I’m a Teddy Bear. I’m Here to Help

If you don’t follow my social media, then perhaps you aren’t aware that I’ve been knitting a teddy bear….

It has been nearly 8 months since I’ve knit a teddy bear. I hilariously had to go look up my own pattern. Can you imagine? Holding the needles with a pause, I laugh while whispering to myself, “What the hell do I do next????” 

There were so many things on my mind as I started this little one, let alone if I could remember how to knit him up. There were so many other things. Would we recognize each other, would we be able to help each other. The more his face came to life the more I felt like I had received a message from a decades old friend that I had a falling out with. I smiled….You remember why you’re old friends: you pop into each other’s lives when you need them, despite whatever happened in the past. Because you truly do love each other.

Closer and closer to complete, he comes alive with that very reminder. I need him, more than he needs me and he knows that. So, he had no problem coming back to help me out.

I have about three weeks to find a new place. Not a lot of time, at all. I didn’t even need to think about it, didn’t even feel any panic. I grabbed some yarn and asked God, “Please bring back my friend. He’s always been there for me when I needed him, and I sure could use him right now.” 

208974316_482949782804995_6375245149940590321_nAnd with but a few hiccups, my little bear is showing up in bits and pieces, but in fine time. I caught myself staring at his face. I was mesmerized, wondering how we left things with each other and if he would care. But, it’s as if teddy bears can say with a glance of strong pride, “I’m a teddy bear. I’m here to help.”

These teddy bears have not only saved my life, but have also reached down to help me up a rung every single time. My teddy bear is going to help me find a new place. He always has. This bear is already spoken for, but expect to see a lot of him and others like him over the next weeks. When he does help me, I plan to make sure this little bear has the time of his life. I’m going to make sure he gets the celebration he deserves.

This bear also reminded me of a young adult book I wrote a few years ago. I hadn’t thought much about it lately, but while working on this bear I popped open a copy of “The Teddy Bear That Saved Me,” just to see what I was thinking while writing it. There is more of a detailed account of my childhood in that book, but what I thought was more beautiful was something akin to the present, and some hope for the future.

The little bear then jumped off the bed, sauntered across the room and climbed the chest to look out the window to see Jackson sitting with Phillip in the grass. Little wildflowers were all around them, the sun making all of their colors brighter than ever….The little bear said, “I really WANT to do something special for Jackson. I feel like I want to help him get better so much. Sooo much. It’s all I think about. I’d like to see them sit in the grass together forever, but Jackson won’t be able to if he’s sick….”

For a writer? I don’t know how often you look back at what you’ve written, but I certainly don’t. No, I’m too busy writing to read my own things, and wonderful things other authors have written to give interest in something I penned “a long time ago.” 

But, how amazing something written so long ago….is so telling of now. 

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Clutching at Anything

 

Yep. So I have a marriage that is slowly fading away, a cat that is slowly doing the same, and I do feel this desperate desire to clutch at anything I can to make me feel better. And the one thing I keep clutching to is the idea that this is all for the better. These are not endings, these are beginnings. These are attempts to find some happiness before it’s too late. I love clutching to my work. Knitting was always an escape from the pain I was living in, desperate for some solid life, some stable ground, as hope was born in every stitch. I started a blog so I could speak freely about my life, so that I could write an open memoir for anyone passing by to read. These boney fingers have slammed these keys in an ever desperate state to stay optimistic and they won’t stop now.

But, I would be lying if I said I didn’t have some of those days where I feel overwhelmed at the idea of it all. It’s a bit much, you know? My cat of 17 years is dying, my husband and I are separating, I’m looking for a new place to live, and my artwork is pretty much what I rely on for work. (And this is where those boney hands slam, “You did it before, you can do it again!”)

Because instead of thinking of all the marvelously disastrous things going on my life, I’m focusing more on how wonderful this ride has been so far, how fun it has been….and of all those beautiful things to come. From homeless to entrepreneur, from ignored to celebrated, (and even from celebrated to contagious)….from feeling that poverty was living without nothing, to understanding how having nothing gave me everything I’ve wanted so far. 

So, I do understand and recognize the reality of what is happening around me….and I’m desperate for it to all be over and done. The misery of watching little Mario suffer as she does is my fault. I have to deal with that issue. I have to. Much like my marriage with Phillip, one of us had to say, “This needs to be done.” 

