How Knitting Saved a Romance

There was a lot of resentment, a lot of jealousy, a lot of frustration. We threw words and phrases at each other we’ve never said to each other before. This was one of those moments where you get your head out of dream land, realize how things are, then either crumble in front of the other, or stand up and fight back.

Things have never been this bad between us before.

And we agreed that maybe we should separate. We’ve already taken back our own bank accounts. Where once we had a kitty to tend to us via a joint account, we’d gone so far as to decide “this is mine, and that is yours.”

I don’t know how the issue started. (Scratch that, I do know. Money. The death of many a couple has come at the strangling choke of finances.)

No matter how bad things ever got, we never really cared because we knew we had each other and we’d get through it. But, after a while, you begin to question how many times you’re actually going to have to go through it before there is a windfall….and if you’re willing to wait to see that happen or just give up and move on….on everything.

For three days there were bitter eruptions. First night, it was a fight between just my husband and I. The second night? We erupted into nasty insults and insinuations in front of a friend. By the third night I was sitting here in my chair watching “War of the Roses,” so loud that he kept peeking over my shoulder, joystick in hand, playing his game as Kathleen Turner said, “Oliver, I want a divorce. The very sight of you makes me sick….”

(Funny. He told me once that he liked the name “Oliver.”)

It was a vicious week, full of silence, passive aggressive behavior and good old fashioned hitting below the belt.

At one point the stress got to me so bad that I could feel my chest in pain. I felt I was having a heart attack….

My chest suddenly seized and I fell to the floor. He wasn’t here. I was alone, clutching at my chest and wondering if this was real. NO! Think about it! You get to a certain age and you’re told to LOOK for these kinds of things. You COULD be having a heart attack!

After two hours of pacing, wondering if I should call 911, I realized I was having a simple anxiety attack.

So, I sat down with my knitting, listened to some music and tried to think of my life if Phillip had never come into it, what it would be like without him. Stitch after stitch I contemplated my life without him. I saw myself as this massive power house of fame and fortune, with the apartment decorated like I want it, never having to worry if he’d eaten EVERYTHING in the fridge. I could have all the time in the world to devote to myself.

And with needles clacking away, I thought of what it would be like if he didn’t come home one day….

(I hate that feeling. I really do. I deal with it every Friday and Saturday as he’s walking home from work at 2am. Some part of me never REALLY gets to sleep until I know he’s home).

So, after one of the most disgusting dialogues in our relationship, after coming home to see me knitting, Phillip comes home from work, says nothing.

I’m working a purl round as I ask, “How was your day?”

“Fine.”

Nothing more. You know that distinct coldness, don’t you? I’m simply answering your question to be polite, however I have no interest in speaking with you.

So, I dropped my knitting, slowly stood, watched him avoid eye contact, then went to him, held him. I threw these tiny little arms around that giant chest as best I could and said, “I love you.”

Just like in the movies. John Williams snags Yo Yo Ma to do a very heart wrenching piece as we embrace. He whispers back into my ear, “I love you, too!”

Now, this was about 2 or 3 days ago. I haven’t written very much in the meantime. I promise you I sat here to do some mesmerizing blog post only to be shut down by writer’s block. And Phillip mentioned that to me this morning.

“You know, I think the reason you haven’t written is because you haven’t written about our stumble.” Click clack go my knitting needles, smash bash go his thumbs along a gaming console. “You write about your life, about all of your stumbles. If it helps….I give you full permission to discuss our stumble if that will get you writing again.”

(You know, there was a small part of me that said, “Bitch, please….”)

So, we are working on it. The ins and outs of what we’ve been dealing with will come in time, I’ll write about all of that later. For now, just know that sitting here knitting gave me time to reflect rather than engage in rage, knitting allowed me a few moments to slow everything down and remember why I married this man….

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Super Knitter of the WORLD

I was listening to a speech by Earl Nightingale. If you don’t know who he is, go look him up after reading this post.

There was something in this speech that caught my attention, something that leaned in and demanded I listen, there was something delicately true in what he said, one of those harsh truths that you deliver with a delicateness that only artists and lovers can understand.

He basically asked, what is it that you want out of life, and what are you doing right now, this moment, to make that happen? If you’re not doing anything, then the problem is you.

And we all have to answer the first question (what do you want) before you can even get to the second (what are you doing right NOW to get it?)

So, I ask myself that repeatedly. Because, you know, it tends to change. That’s life. The things we value and the things we dream about change constantly. For instance, I wanted to rock the literary world in glam fashion when I was in my 20’s. Yes! Wanted to be a gorgeously manufactured celebrity author with all of the gorgeousness of having paparazzi chasing me in my sunglasses as I dash to my next magazine cover shoot.

