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Evil Queen (part 1)

I love anniversaries, and red letter dates, moments of occasion, and calendar celebrations. They can remind us of good times, and memorials. But, above all, they serve to remind us of where we’re from, what happened to bring us here, and why it is important to always move ahead. And I don’t mean only holidays. Our challenges and our blessings are all wrapped together in dates circled in memo books, diary entries, personal memories.

Did I ever mention when and how I started writing? Don’t worry, this won’t be a long story.:) In 1989, I was a wee and curious thing in high school. My best friend (Steve Light, where are you???)  and I had become little darlings at a Goth club in Berlin called “Linientreu.” There we meet a slew of richly caricatured souls, including a young English nurse by the name of Rose. She had this short pixie haircut, the kind that looks playful and sensual if framing the right face. But, Rose never tended to it, so she always ended up at the club dressed amazingly, dancing languidly and proud, make-up worthy of glossy fashion print, but looking like someone had just taken sheers to her head. Odd that I remember that about her, but that’s how the scenery of memory works.

Anyhow, she invited Steve and me to a party at her cramped flat one evening. It was in Kreuzberg. If you know anything of Berlin in the 1980’s, you will know that Kreuzberg was a dangerous place to go. But, I was 16 and adventurous, daring and curious. Every young man should be at that age. He should test the limits, see where “too far” really is. It’s no different than really learning what “hot” is when you touch a stove for the first time as a tot. You have to experience it to know how dangerous it is.

We arrived at Rose’s closet of an apartment. I only make mention of how small it was, because of the number of people she had invited. Perhaps 50 people crowded themselves into a flat you could shove on a shelf. She said quickly as we entered, “LOOK! My American boys! Yay! Now…..coke is there in that corner, there’s a little smack in that corner, and don’t be greedy, and some hash on the balcony…..” Big smiled she was at how much of an accommodating hostess she was proving herself to be.

I looked at Steve, and Steve in turn, looked to me. Both of us rigid and wide eyed with shell shock. I asked Rose nervously and asked with one of those titter of a laughs that exposes how nervous you are, “Got any beer?”

Her scream was undiluted, and caused a few cracks in the wall, I’m sure. “HEY! HEYYYYYY!…..(all went quiet, all eyes on her)…..did anyone bring any beer?”

Not a peep. She turned back to us as her smile brightened and said, “Sorry, fellas! Enjoy!” She then danced off back to her guests as I turned quickly to Steve and said, “We’ll go to the hash. I’ll be David Bowie, you be Iggy Pop.”

And there we were on the balcony, lovingly enjoying the breeze, the view of the bright city lights when we smoked hash for the first time. It must have slowly crept up on me, because for the longest time I felt like I was smoking nothing more than a cigarette and telling myself how harmless this really was. Having to pee, I found my way to the restroom. And while unbuckling my belt, I could hear the music. I’ll never forget it. It was Siouxsie’s, “Red Over White.” And suddenly I started seeing all of these scenes in my head, could feel my imagination truly take hold, could see a story line develop. Without batting a lash, I looked around thinking how desperately I had to write this down. I found an eyeliner pencil and a roll of toilet paper and just sat on the floor and started writing. Just scribbled on the toilet paper as he rolled and rolled out. Then the next song came on and my story shifted. New ideas, new scenes, new twists to the plot. I must have been there a good 10 minutes before a knock on the door got up me up…..clutching an eye liner pencil, trailing a roll of toilet paper behind me.

I screamed at Steve, “You HAVE to read this.”

“You wrote this? That’s good…..what happens to the evil queen?”

“I don’t know. I’m waiting to see what the next song is….”
siouxsie_siouxThen it became a beautiful routine. Steve and I would gather some hash from Rose, go back to my apartment, smoke something, and Rose would dash in a flash (always after an American GI). We’d pull out our records (ha! Remember those?) Steve would play DJ, and I would write. When done, he would read, encourage me, and there ladies and gentlemen, I was set free. Oh, and what freedom I found in the vinyl scratches of Diamanda Galas, Skinny Puppy, Einsturzende Neubauten, Anne Clark, Alien Sex Fiend, Dead Can Dance, This Mortal Coil, and of course, Siouxsie.

Other friends would come over to visit, see the writing on my desk and in mid sentence, their eyes would scan the desk, they’d mumble a few salutations, then go quiet.

