The Joy In Trying A New Pattern

It’s an interesting day here at Honeychurch. But, in order for you to appreciate how different today is, we’re going to have to go back a few.

I wrote the blog post about my drastic weight loss. I posted a photo of my torso, showing how bad it had gotten, and how I hadn’t even noticed it was happening. It took a random step on a scale screaming “105 lbs” to get my attention.

There is some concern for my health, of course, but I really tend to think it’s stress. I feel that. I don’t feel ill. But, I do feel….terrified, constantly. Brave faced against agoraphobia, I seem to have done just fine. But, accepting the world as it is, this new pattern of life and behavior, I just can’t seem to move past, get my head around. And my reaction to stress is to subconsciously stop eating. Who knows why, but at least I know it exists.

Then late last night I received a gift in the mail. The box was heavy and huge, heaving at the seams with Styrofoam. Quickly, Phillip and I begin to unwrap, stubborn tape sticking hard to the cardboard. Let me in! What is it???

And with one dramatic and beautiful drop, the walls of packed styro plopped to the floor to reveal a small garden statue of the Blessed Mother.  I may not have wept allowed, but I assuredly fell to my knees to smile in my own way of crying. I felt like everything was going to be ok.

This morning I placed her under the ligustrum. It’s right by the cottage, just right outside the room where I write, where I knit, where I spend my time in reflection. I can see her over there right now. It’s more than just a reminder of her grace and love, but a strong symbol of someone I have never met, hearing me, seeing what I write, understanding me…..and sending me this particular gift, just when it was needed. And I don’t think that any devotion to Our Mother would be lost if I said allowed that I see more than Our Lady when I see that statue. I see all the love and care all of you have shown me.

(By the way! Interesting shot! It was one of those typical, humid, grey Florida mornings where everything glows with this ethereal halo….when seen through a foggy camera lens.)

So, today is Phillip’s day off. We’re setting me on a pattern, a new pattern. Food, in small amounts, is being introduced into my system, one spoonful at a time. We have high protein goodies at the ready.

Every half hour I need to eat a table spoon of either hummus or egg salad. We have bolognese cooking in the crockpot (my friend Giovanni is nodding his head like a lovely Italian mama right now), and I’ll have about a cup of sauce with a cup of pasta, no bread, and eat it slowly. It doesn’t matter how long it takes me to eat dinner, sit….relax, be with my husband, watch a movie and slow down.

I didn’t want to knit a teddy bear today. I know I should, it pays the bills. Bear after bear, paw to mouth. I wanted to do something different, a different pattern, something I don’t normally do, if just to get out of my head.

Now, my new knitting friend came to visit last week. We had a wonderful time, just a marvelous time. She handed me a copy of patterns for teddy bear clothes and asked if I’d like to try them. I kinda shrugged them off. “Oh, good Lord, those things will take me forever.”

“No,” she said. “I don’t think it would take you that long.”

So today while the slow cooker began to simmer, I pulled out those patterns and dove in. An hour later, I rip everything up and start again. Another hour later, screwed everything up. Start over. I’m now getting damned and determined to figure out why I can’t get this to work…..

I read the instructions again and again and tried once more to understand what the problem was only to find that the one pattern emblazoned on my brain, born now into my muscle memory, the teddy bear, was blocking me. I read her pattern, sure. But, my muscles, my mind, my redundancy had me trying to fit a teddy bear in there somewhere. She said, K2, P1…..My hands said, k2, p2, over and over again.

You see the metaphor, right? Patterns can teach you all kinds of things. I was so locked in this particular one pattern in my hands (in life!) that I couldn’t even consider trying something new.

You know, it was the first time I’d knit from a pattern in years. I had forgotten how much fun it was to accomplish something you’d never made before. I had forgotten the obsession you get with moving on to the next stitch, watching the yarn deliver a passion to see it’s completion. I took notes, in my own particular fashion, so I wouldn’t lose my place. I don’t use counters and such. I use my own little strange code that maybe only this mad little head understands. It may look the I-Ching to you, but it looks like the pattern for a sweater to me. 🙂

I dove in with a delightful need to do something, anything different than a teddy bear, even if it were clothes for the little guy, it still was something different. I’ve spent the greatest portion of this day working on that sweater, the aroma of the bolognese blowing through the air, the Blessed Mother just over there, reminding me of how I’ve been blessed with care. My enthusiasm for this new pattern was compelling me to keep going because I was having fun! I felt a joyousness working that little sweater up, because it was so deliciously different than what I’ve been feeding my soul….

