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When a Knitter Fights Back

Wait for it….Just, wait for it. You’ll feel better once you get to the end of this blog.

As you may have noticed, the layout of my blog has changed, as has my shop. There is a very important reason that all of this changed.

Branding has nothing to do with logos and visuals, it has everything to do with a story. My story? What does Mad Man Knitting mean? It means using your crafts, your knitting, your crocheting and your tatting to find self sufficiency, to rise above the challenges you face by using your talents, your abilities, and above all, to put something good in the world. Being a Mad Man Knitting is raising your hand up, your head up, and your heart up in the face of adversity and pushing forth, fighting back against pain and misfortune and claiming you can do ANYTHING of beautiful benefit with your knitting needles. You really CAN change not only your life, but the live’s of others.

Yesterday, I received one of those lovely letters from the IRS, one of those “intent to levy” letters we all just LOVE to get. With everything  going on, with everything happening, from the tax man to health to teeth to living by a thread I felt I had finally had enough. But, did I crumble? Did I cry and hold myself tight and feel miserable and distraught? Nope. I started cleaning.

That’s right, I’m one of those people that feels when you’re cleaning your house, you’re purging your thoughts, your soul, your bad mojo, the darkness that clings. You clean it all away. And I mean I cleaned. I scoured crazy corners I’ve never seen before, washed the blinds, scrubbed the grout. When it was all finished, all tidied and put away, I felt so much better.

As heaviness mounts, I see now what to do. I’m still stuck as that homeless man in my head. I’m still stuck to my boots before I go to bed, and the minute I get out of it. I’m still stuck in this rut, “this loop” as my friend Giovanni calls it. No money, bad arm, bad teeth, bad health, bad taxes, bad, bad, bad…..ENOUGH! (Actually said that last part about the time I was cleaning behind the refrigerator).

I jumped up, ran to a pen and paper (‘member those?) and started jotting ideas. If I’m going to make this work, if I’m going to fight back against my own dilemmas, if I’m to rise above the hardships I face then I have to make this work. This has to be REAL, this can’t be a means of hand to mouth anymore, because this is my path. This is where I’ve been led. And it took no time and but a few lines for me to find some clean blaring clarity.

I’m so glad it’s May the 1st. My previous anniversary had been celebrated on February 16th, because that was the day I sold my first teddy bear, the day I rushed to the store and bought food. And nearly 3,000 (YES!) hand knit bears later, I’m changing that anniversary to the day THIS became a reality, where it all sunk in finally, where it dawned on me, it grew inside me that this whole MAD MAN KNITTING concept was more powerful than I had ever thought. Because, like I said a few posts back, this isn’t about the knitting. It’s about turning “surviving” into “thriving” by the intentions behind those knitting needles.

1 May 2016.

DSCF2040I’m going to make that money to pay off my taxes, to fix my teeth, to contain my health, and to get my permanent place to live. I want to pay my rent tomorrow. And on Tuesday, I want to go back to the dentist and say, “I don’t want plan C. I want Plan A.” Wednesday I want to haul myself back to the doctor and have him tend to that cyst on Phillip’s forehead. On Thursday I want to be able to order 100 more copies of my book. On Friday I want put a little aside and say, “That’s for Honeychurch.” And on Saturday I’m going to put a fat payment to the tax man in the mailbox with a growling “You ain’t taking me down,” sneer on my face.

And I can DO all of that! I CAN! So, I updated my shop, added T-Shirts and more bears.

And we have to talk about those bears. Oh yes yes yes. I know some have taken a while, but I promise you, the same people who wrote to say they were not happy the bears were taking too long, are the same one’s that wrote me back once they get the bear to say, “I LOVE this little bear! THANK YOU!”

AND I THANK YOU! I can’t thank you ENOUGH! I can’t thank you enough for your patience, because it’s such a beautiful thing to feel some things in this on-demand world are worth waiting for. They TRULY are. Sometimes good things happen slowly. Hate and anger are impulsive. Peace slowly and patiently comes upon quiet arrival.