But, at the same time, I refuse to fall into those traps that depression loves to hand you. I will not look upon these moments as the most tragic of all time, for that would be a lie. All loss is tragic…until you love and then lose something else all over again, then realize that life moves as it should. If you’ve lived life you already know that loss is experienced just as often as love is… And just as beautifully painful. It’s best not resist that truth in life….for that would only bring resentment if things don’t stay perfectly as they are forever. You have to grow….more so: you have to admit that life is just as much about accepting loss as it is about accepting love. Both can be tremendously difficult to do.

208964149_492992521811936_5787636069338731127_nI’m not scared, I’m….apprehensive. (Same word, but more gentile, I guess). There is a tremendous amount of fear, but not where you may think. I’m not afraid of the day I move into my own tiny little place with Betty at my side (she’s my baby torti), crockpot bubbling with Bolognese, a ton of creative work to do, and a slew of new opportunities awaiting us.

No, my friends. I fear the days before that happens, where I finally have to let Mario go, and walk out of that front door for the last time, kissing Phillip on the cheek to say “Good bye” for the last time.

I will be leaving the life I’ve had for so long. Those days are coming sooner than I had wanted them to, but they are coming. Those are the days I fear. Because that’s when you remember that this is really happening and it cannot be undone. As much as you wish things would stay perfectly the same forever, life moves as it should.

So, I’m clutching at anything that makes me happy right now…. 

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Stay and Be Angry, Or Pursue Joy

I thought I’d clarify a few things about my last blog post.

20210625_220141To begin with, Phillip and I still love each other deeply. We just cannot live together, not right now. This photo was taken just a few minutes ago while we were talking about our separation with reason….not with emotion. We were watching “Downton Abbey” (our go to for ‘feel good’) and were off handedly discussing how much we were looking forward to time apart. There are so many things we have realized that we cannot give each other, things that we both separately, desperately need if we are going to find any sort of happiness with ourselves, let alone each other.

My reasons are not that complex, not that hard to fathom, but some of you read it as fatal :). I want to live alone, live a solitary life, working on my craft….for in those moments I find myself closer to God. In those moments I often work in silence and tend to feel the contemplative nature of whatever it is that I am doing while in a creative state. I want to pursue that with every rigorous desire you can think of: to be aligned as often as I can with God. That does not mean that I want to run away from the world, shut myself away and be left alone. No, no, no!

You don’t desire to live a solitary life, or even something similar to a monastic life, if you are not thoroughly prepared to embrace the world while separated from it. You step aside for a while so that you can reflect on how much you LOVE the world. You don’t dash off to be alone with anger….because anger will just end up being your roommate. I want to live alone, live something close to a monastic life, so I can spend more time writing to you, embroidering for you, because that is when I am happiest, closest to God, closest to myself, then therefore, allowing myself to be close to you, all of you, humanity at large.

No, you don’t decide to live in any sort of solitary tradition with a disdain for life. The solitary life requires a desire for riches in life, in blessings, in prayers, in gratitude, in co-creating, in the love of simplicity, in the desire to connect to the soul, (not just mine, but yours, too), in the reaching for the best possible feeling of joy you can ever imagine, lived nearly every moment of every day….THAT is why you decide to spend time with God.

You NEVER say “God, I’m coming to you because I cannot tolerate people.” He’ll likely slam the door on you. And you’ll be stuck with you and your dislike of everything….and I do mean everything. But, if you hear God saying, “Come over for a minute, let’s spend some time together. Just you and I,” you begin to feel a sense of desire that is toward a feeling of beauty, rather than a focus of bitterness. When done well, that feeling of beauty can and should become a way of life….because that reach for those moments of bliss and joy are where life suddenly begins to make sense. If anything, you learn life is more rewarding when you find that you would rather pursue moments of joy as often as you can, rather than stewing in a vat of the things you find bitter about existence. Stay here and be angry….or move towards a desire for joy.

And that is why Phillip and I still love each other deeply. We are helping each other to find happiness, and seeing the results…The realization of how good moving forward is keeps reminding us that there isn’t a desire to end something between us, but a desire to help each other in whatever it is the other is seeking. There is a deep bond there.

So, yes. I will still be blogging and writing and embroidering and….whatever else my hands decide to design. I am not LEAVING anything, nor anyone (definitely not Phillip, and certainly not you). 🙂

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As I Leave Honeychurch

This is the blog post I’ve avoided writing. But, I’ve asked Phillip for his permission and he said, “Yeah…I think it’s ok to go ahead and tell everyone.” That was heavy, because it meant that we had to finally admit that it was over.

We tried. Phillip and I really tried to reconcile our marriage, but it hasn’t worked. Why it wasn’t working, we will get to in a minute, but we could see in each other’s eyes the same terrified truth. “It’s over….isn’t it?”

