The Madam and Mr. Brown

Madam and BrownFinally! Yes! I am so excited about this! Now, I had originally tried to publish this book a few years ago in serial form. I foolishly tried to write the story backwards. What can I say? I was trying to be all “artsy.” Most of the few people that read those first installments thought that it should be rewritten with the beginning of their story where it should be: at the beginning of the book! (Trust your audience!) And a serial wasn’t working. No, it’s a cute story about two broken people who find each other just when they need each other. That’s all it really needs to be. Just a really nice and simple love story that will fill your heart with joy. So, I’ve been working and working and working on this baby and it’s finally ready to read in its final form. And I do so love the story, I truly do.

Since money is really tight right now, please grab a copy in my shop. If I sell just 10 copies, I’ll feel a lot better about whatever pressures I’m financially under at the moment. A really good book could fix that for me. Go read! 🙂 Click here for my shop.

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Tips For and From a New Embroidery Artist

vlcsnap-2021-06-10-12h31m00s444I was passing through instagram this morning, exploring #embroidery when I came across quite a few people who were trying this beautiful needlework for the first time. Wow, have I learned so much in the last six months, a ton of valuable information that I might be informative. So, I uploaded a little video of Tips For and From a New Embroidery Artist.

I’m not really working on a project now. I finished my pillow yesterday and sold it within an hour (Thank you, GOD!) But, with no work and no job, I have to start another one right away. I’d love to work with a client, a commissioned job, working on a pillow cushion cover (Because I do so love their flexibility). So, take a look at the video. And if you’d like a custom piece of any kind done, please please be in touch at madmanknitting@gmail.com. I really could use the work. Thank you!

If you appreciate my blog and would like for it to continue, please donate. Every bit helps and I wouldn’t have the courage to do this without you. Thank you!

My Job Interview Tomorrow

Well! I have a job interview tomorrow.

Am I nervous? Not really. I’m a fully confidant, capable person. I’m smart, talented, witty, gifted….and the horn can keep tooting if we all wish, but….the truth is, I’m building up my own sense of self esteem.

Here, at Honeychurch, in front of this desk, in front of you, in front of my friends and the world, I’m safe. It sounds off. Weird. I’ve always felt safe with the spirit of people, rather than actual people. People hurt, souls don’t.

It’s a job that I think I’ll be good at. I can’t tell you where, and can’t tell you for whom because….well, we already have too many people showing up at Honeychurch, can’t have ya’ll showing up rooting for me on my first day at work. 🙂 (I can see the management asking me, “Who are YOU????”)

Snapshot_20210606_13So, I’m anxious and prepping. Like an octogenarian model being asked to pose again, I’m pulling out all the stops. Face scrubs, brows tweezed, eye cream, hand cream, clothes pressed, hems sewn, head shaved, whiskers trimmed, winning smirk ready to charm. Tomorrow morning will look like the opening scene of “Mommie Dearest.” While the coffee is perking, I’ll be burying my face in hot water and witch hazel.

I could be interviewing to work at 7-11 or a law firm. You wouldn’t know it. The same respect is paid. I’m showing you who I am. Doesn’t matter the job. Either job will get the absolute best that I am.

I’m really excited because, I can’t stress how much this might allow me so many more opportunities that I was never allowing myself before….and of what opportunities are waiting for me, ready for me to eagerly snatch up and enjoy….just over there at the edge of my imagination.

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A Challenge From Phillip

196958915_182947030498267_4289465694980948041_nThe funniest thing about creativity is it’s collaborative nature. 

Phillip and I were watching a movie last night, just chit chatting about his new adventures in making these concrete planters called “Growbotpots.” Phillip is a very creative, artistic person in the tangible sense. He can make all kinds of things with his hands. I sometimes like to look at the artistry in action, like marketing. There is a definite art form in that, something a little more cerebral, and I simply adore putting my own things down for a minute and playing around with the promotion of art, rather than the art itself. Phillip constructs, I take to market.

