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!

Thank You For a Wonderful Year.

Let’s see, it’s just shy of 9pm on New Year’s Eve, and I didn’t wanna let this year slip past without telling you how grateful I am for this last year. Doubt I’ll be awake when the clock hits it’s mark, but wanted to take the time to thank all of you for a great year. Now, it would be typical to approach the close of a new year with discussion about the good things, and bad things that happened prior, but I wanted to reach into something a bit deeper. Whatever happened in 2015, we did it together. With everything that happened, we were together, and the good things would not have been enjoyed if I had not had you to share them with, and the bad things I would not have survived had you not been there with me to help rescue me.

So, as the year comes to a close, I can’t remark on incidents, I can only remark on connection….that we, both you and I, made it through another year with each other. And that is how I close my last post of 2015….that we held each other, comforted each other, supported each other, and raised each other up. That’s a nice way to file away another year.

Knowing you aren’t alone.

Happy New Year, everyone. Can you just imagine the possibilities of the coming dawn?

Peace!

OH! I forgot to mention! Don’t forget to eat your black eyed peas for good luck!

 

Walking Away With My Candy Cranes

The best gift I got for Christmas? Walking away…. I sure did. I had the best time ever this year. You see, the closer we got to Christmas, the angrier the world seemed to get. No matter where you turned, madness and doom seemed to permeate everything, everywhere. And I found myself falling into that mood.

Now, I adore Christmas, as do many. But, I wasn’t about to have my Christmas spoiled with this seeping sense of solemn disaster that was being dolled out by the news, social media, and your random trip outside to the store.

So, we made a decision. Stop it. Stop it now. I walked away from the world for a good week and let the world destroy itself. I wasn’t going to take part. No news, no television (ok, we watched Jeopardy, but that was pretty much it). No social media, no blogging, no internet…..I double dog dare you to try it. It wasn’t hard. It was enjoyable. I spent the time knitting up last minute orders, playing cards with Phillip, cuddling with my cat while watching my favorite old Brit-Coms, reading Calvin and Hobbes in the bathtub, and doing crossword puzzles while at my desk.

And I had the best Christmas ever. I was able to focus truly on the spirit of Christmas, and in that turn, was able to move myself into remembering the spirit of life itself. I cannot change the world, but I certainly don’t have to participate in its horrors, its rudeness, its aggression and complex psychosis. I can step back, at will, and let people beat each other up. I won’t and don’t have to be a part of that.

In my own solace I get to hold the world with a bigger embrace, a hope and a prayer that simple gestures, simple moments in life are what rise a person up. Much like a monk, I went quiet, and smiled with a great optimism, that this is not who, nor what the world truly feels itself to be. And my prayer was that the crazy dash to get a television on discount would be forgotten someday, and that the generous love of a greater source would fill the constantly emptying void we seem to be addicted to.

IMG_2434We put up our little tree, and as we discussed before, folded origami cranes as our Christmas ornaments. We put up candy canes for brightness and color.

IMG_2436And keeping with the spirit of staying simple and far from the “YOU MUST DO THIS” madness that this beautiful holiday had become, used a different sort of wrapping paper for our gifts. We live in Little Saigon in Orlando. We found the free newspaper written in Vietnamese, and with  those amazing characters, it made for a really cool wrapping paper.

Now, the New Year approaches, and I’m going to hold strong to the moments I felt this Christmas. I viewed them as a blessing. Christmas, life, is not about getting something, but about giving something. Remember those crazy old days when we were younger? When the value of someone was their approach to the world? A boy approached his manhood with not “what can I get from the world,” but rather, “what can I GIVE to the world?” No reason those days, those morals can’t return again.

So, sorry for being silent….actually, I’m not sorry :) I think it was necessary. I enjoyed it, remembered much, and put into my heart and soul those greater things in life that you cannot buy for a penny in the world.

Love you all! I’ve got much more to tell you! Stay tuned! The New Year! My magazine hopes! My birthday celebration next week! And an addition to our little brood!

The Patreon Saint of Knitting

IMG_5671That, of course, would have to be you. Oh, come on, now. Think about it. Look at what you’ve done for me, and what it’s meant. You got me out of homelessness, you fed me, you gave me a career and a life, all wrapped neatly in knitting. But, of course, it goes beyond knitting. It moves into compassion, into hope, into something much deeper than just the hands moving repetitiously to create something.

