The Bears of Honeychurch

It was a truly beautiful stroll around Honeychurch this morning. The love I have for this home simply has not waned, although lately I was feeling all that love was going to be for nothing. Owning this home one day is no longer an impossibility. For, all things are possible….if you believe. And despite what is happening in life today, I still feel in the deepest part of my heart that this will be my house one day.

Every time I walk up to this house, I swear I see it smile when I arrive, the Golden Rain tree brushing aside with the gentle whisper of her words on the wind: “I missed you….”

The vibrancy and beauty I have experienced in this home have been so rewarding, life affirming, proof that hope clarifies any doubt in the workings of the Universe. After all, I yearned with all of my heart to come back here one day…..and the Universe said, “I’ll make it happen.” Whenever you think your dreams are never going to come true, think about the ones that are already coming true and embrace yourself in that current feeling of having your dreams come alive and you’ll remember that nothing is impossible.

I want to get started on a book this week. I want to show the progression of my life from that humble little studio, just after being homeless, to years later coming back to live in the house it was attached to. I’ll be able to see how I’ve grown in some ways, and explore why I’m still stunted in others. A tome that catalogues that difficult, but beautiful travel “back home” the minute I moved out of that studio….

I have been taking notes and setting up a soundtrack. (Yes, I love to write to music, I use scores as “scenes” in my head).

I think it’s going to be an amazing piece of work. I have ten years of this blog I can go back and look through, remind myself of where I was, who I was then, and what I really wanted out of life….and how I actually got it.

I’m going to start working on it this weekend so I can have it ready before Thanksgiving and have it on Amazon before Christmas sales begin and start working my way towards the big dreams, the really monumental dreams. Instead of knitting my way upstream, I could write one book that could have me moving down stream.

In the meantime, I’m still a renter. I’m a couple of hundred dollars short on rent this month, but you have no idea how much progress that is. I don’t bow my head in shame when I say I’m short this month, but not by much, because some months this struggle was a lot more difficult. It got a lot better for us this month. A LOT better. (And they will continue to do so!)

So, I’ve been busy this weekend knitting a couple of bears. I love how Honeychurch looks like it has bears scattered everywhere….(And she does :)) One day I’m going to take a picture with the lawn just scattered with teddy bears!!!

You only see four now because I’m only allowed 5 things in my shop at one time. So, when one sells, I’ll quickly be putting up another one. You can find my shop here.

If I sell these bears, I’ll be pretty close to making rent. The rest, I’ll pray for. I hope ya’ll have a truly beautiful day.

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You Can’t Afford to be Afraid….

It’s just shy of 9pm, two days before the first of the month and I’m knitting a teddy bear. This will be my third for today. You wouldn’t know Halloween was just a block or two away on the calendar. The weather isn’t willing to give hints of what she’ll do this year. Sometimes, there is a crispness in the air, or falling acorns will smatter with a crash on the older bungalows, or a wayward maple leaf will waft by giving a simple illusion of what Autumn must be like up north.

Then in other years Halloween is a battleground where Summer is doing her best to give us one last bashing with her powers of humidity.

I take no shame in saying once my errands were done for the day I walked proudly around the house with very little clothes on. I had on my knit socks, my beloved Okabashi, a pair of boxer briefs, and a bandana around my neck I could use as a mask should I need to answer a knock at the front door….scantily.

I didn’t dare turn on the air conditioning. I can’t afford it. Not right now. I believe the A/C that cools this house is from the 1990’s, possibly earlier. It just hobbles me how much that thing gobbles up energy.

So, back to knitting a bear in my lap, when I suddenly snap and realize that I was sweating, miserable, nauseous even….and every last bit of that self denial was my own fault, my own doing. I had written the answer to my problems right up there in the last paragraph. “I can’t afford….”

Then I got up to get some water from the fridge…..and noticing how empty and bleak the icebox was, I was quick to see what my first thought would be. “I can’t afford gro-” …and I had to stop myself.

I went outside to grab our laundry. Phillip was going to need work clothes in the morning. I pulled out this pile of faded, over worn, sometimes thread bare clothing, all of it, even his uniform for work looking as if they would come apart at the seams. We haven’t bought clothes for ourselves in five years. I take that back. We allotted ourselves $20 each last month so we could buy new underwear. Again….I waited to see what my first reaction as I stuffed the hamper. “I can’t afford new clo-” …and I had to stop myself.