So, while we’re talking last night, he was reminding me that everything on this shelf was for sale…..ok, I guess I’m being a little friendly to myself by saying that. Ahem. He was nudging me, as if to say, “What are you waiting for? All of these are ready to sell!” Well, I better get off my duff and get to work! I was up bright and early…..

196655500_852297345367202_6454030458053124679_nHe’s still asleep while writing this, and I won’t mention a word of it to him, but I’m anxious for him to get up, have his coffee, scroll through his phone and see a ton of his Growbotpots listed in the shop. I had soooo much fun taking the totem picture. It really does start to build a story around his pots, something whimsical, like forgotten artifacts from a newly discovered land where robots used to build pots, modeled after each other, to grow plants in. 

There are four in the shop at the moment, and I know what you’re thinking, “Dang, the shipping on those things must be insane!” No, not really. They weigh about 7 pounds, which is only about $16. We sold and shipped one last week to see how things would mail. Beautifully, his first pot arrived without incident and without any extra needed postage. Hooray! So, with our shipping test run a success, here I am.

They’re all $55, which does include the shipping. And Phillip does sign and date them all, so instead of thinking of them as planters, truly embrace the idea of them being functional pieces of art. 

They’re in the shop and ready to go…..and oh, I would love to see the look on his face while scrolling through his phone that his pots have sold out! I think that would really impress him. Hell, he might even do a spit-take with his coffee. 🙂

Granny Pearl Confesses

I thought I’d pen a little more about my grandmother. I was embroidering just now and had some tremendously strong thoughts about her. I don’t know why, but I just thought I’d go with it. I felt like she was hanging around, so maybe this was my way of spending some time with her.

She was put into an orphanage at an early age….sadly, it wasn’t early enough. No, she wasn’t handed over as an infant, she was around 12 years old. Now, this is the fascinating thing about a family like mine. We know of things, but prefer not to talk about them. It would be rude….

I’ve always thought that was nonsense, so I asked Granny, “Why were you given up for adoption? It’s an unusual age.”

Georgia pines were racing by. I was sitting in the passenger seat of her Grand Marquis as we sped up the highway to have lunch with my mother in Waycross. Those pines….Should you find a time to hit a rural road near the Florida Georgia line, look when you can on either side of you when you’re driving. The perfectly lined columns of Georgia pine will play with your mind. I promise you.

She remained motionless while driving, spilling the words, “My parents couldn’t afford to feed me. They wanted to save me from starvation.” She never looked at me, never flinched, was almost emotionless. She was a very matter of fact woman. Confessions don’t always need tears and sadness. Her hands still delicately holding the steering wheel.

You could say I persisted, but the truth is, she volunteered.

“What happened next?” I had to ask. No one seems to want ask about her life because of….what? Shame?

You must understand, that by every measure I was disrespecting the wishes of everyone in my family by even bring up the issue. DO NOT EVER TALK ABOUT BAD THINGS IN THIS FAMILY…..

You know? In an alarming way it seemed as though she had been wanting to say it for decades. “They said they would come back for me later, once I had some supper. But, I never saw them again.” There was no moment of pause, no deep breathe of confession, no tone of liberation. It was a cold delivery. Very, very factual, on point….

“They left me….and never came back.”

I was about 25 at the time and stupidity was still an infection I was plagued with. So, I asked her. “Do you hate them? I would!”

This is where I saw that shift in her face, that beautiful face that had seen so much of life, finally caught a glimpse of what it meant for her to find inside something joyous, something to strive for. With a lilt, then maybe a tilt in the corner of her mouth shifting brightly in to a smile, she said, “Of course not. I’m actually hunting down their graves right now. I have NO idea where they are buried and….I have a lead my mother is in Waycross.”

20210530_142056“Is THAT why we’re going all the way to Georgia for lunch?”

“Well, yes….and I thought you might like to see your own mother while she’s alive….”

While everyone stayed silent, I wanted to know more. Maybe that’s why she told me so much. I asked about her unusual life.

