Why Bears Are Hopeful….

I’ve had the most phenomenal day. There was a grand sense of peace, a presence of safety, an aura of relaxed inspiration that kept me moving from 5am to the moment I’m writing this now.

I took an hour away to take a walk, those cold winds of a winter blast bothering my otherwise balmy part of the world. But, hey….it’s all perspective, isn’t it? Though the cold showed no mercy, I spent the hour walking my neighborhood, stretching my legs, spending the time opening my mind.

Life is good in my little space.

It’s the third of the month. Today is the last day rent is due. Any other month I would have freaked, screamed and screeched at the very notion of taking that much time away from knitting, from trying to sell a teddy bear on such a day when time is a luxury equal to cash.

No, I don’t have all of the rent today. I made a severe financial miscalculation and now I’m bearing the burden of that. And I assure you, the embarrassment of that will not have very good repercussions for my pride and ego, not to mention other personal areas of my life. (This is where a little part of me says, “I told you so….”)

When I found out yesterday that the funds I expected were not going to arrive in time to finish paying rent, I didn’t even flinch. Double smack: they may not even show up ever at all….

I looked at a clock and thought, “Well damn….I guess I better find a way to fix my screw up.”

The last teddy bear that I knit with the sweater and embroidered flower was a true hit. His little listing was seen by over 1,000 people. I usually get about 200. By the Grace of God, this little bear named “Flower” was sold after the 3rd person saw him. Now, there’s no way I can knit enough of them to make the difference of what I lost, so I decided to write out the pattern.

I spent last night writing it up, while testing it with a new bear. I listed the pattern, made no fanfare about it, then huddled off to bed….

The air was icy cold last night, the house wasn’t much warmer, but that bed of mine, that muppet skin blanket I bury myself in every night, helped usher in lovely dreams of feeling….that I was in control.

Another time in my life and I could have easily shifted into a kind of reactionary chaos that would have torn this whole holy house apart. This constant feeling that I’m always on the brink of collapse and disaster has got to….must….for God’s sake, end.

The possibilities of what I’m capable of have always been hindered by the limits of my own self worth. I’ve not been able to make that leap, that bridge from “always near collapse” to “landing safely” because I’ve become so dependent on feeling guilty or pious if I do well for myself. What’s worse? I’ve allowed others to convince me of the same. And to some of them, any success I have would be an embarrassment or a resentment.

And this biggest blunder of mine just didn’t help my case.

There was nothing I could do about what about yesterday, but there certainly was something I could do today.

I woke this morning, found I had sold a few patterns, then got to work putting this new bear together. Now, remember everything is in perspective. A month ago, two months ago, I would have been ripping yarn off my bookcase and speedily mass producing bear after bear in a panic.

Today, I did not feel the need to rush, but rather, found more value in slowing the pace to allow inspiration to flow in. I could start knitting little dresses, embroidering little flowers. I could knit some overalls, maybe pajamas….maybe, maybe, maybe. The more I slowed down, the more I was able to listen to inspiration, to possibilities for the future. There was no desperate clinging to the moment of right now. There was no dwelling on hindrances. No, I was happily thinking about what could be done, rather than what had been done. And the first thing I could do was get rid of some ridiculous habits.

I’m inclined to sit and knit in a chair with my legs crossed, my belly squished and my back crouched over. While spinning my yarn into a bear I’m usually watching something serious in tone, something that requires you to bare the same burdens of whatever hardship you’ve witnessed that you’ve been made to feel guilty about. (ie: the news). Not this morning, not this bear.

Instead of sitting I danced, walked around the house, propped my leg on a stool and leaned against a warm window pane. With delight, with a newfound adoration, with a love of his charm, I held him close enough to whisper, “We’re going to be ok, aren’t we, little one?” He needed me to think of new ways to make him blossom in much the way that I have.

And now I sit down at about 7pm east coast time with about 5 hours to spare. Last month, two months ago, I would have been a wreck right now, scrambling to make as many bears as possible in that amount of time….and that would not have helped anything, anything at all.

Despite whatever happens, I felt really good today when I should have felt truly paralyzed with fear. Because I feel better when I feel hopeful. I feel like absolute (bleeeep!) when I feel helpless.  When you feel helpless, you’re a wreck who makes really bad decisions. If you feel hopeful, you’re in control, and you get to decide how you feel about a crisis.

