A Letter to the Cop That Stopped Me

I’m taking my usual trek on foot, back pack, scruffy face, tennis shoes (that now have holes in them, dammit), and the “look.”

Sir, my audience and I have discussed this “look” at length. I still look like a homeless man. I cannot shake it. Despite whatever success I may have in life up to now, I still carry that weight. Which is why the encounter between you and I was so jarring.

Officer, my morning routine is pretty much the same every day. I walk from my apartment in routine fashion to a Citgo Station about a mile away to buy my cigarettes. From there I head to Target to buy whatever else I need, whether it be food or toiletries. Then I head home, uninterrupted.

You and I both know that there is a homeless camp that lives around that Citgo Station…and that back end of the building can be frightfully dangerous. There is a man who lives in the bushes on one side of the building. He has a moldy, wet, ripped up couch shoved in that small space and sits with arms relaxed, as though he’s waiting for someone to come and enjoy his paradise.

There is a woman a few feet away that sleeps beneath a tree in a sleeping bag. She wakes every day, uses the bathroom at the Citgo, then sits on the median in the middle of the parking lot and speaks to small children that are not visible to rest of us. She spends all day pantomiming shaking their little hands and learning their names. She will spend the rest of her life in a psychotic breakdown speaking to children in her head….shaking their little hands, talking to them, while the sun bakes her. She is red, reader. Her skin, a leathery, dark red callous.

This back side of the Citgo is a sad and horrifying place.

Officer, I walked by your cruiser to get to the Citgo, then reappeared a few minutes later, actually paying you no mind…until you stopped me.

You’ll have to forgive me, but the only thing I could think of was that I needed toothpaste and my husband had a craving for ice cream sandwiches. Those were the only things ever present in the list of things I needed to accomplish at that moment. So, you took me of guard when you said, “Hey, buddy….”

I stumbled for a moment. “Yes?”

“You need something?”

“I’m sorry, what?”

“Is there something you need?”

I casually and slowly keep walking, but ultimately stopped. “No, I’m good, but….why do you ask?”

“You need a bottle of water? Something to eat?”

The minute I heard those words I just lowered my head, shaking it to no end….and smiled.

“Brother, thank you for that, but I’m not homeless. No, sir. I just look it.”

Your eyes and smile actually went bright. “WHAT???” You had this gorgeously comedic reaction! Even your voice went high!

“No, I’m not homeless, but….dude, that was really REALLY kind of you.”

“But, you look like that other guy with the beard and the-”

“No, I’m fine, my friend. I really am. But, I am so grateful that you felt concern, rather than suspicion. You have no idea how that makes me feel. Take care.”

And you just kept smiling beautifully. I could have said more, told you my story, told you where I am now in my life, the journey I’ve had. Could have handed you my “MAD MAN KNITTING” sticker and said, “Google it.”

But, at that moment, this was about you and knowing that people like you are looking out for those people at the dark side of the Citgo station. I knew at that moment that you were willing to feed me, should I need it. Help me, should I ask for it.

I never got to know your name, but I thank you so much, from the bottom of my heart. Our brief meeting gave me greater hope that the guy with the couch, and that woman with the imaginary children, can sleep safely at night knowing you’ll be there should they need you.

At the very end of this, I came home and told my husband the story. He said, “Well, maybe it’s time for a make over.”

To which I could only respond, “Not in a million years….”

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Greta, Darling…..

So, Greta wins “PERSON OF THE YEAR” according to Time Magazine’s criteria. I know that many are quick to jump and say she doesn’t deserve it, but I would have to disagree.

Their pick of the year has little to do with popularity, nor even adoration, but usually someone that describes a definite duality in divinity. The people they choose for this prestigious cover are considered either villains or heroes to an almost biblical level. These are not middle ground people, these are people that are loved or hated, saints or sinners. Nothing in between.

And while many congratulated the decision, and others condemned the decision…I can’t help but feel some truly deep sorrow for you, Greta.