At practically every turn I was able to excuse the conditions I have allowed myself to live in because the premise of why I couldn’t have anything more was buried in the way that I perceived everything about myself, my life, my career: I can’t. 

Those two words clearly started every thought, every mental sentence, was heard in discussions between my husband and I, was written about extensively on this blog. But, most importantly, those two words were heard by the Universe well before It heard anything else: I can’t. So, the Universe had no choice but to answer in kind, “Then that’s what will be….”

There is a horror in realizing that you have limited your own potential because of fear. As an agoraphobic working through the walls of that impediment, I began to wonder if the fear that kept me so isolated was really about fear of the outside world…..or if possibly, I didn’t feel I was worthy of being out there, that I didn’t like myself enough to be apart of it? No matter where we have lived, I’d find a room, lock myself inside, and sigh and connect to people through simply the posts on this blog. And that same dislike for myself, did it prevent me from extending myself out there to publishers, to agents, to even more readers? I was sitting here in misery, waiting for something to happen, rather than moving past that cracked glass and getting anything and everything I’ve ever wanted.

The more I thought about it, the more I saw that everything I have and everything that I don’t is because of a fear that manifests itself every chance it can with the premise, “I can’t….”

And there is also a horror in the realization that you are talented, you affect people’s lives, you inspire people. Do you know the first quiet reaction I give myself when someone emails me that I give them hope? I get terrified! Absolutely anxiety ridden.

I can’t take responsibility for that….that’s too important. I’m not that important….I’m nobody.”

Really? Nobody? Other people seem to see me as someone of tremendous value. Why don’t I? The Universe whispered in my ear, “You move people to emotion. People want you to know they love you for who you are. Why is that so hard to receive? Do you love them? Of course. You just don’t think you’re worthy enough of their love, because you haven’t been able to love yourself.”

The beautiful thing about the Universe is that it will answer your questions if you simply ask. “You are afraid of loving yourself….And before I can bless you with anything you want, I need you to love who you are, because I love you enough to have given you this experience of life.”

So, I went to bed with an exercise. I didn’t want an affirmation to set me at ease. I didn’t want words to clog the stream between me and the Universe. I wanted to just feel that love. I wanted to spend time just knowing it, not thinking about it, but experiencing it reciprocally from the deepest reaches of the Universe to the lowest part of my heart, then back again. And with each heavy dive into slumber, the distance between those two extremes was drawn closer and closer, to just that part of lucid dreaming where I felt completely, totally at ease for the first time in my life.

That is the power of God’s love.

I woke up this morning 9 hours later, which is incredibly odd for me. I sleep maybe 4 to 5 hours at a time. But, not last night. I was blessed with a good night’s rest. So, I bounced out of bed, leapt over sunbeams, smacked my big toe against a box fan, tripped on a cat and scrambled for the kitchen to make coffee. I was elated, joyous! I was ready to start this day with that same connection to that bliss that I fell asleep with.

I was filled with such a desire to inspire myself. I couldn’t wait to spend time loving my art, loving my craft, loving my life….and loving myself. I could not wait to start the day with a new approach to every thought, or mental sentence with, “I can….”

Universe, I am ready to receive the blessings of having a profitable blog and a bestselling book. I am worth that. I can have that. 🙂

More tomorrow! Love you!

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The Beauty in Bad Book Reviews

My most popular book, “Mad Man Knitting -or- The Waiter and the Fly,” was written quite a while ago, so it never really gets any recent reviews. Imagine my surprise to find that someone had left one about six weeks ago. I dashed right over to see what they had to say:

“Patrick’s writing is fine, and this seems on par with any other self-published text. But if you’re a fan of misogynist and transphobic tropes, this is the book for you!”

Of course I was disappointed, but I wasn’t sad. Oh, no. The first inclination is to have an argument with her, isn’t it? Defend myself….

But, she may not know much more about me. She may not even know about this blog. She may not know that I became homeless right after that book was written….that particular book being a big reason why. No one would hire me to work in a restaurant, fearing I might write another little tell-all about them. I was black balled from the service industry, ended up homeless, ended up in the woods….alone with a cat for company, a mailbox for communication, and a radio to break the voiceless isolation.

Perhaps she knows only who I am from the confines of what she read in that book.