I’m relying on what I have. My talents. That adorable bear in the blue sweater is in my shop. If he’s sold out and you’d like me to make one for you, be in touch. Send me an email at madmanknitting@gmail.com and we’ll work something out. We’ll decide on whatever colors your heart desires. I’m always appreciative of the work. Or, if you’d like the pattern to this charming little bear and his sweater and would like to make one of your own, that’s in my shop, too. If I can sell that bear, maybe get a few more commissions for a few more, and a couple of dozen patterns sold, I’ll be ok. I’m pretty sure.

As I close this blog post, I’m going to do a little prayer I make rent, grab my yarn and work on another bear. I think this next one should have a dress. I really want to try something a little gentile just so that I can get my hands working in the delicate intricacy that is so addictive for me. I’m so looking forward to it. That sort of inspiration makes me feel like there is hope, and therefore, I’m in control…..

Love you all.

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An Embroidered Botanical

Tap tap went my toes with a slow tempo….My mouth shrugged, then twisted into a wince….One eye leaned in closer, the other wincing with focus. I was staring at the new embroidery piece I’m working on. Ok, I’ve got a few basic stitches under my belt, seem to have done them with some ease. But, I wanted something more challenging, something that had dimension, something when seen from just the right distance, in the right room, with the right light, would look like a huge blooming bouquet of real fresh flowers. So, I kept staring at the canvas, hoping some new idea might surface.

Ah, screw it. I’ll worry about it later.

I was sitting at my desk hours later when I happened to glance at my book case and see a book I had forgotten about. Now, the vast majority of my book collection is thrift store found. Once in a while I’ll find one of those truly great illustrated botanical books from before photographs were available. Now, I’ve had this book for YEARS. Have totally forgotten about it. “Flowers of the South, Native and Exotic.”

I dashed for it, tripping on my own shoelaces even. I pulled it out, another book at it’s side falling to my knees, others pushed way back into the case as my eager hands moved aggressively for it.

I gasped upon flipping through the pages. This! (Oh, my) This was why I truly had to have this book when I found it! Whomever had once owned it kept it as something of a botanical journey. For years she made notes on which flowers she had found, planted, her successes and failures. I spied one entry. “Planted august 1972. First bloom, 1980) This adorable woman had kept this close to her for years, jotting down and check marking her love of flowers. Man! I so love connecting with people through books, through their record of journeys! I then picked up the illustrated book of garden birds and my heart just exploded with joy.

Then this new muse that likes to use floss to flirt with me coaxed me into thinking that I could do this. “Look! Stencils, right there! They even tell you what color each of the petals are, and if you’re lucky, they’ve give you the most gorgeous artist rendering of a flower that cannot be shown in photographs.”

That muse whispered with a slight lick of her tongue on the lobe of my ear, “What a beautiful book that would be….An Embroidered Botanical of Real and Imaginary Flowers….with diary entries.” I got chills.

I put those two books firmly on my desk, ear marked with knitting needles some of the flowers I was really interested in working on….(Uh, oh…Some of you just whispered it. I heard it! “He said knitting needles…he hasn’t mentioned knitting in a while.”)

No, I haven’t. And to be perfectly honest, I’ll say the same thing that many of you are already sort of feeling. I’m not….I’m not that inspired by knitting anymore. I kinda feel I’ve run it into the ground. I’ve knit just about anything I can think of and if I haven’t? I didn’t want it. If there really was a knit something that I truly wanted to make, I would have done everything in my power to make it happen, but I didn’t.

No, I got really bored. After 10 years of knitting the same thing daily….you get lost in the monotony. No longer is there a sense of inspiration. Just a sense of disinterest….and if you’re not careful, that disinterest can bleed into soooo many other things. That routine of knitting the same thing day after day, year after year, can build a cyclical routine that borders on madness hoping to strive for genius….over and over, this mad man kept knitting, thinking there would be a different outcome every time….

This touch of my hands gingerly pulling the thread through the canvas as though I were painting something in my head, brought to reckoning I hope anyone and every is afforded: if you just try it, you might find out you’re really good at it. And not just that, but that you really really love it and will do whatever it takes to spend time with it. This love of a new muse has me up at 4am, just to spend time with her. You know you’re doing well when she doesn’t have to guide you, she just sits and smiles as you pay homage to her in your art.

