pulled out a little notebook and said, “Please write your name and address here so I can send you a thank you letter.”  {hand shaking, I wrote something-OMG WHAT IS MY ADDRESS?! WHAT IS MY NAME?]. And as he chatted he signed the book.

He then chatted with my daughter as he doodled in her copy of Theft by Finding Diaries 1977- 2002. They discussed her plans to go to university in the Fall and how much better it is to be a mature student.

He then handed her the book and said. “There. It’s a tree. Fallen down.”

THAT IS SEDARIS GOLD.

Yes, we were swooning but also we were so moved by his ease and joy and presence. By the familiarity.

We took our seats. 2 plus hours later we left the theatre, walking on clouds. The evening represented  for us that WE ARE ON THE RIGHT TRACK. KEEP CREATING. KEEP EXPRESSING YOURSELF.

And, oh yeah,  I am getting YOU ARE AN ARTIST, SAYS DAVID SEDARIS tattooed on my forearm.

Extra treat:

UPDATE February 27, 2020:

Here were valleys filled with tiny trees and minuscule, tangled vines…

I am a collector.  I love the details of seemingly mundane little objects.  I collect discarded plants and nurse them back to life. I collect bits and pieces underneath the heron nests.

I collect chestnuts.  They remind me of my mom, who would often tell me she collected chestnuts in shoeboxes as a child.

I collect buttons.  They remind me of my great aunt, Helga.  I loved going through her button jar when I was a child.

And the collecting habit continues with my niece and nephew as we drag home treasures from the park and the beach.

And what do I do with all these treasures besides put them on shelves and look at them regularly?  I use them as illustration references.

I was at the craft store today to purchase foam board for a portrait order and came across a bag of dry moss.  Oh wow!

I have been planning to get some reference photos of the forest floor for a project.  I had an idea.  I purchased my supplies and the bag of moss and ran home.  I would try create my own little slice of the forest using our found treasures and the moss.

The moss felt warm and spongy, several degrees warmer than the air around it, and far more damp than she had expected. It appeared to have its own weather. Alma put the magnifying lens to her eye and looked again. Now the miniature forest below her gaze sprang into majestic detail. She felt her breath catch. This was a stupefying kingdom. This was the Amazon jungle as seen from the back of a harpy eagle. She rode her eye above the surprising landscape, following its paths in every direction. Here were rich, abundant valleys filled with tiny trees of braided mermaid hair and minuscule, tangled vines. Here were barely visible tributaries running through that jungle, and here was a miniature ocean in a depression in the center of the boulder, where all the water pooled. – Elizabeth Gilbert

Adding some water awoke the plants and the smell of a mossy forest floor (one of my all time favorite smells) infused the room.

Then I added treasures such as pine cones, shells, heron egg shells, pebbles, beach glass, driftwood, sparrow’s feet.

I am all about the nooks and crannies.  Therein lie the secrets.  The truth.

But I’ll tell you what hermits realize. If you go off into a far, far forest and get very quiet, you’ll come to understand that you’re connected with everything.
― Alan Watts

 

The Sparrow’s Nest

Behold, within the leavy shade,

Those bright blue eggs together laid !

On me the chance-discovered sight

Gleamed like a vision of delight.

– William Wordsworth, The Sparrow’s Nest, 1807

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Chinamarker, ink, acrylic, watercolour, embroidery on newsprint (12” x 12”, 30cm x 30cm)

The importance of being specific. Collage for 2019.

Recall Vision for 2019: Courage

Last night I mind mapped around the heart image- and one of the key “to-do’s” for 2019 is PAUSE AND REFLECT, BEFORE SAYING YES.

Tonight I spent time around the kitchen table, cutting and pasting stream of consciousness collages with my soul-sister Patti Henderson, as we chatted about life and about our vision and focus for 2019.

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It always fascinates me how random cutouts from random unrelated magazines, and gluing whatever seems to come together, will always reveal the message you need to hear.

And there it is: the importance of being specific.

And beautiful found poetry comes out, like imagination bleeds faces.

Random images and quotes become particularly poignant.