By calling me a trope, she was basically calling me a stereotype. I would agree with her, I don’t like stereotypes in art either. However, the problem with calling a person a trope does some serious disservice to you and them.

When you see someone as a trope, you are limiting yourself to the margins of who they are, limiting your own knowledge about them based on the perimeters that you have boxed them in. There is nothing new to know about a trope, you get them, they’re just cardboard, run of the mill, cut outs of whatever stereotype you’re stylizing in your mind. Nothing new to see here. Typical.

I guess the trope she saw in me was a gay, white, Southern, Christian, conservative male…..and that was all she saw. I certainly will not deny being any of those things…..if those are the only terms you use when you catalogue the people you come across in life, those strange checkboxes of inclusion and dismissal. In that greedy need to identify people you’re only categorizing people as form, not substance.

Perhaps she doesn’t know the irony of the last line of that book, just before the epilogue, “It’s so good to be home,” and that within a few months of publishing that book, I would have no place to live….and wouldn’t for a long time. (Oh, the things I have learned about myself in that time, though! So many things she couldn’t know!!! Maybe I should put together a book of some of these blog posts that truly captures that journey from there to here….)

So, I cannot judge her for only knowing Gregory Patrick through the confines of the pages she read. I hope she’ll stumble across my blog and realize that images we have of people are often too restricted to the margins that we’ve placed on them, and not the other way around. Because after so many years of writing here, in this space, on this blog, about what happened to me after that book….she might pause and reconsider confining people to her own version of identity. For, if this is the manner in which she sees people, then perhaps that is the only way she has ever seen herself….always ready to identify with a group, too afraid of being alone with her own beautiful individuality.

After all, each new soul you meet is just another Universe waiting to be explored; and the first expanse of limitless love and possibilities you conquer has to be the one inside you. You will never know anything about anyone else, if you haven’t learned a few things about yourself first.

So, I left a comment on her review: “I appreciate you taking the time to read my book! Thank you!”

I could not be more sincere. She may not know me, but she read my book, dedicated time in her life getting to know me. For that, I am truly grateful. There aren’t a lot of people, let alone writers, who get that opportunity….

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The Affair With Mrs. Church

I woke up this morning feeling a little different about Honeychurch. I grabbed my coffee and tip toed around the front of the house just as sun rise was beginning to cast reflections on the window panes, just as the first birds of the morning were heralding reveille.

I felt distant from her, but not remiss. Actually, I felt like a man who had envisioned the perfect woman, saw her one day in passing, fell in love, asked her to marry him that day….but, she declined because she was already married. I didn’t love her less, I just felt suddenly….a distance from her. I would be here if she needed me but, like a gentleman, I would no longer impose my feelings on her.

I came back inside and spied the pile of provisions I had set out for today’s work. This week has been filled with deliveries. Paint, brushes, wooden sticks to stir it all up, rollers and extenders and finally, finally my stepladder showed up yesterday so that I could reach the trim and give Honeychurch her first new fresh coat of paint in years. Today was going to be the day, but after the landlord told me that this house was never going to be for sale, I started feeling naïve. I felt that I had over romanticized the situation, and felt a little foolish.

I have written about this house as though it were some southern gothic love affair. Staring at that stepladder made me realize that it was time to be a little more realistic about the situation. This is my home, but it is not my house. I can only love it to a certain point before her beauty, what makes her shine, is no longer my responsibility.

I began to remember when Phillip and I first discussed the idea of Honeychurch. I found this picture from about 5 years ago, when Phillip scribbled on a blackboard what Honeychurch really was: a little house with a garden, fruit trees, a big oak to shield us from the weather, and constant blue skies and sunlight. There we were, primitively drawn as stick figures surrounded by hearts, our cats nothing but scraggily sketches of wonderful, furry bliss running around the yard. I love this picture Phillip drew on the blackboard. He was the first of us to really draw out our dream home. And I’ll be damned if we aren’t living that right now.

But, there was one important thing about Honeychurch that was so vital:

Honeychurch was the one place no one could ask us to leave because it was ours.

Our dream was more than just an idealized perfect place to call home, it was that fundamental cog in the dream wheel: wherever Honeychurch is, it is ours….and no one would ever be able to make us leave.

You’ll forgive me, but once you’ve been homeless the ideas of grounding, stabilization and permanence become highly addictive on your list of priorities. Sometimes you don’t even eat you’re so focused on finding a place to rest your head without fear someone is going to ask you to leave, to move. A place you can stay for as long as life allows….

