Bliss

I’m slowly surfacing from something of a monastic retreat. I can’t go to St. Leo’s in Dade City for a multitude of reasons, so I’ve patched together some sort of layman’s life of a monk for myself over these last few weeks. And I have thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.

If you’ve never taken a monastic retreat, I believe that there are only two things that you concern yourself with: that you want to get closer to God through a shared sense of existence, found only in silence and contemplation, and the ability to disconnect from the rest of the world without fear of missing out. You can’t take your fancy phones and social media with you when you take a retreat. That’s a vacation, and there is a difference.

My life is changing in truly beautiful ways and I want to be as grounded as possible when the really big changes occur. There would be no way I’d be able to cope with them if my soul was full of chaos. So, I needed to imprint upon my memory a great moment of peace that I could easily recall should life get too hectic for me, a feeling of contentment that I can sling shot myself back to when there are challenges. A home in the heart, if you will, to run to when I need some comfort.

And these last few weeks were exactly that: an all inclusive package of endless bliss. Oh, especially Thanksgiving. I can’t wait to tell you about how Phillip and I spent Thanksgiving. All of you were there….and I can’t wait to tell you all about it.

For now, I have some emails to respond to, some friends to thank, some knitting to finish, some pillows to sew, and a throw to crochet. Oh! I can’t wait to take pictures to show you of what I did with the living room! Honeychurch has been my meditative work while on this retreat! LOVING how the old girl is starting to look! I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow. And yes, with pictures.

Ok, that’s enough for now. While writing this blog I spotted my little Betty slumped cozily over some yarn on top of a book case. Comfortably purring she stretched long and hard, then went back to her prior pose with ridiculous ease, sighing with content the sentiment….

….bliss 🙂

If you appreciate my work and would like for this blog to continue, please donate. I wouldn’t have the courage to do write without your support. 

 

 

 

 

 

Messages From You

I guess its been about a week or so, maybe a bit longer, I’m not sure. I couldn’t tell you without looking at notes how long it has been for I have completely lost touch of time.

I am familiar with these episodes of mine where I seem to build this wall around me of yarn and interior writing, limiting myself from the world due to drastic fear.  They happen every once in a while. And you have to give Phillip a hero’s badge for being able to tolerate the sullenness I evoke, the lack of self care, the filth that builds on the floors around me, the disinterest in life, my swimming around in the muck of mud hoping to find some priceless pearl hidden in there.

The depression comes, wreaks a little confusion and havoc on my heart for a minute, then dissipates somehow out of sheer disinterest in me….And the important thing about all this, and this is crucial to what I am about to confess to you, is that I do not recognize the onset of this depressing detachment from life, I do not even see it until it is gripping me tightly and my husband is urging me to come back to normal.

Today, I realized that I had been slipping into that detachment again…..but, in a completely different way that I never saw happening.

It wasn’t until I started seeing messages from you that I realized that I had been so quiet for so long. Where have you been? I miss reading your blog. Is everything ok? It isn’t like you to be MIA.

That’s when I just sort of snapped! and went, “Oh, wow….I’ve been ‘away’ again.”

But, this time was so different, so beautifully different than any time before. Now, I told my knitting buddy that I was going to be finishing up this new book of mine (I’m on a hard deadline), so I wasn’t going to be very available for the next week or two. And I guess that was when it started to happen.

My office was a wreck. Boxes of yarn that have been sent to me were stashed like skyscrapers in the corners, my poor books, whom I professed to have recued, were laying limply in negligent piles under my feet. The window blinds were battered and broken, bruised well before I got here. And the more I knit a bear or wrote a blog post, the more I hoped it would take me one step further towards some success. Then, only then would I spend the couple of dollars for bookcases.

I have paint cans everywhere, brushes I’ve bought, hammers, shovels, a garden weasel, etc. But business always took priority. I’ll paint when I have a minute, garden when I have the time. I have to get to a better place before I can do that right now. (WOW!)

But, then I sat down to finish up this book, this catalogue of a mad man who knit his way out of homelessness, then blogged his way out of a studio apartment and into the very house it’s attached to, with the probability he could likely own it one day….

That journey, filled with little steps in between big leaps, is one hell of a story. And of course, that journey began the day I was left with nothing.