“I just started writing that,” I’d say proudly.

Then they would have a seat.

I’d ask, “Wanna get something to eat?”

“Hold on….I’m reading this.”

“What do you think?”

“Well, it’s good.” Pauses as they continue scanning the writing on the desk before looking to me with curiosity. “I wanna know what happens to the evil queen….” Obviously.

It was here that my AP English teacher assigned us to write weekly journals and pass them in. After class I told him I wasn’t quite sure I wanted to journal. “Well, that’s the assignment. Figure out a way to do it.”

“Well, I was thinking maybe I did a serial instead. Maybe I’d write a new chapter every week with a cliffhanger to keep the story going?”

Man, you should have seen the look in his eyes. As though he were proud, but still asked, “Why not a journal?”

“It’s just not what I want to write, but I want to write something. I have an idea in my head.”

He smiled, placed his hand on my shoulder and said, “Ok. If it’s a good enough story, I’ll let you keep going, but after two weeks, if it’s not grabbing my attention, you need to go back to journals.”

“Fair enough.”

He collected our journals (and my first chapter on Friday), read them over the weekend, then gave us his thoughts on Monday. Monday morning I rolled into class and he pulled me aside. “I want you to read this out loud, in front of the class.”

“Why?”

“I want to see what you do with it. It’s dramatic, expressive. I want to see how you deliver it to your classmates.”

I stood there, frozen, staring at my classmates, a tickle in my throat, cute football player’s biceps distracting me. I looked to Herr Schmoll, then down at the page, cleared my throat and…..

(To Be Continued…..with a major announcement in part 2).:)

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Knit Your Life Story (or) Write With Needles

It’s a touch short of 8pm on a Saturday night in Central Florida, a few days into May, summer beginning to heavily breathe her warm breath into the air. Days get longer, as life gets shorter, but the humming buzz of cicadas still go on forever….

It’s hard not to get reflective, while you knit under the humid hues of the sunset, where the droning hum of nature is not unlike a Buddhist chant. It can be seductive, pleasurable, quietly mundane. And it was there that I put down my needles to listen, but not to the prominence of nature, but to the echo of my bamboo needles as they had brushed against each other to offer the same meditative grace.
As I knit up my teddy bears, I hear the remains of other days. I never thought in a million years that my life would have led me here, to where these hands tell the story of a life, this life, this man’s life. I knit my life story every time I knit a teddy bear. And that’s why they are always named after moments, or thoughts, or occurrences that had happened in my soul. “The Teddy Bear That Saved Me,” or, “Some Bears Get Lost,” or even better, “I’ll Be Your Bear When You Need Me.” These bears are part of who I am, where I have been, and more importantly, what I have accomplished, what I have lost, and what I have learned.

Life is better suited when you knit your life story. Everything that you craft comes from a moment in personal history. Whether it’s an item you gift (“Remember that blanket I knit for my grand baby?”) or something you rightfully, and selfishly kept to yourself (“I look DAMN good in this sweater!”). All of our creations, everything we contribute with our craft is a chapter in the fabric of life we have written. Our knitting is our autobiography, carefully stitched up and ready to share with the rest of the world.

IMG_1469Read our knitting well. We’ve got a lot to say in it. Our hopes, our disasters. Some of the best knitting has flaws in it. Like myself, and most of the best people I know. All flaws shown for everyone to read…..

So, before I close this post, tidy it up with the best editing I can do with “The Elements of Style,” I wish to remark that it now hints at 8:30, and the sun leaves wispy, diluted trails in it’s ebb. I might have been knitting teddy bears all this time and writing about it, but as a crisp breeze brings me to my senses, I’m reminded that I have been writing with needles this whole time, knitting my life story in the margins of a teddy bear.

 

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“I Wanna Get Drunk and Play Cribbage….”

Last night I hit my head on a shelf. I was busy running around and cleaning and not paying attention and lifted my head and WHAM! I rubbed my head quickly, saying beneath my breath, “dammit….”

Then it got louder. “DAMMIT!”

And finally I threw what was in my hand down to the ground and screamed as loud as I could,  “DAMMIT!!!!”

Phillip came around the corner and asked what was wrong, I told him I had hit my head, he hugged me and said it was nothing. And that’s when I just started bawling. I just fell limp into his arms and started crying. All of these emotions I’ve kept close and quiet to myself just came flooding out. Somehow, I needed something to trigger an “on” switch to let it all go. I guess a hit on the head was the right thing at the moment.

