Do You Remember Me?

Do you recall in my last post how I had said I was so anxious for some fresh vegetables? I had a bear listed and mentioned that I had hoped to sell him that day so I could rush up to the store and indulge in fresh vegetables. Especially tomatoes. I love tomatoes. Well, the bear did sell rather quickly and I was off to the grocery store.

Now, I live in an interesting area. I’m on the cusp of a real tony neighborhood and a”not as good” neighborhood. Its not bad, its just “not as good.” So, I live smack dab in between Publix and Winn Dixie. I usually hit Publix, because if you’re not in the southeast, you just don’t know the genius in Publix. Its very affordable, bright, friendly, and EXCEPTIONALLY clean. They take that seriously. But, Winn Dixie had the better sale on tomatoes so I went there.

Now, this particular Winn Dixie is shamed in my neighborhood. And why? For one of the strangest reasons you could ever think of. No matter how good the sale might be at Winn Dixie that week, you won’t catch the people who live two blocks over to ever, EVER, go there. And why? Well, next door to Winn Dixie is a weekly hotel where many homeless people live, with the majority being men. A lot of them will band together, pan handle, collect recyclables, or do whatever they can to pitch in to share a room. So, you’ll have 5 guys living in one room. Its pretty much a place to sleep and be off the streets. And believe it or not, this is a step up. This is a hopeful way forward. They sleep on the floor of a crowded room, hope not to get into fights, hope no one gets drunk, and cook their meals on the barbeque pit in the weedy courtyard downstairs.

Now, Winn Dixie is where they shop, or sometimes to get away from the crowded room, or the fights, or just to be left alone. They wander around Winn Dixie, or just hang out in front of the store where they have a free water dispenser. Because of this, many, no let’s say MOST of the people in the neighborhood won’t go there. They don’t like the sight of it. They don’t want to be bothered with it. I, of course, don’t care because of my history. So, I go up there if they have something on sale.

That particular evening was interesting. I walked up there, grabbed my tomatoes and some other vegetables and as I was coming out of the storm, the usual afternoon monsoon in Central Florida started. The bottom of the clouds opened up and began drenching with a deluge everything below. So, I hung out under the awning of the store waiting for the rain to pass, standing not to far from two homeless men. A few seconds later, a few more fellas came out of the store, and a few more from out in front of the building. So, there I stood amongst probably ten homeless men, all of us with our belongings in tattered bags, all of us with clothes found or picked up in at a church thrift store, all of us sharing at one point or another in our lives the same moment of hopelessness. I looked around at them, watched them, their faces, many blank and without spirit, broken, discarded. Forgotten.

Yes, its true. Some of them have substance abuse problems. Others have mental health issues. And some, like myself, just hit a financial oil patch and skidded towards ruin very quickly. I had that same look on my face for a long while, too.

It wasn’t that long ago that I was one of them. And another miscalculation in the near future could put me amongst them again. So, what was different between us now? I have a very tiny place to live, but its mine. I don’t go a day without eating anymore. It may not be the BEST thing for you, but at least I don’t fall into bed hungry. So, what was different? How did I escape? Was I lucky? Did I work harder than them? Was I more of a survivor? A fighter? The only answer I can truly claim, is that I never gave up hope. Yes, at that point in my life back then, I definitely was convinced that the world had not only trampled me, but that it had forgotten me. I could see that in their faces under that awning the other day. They felt forgotten, invaluable. Dismissed. Unnecessary to the world at large. Unwanted. And why wouldn’t they? They’re reminded of it often. People don’t look them in the eye. People turn their heads when these men approach. Hell, people won’t even shop in the same grocery store with them.

And maybe that’s the difference. I made damn sure that the world would not forget about me. I made damn sure that I reminded people that I was valuable. I wasn’t going to just go away. I opened my heart so that I could feel wanted. I was HOPEFUL that the world was filled with compassion, care, kindness. And with heartfelt joy, I am able to say I’m right. ALL OF YOU reading this have been on this journey with me. With my hopeful writing and my sad eyed teddy bears, you helped nourish that hope. You never forgot me, you lifted me. You remembered me.