Yes, it is true that she had been handed over to an orphanage at the age of 12. However, within just a few years she would meet my grandfather, marry him the day they met, and would be living in Okinawa learning how to sew kimono.

I was so anxious to know more. I was hell bent on asking anything I could….She answered my question! I have to know more!

“We’ll talk later,” she said.

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The Most Fortunate Man in the World

I have to confess that I might be the most fortunate man in the world.

Bezos and Musk may have billions, but I’m going to go ahead and say with only $1.29 to my name, I still feel I’m a lot more fortunate than they are.

You have all been so very kind to me, especially now as I begin my job hunt. You see, Jennifer Slamka was kind enough to send me two new pairs of khakis, 4 adorable button up shirts, a few polos, a new leather belt and some truly comfortable (and swank) shoes for my trek around town. She also sent me some rather wonderful soaps from the Beekman Brothers, and some eye cream so I look refreshed 🙂

I was getting everything ready for tomorrow, making sure everything was pressed, that I was nice and shaved, exfoliated and primped….and I got really emotional. I started crying with this fervid joy that I don’t think I’ve experienced in a long while.

20210524_213906As I saw myself in the mirror, wearing new clothes, with polished, fresh skin, with eyes that were wide and hopeful, I saw the tears streaming down my face and I just let them roll down my cheeks with laughter. I felt so good. I felt….I felt like I wasn’t looking at that homeless man anymore, that his time in my cycle of growth had finally come to an end. I don’t even look like him anymore. I don’t even feel like him anymore. I look younger, refreshed…loved.

I know you’re all dying to see a picture of me and my new look. You will, tomorrow! The whole moment of test driving the new “Gregory” look was rather emotional, in so many positive ways, that I just wanted to share it with you.

So wish me luck. Tomorrow morning I’m going to take my $1.29, grab a Jarrito and hit the streets of Orlando looking dapper and daring, looking like the most fortunate man in the world. Hey, if Phillip sells his “Growbotpot” in the shop, I’ll spring for a sandwich at Stasio’s, then pop the question. “Need a dishwasher?” I’m also heading to Hobby Lobby. I’d be more than happy spending a few hours a day stocking shelves for $15 an hour.

That, I think is the biggest difference between how I felt before trying on my new clothes and how I felt afterwards….That I now had options, just like everybody else.

I have a tremendously good feeling about tomorrow. 🙂

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Phillip’s Growbotpots!

img_3584Phillip’s creativity has been kicking into high gear lately. You see, he was missing his “Strange Friends.” If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll remember there was a golden period a few years ago where Phillip was crocheting these adorable little monsters called, “Strange Friends.” They were such a hit with people and he really enjoyed working on them. But, then life calls, he got wrapped up in so many other things that his little maniacs were put aside. But, he was inspired to create them again, but much like myself and knitting, he had no interest in doing the same routine, the same circular motions…..

So, while Phillip is in the process of building up Honeychurch as a nursery, he was thinking about what kind of pots to sell his plants in. With a million different options for him to buy online, he was ready to purchase your old school, rather bland, plastic little pot. Thank God, it was my turn to look at him and say, “Why are you trying to buy someone else’s pots? You’re an artist….make your own.” I’ll be damned if that didn’t light a bug that bit him so badly, he was running up to Ace Hardware almost immediately to buy concrete. He used household items as molds. The plastic packs that batteries come in. The lids off our can of Folger’s. The lids off of to-go cups, even! He went lurking around finally looking at every item on the planet with new eyes, through a new lens: can I use that as a mold…..

20210524_120306He’s made quite a few, but I urged him to go ahead, test the waters, branch out and see what happens. Let’s go ahead and sell one, take it to the audience, see what they say. You never know. “They loved your work before! So, I asked him to give me his first piece to sell and oddly, his name is “Number 4.” (Yes, he found a number 4 mold and has it attached to the back).

