I want to tell you a story. It’s both dark and bright, and my hope is that I will share something of Courage and Resilience with you.
Five and a half years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was lost. I was furious about having my life derailed by disease, and despairing about having a mastectomy of my left breast. I was weak from chemo and wanted to do something that would occupy my hands but not be physically demanding.
I have always loved handwork so I started needle felting a pair of recycled wool mittens. I felted a sitting dog on the left mitten; but rebelled when it came time to embroider the right mitten. I decided that since I didn’t match anymore, I would make mittens that didn’t match and mittens that told a story. In a moment of Netflix fuelled inspiration, I felted a little word bubble that said SIT on the right mitten. These mittens made me laugh when I really needed a laugh.
I went on to make more Story Mittens as I recovered. Each pair tells a story that helps me to make sense of a world that is both tragic and beautiful. The snowperson mittens tell a story of Hope. It has been a long winter and the snow is still falling. The snowperson is full of joy but the bird is huddled in its nest longing for spring. “Wait”, says the snowperson, “Spring will come. I will not be here but I wish you the joy of it.”
My story mittens don’t ever match but they reflect the world outside my window and the one in my imagination the birds in trees with snow falling, a snowman talking to a bird, a whale searching the ocean, the moon talking to a little girl, a small bear under Northern Lights. Each pair has been an exploration of technique and a labour of love. I have evolved to lining them with silk and putting recycled fur cuffs on them. I have gifted them, and donated them, but never sold them. I’m not angry any more and I have made peace with my body, but I still make Story Mittens as an expression of joy.
My wish while I was making mittens and recovering was that I could have my life back. I have been so lucky. I went back to a job as a special education teacher. I am nurturing my family. I have learned to have courage.
Having looked over the edge, I decided to retire when I could. My two retirement goals were to keep learning and to be a contributor. I know I cannot make many mittens, but I wanted to share my experience in a positive way. The idea of Courage Cards evolved in part from my story mittens, a tangible way to tell a story of caring.
When someone you love is diagnosed with cancer, mental illness or any chronic condition, it can be very overwhelming, for them, for you, for anyone who wants to help but doesn’t know what to say. Courage Cards are a way to send Love without assuming anything. I hope they are a way to reach past the fear and uncertainty, past the unknown outcome to reach someone you love who is suffering. Courage can be found everywhere.
I welcome your feedback. Please contact me and guide me in any direction you think will help me to inspire Courage. Thank you for reading my story.