I love the idea of this book, I really do. “An Embroidered Botanical of Real and Imaginary Flowers….With Notes. ”

As far as what I said about knitting….Well, if you need me to knit you a teddy bear, you just let me know. Send me an email. Because I will do whatever it takes to make this happen. It’s just too beautiful an idea to let go. I’ll knit you the most beautiful, cuddly, comforting teddy bear you’ve ever had, because I will do anything to make this project happen.

Until I have more resources, I’m using what I have. We had beets for dinner last night. You know my cunning mind was right there for the ready. I took the beet juice and a sponge and dyed the last of the “backward” frames I’ve been working with. What a stunning color for a back drop. I cannot wait to start my first page in this book!

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To Punch This Quiet Daydream…

Diary. Honeychurch. Saturday, January 30th, 2021. Embroidering outside. Nothing to hear but the chirping delight of birds urging me with reassurance as I begin to punch this quiet daydream with delicacy. I took their advice, focused on nothing but the rhythms and chimes of the natural world as they should be heard….then, the reward: flowers began to blossom out of my very hand. #enjoythesilence

Spellbound by Faith

Phillip asked the most profound question. “Are you ever going to knit again?”

The words were caught on the wind, over my shoulder, as I sat with canvas in hand, thread trailing through my tendril fingers. He was on his way to work.

Punch! through the canvas went the needle. A bee blew by, a bird chirped, my new wind chimes clang softly. I was sitting outside, taking full advantage of a perfectly pleasant day.

“I mean, really, though,” he continued. “You haven’t been knitting very much lately.”

I was satin stitching a petal, slowly laying the thread side by side to give this beautiful, but simple, hint at the true shadow and definition of a flower. There was a general peace moving through me….a calmness that has been desired for a very long time.

“Of course,” I responded. “I’m just really enjoying this right now.”

“What? Your new grandma craft?”

I wanted to smack that bastard. “Dude, it’s not the craft, it’s the process. I can’t explain it, but I’m….present when I’m doing this. I’m aware…I’m not moving through the same motions day after day. I’m learning, doing, enjoying myself. I’m focused….and finally understanding, I mean really understanding what contemplative prayer is. I feel like I’m in such a deep place of connection to the Universe and to God that I just don’t feel like leaving right now. I don’t feel like doing anything else. Not right now.”

He giggles, kissing me on the cheek and says, “I’m going to print you a t-shirt that says, ‘I should’ve been a monk.'”

“Damn right.”

Left was I under the warm hue of sunlight, facing the white daisies and purple dandelions growing in the hedge, the words trailing as he treads off to work, “Well, you need to surface soon and come back to the real world….rent is coming up. Go knits some bears….”

And for one second I felt sullen. Just that one second, I promise you! True to my word, since I’ve learned to embroider, I’ve been spellbound, hypnotized, clenched tight by this muse, lured into constant prayer, into a desire to feel perpetually at ease….to feel creative again, to feel these fingers produce something that I can tenderly smile at with pride….to see new colors emerge, new techniques learned, new rules to break, new details to consider when deciding what to do next….new…new….new.

Everything about this skill has been a steady collection of new things to explore in my life. Bad habits are being broken because of this thrilling desire to quiet the mind, pull thread through a needle, and cleverly paint flowers with thread….because while doing that, I go deeper and deeper in a pleasant understanding that I don’t think I’m capable of describing. As good a writer I hope to be, I can’t seem to capture those words in the deep silent beauty of prayer. I can only stitch them at the moment. And that’s why I’m spending practically every single minute focused on it. Because it feels so good to speak in this particular way right now.

I’m not worried. God has a plan for me. I can’t believe that He would lay this whole new feeling into the deepest part of my heart if He didn’t have a reason for it. There is a humming, a strum, a vibration I can feel in my torso while I’m embroidering, while I’m in the beautiful deepness of contemplation, a beautiful, soft shake in the soul of elation the more I explore this.

God would not have blessed me with this if He didn’t want me to feel it’s richness. And perhaps He was waiting for me to understand that before He opened new doors for me. Perhaps God said, “Gregory needs to grow….Just like those flowers he planted, he needs to grow. Let’s see what happens when he decides to paint with thread the flowers he’s waiting to see bloom….Let’s see if it will help him to do so, too.”

I decided not to finish my first piece. I want to leave some of it unfinished, some of the sketching still visible, not all of the flowers connected. I’m going to call it, “Learning.” Never was there a better word for describing life.