I wanted to be super author of the world. 

And then, just a few years back I wanted to rock the knitting world with my ball cap and boots, belting in my blog with rhythmic prose the undeniable desire to really look into the craft and find yourself.

I wanted to be super knitter of the world.

Then you get older and begin to reassess what really matters to you. Life experiences can place you in moments of peaceful panic. You don’t know what to do, but you do know that what really mattered to you before, isn’t really worth your time anymore.

“So, Gregory? What is it that you want out of life?”

I want a home. I really do. A small, little hermitage that is mine for life. No one can ever ask me to leave, no one can take it from me. A small space for my husband and fur babies that will be ours for the rest of our lives. (Funny, isn’t that really the definition of heaven? This grand place of peaceful bliss where no one could ever ask you to leave? Wouldn’t it be nice if the knitting community where a little like that…?)

So, that answers the second question. What are you doing right now to make that happen?

I blog everyday, I knit a teddy bear, I take scruffy photos of myself. I’m doing at least something every day to make that dream happen. This is why you always see me on your facebook feeds, this is why I’m always posting, this is why I’m always selling selling selling another knit teddy bear or another book.

Because the older you get, the more you realize the chances of obtaining what you want out of life gets harder and harder. The window of opportunity begins to close on you.

You have to give everything you’ve got. Your wits, your knowledge, your battalion of teddy bears.

So, right now, at this moment, I’m writing a blog post to get me closer to my dream….

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Slip…..Slip….KNIT!

So many people have been so kind to say how much they love my writing, my blog, and have also been asking when I would actually sit down and write a book of essays. Well, I already have. 🙂

You see, I’ve been writing this blog for nearly 10 years now. People who have been following my posts are familiar with my story, they’ve been reading this blog for nearly a decade and have watched as this story of mine has unfurled like either the longest autobiography in history, or one of the longest running reality shows of all time.

But, one of the hardest things about finding a blog you like is that you get caught in the middle of the story. Sometimes when you read a blog, you’re not quite sure of the backstory, because when you find a blog you like, you tend to have to read backwards. You have to read previous posts. And it really is like reading a book from last chapter to first.

So I did put together some of my earlier blog posts into a book of essays called, “Slip, Slip, Knit.” It begins with my very first post, my travels through my time as homeless, urging myself to be hopeful, to suddenly going viral for the first time. You get to see the beginning of this story as it happens….in real time.

(And I have to say, I love the title. My nod to SSK. “Yes, we all slip from time to time, but we still keep knitting).

I think some of these essays are really good work. They’re honest. They’re the writings of ONE knitter going alone into this battle with skeins and patterns…and coming out with some rather gorgeous stitches. 😉

So, if you would like to read about the early days of this blog, of this Mad Man Knitting’s life, of how this all started, click here to read a PDF of it.

I love this comment someone made about that book:

“Somewhere between a blog and a series of essays; we are invited into the life of someone who day by day creates his life as he creates wonderful toys. There is honesty and humor and insight here for those who need a little inspiration to keep going on.”

I just love that 🙂

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This Terrified Knitter….

I recently received a message from someone who donated to my blog. “I hope you know how much we need you in the knitting community right now.”

What a beautiful thing to say. And I can only toss that comment right back with enthusiasm. “No, ma’am. I hope YOU know how much YOU’RE needed in the knitting community.”

That sort of comment warms my heart. It really does. You feel a value, a connection, an impression on someone when they say that sort of thing to you. You feel, what we all want to feel: loved.

This craft is beautiful in the way it can make the most sober of teetotalers become lushes. Pick up those knitting needles once, just once….then try not to call yourself an addict. The very first time we figure out how to stockinette, our minds begin to blossom and bloom with pictures of rooms filled with yarn, of half finished projects, and stacks of patterns and knitting magazines hoarders would be envious of.

This craft is blessed in the way that anyone can become infected with its desire to create and give. Knitting affects just about anyone who has a strong desire to foster care and compassion. We make things from our hearts and hands, hoping to that our projects will warm someone, comfort someone, help someone.

We are all needed here. We should all be welcomed here.

I know I get a lot of backlash from people in this community. There are quite a few who don’t think I should even be here. I don’t offer this community anything. I don’t move the knitting needle forward. I’m a troll, opinionated, a Nazi sympathizing, white supremacist, cis gendered male. I should be treated as the least wanted, never ever needed member of the knitting community.