(Yes, I use a lot of metaphors).

And now I’m about done with the little garment, and before it’s even finished, I’m already anxious to start another one, because I had the best time rediscovering the joy in a new pattern.

If you appreciate my work and would like for this blog to continue, please donate to help keep it going. I wouldn’t have the courage to do it without your support. And right now? I can safely say that EVERY dollar counts. Thank you. 

 

 

Obviously, Something is Wrong

It’s about 1:30 in the morning. I’m accustomed to usually waking up close to this hour, rather than ending my day this late. But, Phillip has been closing the restaurant where he works lately, bringing him home somewhere around 1am. If I ever want to see him, or get some decent sleep, I’ll wait up for him. We will happily adjust to the schedule despite being “crack o’ dawn” people. I’m glad he’s at least working. At least we have that in our favor and I am so grateful. He’s heading to bed, I’m going to write for a minute.

Throughout today, I’ve wrestled with whether or not I wanted to write this post. I have been honest about much of my life…scribbling almost daily every single detail. But, I felt this post would be too honest, maybe something that should be kept private.

Obviously, something is wrong.

I went to Publix this morning. I missed the first bus because it can only have so many people on it due to social distancing. It drove by with a roar of its engine and a big sign that said, “BUS FULL.” The next one would be by in another hour….hopefully.

I made it to Lake Eola, saw the Angel, gave her a few dollars and a good morning, then did my grocery shopping. (Side note: the Lantana roasted garlic hummus was buy one, get one free. That and some pita were the  first thing on my list). I grabbed a few more staples, headed to the checkout, paid, and was on my way.

If you’re unaware, every Publix has this huge scale in their front lobby. Out of some strange curiosity I stepped up to see just what I weighed….

105 pounds.

I thought I was going to pass out. All the blood dropped from my face and I nearly stumbled off the scale. I clenched my chest and inhaled, my eyes closing, my heart trembling. This can’t be right.

I saw the man to my left. “Sir? Are you aware of about how much you weigh? I just want to see if this scale is off.”

“Sure!” He steps on, watches the dial flip back and forth with a bounce before landing. “Yep, that’s right.”

I walked home through the park, one hand pulling Rolly behind me, the other trying to keep my pants up. I write this now because it makes sense. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been having to pull my pants up every 10 minutes or so and I was blaming my belt. Thought it was shot and that I needed a new one. It never dawned on me that it was my own body withering away.

This panic, this dread started to swallow me as I walked home because I feel fine. I didn’t think anything was wrong! But, obviously something is. I’m a little tired, but again, back to our adjusted schedules. I haven’t had very much of an appetite, but I’ve always been something of a grazer.

I don’t know if it’s physical or mental. My body doesn’t feel wrong, if that makes any sense. But, I know that I’ve always been inclined to stop eating (subconsciously!) when I am stressed. I have to underline that because I don’t want to give the impression that I purposely stop eating when I feel stressed. I don’t think about food. My appetite just doesn’t seem to surface.

I often sit here, knitting in hand, bear parts being sewn up thinking, “I’ll eat when I’m done with this bear,” only to be distracted with, “Actually, I need to go ahead and start on another one so we can pay bills. I’m fine. I’ll skip lunch for now and have a big dinner later. I’ll have a little corner of pita and a touch of hummus for the moment.”

Big dinner comes? I’ll eat three fries, half a cheeseburger, hand the rest to Phillip and say, “I need to wash my hands and get back to work.”

Maybe it’s just the stress of this whole weird new world. Maybe this atrophy is just part of the new human normal. I can’t be the only one to have emaciated somehow because of the enormous changes our lives have gone through….

I have always had a problem with my weight, yes. But, when it dips, I reflect and take note. Something is stressing me out. The most I ever weighed was 130 pounds. I was gorgeous, lived at the beach, workout during the day, ate steak at night. I was also 27. The least I ever weighed was 115, and that was when I was homeless. But, today that scale said to me, “Take this note. You are 47 years old, you are 6 foot tall, and you weigh 105 pounds.”