I put my coffee down and got ready to paint, but the rain set in, so I just sat on the rungs of that stepladder and embraced the idea that this is never going to be my house.

I’m ok with that.

But, for the meantime, this is my home and I do so love it here.  I don’t plan on leaving any time soon and look forward to signing a lease again in six months. There is a stew simmering on the stove that smells of garlic, onions and care, there are bitter melons blooming along the fence, the cats are napping, the air feels warm. It feels like home.

And I’m ok with that, too.

But, if I were writing this as some delicious, eccentrically, southern romance, this would be the moment in the story the broken gentleman says, “I do so love you, I truly do. I always will. But, I’m looking for a commitment, Honey. Not an affair with Mrs. Church….”

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When Somebody Already Loves Your Home

The landlord came over to pressure wash the house for us, so that I could start painting when ready. I walk out to chit chat with her, give updates on my end on what’s been happening around the house, and see what she has planned next. We spend the best time talking about what color the house should be, investigating our options. She said, “I’ll pull a piece that’s peeling from up there if you want to color match it.”

I guess I had this hesitant look on my face. I was so grateful when she said, “Just so you know, I’m not sold on the color of this house.”

“Oh, thank God,” I moaned with joy. “I think we should do something not too grey, but not too blue. Somewhere in the middle.” She agreed, asked for me to send her some samples and we’d take it from there. But, I already have paint for the shutters and the trim, so I’m going to go ahead and get started on that tomorrow. After all, my step ladder finally came! WOO HOO!

I couldn’t help but boast, “You know, we’ve been getting quite a few reactions from the neighborhood. People walk by doing double takes and can see the house slowly coming back to life.”

Then she said the most interesting thing. “Wow….you have no idea. It’s actually become something of a bother. I get emails, phone calls, messages….at least 6 to 8 a week from people asking me if I’d sell this home. It’s not for sale. Not at all.”

Oh, no….my heart kept sinking with every syllable that thundered the air. She continued, “No, I love this place. I’ve always loved this house. I can’t let her go.”

However, she suddenly held an expression on her face I don’t think I’ve ever seen on someone else when looking at this house. She was genuinely as much in love with it as I was. Not even Phillip has that gaze. No, you have to have lived here, at just right time in your life, to truly understand the attachment to this house, why some people will leave, but come back again, thinking they are coming back home.

She started laughing, pointing at the studio, “Hell, I wanna die of old age right there in the studio!”

I don’t know what came over, but I threw my hands on my hips and blurted with an hysterically stern, “Well, so do I!!!!”

A giggle slipped from her lips as I told her how I had been, “telling the Universe I’m going to buy this house. It makes perfect sense! You were the first tenant in the studio, then you came back and bought the house. Then I was your first tenant, and now I’ve come back to buy the house.”

The poor woman couldn’t contain her laughter…..a laughter that let me know she understood the feeling, she had lived it….I could tell that my admission of a dream to one day buy this house was something she was glad to hear.

So she said, “If I ever did sell it, it wouldn’t be for 10 or 20 years at least. This house, in this market, can easily go for $350k, $400k. So, it’s only going to get better for this house.” She’s no fool, she knows this neighborhood in 10 years is going to be a really sought after zone. You can already smell it in the air.

However, Honeychurch wouldn’t be mine, not for at least another decade. “10 years, huh?” I looked at the ground, twisted my grin, shuffled my feet, then raised my eyes with a very strutted out chin and said, “I bet you’ll change your mind if I cut you a check for $400k….”

“Are you planning on winning the lottery?”

“All I have to do is write a bestseller,” I reminded her and I with a wink.

She laughed a touch more and said with an appeasement, “All offers will be considered.”

We went on about our business and that was that. Now, never for a minute did I feel the universe said, “No, you will not own this house.” The Universe said quite the contrary. “Someone else loves this house just as much as you do. She worked very hard to get this house. Let her enjoy that same bliss that you do for as long as she feels she needs to….”

I didn’t walk away from our talk feeling that I was crushed, or broken. I felt that my being here was validated by her response. The day I moved in back in May, she made a point of pulling me aside to tell me how excited she was to have me live here again.