And the moment I was finished with that piece, I began a smaller one, something for a friend, something to show appreciation.

…and maybe that’s just it. The whole of my calamity in life has been a fear of breaking my own habits, shaking up my own schedule, terrified of the unknown…..and here I am, so appreciative of all the new things that are coming into my life. Rather than clinging to a mistrust of things outside my realm, I’ve come to embrace them with all the fervor of a zealous hugger.

I have always thought that I had faith,…but I actually feel that now. And if I have faith, then why worry? God will take care of me. He always has….I am a definite witness to that. Every step that has brought me here is testament to that.

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The Trick is Not to Feel Rushed, But to Feel Blessed

As I think I might have mentioned in my previous post, I was recently stung by an embroidery needle and have since been under siege with a very thready virus.

I….cannot….STOP! I’m like a true addict! I have found it very difficult to surface from embroidery in order to knit, or to even tend to this blog like I should be doing. I guess there are worse things in life to be distracted by, or to be obsessed with, but I’ve learned so much about myself with embroidery that knitting was never ever going to bless me with.

I started out by wanting to do a piece by Diana Vingert (love her! Go check her out!) So, I printed out the pattern and went down this disastrous road of trying to get the print onto the canvas. I’m broke, so let’s start cheap. Method one: sticking it up to the window and tracing it onto the canvas. Nope. I guess my canvas was too thick, or too dark a blue, but I simply couldn’t see it.

So, then I bought some printer paper. Perfect, right? Nope. Nowhere on the package does it say anything about it being for inkjet printers only. As a matter of fact, when you open the package there is a huge bold notice that reads, “WARNING! Use of this product on laser printers will cause permanent, irreparable damage.” Damn! This stuff is toxic!

I took the printer paper back, got a refund and applied that to iron on transfer paper with a special pencil. For an hour I traced every little leaf, every little berry, every little pebble and petal. I heated up the iron, carefully placed the sheet on the canvas, pressed and slowly rotated for as long as was needed…..NOPE! This vague hint of a weird pink blob just splotched all over that dang canvas.

Phillip sees my frustration and pops up with, “You’re so ridiculous….”

Stunned, I was. “Excuse me?”

“Why are you trying to copy that damned bunch of flowers from there to there. You’re an artist, Gregory. Draw your own flowers!”

There was this dumbfounded look on my face. Actually, I take that back. That’s too polite. I’ll be honest with myself. I looked dumb. Blank eyed, I turned to him and asked with all sincerity, with this high pitched, inquisitive shock, “Are you allowed to do that???”

He snorts a laugh and turns back to whatever it is that smart people do once they’re done chiding us fools. He was so right. One of the biggest lessons I learned right from the get go. Art has no rules. You knew that. I knew that. But, sometimes when you pick up a craft for the first time, you appreciate the rules of skill, wanting to find all the fine tuning these artists use with such finesse….only to discover that the best lessons are the ones made with vigorous mistake, trial and error, and coloring outside the lines. That is where you turn a craft into art….

So, I started sketching my little flowers onto the canvases, tightened them onto a hoop, and got to work….and never stopped. Day and night I punched away, reveling in that solid thoop! and the slow rough screech! of the thread through the canvas….quietly shuttling the needle back and forth, delicately knotting with steady precision French knots and lazy daisy chains, sometimes spending an hour on one single flower….

You know that I’m monastic by nature, so it was working on something as quiet and as measured as embroidery that I finally understood why a monk spends his whole moment of every day in contemplative prayer and meditation. Because it feels so good, you don’t want to break free from it, you want to spend as much time as you can feeling nothing but the unrelenting joy of love and life. No darkness seeps it, nothing heavy spoils the moment, for that moment is so unapologetically divine that nothing nasty could ever possibly hurt it. I have always come close to that pleasure with knitting, but never fully, and due to my own fault.

I’ve always been at the mercy of knitting, rushing to finish a bear to pay the bills. I never got a chance to slow down with my knitting long enough to love the distraction of it, for every stitch is often a reminder that rent is due and time is on the line.

Embroidering flowers was no new business endeavor, no new projects to sell. They’re selfishly for me….and Honeychurch. There was no need to rush and finish….only the feeling of enjoying the time so much I don’t want it to finish.

