Bound Together in Stitches

Phillip and I were talking today about relationships….and how they sometimes end.

Money can be a great test in how much stress a relationship can handle. And Lord knows, we’ve had our fair share of testing. But, we’re still together, doing what we can to keep afloat. We don’t get snitty, we don’t start casting blame, we don’t push each other into a corner and cage each other like animals. We remember and consider with high regard that a good relationship, with the one you truly adore, can handle times of burden. And our’s seems to have done very well.

I was so proud of him yesterday. He had an “audition,” so to speak. He was invited to a chef’s restaurant to prove his skills. He did well, came home employed. I was so proud. But, more so, because of his intentions. He spent the better part of a week pounding the pavement, looking for work. And when he was told he was employed, he came in exceedingly happy, took a shower, got a quick bite to eat, then got back to work on his Strange Friends. Anything and everything he can do to keep us going, he’s willing to do. He’s much like myself in that respect. We don’t crumble. We face it, we battle it, we prove we can handle it. And life is so much easier to handle with someone on your side.

While we were having this conversation today I noticed that I was knitting my bears, and he was crocheting his Strange Friends, and that the stitches we worked up showed a pivotal truth: we were bound to each other by our good intentions, by our need to help the other. And we laughed and said, “We’ll probably miss these days soon….” Oh, what future we may be so honored to have, as to recall when we were flat broke and in love :)

We are each blessed with a relationship that can handle hard times. I’m so grateful for that. So many relationships fall apart because of money. But, our’s seems to be built on a common desire to lift each other up when things fall flat, not blame each other for the misfortune we face. We own our truths, we accept our faults….

Reach now for your loved one and give them a hug, reach for the one that has stood by you and fought with you, and laughed with you, and say nothing. Just be mindful of how hard it is to keep a love going….and that they are still there with you. Then pick up your knitting, or your crochet, and pray as you work up your project, that every stitch you work up brings you closer to them.

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The Clouds Are Passing Fast

In this frail chair, with this humble talent, I’m staring out the window with a gaze upwards, faceted on the stream of clouds boldly pushing through the sky, pushing winter aside, demanding the rites of spring. The rushing blows pull the limbs of the trees steadfast to the ground, as though they step aside to allow the hushed breath of mother nature to bring a new season. Its not like a bend, but more a curtsy. The fluttering leaves seem to be nothing more than a self induced applause of life turning again as it should. A sudden blossom is seen bleeding a bright color in the mass of green.

Should you seek peace, look to the trees. They hold the records of everything we never see, the truth that all seasons come back round again, back to rebirth, back to spring. And look at those clouds up there, moving by so fast….reminding that so is life, that life moves so fast.

I seem to hold myself at my best in spring. I’m not sure what it is, but perhaps it has so much to do with what I’ve learned through this journey of mine. I’m so looking forward to this particular spring, for I claim for myself the same rebirth that mother nature blesses us with. My writing will be better, my knitting will be better. For I am witnessing the world grind in a cycle as it should. I’m allowing myself to be reborn, along with every petal screaming for air, every new creature naively searching for being.

Those clouds rushing past, those trees swaying with graceful ease, remind me to let the new season be, let the past lay where it should, to look forward, to be reborn.

Perhaps I often feel the problems I face so readily are because I’m not allowing with a graceful bow to let life happen naturally. I think that I remain in the past too often, constantly living in my own fall, buried deep by my own winter, and never allowing myself to blossom as life should in spring. Perhaps I’m too entranced with what DID happen to allow what WILL happen. And now I see the clouds leaving me behind…life is leaving me behind the more these boots are stuck in the hallows of rotting leaves and dead ground, the past.

Slowly with one hard pull of the knee upward, I’ll lift myself out, with the wind, towards the bowing limbs of trees, towards the speckled scene of zinnia and daisies, forth towards to the beginning of a new season, into new life, and into the light.