 

 

 

Operation Sock Monkey Western Division: Craftivism and Healing using Sock Monkeys and Sock Owls

I am delighted to still be part of Operation Sock Monkey Western Division—the relationship is going on 10 years now!  Time for an update as to what we have been up to lately!Screen Shot 2018-05-23 at 9.49.11 AM

About OSM:

Since 2005, Operation Sock Monkey has raised nearly $10,000 in support of the humanitarian work of Clowns Without Borders. Partnerships with Clown Sans Frontieres (Montreal) and CWB chapters in the United States and South Africa have helped to bring joy and laughter to children affected by trauma around the world. OSM has sponsored CWB expeditions in Haiti, South Africa, Asia and Swaziland, sending clowns to bring smiles and laughter and promote healing through joy. In 2009, OSM partnered with Woza Moya, an HIV/AIDS community resource centre in Kwazulu-Natal South Africa, to teach the art of sock monkey to local artisans. The Woza Moya project is now producing sock monkeys for sale in craft shops in Capetown and Durban, proceeds from these sales will supplement the income of underemployed crafters in the Ufafa Valley.

Initial connection:

I initially came connected with the founder Lindsey Hodgson when I was working at Keith Lynn Alternative Secondary School where I used sock monkey making in my art therapy.  The students and staff and community members created hundreds of sock monkeys for local and global initiatives.

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Various OSM Western Division projects over the years:

There are COUNTLESS sock monkey therapy/ OSM Western Division stories of amazing people in my community of family, friends, schools, organizations etc. creating and giving.

Such as:

H. using a sock monkey to comfort her as she testified in court against an abusive boyfriend.

T. making a sock monkey for his sick friend to take to treatment.

M. struggling with mental health issues, making sock monkeys with worn socks and dental floss and couch stuffing, bringing them to me to send to Africa.

C. using sock monkey making in her work with people living with Alzheimer’s.

A. making a sock monkey for her hero, after his mom passed away.

L. using sock monkeys to process trauma to face her abuser and to create dialogue and raise esteem in her peers.

H. interpreting her favorite artist’s work through sock monkeys then connecting with the artist through her micro-industry online sales and social media.

Passion2Lead bringing sock monkeys as comfort for young victims at a rape relief crisis center in Cape Town.

Families using sock monkeys to help comfort their terminally ill children and themselves.

The use of our sock monkeys in attachment therapy with Clowns Without Borders South Africa.

HELP YOUTH CANADA sock monkey workshops to create safe space to dialogue on education.

And the countless of people simply sewing a monkey to help them through emotional crises such as trauma and grief…

An alternative craft is the SOCK OWL to work around time constraints and as an adapted craft that is easier to tackle than a sock monkey, but equally fun!

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These crazy little sock owls are wonderful for creating dialogue around the craft table!

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There are so many healing stories– connection building through the lowly craft of making a monkey out of a pair of socks!

Some of the latest—

Mulberry PARC:

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I love that the Mulberry PARC Retirement Living Group always approaches sock monkey making as a team helping each other with challenges such as arthritis, poor eyesight, bad backs, loneliness , grief, etc- there are those that sew, those that stuff, those that assemble…

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Canucks Autism Network:

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Intersections Media:

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Diversecity:

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Byrne Creek Secondary School:

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Project Sophia:

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Sophia, age 16, was born with a life limiting condition sadly passed away on January 1, 2017.  She was part of the Canuck Place Children’s Hospice community for 14 years.

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Sophia loved to spread joy around and this included handing out countless sock monkeys (made by her and our Operation Sock Monkey community members) to patients and staff at Canuck Place.

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Sophia with a GIANT batch of sock monkey ready to handout at Canuck Place! (August 2016)

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Sophia and Glen (sock alien made by Darcy Glip) at Canuck Place…

Project Sophia continues and celebrates the joy that Sophia brought to the world.

Kat with sock monkey maker super hero Lynn Gosnell and Sophia’s mother- Beverley Pomeroy at Strathcona Winter Craft Fair, 2016.

I am honored to witness Sophia’s mother, Beverley Pomeroy, doing extraordinary work as she carries on her daughter’s legacy and shares her own personal story of Living Grief- the profound journey of ongoing loss.

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A few weeks ago Project Sophia met up at The Landing in Ladner BC to use sock monkey making to process grief, connect and laugh:

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Photo by Denise Levine

Check out:

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Go to Operation Sock Monkey for more information on how you can support this amazing global initiative!
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Here’s my HOW TO MAKE A SOCK MONKEY video created by my awesome brother, Fredrik Thorsen:

How To Make A Sock Monkey (HD) from Fredrik Thorsen on Vimeo.

