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.

A mother’s eulogy by Beverley Pomeroy

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by Beverley Pomeroy

(posted with permission from author)

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Sophia (photo courtesy of Beverley Pomeroy)
Well, it’s a difficult thing to have to write a eulogy for your child.  Where do you start?  How do you end?  How can you possibly sum up your beautiful child’s life in 8 minutes? Do you get up and read it yourself…or do you get someone else to because it’s a difficult thing.
 
But Sophia is my best friend and was my happy companion for 16 years, 4 months and 29 days.  And they were the most extraordinary 16 years, 4 months and 29 days.  And it is my honor to come up here today and be Sophia’s voice, to share my heart, to share our loss.
 
I knew from the moment Sophia was born, much like with her brothers, that life would never be the same again. I realized just what an under statement that may have been when I found myself sitting in the back of an ambulance less than 24 hours after she was born…Sophia was on her side, in an isolette (like an incubator) with just a little diaper on…the paramedic and I sitting next to her.  That entire ride to Neonatal ICU Sophia just looked at me…stared, with these big wide beautiful eyes.  There was a wisdom in those eyes right from the beginning.
 
Anyone who knew Sophia in her early years, may recall Sophia didn’t really talk much, she rarely cried even though we relentlessly poked her little toes and fingers, gave her shots in her legs, put tubes up her nose.  She was so good, so patient, so enduring. 
 
Sophia, despite all her medical and physical hurdles, is and was a typical child and teen…and, yet, at the same time, she was so    much    more.
 
For years, and even now that she has passed, people have come up to me and said how Sophia is a miracle, how she has surpassed everyone’s expectations, how she’s lived longer than anyone anticipated.  The thing is, while Sophia may have outlived everyone else’s expectations…she didn’t outlive her own.  She lived large, she lived boldly.  She is courageous.  She had big dreams and big goals of a life full of joy, full of laughter, full of music and full of people…
 
Sophia loved people…early on she would sit contently in your lap, curl up in the croak of your arm, be plunked on the counter at the nurses’ station.  She was so tiny that up until she was about 3 ½ I would carry her around in a little bunting bag but always facing out…never facing in because she loved people, and she longed to observe the world around her.  She just wanted to be part of the action.  It didn’t matter how she was feeling, whether she was in ICU, or a music concert, or at school, camp, home…she wanted to always be with people.
 
As her health started to change this last year and she couldn’t go to school anymore, her iPad became her life line to the world, to people and those around her.  For those of you who were Sophia’s Facebook friend…you know what I am talking about.  Sophia liked everything on your Facebook feed.  She loved Messenger and FaceTime.  And it didn’t matter if you were working, in the car, at school…she would bombard you with calls and messages until you finally succumbed.  I know her cousins that are here can certainly attest to that.  Right, Kimmy? And my brother, Bill, who set a FaceTime date every evening with Sophia.  Where she would end her night laughing and giggling at his antics.
 
As Sophia became a teenager and as her health declined, she definitely became more discerning.  She had a preference…young, pretty, female.  I’m not sure how my brother fit into that, but she did make exceptions.  And you knew when you were in, if you suddenly felt a little tickle on your leg, or under your arm.  It was Sophia’s way of saying, ‘Hey, I think you’re cool, I want to be your friend’.
 
But when you were in, you were in.  Sophia loved you no matter what.  You will notice the buttons that were handed out, and on the schedule for today…has, in Sophia’s own handwriting, Love Sophia.  Every time Sophia posted to Facebook, or sent you a text, or message, or even in her communication via iPad with her nurses, she always signed ‘love sophia’.  It started to get autocorrected to LOVED Sophia…so every time she signed off, the last words she said were LOVED SOPHIA.
 
And it fits…loved Sophia.  She loved large, she loved boldly, she loves courageously. 
 
Everyone here today has in some way, been touched by that love.  Either as a volunteer, a clinician, a nurse, through school, as a peer, through her brothers, or through us as her family and friends.  There are a lot of people here in this space, and Sophia shared her life and her love with each and every one of you.
 
And while she lived large and lived boldly…the last few years, her world became smaller.  Sophia’s body was being impacted in ways she did not like.  And this past year, when she went blind her world became even smaller.
 
But what kept her going, beyond sheer determination and stubbornness, was her ability to see and feel the joy in every day, in any moment, with whomever she was surrounded by.  And it’s why the auto correct LOVED Sophia resonates…she was loved, she was joy.  And everybody here today loved her and contributed to her joy.
 