I’m proud of his creativity, I’m proud of his desire to try new things, I’m proud of desire to look for inspiration. If you would like Phillip’s very first #Growbotpot, click here. He would really appreciate the encouragement.

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How Pearl Saw the World

20210523_113630My last blog post, about my Granny Carter, Pearl, seems to have inspired something, one of those artistic shifts that helps to bring truth to your work, one of those artistic moments where you are schooled by your own inner spirit about what it is you really want to write….

Now, let’s start with the last passage of my last blog post.

“By the way, I forgot to mention….My Grands married the day they met. She was a waitress in New Orleans, he was a flashy army boy with a new car about to head overseas! And for 50 years they never left each other’s side and were always a team….”

Now, you would think this would be a great time to write this epic love story, this memoir on a grand scale about how Pearl saw the world, got as far away from whatever it was that was hurting her, built this wonderful storybook setting of a loving husband, delightful children, had put a few bucks in the bank, and had found the freedom to pursue whatever artistry she could think of……

But, that’s not the story I want to tell. It wouldn’t be right, it wouldn’t be what she and I need to experience all over again, not in the next lifetime, but in this one. Because by the time I arrived on the scene, this woman had become venomous, cold, vindictive, manipulative, stern. She was icy, but beautiful. Her sharp features were legendary, for as beautiful as she was, she would chastise you for looking at her! You didn’t know where you stood with her. She was relentlessly heartless….and as a member of her family, you just hoped you were in her good favor if you were in her presence. You did nothing at dinner, stayed silent, and never ever spoke out of turn.

Far cry from the woman that died 25 years later. No, she and I had a turbulent history together. As with most stories about two people, there are good times, and awful times. But, all of those moments show growth between two souls who really are so fond of each other that only the heavens can seem to understand why. In other words, we had a grand connection that began deplorably.

So, I thought I’d write about about my time with her, putting together what she was running from, why she was so angry and sharp by the time I was born, and why by the end of her life she finally told me everything. By then, she had learned enough about me to let me learn enough about her…..one of the greatest gifts she could have ever given me…Private discussions about her life.

20210523_115001I think I’m working on a book about my time with my grandmother. Without even really thinking about it, I want to tell more. About how she grabbed my little 8 year old hand as we launched with zeal up this massive spiral staircase, headed towards the top of the (once and former) tallest steeple in Europe. “Come on, Gregory! All the way to the top! Let’s go!”

The day we took an old country road so she could show me her “dream house,” only to find that it was NOT what you would think someone’s dream house would be. Or at least for a woman of her means. She just pointed at it and said, “I have dreams about that house, THAT house…..every night.”

Or the time we were shopping and she refused to walk beside me because I was all gothed out. Face painted cake white, hair all dyed black and teased like Robert Smith’s. “Granny! Come on! Keep up! Are you tired or something????”

“No, I’m fine….just slowly browsing. You carry on, I’ll keep up…..” (She didn’t see me notice her rolling eyes when she saw people gawking at me). 😉

And the time she asked me to find her sister that none of us knew existed. “Please. Help me, if you can. You’re a very smart young man. You can help me with me this. And Gregory?….,” here came that damned, famous look of hers that warned of total annihilation should you disappoint her, “No one needs to know my business, do you understand?”

I would like to write this book. I want to connect those pieces: from her running, to her having it all, but still angry, to finally a release of all the pain. I was witness to all that, I was a part of that freedom that helped her finally grow in ways that made us fast friends. We have the same view of the world. Painful, but exquisite….For if I were to ever be thrashed with branches, I pray that you’ll at least allow me to embroider them one day. Yes, life hurts….now, let’s make something beautiful of it.

Yes. I’m going to write this book. “How Pearl Saw the World.”

Funny. I was just thinking about the first time I let Granny read my work. She was a notorious reader. She, my mother and I all share that love for books. I had written a short story about an orphanage run by nuns where terrible, abusive things were happening. My grandmother was a HUGE Anne Rice fan. I was writing my own little gothic horrors, my own little penny dreadfuls at the time. I was an actor in the 90’s working at a horror attraction called “Terror on Church Street.” This whole creepy written world was my own life day in and day out.