Well, someone’s gotta do it. I mean someone has to speak out about the nonsense that this craft has come to cradle: elitism.

Oh, don’t give me that look. The very nature of the word “elite” are those who are favored. Yes, the very approach knitting has taken lately has been towards those who are favored, and those who are not. Oh, and that sort of ideology just pissed me off to no end. How can you say only some people are allowed in this community? But, don’t worry. We can see right through you when you say, “We must exclude some in order for us to be inclusive. We must hate them in order for us to love everyone.”

(I little “War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery,” don’t you think?)

This sort of thinking terrifies me. Not only just in the knitting community, but in the world at large. Some are allowed. Those who are not, don’t even exist.

And because I am so protective of this craft not being poisoned, I have been writing heavily about the inherit desire of the elite to push people out of this craft so they can make room for others more favored. That isn’t equality. That’s revenge.

So, I know what she meant. (I’m referring to the woman who wrote the comment.) I put my neck out. Every time I write a blog post I guarantee someone is pissed. I could write about anything else in the world I wanted. And God knows I have tried. But, my mind keeps me here, in this moment, in this time, right now….trying to figure out why every knitter who comes to a “Sit and Knit” isn’t as welcome as any alcoholic going to an AA meeting for the first time.

She is correct.

I could have played it so safe. SO safe. The moment the knitting community discovered me, they loved me. Wanted nothing but the best for me. I could have kept my mouth shut, smiled and mumbled under my ballcap and said, “Aw, shucks, thanks,” then played by the rules, used the correct politically correct language (it changes soooo often), and might not always be scrambling for rent every month by blogging and selling knit teddy bears.

Martha Stewart featured me on her show. The Huffington Post shared one of these very blog posts you’re reading right now and it was seen by millions. Vogue Knitting shared an article that was written about me to their bazillion followers. I was featured in magazines and newspapers in the UK and Australia.

What could possibly go wrong?

Now that I had an audience, I wanted to blog about things in this community that mattered to me, the spiritual side of it (mention Christian and you are OUT!), the emotional side….and yes, the political side.

Well, once the powers that be in the knitting community could see what I had to say about issues I was immediately tossed. “Just be our token male knitter. You do it so well with your scruffy face and ball cap. You’re not always WEARING your knits like other male knitters….”

And the road got bumpy. Strike that. THAT road came to a dead end.

Then I read a comment like hers. My heart warms, my head bows and I thank God I never took the easy path through this craft. I wouldn’t have found genuine people like you. You read my opinions, you read about my life, you share this journey with me. There are very few writers out there that really get the wondrous joy of being able to connect with people. Very few.

I take the responsibility for putting myself out on a limb every time I sit down to write. I can’t help myself. Out on a limb is where the fruit is, as they say.

Had I taken the easy route through the fields of fiber that are flanked on all sides of us, I wouldn’t have had found something valuable in myself. You can be someone else’s commodity, or you can own yourself. I chose to own myself. I am so glad I did.

I understand what she meant by her comment.

“Don’t be afraid. We’ve got your back….”

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Guys Like Us Wear Stylish Bandanas

You know, my husband Phillip and I are on foot. We don’t own a car. And we live in Florida. So, you can imagine when we’re going somewhere, we tend to get a little sweaty. And usually Phillip is walking to work, where he goes from the extreme temps of a 95 degree sun glaring at him from above, to standing over a hot, gas grill as a line cook in a restaurant.

Bandanas are a highly used commodity in this house. We use them to wipe our brows while we’re walking around town tending to errands, and Phillip will douse his in ice cold water while he’s at work, then tie it around his neck to keep him cool.

Recently, we’ve taken this art of wearing a bandana to a new and beautiful degree. Of course, in our early days we always wore whatever we could find: usually, the classic red with white paisley bandana that looks just so right on me. I mean, you’ve seen the way I look. Classic Americana when I have my red bandana hanging from my back pocket. The only thing I’m missing is a gas pump in my hand.

So, Phillip and I started discussing how wild it would be to start wearing the most stylish, fun bandanas we could find. Just a little way of saying, “Alright, you may think you know the kind of guys we are just by glancing at our clothes….but, wait until we pull out our stylish bandanas. 🙂

Now, Hobby Lobby has a great selection of bandanas. The retail price is only $1.00, but if you have your coupon, they’re only 60 cents. So, we’ve been playing around with these new bandanas, because we think of it as something special; a small, quiet way to tell a story about ourselves if anyone should happen to pay attention.