The last three weeks of Sophia’s life were difficult.  There was not a lot of joy.  But there was a lot of love.  And even when she was screaming ‘I don’t want to be here”, “I’m done”, “I hate you” to those around her…she was loved, unconditionally, tenderly.
 
And one of the most important and hardest things I’ve ever had to do as Sophia’s mum was help her let go.  She held on because she loved, and in the end she was able let go because she was loved.
 
We have all learned something through our touch point with Sophia.  For myself, as her mum…as her caregiver, her companion, I have learned that despite the pain, despite the discomfort, despite the world changing around you or maybe your body failing…you love.  And that love will turn into joy, into laughter, into courage.  You will live large; you will love boldly…
 
Sophia is my best friend and it is my privilege to love my beautiful daughter and to be loved by her.  There isn’t a moment that goes by that I don’t miss her terribly, longingly.  I am forever changed.
 
Her remarkable legacy will continue…in me, in her brothers, in my brothers and sisters, her cousins…and in everyone here today, who Loved Sophia.
– Beverley Pomeroy, January 28, 2017
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Sophia Summer 2016, photo courtesy of Beverley Pomeroy
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Beverley’s shoes for Sophia’s Celebration of Life!  Photo by Beverley Pomeroy

 

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Portrait of Sophia (Katarina Thorsen, 2016):

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SOME PORTRAITS OF GRIEF.

For me, it is impossible to quantify grief.  To qualify it.  To define it.  It comes as a surprise. It comes as a wave.  It comes suddenly.  Or it comes on slow.  It can feel like nostalgia, anger, sadness, gratitude, drowning.  It can be triggered.  It can be low grade.  It can be reassuring.  It can be overwhelming.


Journal entry: November 3, 2012 

The emotion of missing.  What is it?

Saudade is a unique Portuguese word that has no immediate translation in English.  Saudade describes a deep emotional state of nostalgic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves.  It often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing will never return.  It’s related to the feelings of longing, yearning.  Saudade is the recollection of feelings, experiences, places or events that once brought excitement, pleasure, well-being, which now triggers the senses and makes one live again…  It can be described as an emptiness and the individual feels this absence…  In fact, one can have ‘saudades’ of someone whom one is with, but have some feeling of loss towards the past or the future. source

As the numbness wears off after Dad passed away on October 25, I find myself longing for that numbness again.  Now I feel the familiar sense of fear- sort of like walking on a unsteady pier or a balance beam that wobbles or a tightrope over a waterfall.  I am flooded with thoughts of doubt.  Did I do enough?  Should I have been more aggressive in getting treatment for Dad earlier?  Should I have taken him for more walks in the electric wheelchair?  Was he lonely and scared at the end?  These are expected thoughts.  I know that.  They are not to be avoided or feared.  It’s the process we all experience as we walk through grief.  I get it.  I dare to look.  But it hurts.

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My various experiences of loss and experiences of grief are not like yours, or hers, or his or theirs.  Mine takes up a different space, shape, beyond time. Shifting, eternal.  Each one of our personal truths are unique.  Profound.

And as saudadic waves wash over me, I find it healing to explore:

SOME PORTRAITS OF GRIEF

Beverley Pomeroy:

August 2, 2016: Living Grief is the profound journey of ongoing loss; where we can neither grief nor celebrate. Yet, our loss is palpable. We feel it wrapped around our throat choking back vulnerability we’ve not ever experienced before. We journey through acceptance, make friends with physiological depression, butt up against anger, bargain with whoever or whatever holds our conscience…ultimately, finding the sweet spot of denial where we can see and be what ‘is’ and live in the joy of where we are at on our journey with our loved one.
My gorgeous daughter, Sophia, turns 16 tomorrow…16 years more than we expected to have her, 15 years later with a palliative designation. Tomorrow I will be swallowed up in denial…and will let joy breathe for me, filling up my lungs until I can cry no more and the melancholy rocks my broken heart to sleep.
It is like a play…and even though we know there will be a final act, we so desperately cling to the idea of it being never ending, no matter what.

Beverley is a passionate advocate, social intrapreneur, Community Engagement Strategist, LGBTQA speaker, author of Living Griefbeverleypomeroy.com

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Patton Oswalt:

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… If you spend 102 days completely focused on ONE thing you can achieve miracles. Make a film, write a novel, get MMA ripped, kick heroin, learn a language, travel around the world. Fall in love with someone. Get ’em to love you back.