With my head buried in his chest, I simply started talking through tears. “I’m so stressed out. I hit my head because I wasn’t paying attention because my mind is so focused on all this bullshit. I can’t get ahead. No matter what I do, I just can’t get ahead. I get one step forward and I’m pulled two steps back. I just can’t figure this out. I’m trying so HARD to be strong, but I’m…..still fighting just to stay alive.” He whispered into my ear, “What do you want to do about it?

I pulled from him, burying my face into my hands and said rather quickly, “I wanna get drunk and play cribbage.” He snickered a little.

“I need to get my head clean, I need a distraction, I need to get this off of me for a minute and do something different.”

We grabbed a six pack, played a few hands of cribbage (I won both! WOO HOO!)  and listened to music. For a few hours I felt that great disconnect from the troubles at hand. When you get a chance to look at your issues in a detached way, you can truly see things in a better perspective.

At some point he looked at me and said, “Are you feeling better?” I just smiled and nodded and said, “Yes.” And we were crashed fast in bed asleep by 9:30. I slept for 6 hours. I haven’t done that in a long while.

It was some of the best therapy. It really was. The darkest part of fear is uncertainty. Not knowing will shred your soul into collapse. However, accepting whatever happens allows you a certain comfort. One of the Noble Truths. You accept your challenges and you deal with them the best you can. But, you cannot confront the perils in life without hope and people who love you….and a friendly hand of cribbage.

IMG_2666Sometimes a bear gets lost…..but, thank God, there are good souls out there ready to put you back on your path. I knit up this bear with that in mind. He was inspired by “Smokey, Jr.” He’s a little cub that was on the news recently because a wildfire seperated him from his mother. When the smoke cleared, the fireman found this little bear wandering through the ashes. He was barely touched by the blaze, he was strong, just…..lost. If you’d like him, click here. There is only one and he’s ready to ship with a signed card by me. And we really need to find him a home.

Or you can always help out by buying a book, or t-shirt. 

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Some Bears Go Through a Lot

IMG_2662In order to get through the issues that face me, I’ve always relied on my teddy bears. They have kept me fed, brought warmth to my life, kept loneliness at bay. So, I got up at about 3am this morning and worked on this little guy. I wasn’t sure what to think of him with his slightly bruised yarn, and his hints of discoloration. Then it hit me, it dawned on me. Some bears go through a lot of hardship, and they get a little bruised and beat up, but they survive. They do so, beautiful and with determination. This little bear surely looks like he has triumphed through the battles of life. He’s still holding firmly to do his job of loving others.

I’m still working on getting the tax issue under control. Financially, I’m far off. Very far off, as I wait to hear from the IRS about my application for monthly payments. But, every bear that I make get’s me closer to safety, to survival. Every bear born of these hands has a greater purpose than just paying off debts. Their real job is to bring goodness to the world.

He’s made of Lionbrand’s Wool Ease, and ready to ship with a signed card by me. If you’d like to take him, just click here, or on the photo. There is only one.

Hope you all have a wonderful day. (Yeah, I noticed it too…..my tone isn’t as vibrant and hopeful as it has been in the past….)

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Because My Dreams Are Worth It

IMG_2659I can’t imagine what they’ll get from me. My yarn stash? My second hand books? Second hand clothes? I told you this was serious. THIS is why I’m pushing so hard. You can dream all you want, but reality needs tending to.  THIS is why I was so passionate about my blog last night. THIS is why I need to win, to push ahead, to do well. If you really REALLY support this blog, you can grab a t-shirt, a book, a bear. Otherwise, we’re screwed. Funny, all that money…..I’m going to keep fighting, though. Pushing harder and harder, knitting until my fingers are numb, and writing until my words sound dumb. And do you wanna know why? Because my dreams are worth it.

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When a Knitter Fights Back

Wait for it….Just, wait for it. You’ll feel better once you get to the end of this blog.

As you may have noticed, the layout of my blog has changed, as has my shop. There is a very important reason that all of this changed.

