Silence in Dialogue, Peace Through Crafting

vlcsnap-2017-01-10-12h12m33s338Do you remember my last post? How we were making strides to make life better and slip back from all the nonsense? Well, that sounds harsh. I don’t mean nonsense in the traditional sense of frivolity, but that nonsense could be defined as disorganization and erratic behavior. That’s a better definition of nonsense for the time being. And if words and language are fluid, then I take this poor opportunity to redefine nonsense to serve my purposes.

We have our daily routines. And it’s amazing how structured they are. For instance, when I get up at 4 or 5am, I start coffee, feed cats, plunk myself in front of the laptop, flip on the news, listen to the madness of the world, scan headlines, emails….When the coffee is ready, I begin knitting….still listening to the news of the day. Phillip will wake at 7am, pour coffee, flip on news, begin to crochet his Strange Friends…..

Now vision if you will, the two of us remarking on the world and all of it’s problems negatively. Hours, I said….

We get wrapped up in it. Hours and hours of the tonality of the news bringing us to apexes of aggression and marked negativity. It gets louder, more soaked in our skin, our souls get smeared with this noise about who is right, who is wrong, what something could have been prevented, and what something more could have been done. We lean in closely when we hear our own political buzzwords, and pull back with commentary and shriek when we hear an opposing idea.

We’d been programmed to react with anger. That was my first thought. Our lives won’t be any better if we’re always being fed we’re supposed to hate each other. The noise gets in the way of communication.

So, with our policy of changing it all up, making it work, getting life working right for us, I woke this morning making coffee, siting at my laptop…..and shutting the whole thing off. All the emails, all the facebook posts, and all of the headlines and talking heads. I shut down the world.

But there I sat, in the early morning haze of a foggy day being torched off by the morning sun, burning off all the cloudy visions. The apartment was still, my heart crept closer to just listening, while silence evaded the room. I was singularly cut off, by choice, from the plan that the stronger man has to persuade.

I got my moment to hear nothing. And as a man who leans towards the contemplative, I was as one who thirsts finally being given a drop, just a drop, of water. I picked up my needles and went to work. No sound to disturb other than those that have true credence: the birds screaming of their need to praise the rising sun, the shuddering whistle of wind through the window panes, and the rustle of Spanish Moss as it brushed itself against a hosting tree.

Phillip woke, grabbed his coffee, turned on the television to which I quickly demanded he turn it off.

We were going to try something new. We were going to eliminate negativity. As soon as it showed itself, we’d shut it off. Not only on television, on the radio, on facebook, but even more so, in our conversations about the world, about our own lives, or those around us. Our opinions would shift towards the positive. And what an interesting exercise it was.

We glint and glared at each other when we saw the no’s taking place of the yes’s.  We glint and glared at each other’s fears and each other’s dreams.

We could see a change almost immediately. With the world no longer telling us what was wrong, we were able to really focus on what was right. These two men, he and I, standing side by side, realized without the hindrances of mass communication, how much more we trusted each other. We found a passion in realizing that we had the same fears….and more importantly, the same dreams. We came to realize the radiance in silence. And as a contemplative would, I went back to only smiling at him, rather than talking; the two of us knitting and crocheting in separate places, but with the same mission.

Let that sink in with any adversary you may have…..separate places, but with the same mission: I only what to pursue my dreams.

And as I scribe, I have a deeper appreciate for the world that I shut down for a day.

We shut the world down for a day to disconnect from the issues that infuriate, and got back to principles. We shut the world down today so that we could listen to each other, rather than the memes we see as we scroll through our alleged truths. We shut the world down today, so that we could connect syllable by syllable every word we say, rather than texted or shared. We shut the world down so that we could just feel the warmth of humanity through actual connection. His warmth is noticeable when the cold breeze of the world’s need to influence is blocked by my…my self.

Think for just a moment, if every one of us, knitter or not, took a moment of our day, left the world and spent time with our crafts, our creations, our thoughts, our true fears and dreams….

I think we could find a dialogue in silence, sitting from each other’s perspectives, knitting from each other’s perspectives….quietly speaking to each other with our crafts. Would the world find some idea of peace? That’s not a question that is answered, that is a question that has already been answered with the knits and purls, looms and weavings of people across the planet. This community is already solid. Time to let the rest of the world know that dialogues can be found often in our artistry and not our military.