The rain disbursed, and slowly the sun began to creak through the cracks in the clouds. I gathered my bag of produce and started to leave. I turned back around as I was halfway through the parking lot and saw them standing there, faces still uncaring, too beaten inside to have any hope left. And I whispered under my breath, “Don’t give up hope, guys. I’ll always remember you. I won’t ever let you be forgotten.”

Those men you see on the side of the road, or passing by with their shopping carts, or bound up in parkas even though its 90 degrees outside……they’re always in my thoughts. Yes, fellas. I remember you.

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Big Brown Bear

IMG_0670 So, I finally have my appointment to have my arm looked at on Friday. And it couldn’t have come at a better time. The whole ordeal is just making me cranky. I’ve been wandering around with a timid scowl, left arm outstretched, rotating my wrist, looking like some crazy old man dishing curses out. So, I’m looking forward to just being done with the pain and getting back to normal. I haven’t been writing much, knitting until it hurts, then resting my arm in my lap limply. I plan to celebrate with a cartwheel.

This is my bear for today. This was the last of that lovely brown skein of wool from New Zealand that was given to me. His cousin is on his way to England, sp there are only TWO of this little guys on the planet. He ended up being MUCH bigger than one of my normal bears. MUCH bigger. SO he’s a nice size for cuddling. He’s ready to ship with a signed card from me. :) If you’d like to adopt him, click here.

I’d like to get him adopted today. I’m craving a salad. I haven’t had a tomato in forever. So, I’m craving a nice salad. With tomatoes.

Ok, I’m gonna knit a little more for today, then call it quits. To keep me company while working lately, I’ve been purge watching “Murder, She Wrote.” JB Fletcher ROCKS.

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Grit, Punch, Growl

So, this hand of mine has really started to bother me. I had a friend come over and take a look. He’s studying massage therapy and he asked where the pain was exactly. “From my wrist, down into my thumb, shoots up in my bicep and then lingers in my shoulder, near my rotary cuff. My pinky and ring finger are numb.” He just looks at me and says, “here, let me try this….” He begins working on my shoulder blade, painfully causing me to leap and bounce in my chair until I finally said, “Ok, ok, ok….I’m sorry, man. But, I can’t let you go any further until you get your license. You’re HURTING me.”

We decided on using Aspercreme, Icy Hot, Tiger Balm. Nothing. No change. As a matter of fact, I wandered around my little apartment last night smelling like a pickled old man. Not even Mario would approach me. She just looked at me oddly as if asking, “So where’s your truss???” Back off little kitty. Back off.

I haven’t been able to get an appointment yet, and the whole ordeal does make me a little nervous. I mean, I need these hands of mine. This is my work, my livelihood…..but more so, enjoyment. Knitting is becoming more painful. But, I work through it. I mean, is there a choice??? You work through pain, you grit your teeth, you punch pillows, and you growl when you put your boots on. But, you have to proceed. You have to continue. You HAVE to.

IMG_0663I’ve been working with a larger yarn, bigger needles. I have this yarn that was given to me from New Zealand. Amazing stuff. But, I decided to work with it, because it seemed like there was less movement the larger the needles were. So, the head of the bear is already larger than the body of my usual bears. I think he’s already been claimed (I’m pretty sure of it actually), but I thought I’d share a pic. Hopefully, the larger the bear, the less pain. And we can work on figuring out what in the world is wrong with my arm.

That’s the update. If you can, pick up a pattern or two. Or let someone know about my patterns. The less I knit right now, the better. Even though, they’re only a few dollars, it really does help out.

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Electric Bear

IMG_0636 IMG_0637So, my left hand (sounds like a weird version of “My Left Foot,” but about a knitter) still has quite a bit of trouble. The usual. Holding things, sharp pain running up my arm into my shoulder blade. This isn’t the first time. But, there you have it. I’m trying to recooperate, but work needs to be done. And like I mentioned in my last post, Carlos and Kara have been helping me with much of the knitting.