But, knowing my grandmother was such a HUGE gothic fiction fan, I wanted her to see what I had written. I wanted to impress her with just a simple short story. It was a bit like laying my manuscript before the dowager empress….as she is actually being asked to toss aside what she is currently reading so she can engage with my amateurishness….

“If I must.”

Five minutes in. No reaction. Ten minutes in. Still no sign of emotion. (Granny was so good at that). Finally, the last page is in her hands. I see her scan the page towards the bottom as her pupils move autonomously from left to right until finally…..The End.

She reads the final words and arches a brow, then proceeds with a slight smirk while handing the manuscript back to me. Granny then leaned back in her chair, picked up the book she had been reading, and behaved as if the whole thing had been some kind of intermission.

Say something! Anything!

She knew I was anxious for a reaction. My whole bouncy body kept looking up at her and asking for something, anything. Validation! Do you even like me old woman?

I turned around and turned on the television….

A few minutes later and I’m simmering, I’m boiling. I’d finally had enough. I turn to her and say, with respect I might add, “You know what? I actually gave a copy of that story to Anne Rice herself. Yeah! I stood in line with my friends Jason Baerhold and Bernie Noga JUST to give her that story. You know why? Because I want people to see me. That’s the ONLY way to get them to read my work! Jason pretended to be my “handler” and Bernie acted as my own “paparazzi.” We had presence! We wanted her to take notice of me so that she would take that story seriously! So, I guess I don’t have to care what you may think of that story because your current, favorite author has her OWN copy! I had to hand this manuscript to you like I was groveling, while Anne Rice actually REACHED for it!!!!”

“Be still!”

And formidable silence follows, as should.

I did as was told, went back to whatever was on television.

After a damning amount of cold stares through our reflections in window panes, she finally uttered, “I see potential in you….,” but with a comforting tone that I had never heard from her before. With her very voice this woman could keep you at a distance. That was the noise I was used to. That shrill, deep, dark tone that kept you solid in your tracks. But, on that day I had seen the difference in what it felt like to hear something comforting from her. And it felt so warm, so pure. One flinch in an octave and she could either slice you to pieces or slather you with syrupy love.

“Come into town with me tomorrow,” she said. “You could use a thesaurus….”

I turned back to the TV and smiled. That little bit was all encouragement I needed from her.

And I think that was the day she agreed to allow me into her amazing world….

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My Grand Carters

20210521_115934I started working on this custom piece and (as you can see) I wasn’t too deep into it before being inspired by my grandmother. I don’t know why, but it felt as though she were spying on me, the spirit of her over my shoulder delightfully begging me to try another color…..

Granny Carter was our matriarch. There was very little masculine energy in our little tribe. She had born three girls and one homosexual boy. And those women, their children produced only women and one more homosexual (Hey, that’s me!) SO, with all of that massive feminine energy Granny Carter was heralded as a queen in our clan. 

Granny Carter had this relentless desire for beauty and perfection. Those things we adore do not always need to be treasures that are hunted far and wide, but can be found in the joy of growing flowers in your own backyard. And yes, while she may have had strands of Mikimoto pearls that she purchased while living in Japan, she credited more joy to learning how to make kimonos from her neighbor… Granny was doing laundry and found a $5 bill in my grandfather’s trousers. She screams, “BOBBY! Go ask the neighbors if they’d like to go out for bingo at the base!” And her new Japanese neighbors kindly accepted and that was when Granny truly learned the finesse of sewing from Su, her new friend next door. 

Years later, after having lived their entire lives moving from Japan, to France, to Germany, (with an aunt an uncle born along the way, and now in their 50’s), she and Grandpa Carter decided to move as far away from everything as they could. They wanted to be as creative as possible. And they spent their entire days growing persimmons, asparagus, pear trees, hanging gourds to attract birds, sweet and sickly vats of red water hung close to the hibiscus to attract hummingbirds…..