For instance, Phillip has been sporting one with these stenciled elephant heads on them. I know my husband, I know exactly why he picked that particular one. He has a fondness for Ganesh. (He claims to be an atheist, but I’m working on him….) So, should he be stepping about town, or at work, people may look at him and see a cook. But, he’s telling a little something about himself that you may not have known unless you looked a second time, maybe to ask, “So, what’s up with the elephants?”

Phillip laughed when he saw my bandana. He said, “That reminds me of stories of your grandmother!” Oh, yes. Mine was this fine 70’s print, the sort they made entire curtains out of, hung over every window that was in an orange colored shag rug room! This print screamed of decals in the shape of daisies slapped on sliding glass doors. Giant amber ashtrays (as big as your head) crowding every surface of the house. Oh, THIS bandana told of a beloved memory. (Only my family will get this: my bandana print was reminiscent of a classic, joyous time for all of us on Ridgeway Road).

I think we get a little wrapped up in presentation. But, we do that for a reason, though. We want to dress ourselves in a broad, general way so that we can allow an idea of who we are to be seen. This is my culture, these are my favorite colors, this is who I am.

There is a reason we do this. We get to learn the basics about each other just by looking at each other’s clothes. We get to look quickly and see everything we need to know if this person is friend or foe.

But, we actually only get to make assumptions about other by the way someone is dressed. The nuances are lost, the details of our lives get lost.

I know when someone sees me they’re probably waiting for me to spit tobacco on the dirt before hoping into a pick up truck with a Confederate flag and a gun rack in the back window. Don’t be confused, I do it, too. Oh sure! Everytime I see a woman with purple hair I suddenly roll my eyes and wait for her to scream at me about guys that look like me are oppressive to women like her.

We can’t help it. We only get the chance to see people in swathing, rather than the incidental layers that make them unique and interesting. Maybe we just don’t have time to really see a stranger’s character. Maybe we’ve been programmed to only look at caricatures. Maybe it is our instinctual way of finding our tribes and finding safety.

We all want to hand an image of ourselves over to the world so that someone out there will see us in this huge sea of people and scream, “Hey! You’re one of us!” And you’ll probably get to meet new people, make friends, mesh and gel perfectly. Symbiosis!

There ain’t a thing wrong with that.

Here I am rambling on about bandanas, wanting to have people look at me at first glance and maybe take a second glance and think, “Interesting. He’s not at all what I thought he’d be like.”

Well, practice what you preach, right? The next time I see a purple haired woman coming at me with her aggressive talk of feminism and equality, oppression and resistance, I’m gonna tune her out for a second and look for something more personal about her. I’ll look for anything I can to see her as she really is as an individual, rather than a caricature I’ve been programmed to dismiss at first glance.

And I am so hoping that she’ll be looking at me doing the same. Sure, she’ll start the yelling with “Guys like you! (harumph!) Guys like you! (bah humbug),” while peeking with curiosity at my gorgeous, floral, 70’s inspired bandana.

She can’t resist how ODD it looks on me. Because she is programmed to berate me, to hate me, to destroy me, skin me, and wear my pelt like a badge of honor. (My tribe has been trained to do the same).

But, she can’t help but keep looking at my dandy of a handkerchief.

“Guys like you….,” she will hopefully say softly, and with something of an inquisitive smile. “Guys like you-”

“Guys like us wear stylish bandanas.” 😉

Now, I have a ton of bears in my shop that need homes. So, take a peek around and see if there’s one that you would love to hug for yourself, or gift to someone as an heirloom. And I really need to get them sold. Click here.

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.

 

 

Why Casey Forbes is the Worst Knitting Flub in History

Today the husband of the co-founding team that created Ravelry, Casey Forbes, announced that he was….”trans.”

Ok. I feel bad for the guy, I really do. First he was given some bad business advice. “Burn the house down, who ever survives is your core customer base. Everybody else? Let them perish.” Now it seems he’s being given some really bad crisis management advice. “Ok. Claim the highest totem on the victim pole. No one will DARE criticize you.”

I have all ideas Ravelry took a nose dive. Hard and fast. Casey Forbes probably flipped out. The biggest knitting community in the history of the world just belly flopped into a swimming pool devoid of water. They went, “SPLAT!” against the concrete bottom.

Let me also remind you that in a previous post I made sure to let you know that I didn’t want to see Casey Forbes or Ravelry fail. I don’t want to see anyone fail. I’m a capitalist. I want us all to succeed….that is, if you at least TRY.