From the moment I sat down to finish this book I noticed I would write for a couple of hours, then get up, wipe down a wall, then roll on a coat of paint. I’d head back to my desk, stamp out a few more pages, then sit with my husband as he came home from work, tossing his keys in a bowl, putting up his umbrella and coat. We laugh, snicker, giggle, then I head back to write as he sits back to relax and decompress while he waits for dinner. More and more of that bliss was happening every day, in a more amplified, richer way. I was writing more, working on Honeychurch more, spending time with my husband more, allowing us both time to breathe and enjoy more.

I am a very blessed man. I truly am. People will read this blog, donate and say, “Keep writing.” I am so grateful for that, so so so thankful. But, I’ve had this dark and irresponsible habit of wanting to pay off bills before spending money on anything else at all. My prior mind wouldn’t allow us to touch a penny because we had so few of them and this could be the last donation we ever get. Who needs bookcases? The books are fine where they are….and try not to kick one when you’re walking about. 

I woke one morning to find that someone had blessed me with a donation. I sat back in my chair, sipped my coffee, looking around this space that was intended to be where I made all of my dreams happen. These little walls encourage big things. It’s time to let them say so.

I started working on some rewrites to my book, from very early on when I truly had nothing….not even a teddy bear. No, I hadn’t even knit teddy bears yet. I hadn’t even thought of it. At that time I was just homeless, scared, terrified, with no idea of where I was going to end up, with no idea where to go, lost to the side of the road in a ball cap at the age of 36 to either stand and wait with everything I owned in my backpack, or pick a direction to walk and hope it’s the path you were supposed to be on.

And then I look around at this house, these messages from people, this husband, these fur babies, this tingle in the ticker that feels like a hum letting you know you picked the right path. Look how far you’ve come. Look at what you’ve managed to do. You have earned book cases.

So, I bought bookcases. It was fun watching my husband reach for a screwdriver with a proud chest and say, “I’ll put them together.” While he assembled, I wiped away all of the grime and age that had layered the covers of my books, forgetting I owned half of them, smiling with delight at new found treasures.

A few days later we received another donation and I bought myself some curtain rods. Then a few days later some curtains and a shade. My work space was coming into shape. Everything nice and organized, much like my life has been going. Yes, I had detached myself from the “realities” of the world, but not in a way that was an escape, but instead, fashioned in a way that enriched my life more like a retreat. I had made this work space a cozy place to enjoy my craft in. In the process of doing all this I was able to enjoy something I don’t usually do: give myself enough respect for the work I do.

I knew I had done well when a cat went splat on the bookcases and said, “wake me at dinner.”

It’s been a wonderful two weeks and I guess I didn’t feel the need to surface 🙂 I love being in this little room, in this house that I have always wanted (and will one day own), while sharing the memories of being here with that big, beautiful man who builds bookcases for me, and all of you that took the time to write and ask if I was ok.

That’s pretty much all I need to know I’m blessed.

I’m going to spend a few days painting the living room, then write a few more pages so you may not hear from me before Thanksgiving. We’re hoping to have our first truly cool Thanksgiving dinner at Honeychurch, just Phillip and me.  We’re likely to slam a few old traditions into a sandwich. We’ll see. 🙂

Until then? God bless each and every one of you.

If you appreciate my work and would like for this blog to continue, please donate. I wouldn’t have the courage to do write without your support. 

 

 

 

 

Mad Man Feeling Blessed

Let’s start with the big stuff, get that out of the way. Rent was paid. (Thank you, God). Imagine me stressed to unbearable limits watching the clock pass, the hours fade and nothing was happening. Then I shifted my thinking, as I’ve recently been learning to do. I pulled out that gem of a gift of mine (optimism), brushed it off, and proudly put it on display. I need to trust the Universe. Everything will be fine.

At the last minute it all came flowing into place. And within the hour rent and the electric bill was paid and we had enough left over to get a couple of sandwiches from our favorite Italian Deli down the block.

And the blessings kept coming….

I am now the proud owner of a Singer 401 Slant-o-Matic with cabinet AND stool! Woo hooooo!!!! Look at that! Now, when I was first on a quest to find a sewing machine, you were all so wonderful at giving me a general idea of what I should be looking for. But, it was all Greek to me. It was a bit like buying a laptop and they tell you about all the gigs and rams and things….you just have no idea what everyone is talking about. So, I asked my yarn buddy here in town to help me out. I told her my budget. That was it. “I trust whatever you come up with, because I have absolutely NO idea what it is I’m looking for.”