Every stitch a thought- problem solving embroidering drawings.

I’ve got a lot to think about these days.  (Not really any different from other days, I guess, but seriously, there is some amazing stuff brewing).

To stay on track with massive projects, to dos and ideas racing around in the head, I have found great solace in pulling out embroidered drawings.

As I stitch, my mind relaxes and somehow- magically, solutions arise, anxiety dissipates, energy refreshes, ideas come to light.  Fascinating.

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It’s all about following the lines of my drawings, just wandering along the pathways, new ways of looking at things, no attachment to the thread or how things unfold.  Just let it unfold.  And I think that is my greatest lesson in all this- let it unfold.

When you can step back at moments like these and see what is happening, when you watch people you love under fire or evaporating, you realize that the secret of life is patch patch patch. Thread your needle, make a knot, find one place on the other piece of torn cloth where you can make one stitch that will hold. And do it again. And again. And again.
Anne Lamott, Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope, and Repair

You have to keep taking the next necessary stitch, and the next one, and the next. Without stitches, you just have rags. And we are not rags.”
Anne Lamott, Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair

 

Sock Robin- bird sculpting with upcycled materials

When Spring returns, the earth becomes a child who recites poetry. – Rainier Maria Rilke

Walking home from a workshop yesterday, I was delighted at all the bird activity close to my home.  A robin crossed my path, a wriggling worm in its beak, the rain gentle.  The moment pulled me out of my head and into the miracle of nature.  All my worries and racing thoughts fell away.

Pay attention to the birds.

The robin brings a fresh new perspective to situations that are otherwise foggy and unclear. Try calling on robin energy for clarity when your judgement is clouded or when you need light shed on an issue.

The red robin reminds us it’s time to shake the sleepiness out of our head (both figuratively and literally), get alert, get moving, and start enjoying life! Spring has sprung, tides have turned, and no matter how crummy or grey our world has been it is time for new beginnings! Enjoy the bright road ahead because it’s only going to get brighter! [source]

Last night I spent hours, to stay out of my head and to honor the robin, doing personal craft therapy, slowing sculpting a robin out of  upcycled materials.  The robin reminds me to believe in myself.

Materials:

The red chest is made from a vintage wool argyle sweater, the rest of the robin including the blue eggs are made of left over sock bits from sock monkey and sock owl workshops, the stuffing is from a sock monkey that failed, and the nest stick in the robin’s mouth is from an orchid plant that I received after my mother’s death.

I used repurposed embroidery thread to create texture to imply feathers.

The robin measures 7″ (18 cm) tall.

Sock owls and creative engagement

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These crazy little sock owls are wonderful for creating dialogue around the craft table!

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OWL talking piece for tomorrow’s professional development day at a local middle school.  The owl feathers- a gift from Kevin Cowan

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Our intergenerational sock owls will be on display next week at Mulberry PARC’s Ignite Your Passion event (September 28, 2017 2-4 PM) as part of ACTIVE AGING WEEK!

See also:

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Burr, Washington, Jefferson, King George sock monkeys. Hamilton in my heart.

I had planned to be in New York City on July 28th this summer, sitting at the Rogers Theatre with my daughter celebrating, watching Hamilton, the Musical.  We would have just completed two days of sock monkey workshops at Graham Windham with children and families (Eliza Hamilton’s orphanage).  I was going to bring my sock monkeys of the entire main cast of the musical.

Sadly, fate/destiny/universe had other plans.  I didn’t get the gigs I expected to have over the summer and as of May, I found myself all of a sudden struggling again to get by.  Dang.  More setbacks and lack of consistent work made things even harder.

And so the tickets were sold and plans changed.  And I admit, I don’t think it hit me till today how truly heartbroken I am.  But that is OK.

What I get from Hamilton is not about going to the show itself.  It is about the creative process.  It is about art about history.  It is about the healing power of art.  And the tenacity of art.  I have been creating every day.  For I am an artist with no choice.  That is what I love about Hamilton and that dream hasn’t died.  The message of the creation of Hamilton lives in my heart.