When I have trouble sleeping my mind shifts towards a scene. Humming bees swarm past uninterrupted around me. I sit at a table in the middle of a meadow populated with wildflowers. The sun is warm, the air is crisp, and I brush dandelion floats away from me. I peek over to see my little home, and turn back to the pages to remember my grand life….

I can no longer live as the man who once had life piled upon him. I must be reborn into the man that saw every touch of his hand, every soul he encountered, every experienced he gathered, every word he wrote, every bear he knit as a step forward into a new life, and not a hold on the past.

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And Knitting Around an Evening Fire….

 

I decided to rest my hands for a minute and thank all of you for the great support you’ve shown me. The kind emails and comments are great to see. I truly appreciate that. It’s a great way to start the day. Life ain’t always sunbeams and joy. So, be sure to praise them when you see them. Haven’t felt well the last few weeks, but great comments and the morning sun made me feel so much better. I just sat there and knit as the warmth of both you and the bright rays came to comfort me. Thank you, again, for being so kind to me, for sharing this life with me.

Phillip and I have been talking about possibly leaving the city when our lease expires in July. Maybe it’s time to head back to the woods. It would certainly be less expensive than the city.

It seems the cheapest way to respond to the financial pressure is to leave the city. We’ve thought about going as basic as getting a little camper out in the woods. That’s pretty much what we can afford right now. Trimming out all the unnecessary fat may not be a bad idea. And we often feel that we don’t truly belong in the city most of the time. Despite the expense, there’s just a rule of life that is more aggressive, more “take before someone else does” and a competitive “kill or be killed” philosophy that really doesn’t apply to the way we behave, nor wish to live our lives. My agoraphobia takes me from here to the grocery store two blocks away. Outside of that? We don’t go to movies and restaurants and clubs and bars. No, we prefer sitting at home, listening to music,knitting, writing, having a beer and playing cribbage. Kara comes to visit. But, outside of that, we don’t get much company. And somehow, we like it that way. It’s just WHERE we are dig it is just far to expensive or us to handle.

I imagine in the hierarchy of needs food, clothing, and shelter must be followed with companionship. And I’m hardly lonely. I have Phillip, Bacon, Mario, and all of you. So, I don’t worry to much about having no one around with me. Before, when I was homeless….I had no one. That was much different. I’ve learned a lot more sense then. I’m appreciative of the values that I learned since being out there the first time. I don’t think I would mind at all being out there again…as long as I had my little family of my one broad strong man, two cats, and all of you. Once we get to the woods I can still write and knit to bring in money. We’d have to get Phillip a little car to get him to a job somewhere close by. He’ll continue to work up his Strange Friends in his downtime, and keep those tomatoes and pole beans growing. We’ll have to start finding a way to squirrel away a little money to get that little camper.

We actually romanticize about it lately. Wading through morning flowers covered in dew to get eggs from the chickens. The faint smell of Phillip chopping firewood for us to cook with. Boots covered in the dust of dirt roads. Screaming cicadas announcing the arrival of summer nights. Knitting around an evening fire….

Life would be less expensive, yet more valuable. Life would be remembered again in all the things you forget when you’re in the city. You tend to forget about compassion in the city. You tend to look down when you walk. I want to look up and see every star reminding me of every soul of whose pass I’ve crossed. And as each star brightens and shimmers, I’ll be reminded of how my own spirit has done the same with every one of your embraces.. In the city, you tend to turn away from the anger of man. But, I want to stare it down with every word that I pen, with every bear that I knit. I want to be able to change the world with these things my hand can command: my knitting and my writing. And leaving the city might be the only way to do that. Moving out the woods may be the only way we are going to survive.

But, I’m ok with that. I’m better with having my little family held together, rather than see the stresses of finances pull us apart. We don’t need trendy and flashy. We need only each other and a purpose that is well rooted in the reality of what human connection is supposed to be: caring, giving, compassionate. As E.M. Forster wrote, “Only connect.”