 

I have to get started right away. Rent is due tomorrow. The printer for my books is offering me an awesome discount upon volume. The levy from the tax man begins on May 12th. And my health isn’t getting better and dammit, I’m going to look and feel amazing for my husband on our wedding day. Dammit! I will!

So join me. We can make this work, and we can share with each other our experiences, how our knitting put us into better places. I need more guest bloggers. Email me at madmanknitting@gmail if you’d like to write for this blog and tell others how you, we and us survived with a skein of yarn and a dream.

I’m going to start actively pursuing the press, pushing myself more to the center of the arena.

I’m going to start putting up more videos, too. Beginning tomorrow. I’ve already updated my video page with the Huffington Post Live interview I did, a news story that was broadcast about me, and a GREAT podcast that was done some time ago with “Raw Voices.”

However, tomorrow’s video is going to be quite a bit different. Think of it as a knitter’s version of  “Grey Gardens” meets “Truth or Dare” using my simple digital camera and staring your’s truly.

It’s about 8pm. I feel sooo good. SOOO good. I can’t thank all of you enough for being with me for so long, for believing in me, for helping, for sharing with me your own experiences. I don’t take all of that lightly. Because I feel that if I fail, I’ve let you down.

And I’m not about to let that happen.

Love you!

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Breaking Pain

Goodness, you should have seen the way I started writing this blog. Awful. This very post was not working well, my writing was off, my thoughts skewed. And I kept combating my own ideas for the sake of purpose. It was dark, hopeless, sad. And I don’t care for that. Nope. That’s not where I like my head to go. Should this all fall apart, it would be because I let go of faith, hope, joy; the same tools that have kept me alive and looking forward.

IMG_2636To lift my spirits I wandered out to the garden area next to our apartment building. There is a dilapidated old fence that has recently been brought to life by the blossoming eruption of a bougainvillea. Faintly, it’s petals bloomed with such an eerie speed, that it hid the neglect and pain of the fence nearly overnight. That was all I needed to set my mind right, so that I could write this blog properly. In moments of crisis, in moments of pain, it is imperative to strive to find beauty. That was the moment I needed.

Phillip mentioned last night how I don’t really tend to material things. A couple of flowers popping out of the ground and I’m content. I don’t need a car, don’t need the latest fashions, don’t need to be seen at the trendiest restaurants. I walk to enjoy the foliage as I stroll to where I need to go, get my clothes from the thrift store, and cook at home for my love and I from our garden. I cling to moments more than to materials. My book collection has come and gone, my yarn comes in and is knit up into teddy bears. Fleeting things, memorable things. I rarely hold my enjoyment to things that are held in the hand.

So, it’s been quite a chore for us to think about a wedding registry. Can  you imagine? We could use sheets and towels…..that was about it. But, even then, I was reluctant. What we have works fine. We don’t need a good set of china, nor do we need a Kitchen Aid. We don’t want a barbecue grill and we really love our dollar store Fiesta Ware. (It’s lovely really. Bright, multicolored and very sturdy…and each piece was a dollar).

What we wish for instead is to face each other on our wedding day as equals (that’s why we picked the equinox). But, more so, to see that the other isn’t in pain anymore. He hates seeing me in pain. Now, my health issues can’t be cured, but they can be contained for a long time. His? He has a cyst on his forehead that was marble sized a year ago, but has grown to a ripened golf ball. It hurts him, but he barely says a word. We always seem to be dealing with my health. Sometimes, he can’t help it though, and I can see him rubbing it and wincing.

Without pain, we’ll be able to move ahead without distraction, like we often try. Laughing mostly, big smiles when we can, and coy winks at each other just to remind each other of what we mean to each other. And hopefully we can break this loop and get up and going, really get going with our dreams. And those dreams would take us to such beautiful moments. Can you imagine if my book sold beautifully, if there were a teddy bear in every empty arm, and then…..Honeychurch? Can you imagine if we actually had Honeychurch? (Which we are hoping will be outside Micanopy, Florida. More on why there at a later date). And that’s how we break this cycle of physical pain that keeps us from getting ahead. We break it with joy, striving for beauty wherever we can find it.