Obviously, something is wrong.

If you appreciate my work and would like for this blog to continue, please donate to help keep it going. I wouldn’t have the courage to do it without your support. And right now? I can safely say that EVERY dollar counts. Thank you. 

 

 

 

 

I’m Calling Her The Angel

I’m calling her the Angel.

I’ve reported in these post often the people I come across in my life. It is not surprising that most of them are homeless. I make a point of paying attention to them when I’m out and about. God knows, people walking by staring at their devices don’t see them. So, someone has to.

I was talking about the Prophet in one of my previous posts. He is this enormous homeless man covered in sores and rashes, wearing a burlap bag like a monk’s habit, etching out a biblical verse on the back of card board with a Sharpie, leaving dozens of them at bus stations city wide. His calling card, “Isaiah.”

I wasn’t surprised to finally meet the Angel.

I first saw her in passing, coming out of Publix with my groceries. Food in hand and happy in the morning sun, I will admit to a lovely lilt in my step. A little bounce. I passed this homeless woman in a wheel chair with tons of just STUFF hanging off of it eating a can of Chef-Boyardee cold out of the can with a plastic fork. She saw me, giggled as if she were embarrassed, as she took another bite and said, “Nice morning.” I smiled back and said, “Yes, it is!”

And that was that….or, so I thought.

I was at Publix a week later, hunting down all the scribbled items on my list when I turn an aisle to find her again. She was resting in her wheel chair in the cooler section of the store, sitting by the yogurt and sour cream. She seemed nearly half asleep, her eyes spying the cold grocery case, heaving quietly to breathe in the cold manufactured air. Her eyes were dreamy, as if she were thinking how nice it would be to sleep….

I reached slightly by her to grab Phillip’s coffee creamer, she noticed me and said, “Sorry….,” and rolled away, passing through the aisles with her large wheel chair just covered in grocery bags. Your heart just breaks. Because you don’t know what broke this total stranger to make them this way. But, you just feel awful. You want to do something for people like her.

Then I saw her this morning. We paid rent. Thank God, we paid rent. There was a little left over so I spent hours last night working up an excel spread sheet. Phillip will tell you that I am famously always pinching the last penny to get as many BOGOS as I can for as few dollars as we have. And I am proud of that. It is an ART!

Down to the penny, list in hand, I was stepping with that little lilt back to Publix to buy groceries. The sun is up, the humidity is low, the bus ride is one of the prettiest in the world. I meander past the Prophet, both of us lifting masks as we pass each other, when the lady in the wheelchair catches my attention. I see her waving me over.

“Do you have 50 cents?”

I stood staring at her. I noticed her face was a lot younger than the rest of her. Her hair looked like Celie’s from the Color Purple. I also then realized that she didn’t have legs, and what stumps remained were caked in old skin and brown blisters.

And then I saw her eyes….I am accustomed to seeing what the eyes of a battered person looks like. Mine, yours, ours always tend to look the same. Our eyes look a little haggard, a little sad. Hers didn’t. No. They were big, brown and bright. There was nothing there that screamed of anger, of fear, nor even bitterness.

I said, “I don’t have 50 cents on me now, but when I’m done shopping I can get some cash back, if that’s ok.”

“Oh, thank you so much.” She reached for my hand, but I just couldn’t offer it. The world has demanded a certain distance from all of us….in all manner of life it seems now. Everyone is further apart than they have ever been.

I pop into Publix to shop. I’m walking through the aisles, staring at the list, grabbing, grabbing, grabbing….thinking….staring…..praying…..then found myself putting everything back. I picked up a loaf of bread, some deli meat, coffee creamer for Phillip, paid for it, asked for cash back.

I came out to find her with another cracked can of cold Chef Boyardee and a plastic fork. I handed her the difference in the very palm of her hand in what was nothing but a casual hand to hand, covid be damned, salute to an old fashioned and quiet, “Here, please take this.”

I’ll be damned if she didn’t stab the fork in the can, hold my hand and say, “Thank you for seeing me, bless you.”

I began to walk on, peeking back at her as I left.

Those multitudes of grocery bags looked like feathers, like plumes resting layer upon layer on either side of her wheelchair. White bags, tan bags, familiar bags we all come home with, looked like a set of puffed wings on either side of her. That was when I decided to call her the Angel.