Branding has nothing to do with logos and visuals, it has everything to do with a story. My story? What does Mad Man Knitting mean? It means using your crafts, your knitting, your crocheting and your tatting to find self sufficiency, to rise above the challenges you face by using your talents, your abilities, and above all, to put something good in the world. Being a Mad Man Knitting is raising your hand up, your head up, and your heart up in the face of adversity and pushing forth, fighting back against pain and misfortune and claiming you can do ANYTHING of beautiful benefit with your knitting needles. You really CAN change not only your life, but the live’s of others.

Yesterday, I received one of those lovely letters from the IRS, one of those “intent to levy” letters we all just LOVE to get. With everything  going on, with everything happening, from the tax man to health to teeth to living by a thread I felt I had finally had enough. But, did I crumble? Did I cry and hold myself tight and feel miserable and distraught? Nope. I started cleaning.

That’s right, I’m one of those people that feels when you’re cleaning your house, you’re purging your thoughts, your soul, your bad mojo, the darkness that clings. You clean it all away. And I mean I cleaned. I scoured crazy corners I’ve never seen before, washed the blinds, scrubbed the grout. When it was all finished, all tidied and put away, I felt so much better.

As heaviness mounts, I see now what to do. I’m still stuck as that homeless man in my head. I’m still stuck to my boots before I go to bed, and the minute I get out of it. I’m still stuck in this rut, “this loop” as my friend Giovanni calls it. No money, bad arm, bad teeth, bad health, bad taxes, bad, bad, bad…..ENOUGH! (Actually said that last part about the time I was cleaning behind the refrigerator).

I jumped up, ran to a pen and paper (‘member those?) and started jotting ideas. If I’m going to make this work, if I’m going to fight back against my own dilemmas, if I’m to rise above the hardships I face then I have to make this work. This has to be REAL, this can’t be a means of hand to mouth anymore, because this is my path. This is where I’ve been led. And it took no time and but a few lines for me to find some clean blaring clarity.

I’m so glad it’s May the 1st. My previous anniversary had been celebrated on February 16th, because that was the day I sold my first teddy bear, the day I rushed to the store and bought food. And nearly 3,000 (YES!) hand knit bears later, I’m changing that anniversary to the day THIS became a reality, where it all sunk in finally, where it dawned on me, it grew inside me that this whole MAD MAN KNITTING concept was more powerful than I had ever thought. Because, like I said a few posts back, this isn’t about the knitting. It’s about turning “surviving” into “thriving” by the intentions behind those knitting needles.

1 May 2016.

DSCF2040I’m going to make that money to pay off my taxes, to fix my teeth, to contain my health, and to get my permanent place to live. I want to pay my rent tomorrow. And on Tuesday, I want to go back to the dentist and say, “I don’t want plan C. I want Plan A.” Wednesday I want to haul myself back to the doctor and have him tend to that cyst on Phillip’s forehead. On Thursday I want to be able to order 100 more copies of my book. On Friday I want put a little aside and say, “That’s for Honeychurch.” And on Saturday I’m going to put a fat payment to the tax man in the mailbox with a growling “You ain’t taking me down,” sneer on my face.

And I can DO all of that! I CAN! So, I updated my shop, added T-Shirts and more bears.

And we have to talk about those bears. Oh yes yes yes. I know some have taken a while, but I promise you, the same people who wrote to say they were not happy the bears were taking too long, are the same one’s that wrote me back once they get the bear to say, “I LOVE this little bear! THANK YOU!”

AND I THANK YOU! I can’t thank you ENOUGH! I can’t thank you enough for your patience, because it’s such a beautiful thing to feel some things in this on-demand world are worth waiting for. They TRULY are. Sometimes good things happen slowly. Hate and anger are impulsive. Peace slowly and patiently comes upon quiet arrival.

 

I have to get started right away. Rent is due tomorrow. The printer for my books is offering me an awesome discount upon volume. The levy from the tax man begins on May 12th. And my health isn’t getting better and dammit, I’m going to look and feel amazing for my husband on our wedding day. Dammit! I will!

So join me. We can make this work, and we can share with each other our experiences, how our knitting put us into better places. I need more guest bloggers. Email me at madmanknitting@gmail if you’d like to write for this blog and tell others how you, we and us survived with a skein of yarn and a dream.

I’m going to start actively pursuing the press, pushing myself more to the center of the arena.