Phillip and I have been talking about this for the last two weeks, so don’t think this is a sudden eruption. No. We realized a few weeks ago that our time living together was finished. (Hence my asking him permission if it was the right time to go public). And in that time we have done everything possible to support each other in how we move forward. We are not enemies. We are…..(tearing up, sorry)….we are the best of friends. We don’t have anyone else but each other. So, in a beautiful twist of irony, we’re helping each other move away from each other….because we rely on each other now. We love each other.

Now, we discuss the central reason that our relationship has come to this place. You might have been waiting for me to say it failed. It has not. It has changed. Phillip has know for a very long time, longer than I might admit to myself, but he saw long ago that I was supposed to be living a solitary life.

My monastic nature is not some whim I write about, Phillip lives with it. He can attest to the hours I spend in the darkest hours of the night in “ora et labora.” (He will also attest to my chastity for the past four years).

Lately, that call has grown stronger. Phillip saw me weep and drop to my knees the day a letter arrived from a monastery in Chicago I did not know of. It was just delivered in the mail proclaiming, “we’re praying for you, Gregory. Now and forever.”

So, Phillip is not at all angry at the evolution in our relationship, for he understands I’m not leaving him. I’m just going to live somewhere else by myself so I can be with my God and love Him, and Phillip, and you, and the rest of the world ten times more. I’m not joining a monastic order. Ha! At least not yet. No, I need to go live alone as the last 25 years have constantly tried to remind me. Hell, even Thomas Merton at some point said to his abbot, “You know? The monks are a little loud. I’d like a place of my own in the woods so I can hear God and God only.”

I kinda feel like that. And  Phillip knows it and has been so encouraging about this whole situation. As a matter of fact, I insist he stay over my first night in my new place, because I’ll be terrified and….I couldn’t think of a better person to be there. And we are NOT getting divorced….Not at least until he finds someone he really wants to be with. Until then, he can count on me for anything and everything that I vowed to do: be with him when he’s sick, happy, rich or poor….

UntitledI don’t have a place to go yet, so we’ve decided I should find my place to be in about 5 weeks, by the end of July. Phillip will stay here and get a roommate. And I? If I’m following God’s calling then God will find the spot for me. A studio, two hundred square feet, hot plate, crockpot, microwave, my desk at a window with a screen that I can open and breathe fresh air while I write, and a spot for me to cuddle my little cat as we watch old movies and doze off to sleep. I saw this one. It’s a block away from here. And I have to say that I feel called to it….

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The First Cold Frost of Granny

My first memory of my grandmother was at the Jacksonville Zoo. I was about 6 years old, being tugged from animal to animal, her hand tightly gripped around mine. My little head dropping to spy those famous mushrooms or turtles she used to patch onto the cuffs of her trousers letting everyone know her brand. I made these….
 
I know this memory easily because there are pictures to prove the day actually happened. Faded polaroid photos prove it. I’m the tiniest of things, snatched tightly by the hand of my grandmother. She has her famous trousers, her high Victorian collar, her hair in a French Twist and set with egg whites….
 
That day we went to the Jacksonville Zoo she paraded me through the park in a little blue jumpsuit she had made for me. (And of course, a million pictures were taken. You do that to six year olds when you adults play dress up). The blue of the jumpsuit matched my huge wave of carrot red hair, as speckles and freckles dotted my nose, a simple pair of brown sandals letting loose my little toes. She was doting on me that day, clutching my hand for dear life….because she knew she was about to lose me.
 
204916377_336352931461629_8746382414392243583_nMy father was going to be stationed in Germany and she wasn’t going to see, nor hear, nor even know very much about this little thing she had come to love so much. It’s a bit like falling in love with a kitten and wanting to spend your whole life with it…and someone comes in and says, “Well, I hate to tell you this, but as much as you love that little guy, he’s not your kitten.”
 
So, she knew she was going to lose me for three years at least. Three Christmases, birthdays, graduations, milestones. Three years of not knowing who you’re going to be when you come back…..Three years of not being able to hold this little baby that I’m so getting to know. “Will you remember me? Will you still love me? Will you still know me?”
 
She famously made another outfit for me for our arrival in Germany. We leave Jacksonville in August, the usual humid breezes hotter than the sun itself. My grandmother made me a little pair of shorts with overall straps. That’s it. A little bit around the waist and a pair of suspenders. No t-shirt. Comfortable and cool.
 