Boom! She finds this gorgeous darling and gifts it to me. GIFTS IT! “Keep your money,” she said. Oh, I replied with joy, “How about you come over Monday, give me a primer on how to work this beauty and I take you to lunch?”

“Deal,” she said with a smile. Then handed me a big, beautiful Florida avocado from her tree. Yum! Chips and dip never tasted so good.

What was fascinating about this particular machine is that it seems to come with a history of the woman who owned it. “Seems like the guy was just trying to get rid of it, get it out of his house. Maybe a deceased mother or grandmother.” Every drawer was filled with bobbins and thread, oil and lubricant, a classic tomato pin cushion and a cigarette case filled with double pointed knitting needles (Funny! My grandmother had the same cigarette case full of crochet hooks!)

Oh, yes! Popping open the cushion on the stool, I could see the former owner of this amazing machine had tons and tons of cable needles, circular knitting needles, and interesting sewing and knitting tools and notions…..AND!….the original manual for the sewing machine. The woman was a CRAFTER!

What a treasure! What a wonderful gift! Oh, I can’t wait to get started making my drapes! “Once your done with drapes,” Phillip says, “I could use a kimono….you know, for while I’m watching my anime.” Sure, sweetheart. I’ll get right on it.

I feel like I’m really going to enjoy sewing. I truly do. I’d love to make Phillip a kimono, just to see if I could do it. Then quilting, I really want to try my hand at quilting.

I was kinda half joking a few blog posts back when I said if I had fun with sewing I’d have to change my name from “Mad Man Knitting,” to “Mad Man Making Things.”

For the moment? I love, truly love the simple, “Mad Man Feeling Blessed.” Thank you all so much for that feeling. 🙂

If you appreciate my work and would like for this blog to continue, please donate. I wouldn’t have the courage to do write without your support. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll Never Buy Knitting Needles Again

In the process of trying to improve upon my bears, I’ve decided to make them bigger, first by using some really plush alpaca, then by upping the needle size from a puny size 4 to a big, round size 8.

Now, in the time that I’ve been knitting I have acquired tons of needles in all sets and sizes. And would you believe I have probably every size needle you can think of except 5’s, 6’s, 7’s and 8’s. Dang! I have everybody else all tucked and stuffed all over my work space, but none of the size I needed.

This is really not the time to be spending money, but I was ready to hand over the $6 for just one pair of size 8’s. Because you have to spend a little money to make money, right? $6 is a lot of money right now.

Before I made that commitment, I started peeking around, looking around for something more economical….when I found this. An entire set of bamboo double pointed knitting needles from sizes 1-10 with a set of 5 needles each….for $6.

Hot damn! Don’t you love when you get a bargain like that! I pulled out the 8’s and went to work. The needles feel really good! Nice and smooth through the hands, the tips are pointed enough, rounded enough, and they’re all properly labeled in English (and Chinese!)

They came individually wrapped in plastic bags, so no case or anything, but I have this love for little wooden boxes, especially cigar humidors. I happened to have one just the right size for them all to fit in. Oh, amazing it looks on my desk 🙂

I finished my big, little bear last night, tucked him in a quick little sweater and put him in my shop. I’m still about $250 short on getting the rent, so this one bear won’t be enough, and I’m not going to be able to knit enough to collect that much by the end of the day. So, if you can help in any way, please do. I really do appreciate it. Little by little things are getting themselves in order. I have all of the tools I need to get those big dreams moving again. After all, I’ll never have to buy knitting needles ever again!

If you appreciate my work and would like for this blog to continue, please donate. I wouldn’t have the courage to do write without your support. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are We Still Friends After Election Day?

Just a normal morning in my little neighborhood as I pass the same faces with a nod as I head to the store. I’m always anxious to get there, hurry back, kiss Phillip good-bye and wish him a good day at work, then sit at my little space and knit and write. On the way there, and on the way back, I’m always looking at everyone’s front gardens. Everything is as it should seem. Everything is normal.

The “bing bong” announces I’ve walked into the store, my bandana pulled up over my face like a bandit….like some KNITTING bandit 🙂 The usual morning clerk, the same usual friendly face I have truly come to love, utters a very warm and loud, “Good morning!” with that Haitian hint in her accent.

“Morning!” I replied as I maneuvered through the aisles.