What this man did is probably the biggest knitting flub in history. He had 8 million followers, his website was the biggest on the planet when it came to knitting. This man probably realized that he was important, fell into some “white knight” mode and decided he was going to save this knitting community….by burning it down. Scorched earth, anyone?

But, then coming out as trans really just….it kinda pisses me off. It’s a cop out. Too easy. I kinda chuckle. You expect this sort of behavior from people who convince themselves they’ve never done anything wrong and the only reason people dislike them is because of their victim status.

No, I don’t dislike you because you are (fill in group name), I dislike you because you’re an A-hole. Yes. I have met many Trans people I loved because of their authenticity and hated countless others because they were just A-holes. Had nothing to do with their victim status, it had everything to do with their personality.

Casey Forbes is the biggest flub in knitting history because he had the biggest, prettiest, most perfectly stitched sweater ever, comforting everyone, inspiring many. Then he dropped a stitch and the whole front came unraveling. Rather than fix the stitch, he just covered it with pretty knit flowers, embellishments and distractions…eventually holding only threads in his hands saying, “It was probably the pattern’s fault….”

The Ravelry brand has now become, “We are a community of victims.” (Of not their race, gender, or sexual orientation, but victims by the choices they made).

My advice to Casey Forbes is to get out of your head, out of your bubble, out of your echo chamber, out of your circle of friends. Go sit by yourself and ask as you demand trans status to avoid the slings and arrows, “Is this really the right thing to do?”

I feel bad for Casey Forbes, I really do. His actions emote those of someone with a mental illness, or of someone mocking someone with a mental illness. Either way, big flop.

If I could tell Casey Forbes and his wife anything? “Sit here, next to me and my friends. I just somehow feel for your own good, you’d be in better company hanging out with us rather than someone telling you that you’re right all the time. There is nothing brave about being trans. But, there is a mighty courage in admitting that you’re wrong.

“You might end up really liking us because we disagree with you. You might find a pleasure in volleyed banter. After all, we’re all knitters, right? Maybe that could be something we can build on? But, we’ll never know until you sit with us….”

(Oh! And for God’s sake, PLEASE don’t post on social media pictures of you dressed in a frock).

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The Big Huff, Puff and Blow

I just wanted to give a little heads up on our status with the storm.

I am so grateful for everyone’s prayer that the storm would continue turning away from us….And also grateful to every Floridian who stood along side me, in facing east towards Dorian, inhaling deeply, then blowing as hard as we could. (Yes, we actually do that. Call it a ritual if you will, but every Floridian knows that when a bad hurricane is coming, at some point you just turns towards the storm and give a big blow in that direction. I guess it’s our version of the Butterfly effect.)

Now, the storm is still close, but not as close as it was a very days ago. A few days ago, this beauty was barreling right into the center of Orlando. As of this moment, Dorian is only supposed to skirt us, just clip us at the edges.

Allow me to translate: my panic level is now at, “Well, we’ll only lose power.” When the other day it was, “Third floor, in building three, apartment thirteen, with a category three storm headed at us. Yeah….Some numerologist out there just whispered, ‘Ya’ll are doomed…'”

Phillip has opted to sleep through the event. I’m too wound up to do that. Yes, I know I should be knitting. But, how the hell do you expect me to count rows when I have longitudes, latitudes and millibars on my mind? Are you CRAZY???

But, I’ve never been the sort that knit because they were stressed. No! When I knit, it’s because I’m in a happy place. When I’m stressed? Hell, I’d rather watch disaster films, dance to some loud Goth Industrial music, have a shot of Southern Comfort, panic about it, write about it, fall lovingly in my bed, next to my husband, winds be damned, get the whole damned hurricane over with and move on….

We’ve been tracking this trick for a week! Can we please get this over with?

As hypertensive as this sort of situation can make one feel, in moments of crisis, believe it or not, there are moments of levity. Since we have been glued to the television nonstop for a week, both Phillip and I have developed our own little meteorological crushes. Phillip fancies Brian Shields….well, because Phillip really does like them scrawny. 🙂 And I have my own weatherman crush on George Waldenberger. I just have this feeling he’d approach and me say, “Gee, your writing sure is swell Mr. Patrick. Golly…” What can I say? I’m smitten with naivete…. 😉

The bottom line is that we shall probably be powerless in a few hours. Hopefully, not. But, the likelihood is that the winds will take down a number of the power lines. I’d rather have that than that a roof ripped off.

And maybe because I wanted to leave you with something fun to read in the event we lose power and you don’t hear from me in a few days.

I’m sure Phillip and I will be fine. But, be sure to keep the people of the Bahamas in your prayers.

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.