She respected a love for Honeychurch that I was ready to admit to. My landlord has experienced that love for this house. So, let her love this house as long as she wants. I wouldn’t want to deny anyone that kind of kinship to a home. Even if she doesn’t live here, I’m sure on dark nights, lonely days, or feeling down about life in general, she closes her eyes and thinks about being “back home,” back here.

And perhaps she loves this house so much, she couldn’t tolerate having this beautiful little place fall into the wrong hands. Perhaps, she’s just waiting for the right person to sell it to….And I think I passed the first test. 🙂

Actually, I’m not going to wait until tomorrow to paint the shutters and trim. I’m going to go do it now….spend some time quietly thinking how beautiful Honeychurch must feel knowing that so many people love her. She’s going to just smile wearing her new coat…

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Cluttered Head, Anxious Heart

…then suddenly, a hush.

A few blog posts back I was discussing an argument that kept ricocheting in my head, a venomous confrontation I was anxious to have with someone. Rather than proceed with that ridiculous reaction, I decided to forgive them instead. I sent an email with no subject line and no postscript. It needed to say only three words. “I forgive you.”

I’ll be damned if I didn’t notice today that the crazed confrontation I was having with this person in my head stopped. There have been days where that anger towards them has kept me from being truly alive. And at the same time, no matter what I did, no matter what positive affirmation I gave myself, that anger still found a way to brew within me, braising on the countless things I wanted to say to them.

But, the better part of me realized that I had no hope in saving myself from a continued life of pain if I didn’t utter just three words, praying that those three words could clean the both of us of history, allowing us to see each other as we are today….as adults, as people, as individual souls no longer bound to each other by bad memories.

It’s very hard to forgive, because you also have to let go of your own emotions. You have to wipe them clean and leave a tabula rasa ready to be filled with new memories, new feelings. It’s difficult to forgive because you have to let go of whatever malicious motive has fueled you up until now.

Once you forgive, you can no longer claim that your life is limited because of your victimhood. Once you forgive, you release someone else, and yourself, of an inequality. Because that is what forgiveness is supposed to correct: you have wronged me, but I love you enough to forgive.

And that is very hard to do when you are shackled with resentments and grievances. You cannot embrace the idea of justice with a full heart, if your mind is constantly replaying injustices over and over like some crazy carousel in constant rotation. You just spend your day being pained over and over again.

….or you can forgive, be done with the matter, and move on.

And yes, there has been a sense of lightness because of that; a noticeable easiness that allows me to proceed in life with a desire for joy. I no longer have boundaries, I no longer have limits.

Because I truly have learned that when you forgive someone, you ultimately recognize that you love them, truly love them, and want them in your life. I could say three words to this person, or nothing at all, forever, amen….and I hated the idea of that. I hurt at the thought of that. Because I love them….

What can I say? With all the clutter in my head being cleaned up, my heart is anxious to get in on the action. My mind had already resigned itself to forgiveness….my heart was just one beat behind.

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Mad Man Making Things

I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of it before. How foolish of me, how silly! I’m folding all of these really cool fabrics that we’ve been gifted, tucking them in boxes, hiding them in a closet. In the framework of my head, I think I’m being rational.

“Once we get some extra money, I’ll take them to a seamstress and have drapes made.” I closed the closet door and went to grab a coffee. While sipping and staring out the kitchen window, I had one of those sudden moments of “eureka.”

Gregory! What are you doing???? Why don’t you make them yourself??? 

I plopped down my mug and went back to the closet and pulled them out, holding them in my hands, suddenly inspired. And I’m so glad to report that there was no inner saboteur, no critical voice trying to convince of all the reasons I couldn’t learn to sew my own drapes. You don’t have a sewing machine. I’ll get one. You don’t know how to sew. I’ll learn.

None of that nonsense popped up as even a whisper. I felt creative juices moving, excitement over the possibilities of learning a new craft. Maybe I’ll make pillows, too! Hell….I might even learn to quilt!! Can you imagine? “Mad Man Quilting?” Ha! I think at that point my moniker would simply have to be, “Mad Man Making Things.”

And with Hobby Lobby just three blocks away, I could have an endless supply of fabrics. I could sew clothes for my bears!

A boom of enthusiasm catapulted my imagination. I started looking up youtube videos on how to use a sewing machine, tutorials for beginners, how to sew drapes, best machines for beginners. Then I went to Amazon to see what I could find. Now, I know nothing at all about sewing machines, nor even how to use them, so I’m relying on all of my seamstress readers to help me out. If you read this blog and know how to sew, your advice is needed now more than ever.