“Don’t forget food for the babies,” I hear her say. We’ve talked about the cats in passing, usually because that’s one of the few things I buy there. Cat food and cigarettes…and pork rinds. “Food for the babies is on clearance!”

So I grab a bag of vittles and head for the cash register. She scans and says with this big heavy sigh of the shoulders, “Today is the day. THE day. Finally! It will be over. All this nonsense will be over.” Someone else might easily pounce to ask the obvious question, “Who are you voting for?”

I didn’t. I’m a little old fashioned like that. I remember it being probably the most singular right we have that we don’t boast to others about: our vote. We proudly brandish our guns, we write blogs to express our thoughts, we walk through neighborhoods screaming “Black Lives Matter,” and go to our places of worship with ease when the time to pray in congregation is called. But, voting has always been that one right entitled to us that was better served privately. We walked into the booths, drew the curtains, and made decisions about the direction of our country without fear of prying eyes wanting to know just how terrible your decision was and ready to punish you for voting for the wrong person….

Instead I said, “No matter what happens, I just hope we can still be friends.” Damned be the bandana, I’m sure she could see in my eyes the genuine smile of hope, not a grin, but a dimple chiseled smile of hope that let her know I was being sincere.

She winked and said, “I don’t care who wins, I’m just tired of all the phone calls and texts and junk mail and spam….” She giggles, her purple curls bouncing softly around her forehead. “Have a blessed day, my love.”

Heading back home I realized that this was not going to just another normal morning in my little neighborhood….or maybe it would. Perhaps there will be no violent resistance to the results of the election, perhaps we will wake up tomorrow and continue with the lives we had before, the same routines, greeting each person we had before with the same warm, “Good morning,” that I’m blessed with everyday.

Because in the madness of not being able to predict what will happen, we must always be hopeful about the future. No matter what anxiety you are feeling today, it cannot keep you from feeling hopeful about tomorrow.

Life will get better, no matter what happens, this is always at the crest of my prayers: thank you for a blessed day, I can’t wait to have another one tomorrow.

To be honest, I can’t handle losing more friends. I need the embrace and prayer of more people than ever now. Whatever beauty is shared in what I write and what you read, what is shared between you and me, should not to be tainted by your feelings for someone else.

So many people left me last Election Day. Just as I was peaking with some notability, I congratulated the winner and was instantly sent into fiber exile. And it has been a struggle ever since. That feeling terrifies me. I’m already having trouble paying rent for this month, I’ve got one bear in the shop ready to sell, but that still won’t get me enough by the end of today. Like I said in my last post, the rest will have to be through prayer. Honestly, that is the only thing I can think to do right now. Prayer is the only thing left today….so I’ll use it to pray for a better tomorrow.

I started this blog 10 years ago with no understanding nor concern for where it would go. But, I discovered quite some time ago that this was where my source was, where I was able to write freely, be my self, catalogue my journey through life for anyone to read with interest, a knitter trying to stitch up his soul one teddy bear at a time. And there is a value in being able to share that, because the challenges I had in life were were heard by others also facing the same anxieties and fears.

These random posts about the life of a man who knits opened my heart to so many experiences, but none of them more beautiful than knowing I had friends.

Despite what happens today, I pray that tomorrow is just another normal day in my little neighborhood, that I will be able to sit here in this space and knit and write…that you’ll still be my friend and continue this path with me. Because, I really could use some friends right now. If you are able to help, please do.

If you appreciate my work and would like for this blog to continue, please donate. I wouldn’t have the courage to do write without your support. 

 

The Bears of Honeychurch

It was a truly beautiful stroll around Honeychurch this morning. The love I have for this home simply has not waned, although lately I was feeling all that love was going to be for nothing. Owning this home one day is no longer an impossibility. For, all things are possible….if you believe. And despite what is happening in life today, I still feel in the deepest part of my heart that this will be my house one day.

Every time I walk up to this house, I swear I see it smile when I arrive, the Golden Rain tree brushing aside with the gentle whisper of her words on the wind: “I missed you….”

The vibrancy and beauty I have experienced in this home have been so rewarding, life affirming, proof that hope clarifies any doubt in the workings of the Universe. After all, I yearned with all of my heart to come back here one day…..and the Universe said, “I’ll make it happen.” Whenever you think your dreams are never going to come true, think about the ones that are already coming true and embrace yourself in that current feeling of having your dreams come alive and you’ll remember that nothing is impossible.