Now, I ran out of canvas for my hoop and there was no money to go buy more, so I asked Phillip if I could use one of his ready to paint art canvases. After all, it’s already stretched and ready to go! (See? That’s how much of an addict I’ve become. I’m scouring the house looking for anything I can poke with my needle). The only problem is that the side for painting already has a light coat on it, so coming from behind caused the paint to splinter off and it looked bad. However! flipping it around to the other side, the paint doesn’t chip through and it’s coming out GORGEOUS!!!

I had to take a picture of it over by the fence in some sort of hommage to our beautifully rustic, imperfect beauties at Honeychurch. The wildflowers I planted at Christmas time are booming up fast and should be sprouting all kinds of massive flowers before Valentine’s Day. I simply can’t wait.

Life at Honeychurch is good right. Sitting out there to take that picture I sat for a moment and let the warm, sunny sky of a Central Florida winter bathe me. The air was a little cool, a touch frosty, so I shut my eyes, lifted my face and let the sun love on me….My breath was relaxed, my heart was calm. I took a quick peek at my frame against the fence, the wildflowers eager to meet me soon….and I just felt blessed. And it’s time to capture that feeling and put that into my knitting.

You may not see as many bears as you once did. I’m not going to be rushing through them anymore. I’m going to spend more time with them while I’m knitting them, taking every stitch as a moment not to feel rushed, but to feel blessed.

If you appreciate my work and would like for this blog to continue, please tip my craft bowl. 

 

Life in 2021

Oh, aren’t we all just so happy it’s a new year? Mercy, that last one was a rough, wasn’t it?

If it’s one thing that 2020 taught me, it me was that life is filled with uncontrollable uncertainties. I also learned, from first hand point of view, that the limits to your happiness, your search for peace, your brightness should never dim simply because the world has become a dark place. As a matter of fact, your light should be beaming even brighter when situations darken around you. (Funny. I was going to write, “when life darkens around you.” But, that’s something else I’ve learned. Life is never dark. Situations may grow dim, may burden the human experience, but life…life is always a constant brightness.)

This year I want to focus on expressing that particular joy in life, the beauty in it. I don’t wish to pen words of misery, I don’t wish to knit bits that are dour. No, I want these hands to truly push new skills that express the richness of this frail experience we have while alive, with all the bold delicacy I can create.

I don’t want to push political arguments, I don’t want to revel in writing my sorrows. I want to let these hands sing, dance, and capture whatever joy they can, then share that with anyone willing to look or listen.

I don’t  want to spend this year caring about how many followers I have, I want to concentrate on how many flowers I’ve grown. You can sort of see it. But, I dug a trench along the fence, hollowing out a good trough, then planted wildflower seeds. They’re already starting to pop and sprout! And look! There’s Phillip moving some plants around.

And that’s how we’re spending this new year: doing whatever we can to embolden, to share, to express life.

My life has been so much better since I’ve come to Honeychurch. So much so, that I really cannot imagine my life not being here. In many ways, this house brought the life out of me, because she saw how much I wanted to be here. So, I want signs of life everywhere in exchange. I’ve planted flowers, and want to embroider even more flowers to hang on the walls.

Now, I don’t know where my desire to embroider flowers came from, but I choose to never question inspiration. I like pretty things. Sometimes it’s a simple blue Gitanes ashtray, sometimes it’s embroidered flowers. While hunting the web, I came across this treasure. Isn’t that beautiful? Oh, just spend a moment looking at that….so pretty. This is a free pattern from Vingert. I fell in love the minute I saw it, and I simply HAVE to try this because Honeychurch deserves something that special. So yes, I guess I’m learning to embroider flowers so that I can shower Honeychurch with life. (I really do love this little house).

My birthday is on Monday. As a gift to myself I spent a few dollars and grabbed a few things to begin my first project. And that’s how I’m going to usher in the New Year and spend my 48 runs around the sun: celebrating with a new skill, a new hoop, some new thread….and some new optimism. Basically, celebrating life. Cheers! And Happy New Year!

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Best Christmas Ever

It may have been the coldest Christmas in Orlando in 25 years, but it certainly was the coziest 🙂

Phillip and I did our celebrating on Christmas Eve. We made a big fat, double stacked lasagna, and while it was slow baking, we played cards, nibbled on caramel popcorn, snuck tins of cookies onto neighboring doorsteps, placing them with little notes that read, “Merry Christmas from a neighbor!”