And when did this revelation come about? Sometime early this morning, as we verged on the first of the month when I realized we still need to sell  two bears, one of Phillip’s “Strange Friends,” and few books to finish paying the expenses for this month. One day, I won’t have to write that anymore. One day….. And not because we’ve become massive millionaires and are able to buy more things, but because we stepped back and shed the world of the unnecessary expenses of life. We looked towards having nothing, in order to gain everything in the world that is true.

I day dream: just us and a little camper.

Maybe by stepping back, I’ll be able to look forward to one day having my own Howard’s End.

…..my own Howard’s End.

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Not Revelation, But Remembrance

And I wait each morning for that splash of brilliance that shines right through this front window of mine onto my face, onto my soul. It is neither shrilling, nor blinding. It is instead, a quiet hum of light in rays that lay their light on hope. Every morning, each day, the light comes to remind me that darkness is only momentary, and blessed is he who remembers to hold the light in his hands, to feel its warmth, and remember that when darkness passes, life giving light will return.

When life has moments of brightness and brilliance, do your best to hold onto them, catalog them for later. When darkness comes to take it’s heavy stead, hold close, remain firm, and wait for the light to come again….For, as a promise never broken, the arming, warming light will return again.

You can get through life when you remember daily that bad things will slip past, just as easily as good things will. Its like having this one wonderful piece of knitting that you’ve worked on. And somewhere in the beginning you found a mistake….the rest of the piece is lovely, but not matter what you do, you keep focusing on that one mistake that makes your work, imperfect. As though life were constantly lived like that. The great amount of beauty that pervades you is shut down hard and fast by focusing always on that one simple, frail mistake. And the beauty of the piece? The beauty is that it is recognizable by anyone who sees it as genuine. And again, much like life, purposely imperfect to remind of how our focus seems to naturally shift towards the mistakes in the beginning, never ever fulling taking pride in how much better the knitting got with time, how fewer mistakes there were, and how that one mistake in your stitches never really amounted to much anyway.

Over the last few days I’ve been remembering things that were revealed to me at a time when I needed them. And that is this: I am a coward if I wallow and fall apart when I am handed my fair share of life’s misgivings, and that I am ungrateful when I don’t gleefully smile and relish when blessings are loved upon me.

Loved upon me.

IMG_2524What great phrase. Makes me sit back for a second and think of all the things loved upon me. These hands that can spin out a teddy bear, this heart that can deeply connect with others, that morning sunbeam through the window, this cat in my lap, that wonderful husband of mine outside growing us tomatoes, cucumbers, and eggplant for extra food, and each and every one of you that comes here to share your life with me. Blessings are an act of destiny, or God. But, acts of love, gestures of love, reminders of love, they all come from basic human connection. What great beauty is revealed when I remember how loved upon I am.

….how we all are.

We’ll do fine. All of us. Like the promise of the morning sun reminds, we’ll do fine.

I promise.

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Hear That? That Was Truth Talking….

As much as I try to be optimistic and hopeful with this blog, there are some days where positive emotions elude me. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. We all have our slight moments where we have to recognize truth, let it fill us with harshness, deal with it, then proceed back into the lives that we’ve designed for ourselves. If optimism is what you preach, then optimism is what you will get. If pessimism is your tactic, then by all means, have all the pessimism coming to you.

The last two days have been my turn to reconcile with truths. I was ill again yesterday. My health isn’t getting any better. And because of my arm and teeth being as wrecked as they are, I know all of it is intertwined.

We made some chicken soup from scratch and had the bed set up for me to climb in and rest again. But, I just couldn’t do it. I wasn’t going down again. There’s far too much to do. So, I sat in a chair with an afghan piled on top of me, sipped my soup, and did my knitting. While sitting there knitting, truth decided to scold me. I had no choice but to listen.

Teddy bear and book sales plummeted over the last month. And I do mean dropped. I am knitting as fast as I can, but it’s just  not fast enough for some. And I understand that. Most of you have been so supportive and patient and you wait and wait and wait, and finally the bear arrives and I can’t tell you how kind it is of you to write me and tell me how worth the wait was. But, some have been disappointed. You have been loud, and I have heard you, and I apologize so deeply that I’m not knitting as fast as I once did. I truly do. I want you to be so happy when you finally get your bear and you realize what that bear represents, what that bear symbolizes. And I promise you. It really is the perfect teddy bear.