I want to get started on a book this week. I want to show the progression of my life from that humble little studio, just after being homeless, to years later coming back to live in the house it was attached to. I’ll be able to see how I’ve grown in some ways, and explore why I’m still stunted in others. A tome that catalogues that difficult, but beautiful travel “back home” the minute I moved out of that studio….

I have been taking notes and setting up a soundtrack. (Yes, I love to write to music, I use scores as “scenes” in my head).

I think it’s going to be an amazing piece of work. I have ten years of this blog I can go back and look through, remind myself of where I was, who I was then, and what I really wanted out of life….and how I actually got it.

I’m going to start working on it this weekend so I can have it ready before Thanksgiving and have it on Amazon before Christmas sales begin and start working my way towards the big dreams, the really monumental dreams. Instead of knitting my way upstream, I could write one book that could have me moving down stream.

In the meantime, I’m still a renter. I’m a couple of hundred dollars short on rent this month, but you have no idea how much progress that is. I don’t bow my head in shame when I say I’m short this month, but not by much, because some months this struggle was a lot more difficult. It got a lot better for us this month. A LOT better. (And they will continue to do so!)

So, I’ve been busy this weekend knitting a couple of bears. I love how Honeychurch looks like it has bears scattered everywhere….(And she does :)) One day I’m going to take a picture with the lawn just scattered with teddy bears!!!

You only see four now because I’m only allowed 5 things in my shop at one time. So, when one sells, I’ll quickly be putting up another one. You can find my shop here.

If I sell these bears, I’ll be pretty close to making rent. The rest, I’ll pray for. I hope ya’ll have a truly beautiful day.

If you appreciate my work and would like for this blog to continue, please donate. I wouldn’t have the courage to do write without your support. 

 

You Can’t Afford to be Afraid….

It’s just shy of 9pm, two days before the first of the month and I’m knitting a teddy bear. This will be my third for today. You wouldn’t know Halloween was just a block or two away on the calendar. The weather isn’t willing to give hints of what she’ll do this year. Sometimes, there is a crispness in the air, or falling acorns will smatter with a crash on the older bungalows, or a wayward maple leaf will waft by giving a simple illusion of what Autumn must be like up north.

Then in other years Halloween is a battleground where Summer is doing her best to give us one last bashing with her powers of humidity.

I take no shame in saying once my errands were done for the day I walked proudly around the house with very little clothes on. I had on my knit socks, my beloved Okabashi, a pair of boxer briefs, and a bandana around my neck I could use as a mask should I need to answer a knock at the front door….scantily.

I didn’t dare turn on the air conditioning. I can’t afford it. Not right now. I believe the A/C that cools this house is from the 1990’s, possibly earlier. It just hobbles me how much that thing gobbles up energy.

So, back to knitting a bear in my lap, when I suddenly snap and realize that I was sweating, miserable, nauseous even….and every last bit of that self denial was my own fault, my own doing. I had written the answer to my problems right up there in the last paragraph. “I can’t afford….”

Then I got up to get some water from the fridge…..and noticing how empty and bleak the icebox was, I was quick to see what my first thought would be. “I can’t afford gro-” …and I had to stop myself.

I went outside to grab our laundry. Phillip was going to need work clothes in the morning. I pulled out this pile of faded, over worn, sometimes thread bare clothing, all of it, even his uniform for work looking as if they would come apart at the seams. We haven’t bought clothes for ourselves in five years. I take that back. We allotted ourselves $20 each last month so we could buy new underwear. Again….I waited to see what my first reaction as I stuffed the hamper. “I can’t afford new clo-” …and I had to stop myself.

At practically every turn I was able to excuse the conditions I have allowed myself to live in because the premise of why I couldn’t have anything more was buried in the way that I perceived everything about myself, my life, my career: I can’t. 

Those two words clearly started every thought, every mental sentence, was heard in discussions between my husband and I, was written about extensively on this blog. But, most importantly, those two words were heard by the Universe well before It heard anything else: I can’t. So, the Universe had no choice but to answer in kind, “Then that’s what will be….”