But, despite whatever issues we have at the moment with my hand,  we still have obligations and bills. Bears still need to go out, over due bears that need to get to their adopted homes, and the usual monthly expenses. That’s why I named this little guy, Electric Bear. I made him up so I’d have the funds for my electric bill. I think he looks so classic. You know? Like….I dunno…..like the teddy bear you see in the corner in a scene out of Peter Pan. Or, tucked under the arm of a kid lost somewhere. Or, the bear found under a pile of old toys in a chest. Classic. If you’d like to adopt him, click here. He’s ready to ship with a signed card from me. He’s made of wool and measures 12″ from toe to head.

I don’t wanna write too much, for I do need to rest my hand more. And I need to work up bears for Kathy, Terry, Pam and Benita this week. So, hope you’re all well. I’ll write little notes here and there to give you progress on my hand. Hoping to see the acupuncturist this week sometime.

 

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The Last Purple Bear

IMG_0602Well, that’s that for my stash of purple and the little bit of the Debbie Bliss Merino Wool for the muzzle. I would love to write more now. God knows I have a lot to say, but I have to confess my left wrist is killing me like crazy. My left hand is numb and my wrist feels like its been wrung through a washboard, so I figure it needs some rest. If I can afford it, I plan to go see the acupuncturist up the road. I’ve been to him before when I had a groin injury seven years ago. (Long story :) ) So, If you’d like to adopt him, he’ll be shipped out on Monday with a signed card from me.  He’s made of acrylic (except for the muzzle), stuffed with polyfill and measures 12 inches from his tippy toes to his head. If you’d like to adopt him, click here.

Hope ya’ll have a great weekend. Me? I really do think I’m gonna take two days away from knitting to let myself recover. There’s much to do, but I can’t do it if I’m injured. So I’m gonna sit back, have myself some boiled peanuts in my pajamas while watching something crass and wrong on TV and see if we can’t get this hand of mine back in shape. Thank goodness for Kara and Carlos…..and all of you, for that matter. Thank goodness for all of you. (I think I’m gonna watch “Fried Green Tomatoes”. Why not?)

 

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Another Purple Bear

IMG_0617 IMG_0618Well, thinks with my new knitting partner are going swimmingly. He has the right tension, the right gauge, and a really good attitude. And he’s eager to knit his heart out. And all of this couldn’t have come at a better time, because I’m starting to have issues again with my left hand. So, the less I have to knit, the more I can rest my hands and let them recover. So we have a nice little production line going. Kara is doing bodies, Carlos is knitting arms and legs, and I’m knitting the heads, embroidering the faces, and assembling it all together. It takes me about 5 hours to knit a bear from start to finish, so I try and get 2 one a day. With the help of Kara and Carlos, I am now down to getting a full bear done in almost 2 hours. Which means in no time flat, we’ll be doing 4 to 5 a day. Yay!

I finished up another purple bear yesterday. The last one was so popular, I thought I’d work up another real quick. Purple is made of Lionbrand’s Wool Ease and the tan muzzle is made of Debbie Bliss Merino Wool. Measures 12″ from his tippy toes to the top of his head. If you’d like to adopt him click here.

 

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Purple Bear

So, my new “employee” will be showing up tomorrow. Isn’t that awesome? I made a couple of dollars in donations (thank you!). Enough to be able to call him up and tell him my idea. He said was fully on board and was looking forward to it. Hot damn. Very cool. :) So, tomorrow I’m hoping we bust out some teddy bears in crazy ways. This is just the start of something. I can feel it :) Something awesome.

IMG_0602Today’s bear is made of Lionbrand’s Wool Ease (so it makes it easier to clean) in purple with a tan muzzle. Actually, the muzzle is a touch of what was left over from the Debbie Bliss Merino Wool I had. NEVER let yarn go to waste :) This bear measure’s 12″ tall from top of head to tip of toe and ready to ship with a signed card from me. If you’d like to adopt him (or her) click here.