It would have made everything so much better for everyone had obstacles not slowed me down. But, they did. And it angers me that we could have survived a financial dip like this, had the IRS not confiscated the money we had scraped up to save. But, all of this is completely my fault. I can’t place blame on anyone. My health and finances are a result of choices I made five years ago.

Phillip’s hours were cut at the restaurant to 20 per week. He’s managing to keep at least those because he volunteered to take the position of dishwasher. Otherwise, I don’t think they would have kept him as a prep cook.

So truth quietly told me that I’m not getting healthier and that sales are down, finances are in the toilet. So, what do you do?

You pick your needles up and get back to work. You rest when you need to, push harder when you can, but you never ever back away and say, “I can’t do it.” Giving up has never been an option of mine. I wouldn’t have made it this far if it weren’t for my tenacious desire for a better life. And not just for myself, but for every single soul I touch with my writing and my bears. Be mindful! It isn’t a life filled with champagne and caviar, but a life honed in greatly on the simple.

So, I heard what truth had to say, acknowledged it, and squarely grabbed a space in my head where I could remain a fighting optimist, and got back to work. Health, arm, and teeth be damned…I have Phillip, Mario and Bacon, my books and bears to sell, and all of you to keep my heart warm. And all of that should get me through anything, right?

But, in all honesty, I’m awfully scared that we might not make it.

 

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The Family That Knits Together….

To begin with, I’m so very glad that so many of you truly enjoyed the first “Guest Blogger” post. I really enjoyed doing that, and I’ve gotten a few responses in my email. All great stories. I’m looking forward to sharing them with you. I’m looking forward to making this blog a platform for so many more people, so many more voices and experiences in this lifting craft of ours.

Secondly, thanks for all the great birthday wishes! Truly kind of all of you to celebrate my birthday with me. And if it were up to me? I’d make January 4th  National Croquet Day. :) That meant so much to me. We still haven’t recovered from our disastrous tax bill, and my health hasn’t been at its best. But, a day of croquet with my husband, leaving all the sourness behind, was the best present I could have gotten. I’m still trying to push my book to help pay off that debt, and Phillip is doing his best to work up some more of his “Strange Friends.”

IMG_2289By the way! Today is our one year anniversary! It’s true when they say you should marry your best friend, the one who makes you laugh, the one that makes you want to do great things for a greater good, and the one that knows when you’re down and does something ridiculous to make you snap out of your scowl and go full grin. Now, look at that picture. Who wouldn’t want to marry that? Yep! I was having a bad day, and he pops in wearing that hat….how could I not laugh? How could I not throw everything into perspective and chuckle?

My mother came down for my birthday. Now, I haven’t seen my mother in 4 years. We talk on occasion, but there was some mending that needed to happen. I don’t need to get into that, but I’d readily like to say, those things have passed. We look forward. We don’t dredge hard feelings. We forgive. We embrace. We move on.

vlcsnap-2016-01-15-08h04m14s938It was a nice weekend visit. And at one point, we were all on the couch knitting and crocheting, gossiping about the Real House Wives (mercy), and laughing at our own foolishness. And that was when the mending began. But, more than that, this was when the embrace began, all through a craft we all share. And it caused me to think, that when a family in some trouble can manage to enjoy doing something together, you’ll find interesting things happen. So many homes are disgraced with each face peering into their own devices, phones, tablets, televisions…..never sharing. But, I saw that a family that spends moments sharing and enjoying each others company really does simple, yet miraculous things for connection.

vlcsnap-2016-01-15-08h04m38s731It was the first time my mother had met Phillip, and she thoroughly enjoyed him, saying, “I see why you adore him so much. He’s a very sweet man. I enjoy watching how you two interact. You compliment each other wonderfully. And I love watching the two of you laugh all the time.”