IMG_5521Much like monks, there is something much deeper and more contemplative to our craft. It isn’t the craft itself, but what the craft can accomplish, not only for the soul, and not only for the individual, but what it can accomplish in human contact, in the courage to be kinder, in the desire to extend to wherever you can a sense of peace and soulful connection. There is a prayer in our stitches, a divine communion in our knits and purls that can bring a greater change, not necessarily because of the projects that we’re working on, but because of the action itself: that we are creating greater things, for a greater good.

And that is what I truly want my new online magazine to be about. That’s it in a fine, tight, easily described nutshell. Not about knitting, but the soulful moments it achieves. Like I’ve said before, this blog will still be free, but a wonderful and generous subscription through patreon of just $2 a month will allow me to really accomplish that mission.

If you show your support, you’ll be seeing more articles from other people about how knitting changed their perceptions of their own self worth, what it allowed them to give to other people; video clips of me interviewing you about what we can do to change some of the world’s more sinister approaches to life, patterns from people all over the globe who use their work to remind us that we give, as knitters. That’s what we do, we create giving.

So, I’m hoping you’ll join me in this endeavor. And I’m sure you’ll see there is so much more we can achieve. While the rest of the world may think it’s only a mad group of people knitting like crazy, we’ll all know that the truth in what we’re doing is much stronger.

So, come join me, and we’ll turn “MMK” into something truly exciting.

We Share Our Needles

So, for the past year I’ve been teasing with what I wanted to do with this blog. Ladies and gentle-fella-knitters….

A online magazine.

Seems simple enough, right? BOO! Not quite, it’s an actually quite the undertaking. Been working on this for a good six months now. And we are almost ready. I’m looking for a launch of February, which is only 2 months from now. February will be the 5 year anniversary of when I sold my first teddy bear.

Yours truly will be editor in chief, will write most of the articles, will broadcast most of the interviews, but a huge amount of the content will come from you. That’s right, I’ll be wanting YOU to write to me and share with me a story idea you might have, and if written well enough, BAM! you’re published. Here’s a little synapse about what I want to do:

For the last 5 years I’ve been blogging “Mad Man Knitting, beginning when I was homeless, and using knitting teddy bears as a means to get back on my feet. As life has moved me into a more stable environment, I’m turning that blog into an online magazine for knitters. The content will still focus on the more resilient aspects of the life of a knitter, including how to buy yarn at a discount, the best places to sell your work, how to deal with the seclusion of knitting daily, and stories on the resilience of people that have used their craft to overcome troubling times. The new blog will begin to feature guest writers, celebrity interviews, streaming video content and a wealth of information that will allow any level of knitter a place to share what they have learned. We won’t be focusing so much on how to do a particular stitch, but what learning that stitch, mastering that stitch, can not only do for your soul, but your self confidence.

I wanted to turn my experiences from homeless to entrepreneur into a valuable resource for people; the things I’ve learned, the things I found I was good at, the things I sucked at (TAXES!) and how to make them better for your craft. So, if you’d like to join me in the new endeavor, click here and take a look.

First order of business? While I’m working up getting all these bears out in time for Christmas, I want any story ideas you might have. If I get enough subscribers, I’ll be able to pay your for your article. So, tell me what you want to write about, tell me about someone that has overcome incredible odds by using knitting as their weapon, or safety net, write to me about what your local yarn shop is doing to get more men in the fray! You can send your ideas to madmanknitting@gmail.com.

I hope you’ll subscribe. This will all still be free to anyone and everyone who wants to come along. But, a subscription will truly help keep this blog evolving into something truly saturated with great content. Videos, live interviews, me dancing on occasion.

So be sure to subscribe, and we’ll take “Mad Man Knitting” as we share our stories, our experiences…..our needles. :)

Cheers!

Around the World, Then Straight to Bed

So, we’ve come to recognize how cool it is that my patterns, my books, my bears, and now Phillip’s “Strange Friends” have moved from this little apartment in Orlando to all sorts of places across the globe. Do you have ANY idea how amazing that is for a start up like me? We’ve gone to the Netherlands, Japan, Sweden, Italy, France, Germany, New Zealand, Australia….and of course, Britain. (I’m awfully proud of that).