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My First Official Knitting Group

So! It was somewhat, sort of, kinda officially formed today. My very own knitting group. I felt like a rock star in his garage gathering a couple of people he knew just to do rag tag skiffs on a guitar and calling themselves the world’s greatest band. Big ideas and dreams were tossed around, monumental ambitions spoken, as if we were going to revolutionize knitting. How many members? Just two :)

I received a message from a man in town who says he knits and used to belong to a HUGE knitting group in Michigan and had I thought about starting one for men here?

So I asked, “When are you free?”

“How about Sunday at 1?”

“I think we just started a knitting group, man.”

He met, both of us with projects in hand and we were off. He’s working on a baby blanket, he’s going to be an uncle very soon. And I was obviously working on my teddy bears. Of course we did the usual knit chit chat. How did you get started? How long have you been doing it? Then in no time, we ended up gossiping. In a good way! I mean we were talking about Claus Von Bulow and Leona Helmsley. No one that might suffer under our opinions. And the whole time I just considered in my mind this idea of a collective of men sitting there knitting, a group of fellas talking about whatever, knitting in front of the world to see. Not to be boastful, but to say, “Hey! Come on in, the waters fine!” Maybe it would be encouraging to anyone, man or woman, to see a group of guys with needles in hand, trash talking bad TV movies of the week. It be a sign to anyone that all are welcome, you can have a seat by me, don’t be afraid. All is well.

So, it will start with only 2 guys. But, I decided I wanted to put up a sign at Starbucks that says, “KNIT LIKE A MAN! Be Here First Sunday of the Month at 1pm. Open to everyone, but gents encouraged.”

And as we were leaving he happened to mention, “you know….I really am impressed with those teddy bears. Maybe you could show me how to make one?”

Bam, went my light bulb, my entrepreneurial eureka. “I think we can work something out……” I would love to employ him, pay him $5 for every body of a bear that he does. They only take about an hour and a half for an experienced knitter, and that would help me get back on track in no time. AND!!! AND!!!! It would still be done by a man. Yeah! Another ball cap wearing, boot strapping man. (You know I love the ladies…..but a group of men, rag tagged skiffing with their guitars knitting adorable little teddy bears?……THAT is a sight).

So, a little seed money could help out. Nothing massive. Just enough to help me to pay him for a couple of bear bodies.

And I could be starting a new kind of interesting adventure…..MadManKnitting (little trademark in a circle here). Now, he couldn’t make the whole bear, no no no. Then it wouldn’t be mine. I still need to work up that face, those eyes, that sad little pout. But, a big chunk of the work goes into the body. So, I just might be able to hire someone to help me. I just might have started……my own company?

Wow.

I think I’m on to something :)

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A Declaration

I’m trying to write this blog without…..writing this blog? I guess I’m trying to say something without actually saying it. Let’s see how that goes.

So over the course of the last two weeks or so, I’d been having some personal issues with someone in my life. I’m really not a fan of having people around me who are negative. And I just don’t mean that they have bad attitudes towards the world in general,  I mean constantly telling me that what I’m doing isn’t valuable, that I COULD have done something more with my life, that I could have been anything that I wanted.

And frankly, I couldn’t take anymore. I only smile when I hear the phrase, “I could have been anything I wanted.” And I laugh. Don’t they understand? I AM everything I’ve ever wanted. A good person, an artist, a craftsman. Ok, so I’m not wealthy by any means and getting by every month is a struggle. But I acquired a certain tenacity that I did not inherit from my family. I also, thankfully, did not inherit the notion that things make you happy, and personal wealth is all that you spend your life striving towards. Not that those ideas make you a BAD person, but if you do not subscribe to them, then you shouldn’t be criticized either. I tell ya, some of us truly aren’t miserable with out a smart phone and a flat screen TV. If you want one, go right ahead! Knock yourself and have fun. But, don’t look at me as though I’m some sort of personal failure because I don’t have them, or even worse, not WANT them. (“What kind of person doesn’t want a television?”)

So a few days ago, with tension with this person already on fragile ground, everything came to a head and I snapped. I finally let everything go. And I was often not as eloquent as I wished to be. I made the clear decision that I could no longer have this person around anymore. They were making me feel bad about myself. What they thought was critical observation, I called being mean and I decided it was not necessary to hear about my being a failure, nor about me being strange because I don’t own a car and once had the aspirations to be a monk.