There is a horror in realizing that you have limited your own potential because of fear. As an agoraphobic working through the walls of that impediment, I began to wonder if the fear that kept me so isolated was really about fear of the outside world…..or if possibly, I didn’t feel I was worthy of being out there, that I didn’t like myself enough to be apart of it? No matter where we have lived, I’d find a room, lock myself inside, and sigh and connect to people through simply the posts on this blog. And that same dislike for myself, did it prevent me from extending myself out there to publishers, to agents, to even more readers? I was sitting here in misery, waiting for something to happen, rather than moving past that cracked glass and getting anything and everything I’ve ever wanted.

The more I thought about it, the more I saw that everything I have and everything that I don’t is because of a fear that manifests itself every chance it can with the premise, “I can’t….”

And there is also a horror in the realization that you are talented, you affect people’s lives, you inspire people. Do you know the first quiet reaction I give myself when someone emails me that I give them hope? I get terrified! Absolutely anxiety ridden.

I can’t take responsibility for that….that’s too important. I’m not that important….I’m nobody.”

Really? Nobody? Other people seem to see me as someone of tremendous value. Why don’t I? The Universe whispered in my ear, “You move people to emotion. People want you to know they love you for who you are. Why is that so hard to receive? Do you love them? Of course. You just don’t think you’re worthy enough of their love, because you haven’t been able to love yourself.”

The beautiful thing about the Universe is that it will answer your questions if you simply ask. “You are afraid of loving yourself….And before I can bless you with anything you want, I need you to love who you are, because I love you enough to have given you this experience of life.”

So, I went to bed with an exercise. I didn’t want an affirmation to set me at ease. I didn’t want words to clog the stream between me and the Universe. I wanted to just feel that love. I wanted to spend time just knowing it, not thinking about it, but experiencing it reciprocally from the deepest reaches of the Universe to the lowest part of my heart, then back again. And with each heavy dive into slumber, the distance between those two extremes was drawn closer and closer, to just that part of lucid dreaming where I felt completely, totally at ease for the first time in my life.

That is the power of God’s love.

I woke up this morning 9 hours later, which is incredibly odd for me. I sleep maybe 4 to 5 hours at a time. But, not last night. I was blessed with a good night’s rest. So, I bounced out of bed, leapt over sunbeams, smacked my big toe against a box fan, tripped on a cat and scrambled for the kitchen to make coffee. I was elated, joyous! I was ready to start this day with that same connection to that bliss that I fell asleep with.

I was filled with such a desire to inspire myself. I couldn’t wait to spend time loving my art, loving my craft, loving my life….and loving myself. I could not wait to start the day with a new approach to every thought, or mental sentence with, “I can….”

Universe, I am ready to receive the blessings of having a profitable blog and a bestselling book. I am worth that. I can have that. 🙂

More tomorrow! Love you!

If you appreciate my work and would like for this blog to continue, please donate. I wouldn’t have the courage to do write without your support. 

 

 

The Beauty in Bad Book Reviews

My most popular book, “Mad Man Knitting -or- The Waiter and the Fly,” was written quite a while ago, so it never really gets any recent reviews. Imagine my surprise to find that someone had left one about six weeks ago. I dashed right over to see what they had to say:

“Patrick’s writing is fine, and this seems on par with any other self-published text. But if you’re a fan of misogynist and transphobic tropes, this is the book for you!”

Of course I was disappointed, but I wasn’t sad. Oh, no. The first inclination is to have an argument with her, isn’t it? Defend myself….

But, she may not know much more about me. She may not even know about this blog. She may not know that I became homeless right after that book was written….that particular book being a big reason why. No one would hire me to work in a restaurant, fearing I might write another little tell-all about them. I was black balled from the service industry, ended up homeless, ended up in the woods….alone with a cat for company, a mailbox for communication, and a radio to break the voiceless isolation.

Perhaps she knows only who I am from the confines of what she read in that book.

By calling me a trope, she was basically calling me a stereotype. I would agree with her, I don’t like stereotypes in art either. However, the problem with calling a person a trope does some serious disservice to you and them.

When you see someone as a trope, you are limiting yourself to the margins of who they are, limiting your own knowledge about them based on the perimeters that you have boxed them in. There is nothing new to know about a trope, you get them, they’re just cardboard, run of the mill, cut outs of whatever stereotype you’re stylizing in your mind. Nothing new to see here. Typical.

I guess the trope she saw in me was a gay, white, Southern, Christian, conservative male…..and that was all she saw. I certainly will not deny being any of those things…..if those are the only terms you use when you catalogue the people you come across in life, those strange checkboxes of inclusion and dismissal. In that greedy need to identify people you’re only categorizing people as form, not substance.