So today, as part of my studio clearance, raising funds and letting go, I have decided to release 4 of my sock monkeys and regroup.  Start fresh.  Blast the soundtrack.  Surrender. And like Lin and Alexander, write my way out.

On my ETSY SHOP:


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My Alexander Hamilton sock monkey, I am pleased to write, lives with my daughter and he spent 4 months travelling to England, Sweden, Southeast Asia and across Canada…

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I will be collecting materials over the next while, and once my Fall work routine putters along, I hope to begin the cast all over again.

Check out:

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The Mulberry Panels: art project with older adults

I have the pleasure of working with an extraordinary group of individuals at Mulberry PARC doing art projects that range from drawing, interactive art, sock animals and group painting/quilt!  We have had 5 sessions so far and, at this point, confirmed 10 more that will take us into November!

My goal with the art sessions is to not only teach fun arts and crafts techniques to the students, but to build connections and provide a safe and healing space.  My students are very courageous, daring to dive into challenging work, working through frustrations, laughing at the outcomes, letting go of attachment to personal projects in order to create group pieces, embracing challenges such as hearing and sight issues, arthritic hands, and anxiety- being present and curious in the moment and meeting it all with a sense of humour!  I am very honoured to spend time with each and every one and treasure the experience and grateful to the Mulberry staff for inviting me!

 

 

The evolution of the panels:

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This post is dedicated to my dear friend, Cheryl Bain, who has the greatest gift for working with older adults and who inspires me to no end each and every day.

Related:

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The Heron Feathers: 100 Herons Art Project

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THE PROJECT: 

I am creating of twelve 20″ x 30″ panels depicting a total 100 Herons [between June 14 to July 31, 2017].  

For every $25 raised I will draw a heron!

THE SPONSORED ART will allow me to develop and provide much-needed FREE ART LESSONS for REFUGEE YOUTH from war-torn countries at a Lower Mainland program in July and August.

DONATION BUTTON:

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I will be drawing a heron for every $25 raised!

Any amount welcome!  Donors of $10.00 CAD or more can choose to have their name and/or a special message woven into Heron nest imagery in the panels.

You can donate via PayPal or email transfer britakatarina@gmail.com.  I can provide receipts.

Check the panels at:

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I currently have several 20″ x 30″ panels in progress.  They are being embroidered and embellished.  They will be exhibited at various community events in August!

INTERESTED IN PRE-PURCHASING PANELS?

The panels are being made available for pre-purchase on my ETSY site:

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READ MORE AT: 100 HERONS

The art is drawn in my signature style–

 

 

– then collaged onto 20″ x 30″ foam board panels–

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PANEL 1 IN PROGRESS

– and embroidered with additions of discarded nest sticks, found feathers, string, beads, and sponsor names.

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Yesterday, I took a walk to the heron nests with my friend Darcy to look for some feathers in the grass for collaging…

Usually I find one or two heron feathers.  Well, we came across a LARGE pile of scattered heron feathers– obviously from a heron who lost its life to a predator.  A teen heron perhaps?  Of course I had to gather as many as I could– thanking and honoring the heron’s life by incorporating the feathers into the art.

A feather from a heron symbolizes patience, grace and confidence…

I took the feathers home, soaked them in gentle detergent to clean and disinfect, and laid them out on newsprint to dry them.  I then categorized them and collected them into mason jars.

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Poststreet deluxe Sock Monkey Kits! Order now!

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My deluxe sock monkey kits come with:

  • Pre-sewn sock monkey body (surprise high quality socks)
  • Buttons
  • Embroidery thread
  • Needle
  • Felt heart
  • gLOVE bird
  • Link to how-to video
  • Instruction sheet
  • Small original surprise drawing

JUST ADD STUFFING!

$30.00 CAD (includes shipping)

THROUGH PAYPAL

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Or Email Transfer to britakatarina@gmail.com

CONTACT ME FOR SPECIAL PRICES FOR BULK ORDERS

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Shane and Operation Sock Monkey at Keith Lynn Alternative Secondary, 2010

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From the heart- a 15-day journal exercise Part 5

I dedicate today’s post to my soul-sister Patti Henderson and to our deep HEART chats.

I am re-reading Stephen Levine‘s A Year to Live- how to live this year as if it were your last as a personal exercise schedule to take time to slow down and truly listen to my heart.