I decided to cut out anyone from my life that made me feel inadequate in any way whatsoever. I want supportive people around me. And I am unyielding in this. That’s it in a nutshell. It just so happened that this whole incident occurred right around Independence Day. I found it metaphoric, that I was declaring my own right not to feel bad about myself because I did not become the professional with a mortgage that you wanted me to be. And who knows what this future holds for me? Maybe one day instead of renting a 10 by 20 room, that I could get something bigger :) Who knows? I do have aspirations for greater accomplishments and moments. Maybe millions of knitters all around the world with buy my patterns and BAM! Maybe I’ll write a best seller and WOAH LOOK OUT. Maybe……who knows?

But, that is the beautiful thing about being in this country. You truly CAN be anything you want to be.  And you are generally not made to feel bad about yourself for becoming what ever it is you wanted. No, this country encourages and supports the initiative to go in any direction you wish. Yes, America allows your dreams to come true, despite whatever nightmares you experienced.

I feel so much better about myself.

 

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Through The Mud With a Smile

So, last night I crawled into bed. I did my usual routine. Ate some late dinner ( I can’t eat at normal times of day. When I eat, I go straight to sleep. Not sure where that comes from), fired up some of the Golden Girls on my laptop (the sound of them soothes me into sleep), Mario crawled up beside my pillow and rolled into a ball, and then I began to doze off……THEN WHAM! Hours later, somewhere around 3 or 4 in the morning, I bolted straight up, wide eyed with panic. My mind was racing, my breath was panted, and my body was solidly stuck in a state of tense. And what brought this on???? In my heard I kept hearing, “I’m 42 years old! I’m 42 years old!!!!!”

Would sound kinda of vain if that were the ONLY thing in that statement, but it bled with so many other underlying fears that crept up on me. It’s tough scraping by every month. But, I do it. But the closer I get to the end of the month, the pressure of scraping by becomes a reality, and that reality becomes more and more of a nightmare the older you get. I mean, if I were in my 20’s this sort of life would seem like the beginning of great possibilities. It would seem Bohemian and thrilling. But, now that I’m in my 40’s its becoming this terrifying notion that I’ll be 50, still hoping to get by each month knitting teddy bears. No savings, still, wondering if arthritis will set in and ruin me. And then I’ll be 60. And hopefully 70…..and I’ll be living with Mario in a badly run State home for the indigent, both of us eating cat food out of the same can. What?????

That was the panic that sat in last night. Fear of the future. I”m getting too old to barely get by every month. Something big needs to happen. Something that takes me to the next level…..but, then again you have to ask, what IS the next level? I guess one option is to design a logo, slap it on my front door, file some papers and call myself a legitimate design house/business, charge HUGE amounts of money for my bears, and become a man that would rival the Steiff Bear. (Really, aside from Steiff, who else is there???). Another option would be to find a small yarn company, or just an individual yarn maker and work with them. You know, attach my bear pattern to their yarn, and use ONLY  their yarn when I work up one of my bears. Cross promote each other.  I had always hoped that my book would sell MILLIONS of copies and that would solve quite a few problems…..alas, not yet.

I guess I’m intellectually stifled right now. I’m in brainstorming mode. I do know this much, though. I’m not interested in spending another year just drudging through financial mud with an optimistic smile on my face. I don’t want to do that anymore. I need ideas. New, fresh ways of thinking. What is the next level?  How do I get there? I want to start moving in that direction PRONTO……so, that’s where I want to hear from you. Let’s ALL get into brainstorming mode. All ideas are welcome (except for going on “Dancing with the Stars.” I’m not doing that). So, leave comments, tell me what you think the next level should be?

IMG_0577And of course, I still have a few Rainbow Bears to adopt out in order to get the rent gathered up. My friend Butch said they weren’t doing as well because they were ugly. Bah! I think it’s ironic that  a man named Butch wouldn’t like a Rainbow Bear! Just sayin’!

Click here to adopt a Rainbow Bear and prove Butch wrong! All are ready to ship with a signed card from me :)