Perhaps she doesn’t know the irony of the last line of that book, just before the epilogue, “It’s so good to be home,” and that within a few months of publishing that book, I would have no place to live….and wouldn’t for a long time. (Oh, the things I have learned about myself in that time, though! So many things she couldn’t know!!! Maybe I should put together a book of some of these blog posts that truly captures that journey from there to here….)

So, I cannot judge her for only knowing Gregory Patrick through the confines of the pages she read. I hope she’ll stumble across my blog and realize that images we have of people are often too restricted to the margins that we’ve placed on them, and not the other way around. Because after so many years of writing here, in this space, on this blog, about what happened to me after that book….she might pause and reconsider confining people to her own version of identity. For, if this is the manner in which she sees people, then perhaps that is the only way she has ever seen herself….always ready to identify with a group, too afraid of being alone with her own beautiful individuality.

After all, each new soul you meet is just another Universe waiting to be explored; and the first expanse of limitless love and possibilities you conquer has to be the one inside you. You will never know anything about anyone else, if you haven’t learned a few things about yourself first.

So, I left a comment on her review: “I appreciate you taking the time to read my book! Thank you!”

I could not be more sincere. She may not know me, but she read my book, dedicated time in her life getting to know me. For that, I am truly grateful. There aren’t a lot of people, let alone writers, who get that opportunity….

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The Affair With Mrs. Church

I woke up this morning feeling a little different about Honeychurch. I grabbed my coffee and tip toed around the front of the house just as sun rise was beginning to cast reflections on the window panes, just as the first birds of the morning were heralding reveille.

I felt distant from her, but not remiss. Actually, I felt like a man who had envisioned the perfect woman, saw her one day in passing, fell in love, asked her to marry him that day….but, she declined because she was already married. I didn’t love her less, I just felt suddenly….a distance from her. I would be here if she needed me but, like a gentleman, I would no longer impose my feelings on her.

I came back inside and spied the pile of provisions I had set out for today’s work. This week has been filled with deliveries. Paint, brushes, wooden sticks to stir it all up, rollers and extenders and finally, finally my stepladder showed up yesterday so that I could reach the trim and give Honeychurch her first new fresh coat of paint in years. Today was going to be the day, but after the landlord told me that this house was never going to be for sale, I started feeling naïve. I felt that I had over romanticized the situation, and felt a little foolish.

I have written about this house as though it were some southern gothic love affair. Staring at that stepladder made me realize that it was time to be a little more realistic about the situation. This is my home, but it is not my house. I can only love it to a certain point before her beauty, what makes her shine, is no longer my responsibility.

I began to remember when Phillip and I first discussed the idea of Honeychurch. I found this picture from about 5 years ago, when Phillip scribbled on a blackboard what Honeychurch really was: a little house with a garden, fruit trees, a big oak to shield us from the weather, and constant blue skies and sunlight. There we were, primitively drawn as stick figures surrounded by hearts, our cats nothing but scraggily sketches of wonderful, furry bliss running around the yard. I love this picture Phillip drew on the blackboard. He was the first of us to really draw out our dream home. And I’ll be damned if we aren’t living that right now.

But, there was one important thing about Honeychurch that was so vital:

Honeychurch was the one place no one could ask us to leave because it was ours.

Our dream was more than just an idealized perfect place to call home, it was that fundamental cog in the dream wheel: wherever Honeychurch is, it is ours….and no one would ever be able to make us leave.

You’ll forgive me, but once you’ve been homeless the ideas of grounding, stabilization and permanence become highly addictive on your list of priorities. Sometimes you don’t even eat you’re so focused on finding a place to rest your head without fear someone is going to ask you to leave, to move. A place you can stay for as long as life allows….

I put my coffee down and got ready to paint, but the rain set in, so I just sat on the rungs of that stepladder and embraced the idea that this is never going to be my house.

I’m ok with that.

But, for the meantime, this is my home and I do so love it here.  I don’t plan on leaving any time soon and look forward to signing a lease again in six months. There is a stew simmering on the stove that smells of garlic, onions and care, there are bitter melons blooming along the fence, the cats are napping, the air feels warm. It feels like home.

And I’m ok with that, too.