And now that I’ve taught Phillip to crochet, and he’s having a fun heyday with his “Strange Friends,” we spend much more time together, both on the couch, sharing our thoughts quietly and quickly, laughing when necessary, hushing each other when it’s important. (I laugh now that the tables are turned and I start to speak and he says, “SHHHHH! ……I’m counting…..)

I can’t help but smile. I’m poor as a church mouse…..but, blessed with so much. :)

IMG_2164So, if you can, grab a copy of my book and keep this beautiful life going. We actually really need that. We REALLY need that.

Thank you all so much for everything. And Phillip! I know you’re reading this, so Happy Anniversary! I love you, you big goon!

 

 

Guest Blogger: “It’s Better Than Feeling Sorry For Yourself.”

( Cathy is my first guest blogger. Loved her article on knitting! These are the kinds of stories I’m looking for. Be sure to check out her blog!)

During summer 2008, my life crumbled. Due to an orphan neurological disease, I gradually lost my job, my flat and a bunch of friends.

Soon, I would spend most of my time in hospital beds or in doctors’ waiting room.

Luckily for me, I learned how to knit and crochet as a child, and I decided to borrow some needles, grab some yarn and buy second-hand knitting books.

So I started bringing my yarn and crochet to hospitals. I always found crochet to be easier to carry in a bag. It doesn’t matter if you rip it up, it’s easy to mend.

I needed something to focus on, to forget about the smell and the noise. And we all know those gossip magazines just don’t do the trick. Knitting and crochet does.

Crocheting while waiting for an appointment had such a soothing effect. Not only on myself, but on other patients, too. Nurses would stop by and talk about their favorite crochet stitch. Older patients would stare at me, and men would often tell me how I reminded them of their mother.

Often, it wasn’t even properly done. I couldn’t see very well, my hands were shaking and would often forget the pattern. But every single loop was a second stolen from the gloom and despair.

In waiting rooms, I made this black mesh shawl. I spent hours of insomnia learning the pattern by heart from a book. Again, I felt like I had to learn something, create, as a way of enjoying life. It isn’t perfect but I noticed no one ever stops by to say I’ve made a mistake. And nurses are so much nicer when you try to do something instead of complaining all the time.

Then everyone around me started making babies.

I had never knit baby items. All I could knit at that time was basic scarfs or shawls.

I thought I would never be able to knit something wearable.

But I decided to overcome my insecurities, and looked for easy baby jackets. My mum found the pattern she knitted for my siblings and myself, and it was a very moving moment to read the pattern, cast it on with those very same needles she used 30 years ago and feel like I was knitting the same stitches as she once did.

I actually translated this pattern in English so everyone can share the feeling. Knitting for babies was very moving, because I can’t have kids, so it’s my little gift to humanity. Some people conceive the babies and I wrap them in warm, comfy baby jackets.

As soon as I was able to walk the streets of Paris again, I was shocked by the increased number of homeless people living in our streets. And I decided that on top of offering food and talking with them, I would bring them home-made hats.

bonnet donI only knew how to knit in the round with double-pointed needles, and with my hands shaking so badly it soon became obvious that I had to find another way. Again, it was an opportunity to overcome my fear of the circular needles. And I started knitting piles of hats. Knowing that, of course, it wasn’t much, but hoping it would make people feel like someone had thought about them. Hoping to make them smile.

I believe happiness is about making others smile. And knitting is a wonderful way of spreading joy and peace around you. From teaching people how to make their own customized perfect hat, to mesmerizing kids while knitting in public transportation,

whenever I see yarn, I forget about the pain. I just grab my needles and cast on something. Anything. It’s always better than feeling sorry for myself.

(If you’d like to be a guest blogger, please feel free to email me your story to madmanknitting@gmail.com. This blog is about all of us….)

 

Casting on, Thanks to Morrissey

The New Year has much to offer, and I’m one of those rare fellows that believes that today is the official last day of our holiday love. Epiphany. Or Three Kings Day. The tree came down, the little cranes we folded were placed aside (to be sent in any future boxes that get shipped out, to promote an idea of simple peace), and life goes back to normal.