We want to invite everyone, so we’re not sure where it will be. Most likely a park nearby, where there is enough space for anyone and everyone who wants to come and spend the day with us eating ribs, and coleslaw, potato salad, baked beans, and cornbread…..God, I hope I’m well enough to eat then!!! I miss all that SO much. And a chance for all of us to meet each other! What a beautiful thing that would be! To see all of you with me on such a great day. Try and come, if you can. We’ll let you know well ahead of time where it will be so you can just arrive when you desire.

IMG_2019So, that’s our wedding registry. Good health and a great wedding so we can start our lives together beautifully. And if that guy on kickstarter can raise $50,000 for a batch of potato salad, then we should be able to come up with a fraction of that to get our medical issues tended to and a great party for all of you who want to come to our wedding to say thank you.

Gonna go back to that bougainvillea and smile for a minute:) Cheers.

If you appreciate this blog and would like for it continue, please donate. Every single bit helps.

 

Words and Wool, Thank You!

I can’t thank you all enough for the supportive comments about my last post. Truly kind and inspiring to read so many heartfelt messages. And then I saw this one: “I would never call it a beg-athon. You are an entrepreneur. Words and wool. Nothing wrong with that. Go on, make your dreams come true. Just like they are intended.” 

That has been this journey from the onset. Words and wool. Dang, I wish I had worded that myself:) Good job, riselikeair! THAT was it! And then what Judy reminded me of: “Look where you are compared to past years – you’re in love, your business is cooking along, you have a sweet little space and your fur-buddies – you’re winning.❤”

Yes, of course! Look how far we’ve come since the beginning of this blog!

Do you remember when I sold my first bear? Never heard the story? Well, gather ’round, get comfortable, grab a beverage and I’ll tell you all about it…..

I was living alone in the woods, patiently waiting for the man I was dating to rescue me. I had no where to live, no job, no car, the closest town was 2o miles away. What’s even more appalling is that I don’t even think I had hope in those days. Weird, isn’t it? It’s amazing in hindsight to see how foolish one can be. That’s because I was vacant in the soul, terrified of how life had turned sour, unable to figure out what to do. My fella promised he would come and fetch me at some point. He was going to work hard in the city, find a small apartment, then come get me.

Now, for the first month I was out in the woods, my only communication with the outside world was written correspondence. That’s right, old fashioned letter writing. The little plot of land I was on was far too remote for cell phones, televisions….people. The only two radio stations I could scramble were Salsa Music and Talk Radio. (Thank GOD for that!) Every day I’d walk a quarter of a mile to a little mail box to see if I’d received any mail, a little note, a card….I beamed on the days I actually got one. I had pen and paper and a book of stamps so I was always writing people letters.

You see that? That was my first attempt at blogging….
ADSCF2692fter that long month ended, my mother offered some assistance. She was going to have a phone line put in the little trailer I was staying in, so I could have some way of connecting to the world in the event of an emergency. Furthermore, my time out there was spent doing a lot of writing, and I was itching to knit again. I was going to make my man a gift for when he arrived to get me. So she offered to buy me some yarn. With the phone line put in, I also made it of better use and had myself connected to the internet. And oh, what a wonderful new world that was. Life was getting better, I told myself. I could be connected again to the world. Next up, was the issue of knitting said lover a gift for when he was going to arrive. He was due Valentine’s Day. I told myself that form hence forth Valentine’s Day would be different. That was going to be the day I escaped from the woods, was rescued, moved on to a better life. So, I knit him a teddy bear to hold when he couldn’t hold me. For any reason he and I couldn’t be together again, he would have a teddy bear to hold instead of me.

You know how these stories go, don’t you….

A few days before Valentine’s Day he called to say that he wasn’t coming. “It’s complicated,” he kept saying. And then, “You were only supposed to be a summer romance….”

Some part of my face shifted right about the same time my soul hardened. The stoic lines of a man who never smiles creased to form the piercing power of absolute anger.