I’m going to start putting up more videos, too. Beginning tomorrow. I’ve already updated my video page with the Huffington Post Live interview I did, a news story that was broadcast about me, and a GREAT podcast that was done some time ago with “Raw Voices.”

However, tomorrow’s video is going to be quite a bit different. Think of it as a knitter’s version of  “Grey Gardens” meets “Truth or Dare” using my simple digital camera and staring your’s truly.

It’s about 8pm. I feel sooo good. SOOO good. I can’t thank all of you enough for being with me for so long, for believing in me, for helping, for sharing with me your own experiences. I don’t take all of that lightly. Because I feel that if I fail, I’ve let you down.

And I’m not about to let that happen.

Love you!

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Breaking Pain

Goodness, you should have seen the way I started writing this blog. Awful. This very post was not working well, my writing was off, my thoughts skewed. And I kept combating my own ideas for the sake of purpose. It was dark, hopeless, sad. And I don’t care for that. Nope. That’s not where I like my head to go. Should this all fall apart, it would be because I let go of faith, hope, joy; the same tools that have kept me alive and looking forward.

IMG_2636To lift my spirits I wandered out to the garden area next to our apartment building. There is a dilapidated old fence that has recently been brought to life by the blossoming eruption of a bougainvillea. Faintly, it’s petals bloomed with such an eerie speed, that it hid the neglect and pain of the fence nearly overnight. That was all I needed to set my mind right, so that I could write this blog properly. In moments of crisis, in moments of pain, it is imperative to strive to find beauty. That was the moment I needed.

Phillip mentioned last night how I don’t really tend to material things. A couple of flowers popping out of the ground and I’m content. I don’t need a car, don’t need the latest fashions, don’t need to be seen at the trendiest restaurants. I walk to enjoy the foliage as I stroll to where I need to go, get my clothes from the thrift store, and cook at home for my love and I from our garden. I cling to moments more than to materials. My book collection has come and gone, my yarn comes in and is knit up into teddy bears. Fleeting things, memorable things. I rarely hold my enjoyment to things that are held in the hand.

So, it’s been quite a chore for us to think about a wedding registry. Can  you imagine? We could use sheets and towels…..that was about it. But, even then, I was reluctant. What we have works fine. We don’t need a good set of china, nor do we need a Kitchen Aid. We don’t want a barbecue grill and we really love our dollar store Fiesta Ware. (It’s lovely really. Bright, multicolored and very sturdy…and each piece was a dollar).

What we wish for instead is to face each other on our wedding day as equals (that’s why we picked the equinox). But, more so, to see that the other isn’t in pain anymore. He hates seeing me in pain. Now, my health issues can’t be cured, but they can be contained for a long time. His? He has a cyst on his forehead that was marble sized a year ago, but has grown to a ripened golf ball. It hurts him, but he barely says a word. We always seem to be dealing with my health. Sometimes, he can’t help it though, and I can see him rubbing it and wincing.

Without pain, we’ll be able to move ahead without distraction, like we often try. Laughing mostly, big smiles when we can, and coy winks at each other just to remind each other of what we mean to each other. And hopefully we can break this loop and get up and going, really get going with our dreams. And those dreams would take us to such beautiful moments. Can you imagine if my book sold beautifully, if there were a teddy bear in every empty arm, and then…..Honeychurch? Can you imagine if we actually had Honeychurch? (Which we are hoping will be outside Micanopy, Florida. More on why there at a later date). And that’s how we break this cycle of physical pain that keeps us from getting ahead. We break it with joy, striving for beauty wherever we can find it.

We want to invite everyone, so we’re not sure where it will be. Most likely a park nearby, where there is enough space for anyone and everyone who wants to come and spend the day with us eating ribs, and coleslaw, potato salad, baked beans, and cornbread…..God, I hope I’m well enough to eat then!!! I miss all that SO much. And a chance for all of us to meet each other! What a beautiful thing that would be! To see all of you with me on such a great day. Try and come, if you can. We’ll let you know well ahead of time where it will be so you can just arrive when you desire.

IMG_2019So, that’s our wedding registry. Good health and a great wedding so we can start our lives together beautifully. And if that guy on kickstarter can raise $50,000 for a batch of potato salad, then we should be able to come up with a fraction of that to get our medical issues tended to and a great party for all of you who want to come to our wedding to say thank you.

Gonna go back to that bougainvillea and smile for a minute:) Cheers.

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