IMG_2387While my agoraphobia has me locked softly here (I really don’t mind it), it is awfully cool to see our handiwork move all over the globe. Moments of my intention to promote peace and self sufficiency are seeded all across the planet. And I cannot thank you enough. You’re allowing us to be with you wherever you are, and the story of a man who worked his needles to get himself out of homelessness is retold wherever my bears or Phillip’s “Strange Friends” are held with hope and love. So, thank you for allowing us that particular privileged to come into your far away homes, and your close knit hearts.

Been up since about 2am, was just so anxious to get back to work, I couldn’t sleep. So, off to bed now. I know it’s just shy of 10am, but the big goon is in there still snoring and stealing bed space (He works at a bar as a cook, and sometimes has to work until 2am. The minute he’s home, I can’t help but wake…and…..can’t help but want to go back in there and fall asleep beside him.

Be sure to take a peek at Phillip’s newest Strange Friend.

Can’t wait to see where in the world this one finds a home :)

Cheers!

 

Strange Friends

So, while I’m busy knitting up orders and boxing them up for Christmas, Phillip approached me and asked, “Can you teach me to knit?”

“Nope!”

“Why not????”

“You’re not ready for knitting. I think you need to learn to crochet first.”

Trust me, when it comes to teaching someone how to handle yarns and needles and hooks, it’s best to size them up, know where to begin. His dexterity is horrible, so I immediately realized he needed to learn how to hold everything, how to shape everything, one hook first, before using two needles. Don’t fret! I’m not that cold! I just know where my darling’s strengths are, and he simply isn’t ready for knitting.

So, I sat him down and taught him the concept of amigurami, the Japanese technique of creating shapes in crochet. He fumbled at first, his big hands unable to grasp the crochet hook, nor the yarn, but I watched closely….soon, he had it. I knew he would :) He started making simple round shapes, then elongated ovals, and the next thing I knew, he was declaring himself an amigurami artist and was going to make little “monsters.” (He’s into comic books, superheroes, anime….of course he would make monsters.”

IMG_2371Using buttons for eyes and whatever scrap yarn of mine he could find, he came up with some strangle little things, but I loved them. They were strange, but friendly. Monstrous, but cute. They were strange friends. You love them, despite them being odd or different. Much like you love your strange friends.

He asked, “Do you think I could sell these? You know, to help out with the IRS bill and everything?”

I smiled. My heart dropped, fell down in his hands. That’s why he was wanting to learn. He wanted to take some of the stress off of me. What a beautiful thing to do.

He’s been coming home from work, sitting down and quickly gets to work. He’s over there with his crochet, and I’m over here with my knitting. We’ll be watching, “Murder, She Wrote.” I’ll recommend some soup. “And toss me that afghan, I’ve got a little chill.”

I slyly look over and whisper, “Welcome to the club, man .” :)

Take a look at Phillip’s Strange Friends in my shop.

Cranes For Thanksgiving

I had the best Thanksgiving today.

It was simple enough. With just Phillip and I, we didn’t think it necessary to have a turkey, especially since my teeth probably can’t handle that at the moment. We had a tiny, little 3 pound roast lemon-mustard roast chicken instead. Rounding up the meal, we went the standards. Green bean casserole (or, as I call it, SCREAM bean casserole). Sweet potatoes with brown sugar and marshmallows, Stove Top stuffing (some things are really just better store bought), and some dinner rolls. We watched Starship Troopers while having dinner, because it made sense to us. It’s ridiculous and laughable, but action packed enough to keep us alert while downing such a feast. We truly had the best time. And then we started talking about Christmas. Should we get a tree? Can we afford a tree? We don’t have ornaments, and those can be awfully expensive and mass produced and well…..not really the kind of guys we are. SO! We came up with a brilliant plan.

We’ll spring for a tree. Something simple and smaller in stature. Maybe something practical like a rosemary bush. And how would we dress it?