I hung up on him, never said another word. I quietly walked around that little trailer, calmly grabbed what I could find of his that I had with me, walked out to the burn pit, threw all of it in and set the shit on fire.

No one was going to come get me. No car. No money. A bag of grits was all I had to eat.

I was pissed.

As the fire steadily waned I knew I wasn’t finished purging. I then went through my things to torch whatever I had that he had given me. With a nonchalant toss, it was also thrown on the fire. Then I grabbed that teddy bear I had made for him, stood beside the burn pit, and was ready with a quick flick of the wrist to throw it to the flames. But, just a second before the teddy bear left my grip I caught a glimpse of that little bears face. Something about his face made me pause. It looked so sad, so eager to be loved. He looked ready to defend, but powerless without hope. He looked strong, but beaten up. He looked so lost. So in need of love. He looked…..like me.

I pulled him to my chest, held him, turned my back to the fire, fell to my knees and cried my eyes out.

I was now alone in the woods. Truly alone. Do you have any idea what that feeling is like? This is where my life had left me: alone in the woods with no way to support himself. Hungry. Cold. Angry. No one wanted me. The world had rejected us. Mario and I both kept constant vigil over the wooded land. Sometimes hoping someone would show up surprisingly out of nowhere….but no longer trusting them if they did. We both had sharp eyes toward the horizon. We were mad at the world.

dscf2729Pack dogs surrounded our little trailer one day, gnashing and gnawing and trying to get in. Mario threw herself at the screen window, hissing, flailing, and screaming. Finally, the screen gave way  and she fell out. She slit the throat of one dog with her claw, sliced at just the right spot to cause him to bleed out, then took the eye out of another with a quick swat. As she did this, the dogs were distracted and I raced out the trailer, grabbed a log and began hitting the other dogs until they retreated.

Mario and I fell back into the trailer without wound, the dogs leaving trails of blood and the carcass of one of their own left behind. She crawled into my lap….and I just stared at the thick woods, the burn pit smoldering for our heat and food, and I accepted that this was now going to be our lives.

Valentine’s came and went. In the course of the following days one switch in me was turned off, and another was brilliantly lit. I was running out of grits. At one point I had about 75 cents, and with Mario out of food, I walked three miles to a little general store in the middle of nowhere to buy her something to eat.

Life was going to be different now. This is what it had amounted to. And I knew I was the only person, the only soul, the only force that could get us out of there. As E.M. Forster said, “The only cause for action is want.”

I went scouring through the internet to look for some way (outside of porn, thank you) to make money. I came across Etsy. The only thing I had to sell was that little teddy bear. I listed him, sold him within 30 minutes and was no longer a victim of circumstance. I was now a survivor. I fed myself that night. Mario and I curled up on this aged, old smelly cot and watched “The Golden Girls” online. I had a sandwich, she had some real cat food, and we were the happiest creatures alive. Because we now had hope that we could survive. This was the start of how a man could learn to use knitting to save himself….

I’ve lived off that hope since then. It fuels me. It’s not just that I was able to sell a teddy bear to get money for food….I had changed. I had become resilient. I had recognized that I could, I WOULD, I CAN survive.

And look now how far we’ve come. Wow. Really think about how far we’ve come. From that to this, this beauty, this hope.  We have a long way to go still….but, look at where hope and survival will lead you. Such a wonderful journey this is.

I love waking every morning and seeing a new bear’s face. He looks redolent and alive. He looks ready to take on the challenges of the world. He looks ready to face adversity and deal with dilemma. He looks proud. He looks steadfast and full of love ready to give. He looks…..like me.

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“I’m Sick of Your Beg-athon.”

Maybe I do get scared sometimes.

I received a comment earlier today, where someone said they were unsubscribing because they were tired of the “beg-athon.” They continued with, “You’re trying too hard.”

Maybe I am. Or maybe I’m not trying hard enough. I’m not sure which version I’m in pursuit of at the moment, but I’ll tell you this much: which ever version keeps me from being homeless again, I’ll stick with. I’m never going back there. Ever.