The lasagna was ready about 11pm. Complete with salads and fresh bread, we had the most lovely time laughing while we had dinner off our TV trays planted firmly in front of the tree. The glare of those divine lights sparked like flint off our forks, the glow of the tree on this most holy of evenings cast warmth on our happy faces, the shimmering ornaments glistened with our guffaws.

Phillip and I love spending Christmas Eve like this. You get to have fun right along side with all the anticipation, then wake up Christmas morning whenever you want, plop on the couch knowing that for one day your only obligation is to feel peace and joy and good will towards man.

…and can eat whenever you want, knowing there is a huge chunk of lasagna ready to be reheated and devoured whenever you’re dang well ready. Oh! And one slice of lemon torte we treated ourselves for dessert. It’s from our favorite Italian deli on the next block. It’s a STUPID expensive slice of pie….oh, but so worth it. As a matter of fact, I think the reason it’s so expensive is because it’s so rich and dense and gorgeous one slice is just fine for two people….especially after having my super fat, double stacked lasagna.

We then spent the last part of Christmas eve winterizing our old little Florida home. Honeychurch wasn’t designed for cold weather. She can, however, handle with some amazing beauty the heat and humidity of this corner of the world we call Eden, but this kind of climate was not in her design.

So, we closed all the A/C vents, hung afghans over the doorways to keep the heat from the space heater contained in the living room. (Ironically, my mother made me that particular afghan one Christmas nearly 20 years ago).

Sure enough, next morning? Cold as…..(well, fill in your own expletive 🙂 ) The air outside was a ghastly, icy fright….but our little cottage den was comfortable and homey.

Phillip and I didn’t care about the cold anyway, we were prepared. This year for Christmas we had been blessed with all those comforts required for this unusual and sudden chill. As if someone out there was aware that if they didn’t act fast, these two Florida boys were going to freeze to death.

We both received a pair of big poofy slippers, each a super plush blanket made out of what Phillip and I call “genuine Muppet skin,” a space heater, and our little ones were blessed with a carpeted cat condo to keep them off the cold, hardwood floors…..all of this arriving just shy of Christmas Eve when it was a comfortable 80 degrees.

We were all ready to wake Christmas morning to the coldest Christmas in nearly 30 years….warmly bundled with care, as if on a dare!

The five of us were all snuggly in our living room, the afghans drawn over the doors, our little cats all quiet in the corner, and Phillip and I on the couch bundled under a bevvy of skinned Muppets (I’m sorry I had to throw in a little humor).

I pulled my head from under my blanket and peeked over at that pretty tree. I then turned to spy Phillip smiling with delight as he sat under his blanket watching something on TV while crocheting. I studied him for a minute without him knowing. That man looked so pleased. There was something child like on his face.  He was beaming with that amazing naiveté of his. Forgive my saying so, but it was the look of a broken 10 year old boy who finally got what he wanted for Christmas.

 

Turning my gracious gaze back to the tree I see my little fur babies all curled up on their own comfy tiers of tranquility, falling fast asleep with dreams of tuna treats to be eaten later.

My family was together, napping on their bellies, content, with not a care in the world. At least for a day, the four beings that mean the most to me had no need to worry about anything…at least not today, not on Christmas day.

They were so happy, so blissfully happy. The best Christmas present you could have ever given me was giving my little family the warm feeling of home. I cannot thank you enough for that.

As a falling tear of joy slipped into the crease of my gorgeous grin, I couldn’t help but say with just reverence, “Best Christmas ever…..”

Slowly, I faded into my own little nap, beautiful images of Honeychurch in the coming spring began to delight my imagination, my eyes were getting heavy, the room was quiet, sleep was massaging my shoulders. Tippy toeing through wildflowers I’d grown in my mind, I was flung back into reality when Phillip shrieks, “Wait!….We still have more lasagna in the fridge! YES! Oh, my GOD! I FORGOT ABOUT THAT! BEST CHRISTMAS EVER!!!”

Thank you all so much. 🙂

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The Christmas Tree Mystery

Phillip and I were gifted a Christmas tree.

We are never at a loss for comfort here at Honeychurch. The minute you walk through that front door you feel transported to a time and place that feels nothing but warm and cozy. This house is a big warm hug, with a big warm heart. And I really wanted a Christmas tree for that broad, beautiful corner at the very center of the house, right there where the very walls that hold this whole dream up converge.