I picked out this little sewing machine for the price. With your knowledge and expertise, if you think this is the right machine for me, please let me know. If you have another in mind that I should look at, please direct me. And keep in mind, I’m on a budget, so I can’t go past the $50 range.

So, let me know in the comments if I’ve picked a winner of a machine for what I need, or if you have a better one in mind. And thank you all so much for your input!

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The Distance Between a Dream and Reality

If this is all that I end up with in life, then I’ve done very well for myself. I’m wealthier than I ever imagined.

We had a friend come to visit yesterday, and we love when he comes by because the conversations can morph and shift from light and hilarious to deep, committed talks about serious issues. He said something this last visit, something I found very touching. “I don’t have friends. I just have family and acquaintances….and I think of you guys as family.”

I’ll be damned if Phillip and I didn’t want to start crying right then and there. We love our friend, we worry about our friend sometimes. He loves to pursue gurus of self improvement, listening to their audio books, applying their messages to his life in order to finally fulfill that forever elusive idea of success.

We’re all very smart men, the three of us, the sort of men others might say are too smart for their own good. We are the strange men of gifts and talents that others viciously admit, “could have been anything they wanted….and ended up with nothing.”

But, then he says something that worried me. He proceeds to carry on with affirmations of success that read more like score cords, check lists for what success is: the big house, the swell bank account, the ladies dripping off of you, the people applauding you, respecting you. And he has been following this advice for the 6 years that I’ve know him and nothing has changed. This is why we worry about our friend.

So, I just had to pipe in. “I dunno, man. If this is the best that my life gets, I’m good with that. Sooo good with that. Look around you. I’m living in the little house I’ve always wanted, I have a husband that loves and thinks only of me, and I’m able to pay the bills and feed myself with the very gifts that God gave me. Look around! I love this life. I love this life. I’m happy. I wake up every day grateful for this life.”

“But, that’s just it. You’re disciplined. You wake up every day knowing you need to knit something or write something to achieve your goals. I admire that discipline.”

“Dude, you’ve got it all wrong. I don’t get up at 4am out of obligation. I get up that early because I love what I do so much that I can’t wait to rush back to something I’m knitting, or something I’m writing.”

“But, you want more, you talk about it all the time.”

“I don’t know if more is the right word. I want a continuation of my dream. Yes, I rent this house now, but I will own it one day. Yes, I have a ton of readers that follow my blog with loyalty, and one day that audience will grow. Yes, I have no money, but I will be blessed with what I need when the time comes….But, I’m certainly not going to wait for all of that to happen to be happy. Look around you! Everything I’ve ever wanted is here already…. I’m just dotting i’s and crossing t’s to make sure my dream becomes a reality.”

I think he understood what I was trying to say. In the pursuit of happiness we really have to catalogue what it is that we want out of life. When you start poking around in the soul, you sometimes find that what you’ve always wanted, you already have….and that the distance between imagining our dreams and making them reality is a lot shorter than you think it is.

But, most importantly, waiting for happiness can be a very said pursuit. Find happiness in your life now….then everything you’ve ever dreamed of will fall into place.

Ha! Then I couldn’t wait to show off my new rug for Honeychurch, then the fabric that was sent to us for drapes! “Look how wonderfully all the colors work!” You could see the shift in my friend’s face, as he has watched week after week this shell of a house becoming a home.

I think he began to realize that your dreams become realities one blessing at a time. Your dreams aren’t as far away as you think. Your dreams could be coming true one box of nails, one gallon of paint, one area rug, and one box of drapes at a time.

Your dreams could be coming true right now….

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Forgiveness Required For Entry

I was walking around Honeychurch a short while ago. I needed to stretch my legs, so I thought I’d map in my head how many gallons of paint I would need to cover this lovely old girl’s running mascara. I’ve decided on a color: that lovely hint of blue you see in the sky midday in spring. Something similar to the patches around the mailbox.

I’m so anxious to begin painting over the pain this house has seen, over the years of slow growing filth. She is hindered by a leisurely mudslide of beatings by the weather, a sedate decade or so of no one wanting to call it home.

In full disclosure, I’ll admit that I was also angry, steaming with rage and needed to find a way to relax. In the quest to battle demons, I’ve found it awfully hard to defeat that one: anger at someone specific.