We arrive in Frankfurt 8 hours later and it’s about 40F degrees. I walk off the plane and begin to shiver. I am a six year old who is the size of a pea, wearing nearly nothing. My mother starts rushing through the airport, trying to find clothes for me. She can’t take off her own shirt because she was also dressed for comfort and cool and would have been topless! I’m frigid, shaking. Turning blue. Freezing to death on the tarmac. Stewardesses, other passengers come to toss clothes on this tiny little boy who grew cold, suddenly cold, can’t get warm, can’t get warm at all.
 
There are also two pictures of that moment. I don’t have them, someone does. Me nearly nude in my granny’s clothes she made for me looking lovely as we leave Florida, and another after…..draped in scarves and shirts with a terrified face as we arrive in Frankfurt.
 
This is a fun story my family loves to tell….But, it went deeper with granny and me. My first memory was of someone tugging me to look at things, imploring me to explore, and to create. Now, the second memories I have in life are of that same beautiful tug being let go, and the frigidness that came almost immediately afterwards.
 
UntitledI felt she loved me, but had intentionally let me go. I felt safe with her at that moment as a baby. I felt protected. And when that hand wasn’t there anymore, well…. that, and a slew of things to follow would keep both of us in a shaky, frigid cold state for a long time. It was 10 years later she decided to come spend time with me in Europe, plopping herself down next to me at a bar in Berlin. With high Victorian collar, powder blue pant suit, French Twist and turtled patched ankles crossed, she asked, “So, what are we drinking?”
 
Dressed in all black, I toss my floppy Mohawk back and say, “Something warm.”
 
“Coffee?”
 
“No, something with a sting,” I say with a slur.
 
I know why she’s here. I’m about to be kicked out of school. No entity on Earth, no family connection, no father’s clout, no mother’s prayer, not even the Grande Dame of our family could save me….And she had traveled across the globe to find out why.
 

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“You Have to Believe in Me….”

I struggled today. I really did. I struggled with trying to believe in my faith. Now, that isn’t to say that I was suddenly doubting whether or not I believe in God….but, it actually was like that. 

I do not doubt His existence. Never would I ever let the words, “I don’t believe in God,” fall from these fingertips. (Damn, I just did). But, I was challenged in my belief that He will provide.

I was struggling to sell today, yesterday, the day before, and considering the struggling I’ll be met with tomorrow just to sell to keep the lights on, to feed myself, to take care of whatever madness suddenly happens….

I kept staring at the internet, watching my own panic erupt into a state that was probably necessary for the moment. For in those moments of panic, I swore I heard God whispering in my ear, “Would you please calm down? Have I not made sure you are fed? That your health is tended to? That you have friends? When you’ve not needed and asked, Have I not given you what you asked of Me?”

Suddenly, it was like Psalms were swaying in my head, lilting with beautiful imagery of a man who keeps trying to remind himself that yes, God will provide….but, still doubting the whole time.

And I kept dropping the price of my cushion cover and undervaluing myself because I was afraid if I asked too much, it wouldn’t sell. And if it didn’t sell, then I can’t pay the internet bill. And that would be a disaster.

Then God said, “It won’t sell right now.”

Why not?

“Because you still don’t trust that I will take care of you, Gregory….Please, just believe that I will give you everything you ask for, and even MORE, if you will let Me. That is all I want to do for you. That is how much love I have for you. I want to give you, provide for you everything you want. But, you have to trust me.”

How?

203882394_320753436205972_7831301177796043269_n23“I ask only three things. One, that you trust that I love you and will give you everything you wish. Second, I ask that you love yourself, for in doing so you reflect on how you are a beautiful spark in the fire that is Me. When you do so, you feel how much love we have for each other. Third, that love and warmth that we share, I want you to share with your husband, for he is the first person near you now. Share with him the love that You and I feel for him and all others at any given time, and I will give you everything that you’ve ever asked for…..”

So, this is one of those moments where I forget about embroidery, knitting, selling, promoting, writing; I put this blog post down, grab my husband by the hand, sit outside as the sun goes down and just relish in that feeling

Because I trust Him. I believe everything is going to be ok….

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The Madam and Mr. Brown

Madam and BrownFinally! Yes! I am so excited about this! Now, I had originally tried to publish this book a few years ago in serial form. I foolishly tried to write the story backwards. What can I say? I was trying to be all “artsy.” Most of the few people that read those first installments thought that it should be rewritten with the beginning of their story where it should be: at the beginning of the book! (Trust your audience!) And a serial wasn’t working. No, it’s a cute story about two broken people who find each other just when they need each other. That’s all it really needs to be. Just a really nice and simple love story that will fill your heart with joy. So, I’ve been working and working and working on this baby and it’s finally ready to read in its final form. And I do so love the story, I truly do.