But 102 days at the mercy of grief and loss feels like 102 years and you have shit to show for it. You will not be physically healthier. You will not feel “wiser.” You will not have “closure.” You will not have “perspective” or “resilience” or “a new sense of self.” You WILL have solid knowledge of fear, exhaustion and a new appreciation for the randomness and horror of the universe. And you’ll also realize that 102 days is nothing but a warm-up for things to come.

And…

You will have been shown new levels of humanity and grace and intelligence by your family and friends. They will show up for you, physically and emotionally, in ways which make you take careful note, and say to yourself, “Make sure to try to do that for someone else someday.” Complete strangers will send you genuinely touching messages on Facebook and Twitter, or will somehow figure out your address to send you letters which you’ll keep and re-read ’cause you can’t believe how helpful they are… Read more

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C.S. Lewis:

No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear…

For in grief nothing “stays put.” One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral?

But if a spiral, am I going up or down it?

How often — will it be for always? — how often will the vast emptiness astonish me like a complete novelty and make me say, “I never realized my loss till this moment”? The same leg is cut off time after time. – A Grief Observed

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Shakespeare:

Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased,

Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow,

Raze out the written troubles of the brain

And with some sweet oblivious antidote

Cleanse the stuffed bosom of that perilous stuff

Which weighs upon the heart? – Macbeth Act 5, Scene 3, Page 3

My study of Munch’s “Puberty” (china marker, oil pastel on wood)

William Cowper:

Encompass’d with a thousand dangers,

Weary, faint, trembling with a thousand terrors… I… in fleshy tomb, am

Buried above ground.

Fleshy Tomb

Cat Webb:

There will be a moment where a memory will hit, or a milestone day, or just a moment of being overwhelmed with something seemingly unrelated… and grief pops up again. AND THAT IS OK!!! More than ok… this is normal… your sadness about your loved ones death is normal… Your grief is normal and essential for your healing. There is no wrong way to do grief other than to pretend it isn’t there… Denying grief is the same as trying to convince your subconscious that there was no love here, no good times to remember, and this person meant nothing to me.  READ MORE

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“Psychopomp” for Cat Webb

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Kay Jamison:

There is a sanity to grief… given to all, [grief] is a generative and human thing…it acts to preserve the self.

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Roar Thorsen:

Adjust yourself.

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There are no easy answers.  There is just process.  And breathing.  In and out.

Study of Picasso’s Guernica

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Journal exercise: self-care and self-compassion

Journal exercise:

What does self-care and self-compassion mean to you?  How are they different?  How are they the same?

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Inspired by conversations of late, I am intrigued by the differences between SELF-CARE and SELF-COMPASSION.

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In health care, self care is any necessary human regulatory function which is under individual control, deliberate and self-initiated. [source]

Self-compassion is extending compassion to one’s self in instances of perceived inadequacy, failure, or general suffering.  Kristin Neff has defined self-compassion as being composed of three main components – self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. [source]

CARE implies an action, a verb: effort made to do something correctly, safely, or without causing damage, things that are done to keep someone healthy, safe, etc., things that are done to keep something in good condition…

Taking good care of yourself means the people in your life receive the best of you rather than what is left of you. ― Lucille Zimmerman

COMPASSION implies a noun: pity, sympathy, empathy, fellow feeling, care, concern, solicitude, sensitivity, warmth, love, tenderness, mercy, leniency, tolerance, kindness, humanity, charity…

Don’t ever allow yourself to forget how incredibly special you are, even for a single second. Without you, the world would not be as magnificent. Let yourself remember to love again, starting with you loving you. ― Miya Yamanouchi

Self-care implies a to-do.  That can trigger.  Exhaust.

Check out:

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Self-compassion is immediate.

But hey, both important.

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I am getting better at self-compassion.  Self-care will take some more work.  In my own time.  In that statement lies self-compassion- take your time.

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So I will continue to practice self-compassion first (immediate), then self-care (commitment).

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This post is dedicated to my self-care/compassion soul-sisters:

Laura Mack, Patti Henderson, Beverley Pomeroy, Cher Thorsen, Maud Kerzendörfer, Cat Webb and Emma Varley…

and to Frida Kahlo.

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Check out:

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We could also say that this month is all about love; transforming fear into power through love, transforming doubt into confidence through love, transforming old emotional wounds into great wisdom through love. It is an opportunity for us all to learn our lessons through the tough love of spirit and to finally begin to love and cherish ourselves deeply and unconditionally… Make sure this month to take time for yourself in the area of self-care.  How can you best support your own priorities?  How can you take better care of yourself as your own most valuable possession?  Remember to have compassion and forgiveness and to be in love with yourself. July 2016 Forecast, The Power Path