There is this constant argument in my head with someone that I cannot shake, not for the life of me. And before you go skewing that last sentence, no it isn’t an imaginary someone, it is an argument with a definite someone that I keep replaying over and over in my head, an argument that hasn’t even happened, but one that I want.

I keep rehearsing all the horrible things I want to say to them, feeling that if I say them with sneers and foul language that I’ll suddenly, finally feel better; that I’ll be able to walk away more confident for having defended myself and slapped back.

The echo of this devilish desire resounds over and over in my head. Beautiful moments of joy are suddenly slashed with a sour shard of demonic dialogue between myself and this person. I just can’t seem to shake that anger, no matter how manically better the rest of my day is. Somehow this hint of aggression catches ground in my head and the next thing you know, it’s flourishing, becoming the only thing I can think about.

Stepping off the landing of Honeychurch I took left to inspect the wandering Jews bordering the fern hedge, then a few steps more and saw the gate that leads to the back yard. It is a very dark passage, nothing grows in this spot, for no light can get through. It is lined with dirt and dead mulch, bordered only by the shade of the house on one side, and the confines of a fence on the other. But there, just past that closed gate, you can see the limitless abundance of life, sunlight that radiates long after the sun has gone to sleep, and tons of beaming purple flowers carpeting a meadow that feels lush and velvety beneath your feet…. Just there, just beyond that barrier….

Forgiveness is required for entry. Absolutely no exceptions. You need no other clue, Gregory. You can’t come in and enjoy the beauty that this house, this life, this self, this soul, this experience as a human has to offer if you cannot forgive. If I didn’t forgive, I’d stay rooted on this grassless, lifeless path, canopied from the sun. I’d never get to enjoy the paradise of wealth just beyond that barrier. I’d stand here forever just looking at abundance and never really feeling it.

Honeychurch loves to talk to me with little symbolisms. She knows me very well. Once I was aware of the lesson I needed to learn today, I decided not to go marching through that gate with all the insincerity of someone suddenly “enlightened.” No.

We don’t get to open that gate to bliss, no the gate will decide if we’re allowed to pass through. Because entry to the heavens doesn’t just require that we have forgiven, but also that our forgiveness was sincere.

If you will excuse me, I have something I need to say to someone….

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A Field Trip With Phillip….

It was a bit like, “Take Your Husband on Your Routine Day.” And I loved every second of it.

I made my usual request last night when we were having dinner. “I’m headed to Publix tomorrow morning. If there’s anything you want, let me know now.”

He paused in mid-chew, raised his head and squinted through his head for something to get. I know that look. It is the look of, “which cookies or ice cream am I craving?”

I sat for a spell, mowing down spaghetti and meatballs, red sauce splattering my beard with every long bite, waiting with big eyes to hear what he wanted.

Imagine my amazement when he said, “You know, I think I’d rather go with you.”

I was shocked. My mouth left hanging wide with bewilderment so I had no choice but to utter after a pause, “You do realize I’m going on the 8am bus?”

“Sure,” he said with some sexy, ridiculous arrogance. “I can get up early.” And back to dinner we went, this leering eagle eye of mine peering at him with uncertainty.

Just before bed, I reminded him that I was going to wake him at 6 so that he had plenty of time to shower, have coffee, greet the world and be ready. “I want to be out that door by 7:40,” I boldly kept telling him with a schoolmarm’s scold.

I’m up at 5am the next morning. Coffee. Emails. Headlines. The world still hasn’t blown up. Fine. At 6am I sneak shyly into the bedroom with Phillip slumbering loudly with a snore. “Sweetheart?”

“Oh, my God, are you kidding me?” The dreary limp of his lips were trying hard to move, but all that came out was a slur, one hand smothering his mouth as he tried to talk.

“The coffee is waiting on you, man. Let’s go.”

“15 minutes….”

“I’ll give you 10.” I then start turning every light in the house on. You could hear him grumble.

As I suspected, after some coffee and time to scream at the TV about what was happening on the news, my husband was ready to proceed, and thankfully with a joy about him. We grabbed our shopping cart, Rolly, and were off to the bus stop.

]My husband was about to see for the very first time a day in my life. Not every day, just this one day I go shopping. I wanted him to see what it was like, was anxious for it, which is why I couldn’t wait to have my own little field trip with Phillip.