Since money is really tight right now, please grab a copy in my shop. If I sell just 10 copies, I’ll feel a lot better about whatever pressures I’m financially under at the moment. A really good book could fix that for me. Go read! 🙂 Click here for my shop.

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Tips For and From a New Embroidery Artist

vlcsnap-2021-06-10-12h31m00s444I was passing through instagram this morning, exploring #embroidery when I came across quite a few people who were trying this beautiful needlework for the first time. Wow, have I learned so much in the last six months, a ton of valuable information that I might be informative. So, I uploaded a little video of Tips For and From a New Embroidery Artist.

I’m not really working on a project now. I finished my pillow yesterday and sold it within an hour (Thank you, GOD!) But, with no work and no job, I have to start another one right away. I’d love to work with a client, a commissioned job, working on a pillow cushion cover (Because I do so love their flexibility). So, take a look at the video. And if you’d like a custom piece of any kind done, please please be in touch at madmanknitting@gmail.com. I really could use the work. Thank you!

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My Job Interview Tomorrow

Well! I have a job interview tomorrow.

Am I nervous? Not really. I’m a fully confidant, capable person. I’m smart, talented, witty, gifted….and the horn can keep tooting if we all wish, but….the truth is, I’m building up my own sense of self esteem.

Here, at Honeychurch, in front of this desk, in front of you, in front of my friends and the world, I’m safe. It sounds off. Weird. I’ve always felt safe with the spirit of people, rather than actual people. People hurt, souls don’t.

It’s a job that I think I’ll be good at. I can’t tell you where, and can’t tell you for whom because….well, we already have too many people showing up at Honeychurch, can’t have ya’ll showing up rooting for me on my first day at work. 🙂 (I can see the management asking me, “Who are YOU????”)

Snapshot_20210606_13So, I’m anxious and prepping. Like an octogenarian model being asked to pose again, I’m pulling out all the stops. Face scrubs, brows tweezed, eye cream, hand cream, clothes pressed, hems sewn, head shaved, whiskers trimmed, winning smirk ready to charm. Tomorrow morning will look like the opening scene of “Mommie Dearest.” While the coffee is perking, I’ll be burying my face in hot water and witch hazel.

I could be interviewing to work at 7-11 or a law firm. You wouldn’t know it. The same respect is paid. I’m showing you who I am. Doesn’t matter the job. Either job will get the absolute best that I am.

I’m really excited because, I can’t stress how much this might allow me so many more opportunities that I was never allowing myself before….and of what opportunities are waiting for me, ready for me to eagerly snatch up and enjoy….just over there at the edge of my imagination.

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A Challenge From Phillip

196958915_182947030498267_4289465694980948041_nThe funniest thing about creativity is it’s collaborative nature. 

Phillip and I were watching a movie last night, just chit chatting about his new adventures in making these concrete planters called “Growbotpots.” Phillip is a very creative, artistic person in the tangible sense. He can make all kinds of things with his hands. I sometimes like to look at the artistry in action, like marketing. There is a definite art form in that, something a little more cerebral, and I simply adore putting my own things down for a minute and playing around with the promotion of art, rather than the art itself. Phillip constructs, I take to market.

So, while we’re talking last night, he was reminding me that everything on this shelf was for sale…..ok, I guess I’m being a little friendly to myself by saying that. Ahem. He was nudging me, as if to say, “What are you waiting for? All of these are ready to sell!” Well, I better get off my duff and get to work! I was up bright and early…..

196655500_852297345367202_6454030458053124679_nHe’s still asleep while writing this, and I won’t mention a word of it to him, but I’m anxious for him to get up, have his coffee, scroll through his phone and see a ton of his Growbotpots listed in the shop. I had soooo much fun taking the totem picture. It really does start to build a story around his pots, something whimsical, like forgotten artifacts from a newly discovered land where robots used to build pots, modeled after each other, to grow plants in. 

There are four in the shop at the moment, and I know what you’re thinking, “Dang, the shipping on those things must be insane!” No, not really. They weigh about 7 pounds, which is only about $16. We sold and shipped one last week to see how things would mail. Beautifully, his first pot arrived without incident and without any extra needed postage. Hooray! So, with our shipping test run a success, here I am.

They’re all $55, which does include the shipping. And Phillip does sign and date them all, so instead of thinking of them as planters, truly embrace the idea of them being functional pieces of art. 

They’re in the shop and ready to go…..and oh, I would love to see the look on his face while scrolling through his phone that his pots have sold out! I think that would really impress him. Hell, he might even do a spit-take with his coffee. 🙂