I lost quite a few subscriptions today. It breaks my heart, it really does. No one wants to see people flee, but I have to take it on the chin and remember, “not everyone is going to like you.” It’s part of life. When you put yourself in the public arena, you have only yourself to blame for any backlash you may face. That’s a truth. And why? Not everyone is going to like you. And you have to come to terms with that. You simply have to. You can’t live in a bubble where people puke “I love you” as readily as poop rainbows. You have to hear what people say, and then graciously thank them for being a part of your journey and let them go.

I don’t blame them. I, too, get sick of always asking people to buy my books, my bears, toss a few dollars in the yarn bowl. I get sick of it because I want to get to that little part of my soul that says, “we have our little home, we have food on the table….now, let’s go out and do everything in our power to help others.” And daily….daily I do what I can to get there. Some people take offense. I understand. I’m forever “trying too hard.”

IMG_5521Parts of me hurt, parts of me are not what they used to be. But, these hands can still knit furiously and write beautifully. (I need to start owning that more. I need to start telling MYSELF I’m actually a very good writer, and that is said not to promote conceit, but to invite confidence).

I’m on a very short quest. I want my little home, I want my Howard’s End, I want what Phillip and I call “Honeychurch,” and I will not stop. I just can’t. Because there isn’t much time in life, and when you have a goal you need to pursue it fervidly and immediately and never look back. You have to stand up, thank those that criticize you, then get back to your goal.

Like I’ve said before, even if it’s an Airstream parked on an acre of land, that’s our home, our Howard’s End….our “Honeychurch.” So that we can then start to hold out our hands to others and help and say, “we know this road; we can help.”

So, I’m sorry if some of you find this a constant “beg-athon.” But, I do understand. However, I do not apologize. Because I hope YOU understand why I’m doing this. I’m going to knit and write my little heart out until I have the ability to help others, otherwise…..this, all of this, will have been for nothing.

I once had a dream where I had lunch with Madonna and I asked her, “What is the secret to your success. I mean the REAL secret.”

She said, “It’s all how you treat people. Those that work with you should be treated with high regard. They’re on your level, they appreciate what you want. Those that work for you, should be treated with exceptional compassion. It’s not easy being in your shadow and tolerating your tyranny. And the people that work against you? Treat them to dinner and try and change their mind.”

So! Proudly I put my donate button, and continue to link to my shop. 

If you appreciate this blog and would like for it continue, please donate. Every single bit helps.

 

 

A Squadron of Knitters and Readers

foefrontI guess one of the best ways that I can always be pushing forward, to find some safety, to build a dream, that I can help my little family, is to always be promoting my books. We sold a good ten copies of “FOE” coming out of the great. I find that respectable. Of course, The New York Times isn’t going to be taking a look at me anytime soon, but that’s fine. In this new world of online media and grass roots efforts, we don’t need the big guys to approve of the little guys like me anymore. We just build our little squadrons of loyal readers until someone up in the mainstream building takes a peek down and asks, “Who is that guy?” So, while working hard on some much delayed bears, I focus my attention now on promoting my books, while I get caught up, then I can go back to knitting up new bears to be adopted and loved.

willknitcoversmallI really like these two books of mine. I really do. I think it’s some of my best writing. I have to say I’m proud of both “Foe” and “Will Knit For Food,” because I think it’s beautifully written and painfully honest. It’s as if I wrote those books with only one person in mind to read them: myself. I have a lot to learn, and I love watching the path of life turn, tumble, then level, and that, I feel, is what my writing is all about. A catalog of emotions and events that are recorded, then sent back to anyone whom might wish to follow.

I’ve put my books on sale so we can get a little more 10 sold before the end of the month. I think a million copies would be delightful:), but I think the fact the are being read is what gives me greater pleasure. Cheers! Read on!

If you appreciate this blog and would like for it continue, please donate. Every single bit helps.