It’s the most beautiful thing that could have happened this Christmas, our very first Christmas at Honeychurch. It’s one thing to feel the glowing heart of a home, but….oh, so different to actually see it manifested, a reality; this central, soft, warm light reminding us that we are at the right place, at the right time, feeling the presence of everything that is loving, with a comfort knowing that we are going to be fine.

However, we have no idea who sent it 🙂 It arrived on the door step two days ago with no gift tag, no return address. We quickly unwrapped it, put it up, pulled out our decorations and spent the evening feeling…..hard to explain, truly hard to explain.

Imagine it this way: you finally have everything in life you’ve ever wanted, doesn’t matter whether it’s moments in life or material things to buy, whatever it was you wanted out of life you finally have….Now, imagine if that feeling of absolute, total, complete fulfillment were able to be experienced, right where it should be, in the soul….. This long, arduous rode, full of lifts and setbacks, ultimately brought us here, to this wonderful little house we love so much….with a tree sitting with perfect, angelic beams gleaming in the corner. For with this gift, you helped to make this whole experience of life at Honeychurch truly real and beautiful.

Whoever you are, you did not just gift us a Christmas tree, you allowed two men to really feel like they were finally home….and that has made all the difference this Christmas.

Thank you 🙂

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On Your Own Front Door….

With but a few weeks before Christmas I was about to begin revving up our Honeychurch holiday cheer. I have lists ready to go of little things to enhance our little house for its first Christmas with us in attendance. Without a doubt the house already feels very Christmassy. The scent of a little cinnamon is hugging the notes of the Christmas songs as they spin on the record player, the soft crackle of scratches in the vinyl gives hints of a cozy fireplace in the corner. Just close your eyes and breathe deep and you don’t need any decorations to make it feel like Christmas. It’s already here.

Now, we just don’t have the funds for a tree. I didn’t realize how sickeningly expensive a real one was, let alone a silly fake one. But, I’d rather have the fake one so I can pull it out and put it up every year and reminisce about our very first beautiful year here. With a tree not in the cards, I thought we’d at least get a wreath! I went to Big Lots and the only one they had was just…ugly. (It’s Christmas, I’m trying to be nice…..)

Then I remembered that for some reason there was a plastic green wreath of fake succulent leaves in the shed left by the last tenants. Ok. I can work with that. We can doll it up, put it on the front door! Easy. I find it, reach for it and head back to the house. “Funny,” I said to myself. “I don’t remember there being any holly berries. Even better.” That’s when one of the holly berries moved.

I shrieked an, “EEEK!” and tossed the wreath while leaping back to find hundreds, hundreds, of these little red bugs all over the wreath.

Damn. (well, now we know why they left it behind….)

Now, it wasn’t going to ruin Christmas if we didn’t have a tree, or a wreath, or even garland. No, we’re clever men, we can get crafty, we’d figure something out. I was just a little disappointed because I had this wild desire to spruce up my own little house in a festive way that would make Christmas proud. I wanted Christmas tell me when it finally arrived, “Thanks for the welcoming! You did good, kid.”

But, later that night, Phillip and I were watching television when I received an email from a friend. “Go look on your front porch.”

Oh, the curiosity was undeniable! Pulling open the door I plopped onto the front porch into absolute darkness. I fumbled through my pajama pockets until I finally whipped out my phone to use for a flashlight…..

Oh, my. It was big, it was plump, it was fragrant. It was….alive. My friend had delivered to me a living wreath she had made herself, complete with everything I needed to keep it as fresh as possible, for as long as possible. Merry Christmas! She knew nothing about my desire for at least a wreath. Nothing at all. I had said nothing about it to anyone.

It was gorgeous! I hesitated at first to put it outside! I wanted to keep it in my work space so I could see it all the time and have that lovely aroma of bay leaf just waft…..

But, no. I put it prominently, joyously, on our front door, heralding to anyone who may glance at it in passing that these two men at Honeychurch appreciate why this little wreath means so much to them. Because this year, for us at least, Christmas is about home.

Staring back, taking a picture, I just smiled with such a buzz of beauty. Because it does remind me so much of that lyric from “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.”

“The prettiest sight to see is the holly that will be
On your own front door!”