Granny made her own clothes, famously making pants for herself in a time when women had the balls to do so. And her trousers always had this adorable little embroidered mushroom or turtle on the cuff, down by her shoes…..so that you would know she made this. She learned. Always kept following the desire, that quiet desire to make or grow beautiful things. She learned to knit and crochet in the 1980’s, then moved onto quilting in the 1990’s…..and funny. As I write this, I am just now realizing that I sleep every night under a quilt Granny Carter made for my mother. My mother gave it to me with this most beautiful concept I’ve ever felt. My mother said, “I want to give you some of these things now rather than after I pass on, so that I can watch you enjoy them.” And I do…..I sleep under that quilt every night.

But, while Granny was running a sewing machine, Grandpa Carter had this massive shed that was actually larger than the house they lived in. I do not lie when I say that their home was so far away from society that my grandparents built and stocked their own private Walmart in their backyard. When they went into town, as rare as it was, they bought three and four of anything they could find and stocked it (just like a department store) in that giant shed. (My grandfather was a strict man when it came to organization. That was HIS beautiful mind. You tell him the square footage of a house, he could tell you how many nails it took to build it……I didn’t inherit his mathematical wizardry 🙂 )

My Grand Carters had competitive gardens. She wanted her method of growing things, and wanted to pick her own things to sprout. My grandfather went about with tomatoes and peppers and corn, of course. But, he also dipped into growing grapes so he could make his own wine. She grew a medicine chest. Herbs, roots, things to pulverize and made into a paste or a salve. 

They had five acres, their tiny 500 square foot house in the very dead center. They divided the land equally. “You take care of that half, I’ll tend to this half…..and I’ll see you later today. We’ll meet up for dinner…..”

They had it so figured out…

188613094_1115257358974070_7247778036147642249_nI look over at Phillip. As I tend to my delicate embroidery, he stomps along in his own space building concrete pots. 

There would be a stupidity in saying, “I would truly love the kind of relationship my grandparents had,” but the truth is, I already have it. And then you laugh at the audacity for asking for something you already have….

…a creative, safe, comforting place to create with a person I adore, but can get sick of real quick if I don’t get some alone time….(And Phillip just said, “Right back atcha!”) 

I guess that’s why while embroidering this morning Granny seemed to show up right away, tap on my shoulder, suggest a color or two, then squeeze my shoulders and whisper, “You are exactly where you should be right now. I love you….” 

By the way, I forgot to mention….My Grands married the day they met. She was a waitress in New Olrleans, he was a flashy army boy with a new car about to head overseas! And for 50 years they never left each other’s side and were always a team….(Thanks, Granny).

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Denim!

20210519_112816Well, our denim hunting in thrift stores has been bountiful! (I’m not going to even mention the beautiful box of women’s clothes that was sent to me from Holland! “Play!” My friend said, “Play with them, embroider them, put them in your shop and have fun!”

A few of you were asking if I might broaden my size range for jackets. So, from left to right we have an XL vest from the Gap (“1960” model), a light blue denim shirt that says small, but…..dude, that thing is a good LARGE. Then I have my little jacket that I’ve been playing with for a while now, just testing things, then up above we have a medium jacket from Jones and on the other wall we have that delightful fringed jacket which is a definite petite. So, I’m pretty much done with the cushions I was commissioned to work on, so let’s do another jacket. But, rather than blindly begin working on one, I’d rather it be more collaborative.

If there is a jacket that you’d like for me to work on for you, please contact me. You can find me at madmanknitting@gmail.com. We work together to find the perfect design and best colors for your beautiful, wearable piece of art. Youll can walk around proudly in a one of a kind, “Gregory Patrick.” And I get to see my work enjoyed! Fun! So, contact me! I’d love to start working right away. 🙂

Feel free to toss a couple in the artist’s cap 🙂