My health hasn’t been its best lately. I think with the stress of the teeth, my arm, the IRS, and not getting the nourishment I need, I think my immune system was just dwindled down to the point where it was hard to function correctly. I’d do my damnedest, though. It’s just who I am. Fight through it. But, at some point, I found myself for a few days fully clothed, under three blankets, sleeping. I’d get up, fall into a hot tub, sip some soup, then crawl back under a pile of covers, Mario curled up beside me. And with all of that, I was still freezing. With it 80 degrees outside, obviously something was wrong. So, sorry I haven’t been able to respond to everyone’s emails, nor blog at all. I just didn’t have the energy.

Peace park statue

But, in that time, Phillip had the laptop set up beside the bed to keep me company with some of my favorite shows. You know, the kind that distract you with laughter, or interest. I saw a fascinating report on NHK world about Sadako Sasaki, the Hiroshima Girl, who fell ill with radiation poisoning after the atomic bomb was dropped on her city. She was told of a Japanese legend that says if you fold 1,000 paper origami cranes, you’ll be blessed with your wish for wellness. So, the poor girl sat there in her hospital bed folding up paper cranes until she died. Now, THAT is hope. THAT is approaching life in its best possible form: the actions of calm, the homage to peace, can bring comfort in times of turmoil. Simple actions bring great moments to the soul.

IMG_2370So, feeling better after our great Thanksgiving dinner, we talked about our tree and we decided (in this sad world of pain and torment), we wanted our tree to show simple peace, we wanted our tree to reflect simple actions to promote the idea of smaller actions leading to greater moments in the soul. So, right after dinner we started folding paper cranes. We’re going to have a Christmas tree filled with paper cranes and white lights. A tree of hope, of peace, of prayer for greater intentions placed in the world. (Don’t worry, we’re not shooting for 1,000, just as many as we can).

I can’t wait to see it when it’s done. And we will move forth into the future with the memory of the Christmas season our tree was based on a calmer, cleaner ideal. Not of something rushed and hurried.

I’m so hoping all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and that you cling to the coming season with a sense of peace, with a joyful heart, and a reminder to put quality of your intentions of giving above the quantity of what you give.

Just the thought of that, makes me feel better :)

My best,

Gregory

 

Go Fund Me

I’ve had a lot of responses to my latest blogs and the one comment that arises often is the suggestion that I should start a Go Fund Me campaign.

You know…..I just can’t. I really can’t. And don’t be upset with me with what I’m about to say, but I have, what I think, is a very good reason for not doing so.

Go Fund Me has some truly needing people, campaigns that are heart breaking and worthy of support. Like, Mahalo and Charger. (I’m always hurt in the heart by children and animals in pain). Go Fund Me is a wonderful site that helps people all over the world raise the funds they need to help tackle a dire situation. And there is no way that my conscience would let me start a campaign knowing that there were others who needed the assistance much more than I do.

Yes, I have my IRS problem, my teeth, my arm….but, I have my tenacity. I’m the little guy who has fought hard to rise up and return to civilized life. I have my books, my bears, my patterns, and my donate button. And I would feel horrible taking funds through Go Fund Me from someone in desperate need, when I am still able, with these long bony fingers, to craft, to write. If I can still work, then I can still work hard to bring in the funds I need, while pinching pennies and squirreling away money. If I still have my ambition, then I know I can accomplish anything. If I still have hope, then I know that my life is still solid and grounded. Hope keeps bitterness at bay. Hope keeps compassion close, and anger at arms length.

I have hope that all of those people on Go Fund Me receive the funds they need to get back on track, to help them. And I would feel horrible putting up a campaign when I still have the ability and the capacity to work hard and make my dreams happen with a book, a pattern….and a teddy bear.

I hope you understand. And I hope it doesn’t come across as harsh. I would really feel horrible having a campaign like that when I know there is some poor kid in need of money for surgery, when I still have the ability to write and knit.

I’m a strong little guy. I’ll get through this with the same beautiful strength that has held me up all this time. My abilities. My craft. My writing. Your eyes finding worth in my work. My soul finally connecting with the world at large.

And who knows? If what I plan for my life comes true, then one day I’ll be able to sweep into Go Fund Me and rescue every single person in need of help. Every single one. For now? I’m going to get back to knitting up my work for the day, with my mind solidly on that beautiful future I dream of.

If you appreciate this blog and would like for it continue, please donate!