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We Start With What We Have

img_3153It’s easy to remark on your own mood or emotion when you face troubling times, it’s a much different thing to actually believe, and physical feel good. I woke this morning, cleaned my work space, organized my yarn, did what I could to put some good energy in this space that has been a little grey lately. I felt hope in my heart, but will admit that I was having a hard time convincing my body of it. I felt sluggish and down. Then you have one of those moments where your clarify what is right and what is wrong, and once you identify that then you can easily begin to make some serious changes. My life has been very erratic over the last few years. And that caused disorganization. And that caused an inadvertent dismissal of little things that became really big deals. I’m lucky to have been blessed throughout this time, as well. So, I hold on to the blessings, start cleaning up the mess I’ve let build a wall around me, dismantle those bricks one at a time and find a bright and wonderful new world of challenges and opportunities for all of us.

We start with what we have.

We were not able to sell enough in our shop to finish paying rent. We sent to the landlord what we have, even though we are still short, but I’m hoping by the end of the day we’ll find a way to make the difference and send that off, too. We have a few items left in our shop, only a few t-shirts, a handful of books, and a couple of knit animals. But, just think of what we’re going to do after that. We have really big plans for our little shop and our futures on this end of the knitting needles. I really do hate that we’ve been in this financial slump, but as I like to remind myself, it’s only for now, not for good. As soon as we can get over these humps we’ve had to hurdle, we’ll actually be able to help other people in creative ways we’ve been wanting to pursue for quite some time. I always have hope, and I always have faith, and if you keep your mind clear of negativity, then you can achieve the simple things in life that enriches the souls of all of us.

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The Little Shop with Big Dreams

img_3145So, Phillip and I are on a quest today to clear out our shop. If we’re able to sell everything, then we just might be able to pay off our rent tomorrow. I hate the fact that we’re a week late, but there it is. Once everything is gone, we’ll be able to spend this next coming week truly pursuing more knitting and crocheting that can be used others. I still keep thinking about that old homeless man with the cat. I have to do something to help him, and others in the same boat. And I know I can do something to help save them. I know I can. But, I have to save myself first. If we can get everything sold, we’ll be able to send our rent tomorrow (Monday AM). They’ve been patient with us being late the last few months, but I don’t want to strain the relationship we have with our landlord. We like our little apartment, we love being on this little lane, and we don’t want to do anything that might make us have to leave.

So, check out our shop of Strange Friends and teddy bears, books and t-shirts. If you’re in a part of the country where it’s snowed in, today would be a wonderful opportunity to grab a coffee, snuggle under your favorite afghan, don your favorite knit socks and read on my books in PDF format.

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This That We Knit

It’s about 3am. I can’t sleep. I could try, but I just can’t shake this vision from my head.

Earlier today, Phillip and I went to the supermarket to get provisions for the weekend. Apparently, this winter storm is dipping just a few degrees southern than it ought to. Today it was 80. Tomorrow, it will be 50. So, with the idea of making a big pot of minestrone for the weekend, we went to the store to get what we needed, so that we wouldn’t have to trudge through the hardship of 50 degree weather. (That was sarcasm, you know). And on our way there, we passed the homeless men. They’re always at the bus stop outside Publix (little known trick: you can’t get busted for loitering if you’re at a bus stop). Now, they usually don’t even speak to me. Phillip says, “Sorry, sweetheart, but you still look like one of them….which is why the people at Publix freak out when you buy brie and Perrier…..”

It’s true. The homeless guys still don’t ever ask me for anything. They look at me and see….one of them. (And please, no comments about the Perrier. I love its crisp, cold, bubbles….and the brie? Well, it was on sale for half off! Who wouldn’t enjoy a luxury when it’s somewhat affordable?)