Even though I didn’t find the perfect wreath at Big Lots (thank you, God), I did find the perfect Christmas card. It may be an old image to some, and many of you might have already seen it in years past, but after sifting and sifting through batches of cards I saw this one and said, “…..yeah. Yes, THAT looks like Gregory and Phillip. That feels like Gregory and Phillip in that truck.”

I really appreciate this card. I may have to get a little frame and keep one of them. I love the way it looks.

The two of us headed home to our own front door….

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Spending Christmas Like Savages

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed it, but there seems to be this truly pervasive need to celebrate Christmas outlandishly this year. Maybe it’s just me. But, there has been something so hellishly wrong about this year that Christmas needs to be embraced with everything we can give it, squeezing it for dear life.

Phillip and I have been listening to Christmas music on the record player, older songs, swankier songs. Honeychurch screams a need for a few things we do to be slightly vintage. And while Bing Crosby croons us with carols, Phillip and I start talking about all the traditions we’ve forgotten about, and others that we’ve never tried. We decided this Christmas was going to be a tribute to nostalgic fun while trying things we’ve never done.

First, we were going to try a panettone for the first time. Not familiar? It’s an Italian cake, something like a donut cake, hard to explain, but REALLY tasty. Now, I’m telling on myself by sharing this picture with you, but I didn’t realize you were supposed to slice it and serve it. We pulled this big beauty out of a pretty box, unwrapped it, pulled away the moist wax paper around its belly like it was a big fat cupcake. Phillip looked at me with this ravenous heave in his torso. “I say we eat like monkey bread.”

The two of us went at it like savages, shredding half of that luscious donutty cupcake with our bare hands. It’s good stuff!!!! I recommend the chocolate with chocolate chips. Oh! We’re going to save what’s left of the panettone for Christmas morning. We’re going to make French toast with it 🙂

I’m sending out Christmas cards! Can’t think of the last time I sent a Christmas card….can’t think of the last time I bought a stamp. I wanna have eggnog this year. I miss eggnog, but not any eggnog. Puerto Rican eggnog, coquito. God, I love that stuff. Reminds me of a Christmas Eve serving at the restaurant and my boss brought in a batch of it to merry us, just like Mr. Fezziwig.

I’ve never had minced pie, never had a fake reindeer in the front yard, never been to Christmas mass, and I’ve never waited until Christmas Eve to put up decorations. I’ve never seen the Rockettes, never stranded popcorn and cranberry, and I’ve never put up my own tree. Honeychurch is begging me to.

There is a bare corner in my living room that I told Phillip we weren’t to touch until after Christmas…because THAT is where our Christmas tree is going. The minute we walked through the front door I saw that corner and said to myself, that’s the perfect spot for a Christmas tree. I want to get a simple little artificial one, something smaller. We can put it on boxes and crates and set it up nicely with a little skirt.

I just giggled to myself, seeing that tree in my head. The traditionalist in me wants simple little white lights…..but, I just can’t shake how cool it would be try those big, giant, multicolored lights from the 1970’s. How fun that would be.

I’d love to see that tree Christmas morning, those lights casting illuminating colors, the wrapping paper on the presents catching it with a glow, while the glistening of candy canes and the dazzle of tinsel shimmer above. Chocolates hide in stockings, Matchbox cars are tucked in the branches of the tree. A bike (with a bell and a banana seat, no less!) is over in the corner ready to ride like a rocket.

I’ve never been woke by a child begging to open his presents during the wee hours of Christmas morning, but I am married to Phillip so it might be a little like the same thing 🙂

This Christmas already has a fabled magic about it, because it feels like the first Christmas in your first house. This Christmas sets the tone for how much of a heart Honeychurch really has, how many rich traditions will be remembered here year after year. There is a presence in the air that hints of mulled wine in years to come, of bombastic laughs and gag gifts, of strangely flavored candy canes and heirloom ornaments, that we’ll never want to celebrate Christmas anywhere else.

I love this picture. Great shot to end the post with….Phillip spent the morning moving the plants around so that the poinsettias were up front on the stoop. I truly loved where he put them so I took a photo. He’s been running around for a good couple of hours looking for his coffee cup while I’ve been trying to type out this blog post. In something of a frantic way, he’s been running around asking, “Where is it? Where is my coffee cup?” While adding this photo I laughed from my desk, “I found it! Merry Christmas!” (Hint: it’s on the threshold ;))

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