Recall:

Part 1: Catching Up with Your Life

Part 2: Practice Dying

Part 3: Preparing to Die

Part 4: Dying from the Common Cold

Part 5: Renewing Evolution

1. CREATE freely.  Do what you love.  What relaxes you?  For me, it is drawing and embroidering.

I recall a piece from 3 years ago:

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From the heart- a 15-day journal exercise: Part 3

I am re-reading Stephen Levine‘s A Year to Live- how to live this year as if it were your last as a personal exercise schedule to take time to slow down and truly listen to my heart.

Recall:

Part 1: Catching Up with Your Life

Part 2: Practice Dying

Part 3: Preparing to Die

1. Embroider your heart

Here is a PDF of one of my drawings for you to print out: Heart

Color it.  –> Cut it out.  –> Glue it on card stock.  –> Cut it out again.  –> Embroider!

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Photo by Erin Banda

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Check out:

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2. Capture chapter highlights:

If you had only one year to live, what would you do?

[I think about the beautiful, heartbreaking, incredible mother-daughter year my mother and I had from her diagnosis of pancreatic cancer November 2007 to her death November 2008.]

… To have a whole year to examine one’s life consciously in the context of approaching death is almost unique in the human experience…

As we begin to see where we have been absent from life, increasing possibilities audition for our approval.  The heart suggests that we become more present, that we sharpen our focus…

Those who insist they’ve got their “shit together” are usually standing in it at the time…

Sometime it takes a journey to come home.  We may even have to leave our comfortable (though always rented, never owned) domicile to do it.  Life is like that and so is death…

Thus, in the one year experiment… focus, instead, on the heart that loves as is.  This means completing one life before we start another, taking one evolutionary leap at a time.

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3. Explore another source regarding listening to the messages from the heart:

WE ALREADY HAVE everything we need. There is no need for self-improvement. All these trips that we lay on ourselves—the heavy-duty fearing that we’re bad and hoping that we’re good, the identities that we so dearly cling to, the rage, the jealousy and the addictions of all kinds—never touch our basic wealth. They are like clouds that temporarily block the sun. But all the time our warmth and brilliance are right here. This is who we really are. We are one blink of an eye away from being fully awake.
― Pema Chödrön, Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living

4. Today’s angel card:

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What the sock pigs taught me…

This past Sunday morning- hanging out on Vancouver Island, my 4 friends and I had a hankering to create sock pigs.  There is such magic in sitting around the dining room table at my friends’ house, surrounded by crafting supplies creating.  We laugh, we go deep, we eat, we drink coffee, we share time.  It is a SAFE SPACE.

But why the sock pig specifically this time?

I am a big fan of looking at symbolism.  It’s such a fun instigator of self-reflection.

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The Pig Spirit Animal also symbolizes your ability to stand on your own two feet, weather the storm and come out even better than before. Pig does not allow for self-righteousness, but rather a quiet self-awareness that taps into ingenuity so you can turn on a dime without falling over.

When Pig roots around in your soul, it can be a sign that NOW is the time to move forward! Pigs never root while moving backwards – only forward. They have a nose for opportunity. Make the most of the landscape in front of you. If it is not yielding the nourishment you desire, move on – find another patch of ground to explore.  [SOURCE]

Yes- MOVE FORWARD.

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Rathtrevor Beach, Parksville, BC April 2, 2017 (Photo by Merv Glip)

Dedicated to Beverley, Sue, Darcy and N. <3

Related:

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Poststreet custom order sock monkeys.

I’ve had some interesting requests and ideas over the years and I do love the challenge of finding materials and interpreting the subject.  Here are some samplings and planning sketches…

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A Clockwork Orange

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Frida and Diego
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Elizabeth I
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Waterhouse’s Circe Invidiosa

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guernica
Detail from Picasso’s Guernica
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Sock Pug
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Dia de los Muertos
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Amy Winehouse
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Monkey in wool sweater
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Girl with the Pearl Earring
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Advent Monkeys
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Jack Skellington
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Cubism
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Basquiat
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Jedi Knight with a light saber (I know— oh dear)
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Wedding monkeys
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Charlie Chaplin
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Dorian Gray
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Mona Lisa
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Francis Bacon

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Bride of Frankenstein