I’m looking forward to the New Year. I have a lot of goals to achieve. Life can get hard sometimes, but I promise you, that if you stick to your faith, to your hope, stay close to those that love you and place good goals in your path everyday, you’ll do fine. The intention to live is much better than the actual goal itself. Those who face life sour will, in fact, face a sour life. (That was me just now…not Confucius.)

vlcsnap-2016-01-06-17h42m23s506I’m really feeling like this could be the year we make progress. I really do. I think we can do wonderful things this year. And that all begins tomorrow. Before we officially put the holiday season to rest, I’ll treat you with a video we promised. Birthday croquet, courtesy of Morrissey. It’s silly and frightful, but have fun. Click here to watch.

Tomorrow? Casting on….And don’t forget to snag my book!

 

Bacon and the Yarn Bug

So, it is something of a tradition, so to speak: knitters and cats. Who knows why? Maybe the same sort of personality that leans towards crafting with yarn also has the same leaning towards cats. I know from my own experience that my appreciation for the cat comes from a sense of selfishness. Mario and I? We stay out of each others way when we have to, cling and cuddle to each other when needed, and all the while my needles are dancing in my hand, she’s tending to her own pursuits. We love each other dearly, and she likes to have me in her eyesight….she doesn’t need my constant attention.

IMG_2463So, now that Phillip has been bitten by the yarn bug, whipping out his “Strange Friends” in crochet, we thought we’d introduce you to Bacon. Yep, that’s his name. Bacon. It’s kinda funny to watch the four of us play out. Phillip and I in opposite corners busy knitting and crocheting, and each of our familiars solidly by us. Yes, Bacon is definitely Phillip’s cat. The two of them simply adore each other. But, the funny things is watching how much Bacon adores Mario. Oh, she can’t be bothered with him. But he’ll flirt and proudly prance in front of her, she’ll swipe at him and dash off, and Bacon will just look at us with that “God, she’s hot,” look and dash after her.

That’s the new addition to this brood of fiber artists. Bacon. It makes sense, doesn’t it? Each of us tending to our own crafts quietly, our warm best buddies close by. And my favorite part of the day? Deep in the evening when we all pile into the bed to go to sleep. There’s just a lot more love in the house. A LOT more love.

IMG_2465And since I was taking a picture of Bacon, I went hunting down Mario so I could take a picture of her. Funny. She’s such the ninja. Constantly camouflaged, or hidden deep in a corner. Disregard the messy bed! It was in the 40’s last night, we had every blanket we had on us, including a very special quilt sent to us by Janice….but by morning, we were burning up and everything had been tossed to the side :)

Be sure to check out Phillip’s “Special Friends.” oh! And my goal this year is to sell 1,000 copies of “Will Knit For Food” in 12 months. Lofty? Mercy…. But, it is a really great book and the price has been reduced to $19.95. That’s 600 pages of a good read. I’d like to see it become part of the big books of knitting. I’m proud of that book and I love the response and comments I’ve gotten about it. So, if you haven’t snagged a copy, be sure to!

 

Birthday Croquet!

It’s my birthday! So I’m taking the day off! Woo hoo! And I always make a big point of being jovial and happy on my birthday. Always. To those who wince and whine on their own special day, I take note of what my grandmother used to say: “Consider the alternative and you’ll feel much  better…”

IMG_1537And maybe because it it so close to the holidays, celebrating my birthday is a great way to extend the season for just a minute longer. So, I always enjoy my birthday. Sorry for the crass pic, but I plan to have quite a bit of fun today :) We’ve got much to do this year, and we’re gonna start it off with the right attitude.

Today? Well, the weather is a crisp 60 degrees in Central Florida, and Phillip and I are going to while away with my favorite pastime: croquet.  As many of you know, croquet is my absolute favorite outdoor fun, and with weather permitting, it’s an absolute blast. So, we’re heading outside with our mallets and wickets. We’ll be taking the little camera outside to do some filming and we’ll post it later today. So stay tuned! Woo hoo!