We bought our groceries and headed back home, which is about a mile and a half. Phillip is 6’3″ and 270 pounds and so strong he has a tendency to break Pyrex just by grabbing it. He decides he’s going to be the tough hero and pull the grocery cart home. Keep in mind, this cart is filled with a weeks worth of groceries. It’s heavy. You feel like a slug pulling it behind you, it’s so heavy. But, I do it. Every week. Loving every minute of my walk back home on East Washington.

Oh, and he huffs, and he puffs….He complains about his knees, a little more nonsense comes out of his mouth about his back. His head is aching because of his stomach, and his feet can’t seem to outstep the shopping cart. “Why aren’t we taking the bus back?”

I was walking with a lilt, no part of me focused on where I was going, but more focused on what I passed. I never document these walks of mine with pictures and things. I don’t think everything in life should be viewed through a lens….Sometimes you have to put the camera down, and view moments with your soul.

Now, if you were to ask me, East Washington Street is one of the most beautiful streets in Orlando. It is a stroll that lets you immerse yourself in the true beauty of this town. As you walk, you tour old, little bungalow homes cutting out their own acreage with uniqueness, each tucked under giant oaks, ferns that grow as big as antlers, and moss that grows as rich as velvet; houses that quietly surprise you with simple gardens. Dwarf grapefruit trees speckle one yard, while another pays homage to the colorful cosmos.

An interjection from Phillip, “It’s hot! Man, how do you do this every week?”

I have lived on this street, or near this street, for the the better part of 25 years, with some of those years spent straying to Savannah. But, I’ve never felt Savannah was home. Washington Street is home. Because as grand as those famous southern squares are, I don’t think they compare to the cozier, more natural feel than those slow steps you take from the clean and respectable fountain in Thornton Park to my little Honeychurch just past Bumby.

I’ve always loved East Washington. Year after year, I’ve watched these homes be rescued, be saved, given life to after years of neglect. And with each passing home owner, you watch the house grow more and more alive, as if each person that buys the home respects its true beauty as is, rather than trying to modernize, homogenize, or monetize it. These homes look exactly as they did when I was 19 years old…..but, better because of the people who wanted to buy them,  protect them, and keep them as they are.

Now, I get to make that trek once a week to Publix, then walk back again with my little shopping cart bouncing back and forth on the bricks. It takes longer than it should, for I tend to slow when going home so that I can enjoy those quiet little things that make a simple street a memorable neighborhood.

I love passing the one house that is so adorably accommodating to strangers. They have dog bowls with food and water out (always fresh! anytime I walk by!), a free stack of books to either contribute to or take from, a massive front deck with multiple tables and chairs, and this general comfort when walking by that everyone is welcome.

Phillip asks, “Why are you stopping?”

“Just wondering if there is anything I want to read….Ha! I can’t wait to put my book in there!”

Phillip takes a look. “Some of these books are pretty ok….”

I notice Phillip’s grouse turn to more of a grin, the more he slows down and sees that this weekly trip isn’t a chore. Not at all.

And then we hit the Washington Street Bridge….He keeps walking, but I pause to peek at the park that winds as a pathway beneath. It’s not quite 9am, the light is hitting us from the east as we head home, the sun blasting us with a bright shot of beaming ascension. I hear our shopping cart bouncing along as Phillip keeps walking, speaking clearly, assuming I’m still following behind him, “Oh, I like that tree,” he says. “Look at that! I want that tree. I need to come back and get a cutting. Dammit, why didn’t I bring my knife? Oh, well. I can always come back. It’s not that far. Really pretty houses, too….”

Yes, some moments are burned into the soul, others need to be captured on camera. So I pulled out my phone and caught him speaking to himself, totally understanding my trip to Publix, my walk down Washington Street, just as he was crossing the bridge home…

Just after I took this shot, he stopped, realized I wasn’t behind him. He sees me from a distance, this 6 foot, 103 pound sad bag of bright eyed bones staring back at him, burdened with hauling 50 pounds of food like a pack mule home every week.

Then I see him understand that he was walking in my shoes for a minute, as difficult as that might be. He complained at first, but began to slowly agree that the the trip home is something of a reward.

For, how in the world could I ever feel burdened when I’m blessed with being able to provide for my family, and being able to deliver it with such a beautiful walk? What more perfect path could you need towards home?

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