But, if I were writing this as some delicious, eccentrically, southern romance, this would be the moment in the story the broken gentleman says, “I do so love you, I truly do. I always will. But, I’m looking for a commitment, Honey. Not an affair with Mrs. Church….”

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When Somebody Already Loves Your Home

The landlord came over to pressure wash the house for us, so that I could start painting when ready. I walk out to chit chat with her, give updates on my end on what’s been happening around the house, and see what she has planned next. We spend the best time talking about what color the house should be, investigating our options. She said, “I’ll pull a piece that’s peeling from up there if you want to color match it.”

I guess I had this hesitant look on my face. I was so grateful when she said, “Just so you know, I’m not sold on the color of this house.”

“Oh, thank God,” I moaned with joy. “I think we should do something not too grey, but not too blue. Somewhere in the middle.” She agreed, asked for me to send her some samples and we’d take it from there. But, I already have paint for the shutters and the trim, so I’m going to go ahead and get started on that tomorrow. After all, my step ladder finally came! WOO HOO!

I couldn’t help but boast, “You know, we’ve been getting quite a few reactions from the neighborhood. People walk by doing double takes and can see the house slowly coming back to life.”

Then she said the most interesting thing. “Wow….you have no idea. It’s actually become something of a bother. I get emails, phone calls, messages….at least 6 to 8 a week from people asking me if I’d sell this home. It’s not for sale. Not at all.”

Oh, no….my heart kept sinking with every syllable that thundered the air. She continued, “No, I love this place. I’ve always loved this house. I can’t let her go.”

However, she suddenly held an expression on her face I don’t think I’ve ever seen on someone else when looking at this house. She was genuinely as much in love with it as I was. Not even Phillip has that gaze. No, you have to have lived here, at just right time in your life, to truly understand the attachment to this house, why some people will leave, but come back again, thinking they are coming back home.

She started laughing, pointing at the studio, “Hell, I wanna die of old age right there in the studio!”

I don’t know what came over, but I threw my hands on my hips and blurted with an hysterically stern, “Well, so do I!!!!”

A giggle slipped from her lips as I told her how I had been, “telling the Universe I’m going to buy this house. It makes perfect sense! You were the first tenant in the studio, then you came back and bought the house. Then I was your first tenant, and now I’ve come back to buy the house.”

The poor woman couldn’t contain her laughter…..a laughter that let me know she understood the feeling, she had lived it….I could tell that my admission of a dream to one day buy this house was something she was glad to hear.

So she said, “If I ever did sell it, it wouldn’t be for 10 or 20 years at least. This house, in this market, can easily go for $350k, $400k. So, it’s only going to get better for this house.” She’s no fool, she knows this neighborhood in 10 years is going to be a really sought after zone. You can already smell it in the air.

However, Honeychurch wouldn’t be mine, not for at least another decade. “10 years, huh?” I looked at the ground, twisted my grin, shuffled my feet, then raised my eyes with a very strutted out chin and said, “I bet you’ll change your mind if I cut you a check for $400k….”

“Are you planning on winning the lottery?”

“All I have to do is write a bestseller,” I reminded her and I with a wink.

She laughed a touch more and said with an appeasement, “All offers will be considered.”

We went on about our business and that was that. Now, never for a minute did I feel the universe said, “No, you will not own this house.” The Universe said quite the contrary. “Someone else loves this house just as much as you do. She worked very hard to get this house. Let her enjoy that same bliss that you do for as long as she feels she needs to….”

I didn’t walk away from our talk feeling that I was crushed, or broken. I felt that my being here was validated by her response. The day I moved in back in May, she made a point of pulling me aside to tell me how excited she was to have me live here again.

She respected a love for Honeychurch that I was ready to admit to. My landlord has experienced that love for this house. So, let her love this house as long as she wants. I wouldn’t want to deny anyone that kind of kinship to a home. Even if she doesn’t live here, I’m sure on dark nights, lonely days, or feeling down about life in general, she closes her eyes and thinks about being “back home,” back here.

And perhaps she loves this house so much, she couldn’t tolerate having this beautiful little place fall into the wrong hands. Perhaps, she’s just waiting for the right person to sell it to….And I think I passed the first test. 🙂

Actually, I’m not going to wait until tomorrow to paint the shutters and trim. I’m going to go do it now….spend some time quietly thinking how beautiful Honeychurch must feel knowing that so many people love her. She’s going to just smile wearing her new coat…

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