 

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Life is Better With a Dream

I just wanted to take a moment before settling in this Saturday night. Yes, it’s just shy of 6:30pm, but we’re headed to settle. I’ve had a long bath, in my pajamas, we’re going to watch a film, nibble on our famous tortizzas (that’s a great blog, you should read that one), and dream before a televised screen of greater things to come. Last Saturday we watched “A Room With a View,” (hey, it’s Spring, it’s E.M. Forster time), and decided we would name our little place in the country, should we ever get it, “Honeychurch.”

Can you not see me, knitting against a crepe myrtle, down wind of jasmine, shaded by a light pink bougainvillea, the thick grass and wild weeds as my cushion; the dampened air alight with the sun, bees swarm through the early buds of spring, shy to those glare upon them; winged things dance atop the sharp blades of stems, and you steady your gaze, asking, “Is that a pixie?” Strolling out of the thick brush comes Mario, languidly sliding through the grass as the little leopard she is, to rest beside me. I sit down my needles, soften my eyes, pull my ball cap down, my hands then rest on chest, as I feel the warm of the air, smell the fragrant hint of citrus blooms, and hear the rustle of a busy oak in the distance, bowing down, saluting up, bustling in his stand against the wind. And I fall asleep, I fall away….

Yes, I see myself there.:)

But, as I started this blog, I wanted to take a moment before settling in to thank you for that dream. You’ve all been so kind to Phillip and me. I don’t think I would have that dream were it not because of you. You give me hope that one day I’ll be there, I’ll make it. You give my dream the depth and possibility that I never would have thought possible. So, I cannot thank you enough for allowing me to dream, to hope for better things. You’ve been so kind and I am so grateful. You’ve all been so supportive of me. And who would have thought these little words I type quickly across a screen would have brought so much joy? So many connections, so many new friends, so many well wishes, and hopes for health….So many beautiful lives in my life. Who knew that’s what I would have been blessed with? So many beautiful lives in my life.

We’ll get to Honeychurch one day. We will. Because we have a dream, you, Phillip, me, (all of us!) and a dream is but the birth of visualized hope.

Thank you, again, all of you for the dream.:) Life is better with a dream.

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If you appreciate this blog and would like for it continue, please donate. Every single bit helps.

 

 

The Distraction of Hope

I haven’t written a blog in 10 days. Sorry about that. I’ve been in some pain, and pain can be distracting. It can drive your focus to that and only that. Pain. I’d be knitting and focus hard, VERY HARD, on the counting of rows, on the complexities of increasing and decreasing.I was trying to distract myself and it would work….somewhat.

In the middle of a bad day of pain, Phillip and I were discussing getting married. When? How?

Easy. Phillip suggested we get married on the 22nd of September. It’s the Autumnal Equinox, when there is both exact amount of sunlight and darkness. Balance. Nothing is greater than the other. Equality.

I thought that was sweet, kind, thoughtful. So, our day at the courthouse will be on the 22nd of September. Now, there won’t be a ceremony, just the two of us exchanging our sacred vow of, “I promise to be with you as long as you want me!” (It’s a joke between us :))

However, we are going to have a little reception that following Saturday. Nothing fancy, just blue jeans, boots, beer and barbecue in the little strip of grass next to our apartment where we’ve been growing our garden. We’ve invited a few members of our friends and family community. And you know what? The moment we had it settled and decided, I was so focused on the future, so greatly smiling over hope, that my body didn’t hurt so much anymore. Hope distracted me from the pain, and I have to say, I haven’t felt better in a long time. I kept thinking, soon, on a cool day in September, that garden will be filled with people wishing us well.

I picked up my knitting needles, went out to the garden, sat among the green and felt better, working up hope in the shape of teddy bears, working up hope in my books, and in the form of tomato plants and green beans, in the form of the best relationship  I’ve ever had that needed very little work, with wishes for a little plot of land for ourselves, that my work brings me peace, and that whatever I learn about the world, how ever I may feel, that my spirit is always lifted with the distraction of hope.

If you appreciate this blog and would like for it continue, please donate. Every single bit helps.