You have peaked at 16. You are now done. When Time Magazine made you Person of the Year, they destroyed you. They put you on the same list of people that instigate, but do not help to collaborate. A list of people that make news because of their bombastic rhetoric….

And maybe that is precisely why you deserve that (ahem) prestigious media award.

Greta, darling….You are no Samantha Smith. I’m sure you’ve heard of her. I’m sure comparisons have already been made.  But, for those of you not as wise as Greta’s handlers, I’ll give a little summary about Samantha Smith.

You see, when I was younger I looked up lovingly and longingly to this girl about my age who was doing activism in the 80’s. She wrote a letter to our enemy, to Yuri Andropov. It was not filled with screams of demands, but filled with a delightful, loving interest in discussion.

While we had nuclear weapons poised and ready to ensure mutually assured destruction, she didn’t bat a lash when asking her enemy, the head of the Soviet empire, if he would at least talk to her.

And a huge chunk of the world took notice. This little girl wrote such a compelling desire for peace between us that she became a saint. She didn’t strike, she didn’t refuse conversation *(Greta, you told Trump there was nothing you had to say to him). No, she asked for open dialogue. She never insisted, she never demanded. She never screeched, “How dare you!” She whispered in writing, so innocently:

“Dear Mr. Andropov,

My name is Samantha Smith. I am 10 years old. Congratulations on your new job. I have been worrying about Russia and the United States getting into a nuclear war. Are you going to vote to have a war or not? If you aren’t please tell me how you are going to help to not have a war. This question you do not have to answer, but I would like it if you would. Why do you want to conquer the world or at least our country? God made the world for us to share and take care of. Not to fight over or have one group of people own it all. Please lets do what he wanted and have everybody be happy too.

Samantha Smith”

As far as I can tell? She was never on Time Magazine’s Person of the Year because she wasn’t a very aggressive, militant and divisive political group known for ultimatums and dangerous violence if there was no cooperation.

Greta, darling….THAT is why you are on the list….because you rallied people behind you to fight your enemies.

Samantha Smith did everything she could to rally people behind finding peace with your enemy.

I have been warned, told, that since you are a 16 year old child with a mental disorder that I’m supposed to take you seriously, or treat you like an idiot savant. I’m not allowed to challenge you, so say society….

But, Greta, darling….I’m going to challenge you to think an awful lot about the people around you. Your asset to them is not unity in humanity, it is not global handshakes and solutions. Your asset to many is the exploitation of your anger. You are far more valuable as an instigator, rather than a collaborator.

And that is why they all agreed that you, of all people, should be on the cover of Time Magazine. Peaceful solutions don’t make money. If we were to solve problems, people would start losing money in the ever so profitable scam called “activism.”

To them, your anger over climate change is worth your mentally ill weight in gold.

I pray that the older you get, you’ll find the help you need, I hope you’ll start to reach out, that you’ll begin to learn that there is a world that will listen comfortably to you, if you were to approach us with a kind and innocent comfort. Because I feel in my heart of hearts that you do believe beautifully in saving our world….

I know what it’s like to have a mental illness. And I assure you that I learned in a very difficult way that people will take advantage of your mental illness for their own gain. I pray that you learn at 16 what it took me nearly 4 decades to finally comprehend.

My issue isn’t with you, Greta, darling. It is with those that seek to profit from you for their own selfish interests….

And “God Jul,” Greta. God Jul.

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When You’re NOT Invited to Christmas Dinner

So I’m watching The View.

Tom Styer is on the panel discussing why he’s running for president, because Trump, “would not be someone your mother would invite to Christmas dinner.”

To which Anna Navarro responded in agreement with a resounding, “No.”

…but, then they went on to discuss inclusion, equality, tolerance and forgiveness….while just moments ago denying someone to join them for Christmas dinner because they hate him.

Those words “inclusion, equality, tolerance and forgiveness,” don’t mean too much of anything anymore, do they? Especially if you’re going to deny someone a place at your Christmas table.