However, in the corner of my eye, I saw this guy I’ve seen quite a few times. Shopping cart with a cat that walks proudly beside him. I’ve seen him before. Hell, I might have even wrote about him once or twice. But, there he was again, off in the distance. Always too far for me to approach. And whenever I do make the attempt, he takes a turn down this street or that and he’s gone. Poof. Gone. As I was spying at the homeless man with the loyal cat, another homeless man to my right asked for a couple of bucks, “or maybe some chicken,” as he said. He was bent over a wall, teeth falling out, clothes that screamed of human waste, eyes that begged for contact. And do you know what it’s like to be denied that? When someone won’t look you in the eye? It’s like your soul doesn’t exist. Imagine that for a minute….that you’re treated not only that you don’t exist….but, that your soul doesn’t exist either.

I had one eye on the guy to my right, when my other eye went searching for the man with the cat. And as planned, they were both gone. I told the homeless man to my right, “Gimme just a second. I’ll have something when I get back.”

(Phillip just woke, asking why I hadn’t come to bed…..I told him I couldn’t stop thinking about the man with the cat. And I’m doing what writer’s do. We let it go in and with words….)

We got what we needed in the supermarket, got the guy outside a huge Cuban sandwich, a bottle of water, a pack of cigarettes (that’s currency you can use for trade), and a couple of dollars….but, the whole time my mind was on the man with the cat.

That was me. I wanted to find him and tell him, that he was me. And could still be. One false move and….that old man with the cat is still me. Watching him, at such an advanced age, to push his shopping cart….with this scruffy old cat walking right beside him, that he and I….

I can’t shake it from my head. It was more than a remembrance of the past, it was more of a panic attack, a fear, a deeply troubling paranoia.  I have often noted, without reasonable psychological impact, but with a good sense of what in the hell the world is all about, that I do experience some PTSD from when I was homeless.

And I grabbed Mario and squeezed and cried and said, “We can’t ever forget them….”

As much as that cat and I went through for so long, and as much we sure would like to forget…..that man reminded me of so much I always try to push aside. It’s true, we haven’t fully left the woods. Mentally, we’re still held in a certain place that keeps us wearing our boots constantly, afraid of being turned out of our homes, always fearful of impermanence. Financially, we wait each day to see how things will go.

I get terrified and stressed sometimes I mean, it’s already the first week of the month and rent hasn’t been paid. And it’s moments of reflection seen in a stranger that remind you of how connected we all really are.

And this that we knit is always for a greater purpose. And in my case? Not only to help myself, but to help those men in any way that I can.

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A Teddy Bear’s Love is Forever

img_1237Touched by the shadow and shine that streams through the window blinds, my hands eagerly knit a moment, a reflection, a story told through the stitches, through the purls that whisper at a tale of hope and of love, of compassion and contemplation, of a soured memory that became a beautiful blessing, drenched in yarn, and tangled with wool, born in the form of a teddy bear.

You know, the anniversary of selling my first teddy bear is fast approaching. Soon, it will have been six years since I quickly crafted a little bear to sell for food. And can you imagine how much we’ve accomplished, you and I, in the years since? All of the people affected by these little bears, how much joy these little things have given people….all of the friends across the globe I’ve come to call my family….one moment homeless, the next famous, then suddenly infamous….the hope we have inspired….the impact we have made. And yes, I did not wish to toss that statement so heavily without thinking long and hard about it. Perhaps it is a sense of humility that made me want to redact it…..but, I have to confess that I think all of us have made a rather wonderful impact on the world. Kind phrases and warm gestures are often all that is required to shift the soil of the human soul from a place of hell to a place of harvest.

img_1234My life was saved from that hell by a simple teddy bear. Nothing in my life would ever be the same after him. My soul was touched by what that teddy bear gave me. It wasn’t just food and shelter, it was warmth and kindness, connection to the rest of the world on a kinder scale, beautiful moments of chaos turned quiet, leading  perfect scenes of me knitting beside old oak trees. A man once dismissed was now welcomed, thanks to the clacking of bamboo knitting needles. A man once full of vitriol and rage was now tamed into an acceptance of greater things, lured into the light by an awareness that the things we give are so much better for the world than the things we demand.

In many ways this teddy bear has been my guardian angel, my protector, and my best friend: always with me, always taking care of me, and never asking of me anything other than to be a better man, to always strive to do what is right, to clarify what is wrong, and to remind those that feel disenfranchised, heartbroken, and dismissed, that the love of a teddy bear is forever, and that if you have his heart, then you have mine.