Hell, even Tiny Tim’s family invited Scrooge for Christmas dinner.

This is a holiday to celebrate the birth of a religious master, a savior, who spent his entire short lived life practicing the concepts of inclusion, equality, tolerance and forgiveness…..upon your enemy!

The Universe knows that practicing compassion and giving is too easy to do with your friends. You have to master the craft of compassion with them you despise. That is the only way to truly understand what love is. Love and compassion are not things we are supposed to expect, but things we are inherently supposed to give freely. We are supposed to love even if we haven’t been. Because love is an emotion that pours out endlessly. And hatred requires that love have limits.

Should Anna Navarro have denied me a place at her Christmas dinner, I would immediately turn the other cheek and ask if perhaps she would like to join mine? Or maybe just come for coffee and dessert?

If she were to say, “No,” then I’d at least thank her for considering it. Because you never let someone that dislikes you win by drawing out the hatred in you. You continue to love them, wish them well, and that is not easy. That is a gift.

The practice of inclusion, equality, tolerance and forgiveness is only strengthened when you practice these concepts with them you hate the most. Practicing these principles on those you already love, doesn’t count towards intellectual maturity.

No, you have to do the work. And it is really hard work, because you have to feel inclusion, equality, tolerance and forgiveness on someone you show hatred for on a daily basis. You have to feel love for them, not just comply and say it. You have to feel it. And that is REALLY hard work.

This season is based on the premise of giving. No other word need to preclude what Christmas is all about: giving. “Well, it’s about compassion, and peace, and good will towards all.”

Yes, but those are things you give to each another. God knows we can’t get you to do it any other time of year, so maybe we’ll really guilt you at Christmas to remember that the season is based on giving compassion, and peace, and good will towards all….especially to those you hate the most.

And some of you out there really hate me. That’s fine. But, I want you to understand that I truly do care about you. You may not invite me to your Christmas dinner, but I want you to know you’re always welcome at mine….

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Enjoy!

I received an email from someone who was gracious enough to give me praise. She said, “I love your writing, I just wish I could afford to read all of your books.”

So, I sent your a PDF copy of all of my books and patterns. Everything I’ve ever written. I mean EVERYTHING.

I wanted her to know that affordability should never be an issue with my work. I want anyone and everyone to be able to read what I write. Sadly, I’m not in any library. (WAIT! I take that back. One of my books, “The Teddy Bear That Saved Me,” is in a library in the Netherlands thanks to one of my dearest friends who champions what I write.)

So, I decided that for the next 12 hours, anyone can read any pdf copy of any of my books for free, or paid in donation for what you think my work is worth.

I truly hope you enjoy my work. Especially “TENANTS” and “DUPLEX,” because I cannot wait to finish that story. But, those two adorable characters need to be dealt with in their own time. I hope you enjoy, “The Waiter and the Fly,” where you learn how and why I learned to knit and how it became an addiction, so much of an addiction it needed to be addressed while my entire life was crumbling around me.

And if you appreciate my work, let me know.

Click below to read anything and everything.

 

 

 

 

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Finally, Santa Snapped….

There it was, late summer, high July; humidity and sunlight abundant. But, our little boxwood in a clay pot on our balcony got none of it…and died slowly of anemia.

“Well, shit,” said Phillip, who had been doing his best to rescue the thing since its little leaves had started turning brown in June. “There goes our Christmas Bush!”

For those of you that do not know, we have decorated this little boxwood in a clay pot as our Christmas tree (bush!) for the last 3 or 4 years at least. We would haul it inside, trim the little darling with all sorts of things we could find at the Dollar Store, plug in the lights, and gaze at how wonderful it looked. There was something very carnival about it, something 19th century in a way.

While many families were sitting beneath a gorgeously dressed six foot fir tree, Phillip and I would be sitting on the floor staring directly into a two foot hedge on a rickety wooden crate….and loving every minute of it.

Now, the first year we used this bush was because we didn’t have the money to buy a tree. We saw this bush in a pot (don’t ask me where that came from, I don’t want this post to be my next novel), and suddenly we had pulled it into the house, stuck it on a wooden box we had found behind the Asian grocery, blinged it up with some gorgeous little things we found at the Dollar Store and BAM! We not only had a tree. We had a very special (and rather beautiful) Christmas tree (bush!)

Oh, look at that photo! So memories of what we had…and not what we didn’t. Phillip’s aunt pictured in the top left, my polyfil for stuffing teddy bears to the bottom left, Santa struggling down in the dirt, finally snapping and screaming, “Christmas! Too…much…pressure!” And don’t think for a moment we didn’t know what we were doing by putting our little Santa just exactly there under the crushing toll of ornaments, gifts, perfectly baked cookies, teddy bear sales. You can no longer just simply enjoy the season, you have to crush the season.

….until the boxwood died this last summer.

We didn’t think about it much until now. Well, maybe it was always kind of on the back burners of our minds. “Got to get up at 4, write a blog post, need cat food…not for me, but for the cats, Phillip needs work pants washed and….damn, the Christmas bush died.”

The subject, the dilemma, the Christmas elephant in the room was finally discussed today….

You could see us both looking around our little apartment for something to decorate.

“Maybe we’ll dress the window blinds with lights and ornaments!”….and the minute it was said you felt it was pretentious and too post modern. We’re not those sort of people.

“OH! We could ask the apartment complex if we could decorate one of the trees outside our-” No. The less I have to speak to the apartment complex management the better. Besides, our Christmas tree (bush!) needs to be here, inside with us to give us that glow, that warmth, that cozy, hearth, fireplace feel.

“We could decorate each other!!!” I’m not throwing a tinsel strand around my neck like a boa, with dangling lobs of ornaments off my earlobes, and a huge star on my head just so you can take a picture and say my new drag name is “Crasmuss Trey.”

So we are at an impasse. We’re not sure what nor whom to decorate.

But, we want to keep a tradition alive. When once we had nothing, we found something that we could turn into marvelous and wonderful, and the memories of those marvels still stick with us…even in July.

It’s not that easy to lose a tradition. We create traditions to remind us of memories. And I will never have that moment with that same boxwood ever again. That tradition, that memory with that boxwood, will never ever happen again….

But, that is the absolute wonder in traditions, because they tell a story of who we are and why we celebrate those things we hold dear, why those traditions change over time, why they flow in the beautiful moments of life experiences.

Obviously, my Christmas traditions will change because our little hedge is dead. But, I can’t think for a moment that will stop me from being curious as to what our new traditions will be.

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With a Bear’s Help….

I recently received an email from a delightful woman who bought two of my bears. She was very happy with them and couldn’t wait to give them as gifts to two little girls. I was so SO thrilled to hear that. I truly do love hearing from people that have bought my bears. Sometimes I get pictures of my teddy bears in new homes, embraced in new hugs. I love that!

But, later in her email she turned quickly to my blog.

“Keep writing…you have a gift that must be exercised in order to stay in shape. Write something every day, even if it’s three sentences.”

I can’t tell you how much I needed to hear that. It truly is an honor and a blessing to be respected for your work.

I learned a long time ago that the only way that I would ever be able to get rid of any of my pains would be to either knit or write….And these last 10 years have been a wealth of release. Hundreds of blog posts and thousands of teddy bears were knit up by these hands; each and every stitch, each and every word, have all been helpful in healing this once terribly broken man. These blog posts and those teddy bears have all helped me survive in the most turbulent of times.

Her email was so very kind. And I needed to hear that encouragement. My teddy bears haven’t been selling as much as I need them to. Of course, there is no way I could compete with Black Friday or even Cyber Monday. But, just after Thanksgiving dinner, our internet got sketchy. It would go off and stay off for hours and hours, with no rhythmic pattern. Just…off right in the middle of doing something. We finally figured out what was going on and fixed it, but in the meantime, I haven’t been able to get online for a substantial amount of time and really push selling my teddy bears for Christmas.