To you, all of you, I offer my heart, my gratitude, my dreams of the future, and a teddy bear’s love that will last forever. (if you’d like one of these little bears, click here). We need to get these little guys to new homes so that we can finish paying rent. These bears would be perfect for Valentine’s Day.

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44 Runs Around the Sun (My Birthday!)

dsc_1280I’ve never been the sort to dismiss a birthday. Don’t you get aggravated with people who do? Goodness. My grandmother used to say people that got all wimpy and whiny on their birthdays, “Consider the alternative….”

I LOVE to celebrate my birthday. I truly do. Furthermore, I LOVE that my birthday falls at this time of year! You see, we start celebrating the holidays on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day does it’s beauty, then a week later we get New Year’s Eve, then New Year’s Day! Oh, wait! Then creepy along just a few days later….my birthday! YAY!


img_1539And just how does a Mad Man Knitting celebrate his birthday? He plays croquet, of course. 🙂 (I had to share all of these pics of us playing croquet on my birthday the last couple of years). And it’s perfect weather for croquet right now. It’s a cool 70-ish degrees in the morning. So, the first half of the day we’ll play croquet, we’ll order a pizza, have a beer, watch something that I want to watch, and call it a day. (Last year I forced Phillip to binge “Twin Peaks” with me, who knows what I’ll drag up this year????)



img_0013The celebrations might be really simple, but the overall idea is to truly just enjoy life in the ways that you like on your birthday. And I’m a simple man, really. Croquet, a pizza, a beer, my husband, and my feet propped up in a proper pair of knit socks, watching a movie or TV show to my liking and spending the day thanking life for giving me simple things to appreciate and enjoy. 🙂

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Southern Boy Makes Indian Food. Film at Eleven….

Being a southern boy, it’s what we do. You can’t dismiss your traditions and heritage. You’re either in, or you’re not. Black eyed peas and collard greens are a staple on New Year’s Day. Heaven help the man who refuses. And you could try, you certainly could, but…that risks inviting bad luck, doesn’t it?

Don’t get me wrong. I love black eyed peas and collard greens. But, as they were simmering away on the stove in their usual, annual, bubbling boredom, I felt the need to think of something new to do. We’ve been doing a lot of that these days, Phillip and I. We’ve been looking for ways to take our normal days and skew them just slightly enough to make them interesting. New horizons and explorations don’t have to be taken extravagantly.

So, one of our favorite Youtube channels is Manjula’s Kitchen. We LOVE her Indian recipes, her cooking, and her very endearing spirit. She seems like an incredibly kind lady. Now, neither of us has ever attempted to cook Indian food before. Not sure why, but there are many things I like that I’ve never attempted to do. I’d like to figure out why….

Anyway! We were reminded of one of her recipes we had seen for black eyed peas and decided to give it a go. Right there in the kitchen, we pulled up her recipe for black eyed peas, peeked in the cupboard and said, “Dammit, let’s do it!”

img_3141And it was actually pretty simple. We had all the ingredients on hand. Cumin, ginger, onion, tomato, crushed red pepper, curry and garam masala. (I know you’re asking, “Who the hell has garam masala?” Well, I do! I love the flavor! It’s far too expensive to buy, but when I see it half off at the supermarket, I snag it).

We sat down to eat, our plates smack with all the trimmings. Side of ham, cornbread (I threw some chives in the cornbread for personality) and white rice. Man….WOAH! MAN! Those black eyed peas were FREAKIN’ awesome. Rich, exotic, new and so warm on the taste buds. After just a few bights of dinner we looked at each other and said, “Screw New Years, we’re having this once a week.”

I’m glad I was able to step out of one tradition and explore something new without tarnishing an old staple of family history. Now, I know some of my southern contemporaries will be screaming, “That’s not right! You can’t do that!” To that I can only reply, the rule book said you have to eat black eyed peas….it didn’t say HOW.

It was nice to start the New Year with a simple exploration into the unknown, give it a whirl, try something slightly new without disrupting the patterns and habits that life can sometimes make a little too easy for us. It’s nice to find a new pool of thought and dip our toes into it, just to see how inviting the waters might be. And I’m thinking the waters of the New Year will be warm and loving.

Oh! And the collard greens? No, we don’t need to mess with them. They’re brilliant as they are…. 😉

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