So, here it is the 3rd of the month and I have got to sell my shop out. I will be doing everything I can today to make that happen because it is vitally important to get everything sold. So, if you really appreciate my work, take a look around the shop, grab yourself an adorable little bear for Christmas, and be sure to send me a pic after Christmas of your new bear in their new home. You can visit the shop by clicking here.

I have until about 5 o’clock today to get just about everything sold, seems daunting because it is only about 9am, but I know I can do it. With your help, I know I’ll be able to end today on top, and not behind.

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Peas and Thank You!

Every family has their own Thanksgiving traditions. Turkey, football, pie. My little family is no exception. Our own little traditions would seem odd to some, but to us, this holiday wouldn’t be complete without a few things: meatloaf, cribbage, and disaster films.

When we make meatloaf, we go all out. I mean, we make a HUGE meatloaf, Laura Vitale style. We hunt down brown sugar, search out ketchup, size up fat content in the ground beef. We make sure the glaze is absolutely 100% exactly the right flavor AND the right color. Not too red, not too brown. Now too sweet, not too acidic.

While the meatloaf is cooking, we hit the cribbage board. After a while, the same air that is blossoming with shouts of “15 for 2!” are now being permeated with the comforting aroma of our meatloaf cooking.

Time to make the potatoes. Mashed, of course. Three huge fat russets peeled, cubed and boiled. We mix and mash with a wooden spoon to keep them lumpy, but mushy, sending the dish into overdrive with half a slab of Kerry Gold butter and a big, fat dollop of Daisy.

But….the one tiny, little thing that you must NEVER do when making this feast is to forget the sweet peas.

No, the whole feast, the whole holiday is just RUINED if we forget the can of sweet peas.

I can almost hear Phillip say, “WHAT???? NO PEAS??? What are we supposed to have with MEATLOAF? BROCCOLI? Oh, that’s just DISGUSTING! Oh, TAKE THAT AWAY! Next thing you know, we’ll be having BRUSSELS SPROUTS AT CHRISTMAS!!!!! Not even the baby Jesus would eat that!”

With all of the focus on the big and grand at holiday time, sometimes something so simple being absent seems to ruin the whole day. Like that can of jellied cranberries everyone has present at a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. You just can’t have Thanksgiving without it. And don’t insult us by putting it into a bowl and mashing it up, serve it right out of the can on a plate so that we can all see the can lines and know this is the real deal. The good stuff! Candied yams without marsh mellows? That would be the worst Thanksgiving ever! Green bean casserole without the French’s Fried Onions. We would all walk away from the table disappointed….

You cannot have meatloaf without mashed potatoes and peas….peas that have been slathered with that left over slab of Kerry Gold butter.

May not seem like much to many, but to us, our little feast, complete with our simple can of peas, reminds us of a journey of gratitude. Sometime ago, Phillip and I didn’t have much for our Thanksgiving dinner….then eventually, we had beans and rice with some kielbasa because it was a treat, and we were so happy for it. Then it evolved into the meatloaf….And we look forward to it, so grateful that this was our meal, right down to that damned simple can of peas, and that NONE of it would have been possible without all of you.

I get to eat a feast today because of you, a feast some would find paltry and plain. But, oh no. Oh, no. This meal, this home, this life….none of that would have been possible without you. And I just couldn’t let this day go by without telling you how thankful I am for that.

So! If you have a can of peas lying around in your cupboard, crack them open! Toss them in a bowl with some salt, pepper and butter, put them in the microwave for a minutes, throw them on the table with the rest of your sides and proclaim, “Hey! Phillip and Gregory are here!”

Thank you so much for everything. Happy Thanksgiving. 🙂

If you appreciate my writing and would like for this blog to continue, please donate to help keep it going. Every single dollar helps! I couldn’t do it without your support.