Rather than wait for the bus, I decided to walk home and think. And again, it’s a lovely walk through some wonderful neighborhoods with pretty things to look at. Pretty things to look at can turn a long walk into an enjoyable hike. Everything is in perspective.

I cried when I got home. Walked right by that little studio apartment that had saved me from homelessness, right up the steps to the main house, right through the front door of Honey church and quietly wept with the door at my back. I was glad Phillip wasn’t home. He knows I don’t really like to cry in front of people. I somehow think it’s rude. Don’t ask me why I do, I just do. But, why was I so emotional? Why was I…..well, sobbing?

I have no idea who this woman is, nor even why I was so touched in the heart when I passed her that very first time. I was taken in by a simple wave and a smile and just couldn’t shake that beautiful innocence in someone so forsaken.

I thought about the studio apartment next door and begin to dream so lovingly that if I do (will, I tell the Universe) one day own this place, I could use that little studio for someone like her. That studio is perfect for someone in need like her. And maybe that’s why the Universe brought me back here. God said, “I have an idea for you. It’s going to take a while, but you’re going to love every step of this journey, I promise you. You’re going to have a house that is more like a church, full of love, prayer, hope and grace. And you’re going to have a little refuge in that space for souls I send your way….”

Why wouldn’t that make you cry?

If you appreciate my work and would like for this blog to continue, please donate to help keep it going. I wouldn’t have the courage to do it without your support. And right now? I can safely say that EVERY dollar counts. Thank you. 

 

 

 

Through the Rain and the Window Pane

I often come to this blog to write something that I am desperate to say, something itching with inspiration. Then there are times, like today, where I come here with nothing more than a mood, a feeling, an unease that needs to be worked out. Sometimes, just coming to the keys to pound away thought after thought frees me of some restraint…and I discover a little more about myself.

There is a tiny little tropical storm off the coast. Nothing to worry about. So, I went to 7-11 this morning so I could beat the little squalls of rain bands before they came dashing by.

Everyone I passed had that same sense of sad agitation. There is a weird frustration you can see in the behavior of people right now.  They’re trying to do everything they can to stay calm and function while watching their lives be destroyed. There is a terrible mood in the air that people are losing their dreams.

Hell, I’m right there with them. If I don’t sell a couple of teddy bears by the end of tomorrow, I can’t pay the rest of my rent. That fear, that panic is on everyone’s mind. Everyone, all of us, had this weird energy in the room that was too invasive not to notice, this permeating hush that screamed, “What just happened to my life?” and “What am I going to do next?”

The skies began to darken on my way home, the clouds above me like smokey eddies. Beautiful droplets of rain, mixed with the last fading rays of the sun, bounced softly off the brim of my ball cap.

I was inclined to walk faster to avoid the coming storm, but I like watching the larger crepe myrtles loose their petals in the slightest whisper of wind. It is the closest we get to the imagery of snow in Orlando: a multitude of little white blooms that flurry gently in the wind before gracefully falling to their demise under grey skies….I adore nature. It is so perfect in comparison to my fallible human nature.

I made it inside Honeychurch just before the rain strengthened to a torrent.

I closed the front door behind me with a slam and closed the latch….and a feeling came over me, this very strong and dark feeling. I didn’t let go of that latch for a minute or two, just held the deadbolt with a grip, grasped it with a tight fist and stared at it.  The creaking of the latch sounded like this cold, sinister voice that screeched, “Don’t ever unlock this door again.”

I quickly let go and stumbled back.

I took a seat at my desk and stared out of the foggy window panes as I tried to wrestle with what had just happened. My agoraphobia was trying to find a way back into my life. It held onto me for dear life when I turned that latch, and what hurts is that I agreed with it for a moment. I embraced it and said, “yes,” even though I had not heard from this fiend in a very long time.

From out my window I watched the cottage out back being splashed with the merciless love of the rain. This charm that this house has on even the bleakest of days lends credit to why she is my sanctuary. This is where I pray.

This is where wild vines are encouraged to encroach, where there is a distinct vibrancy in any shade of green you see. This is where overgrowth looks landscaped, and where rotting old fences and rusted window cranks are considered prized because of their authenticity. Monarchs (butterflies) stop here regularly. Bees sip from the hibiscus, while blue jays bask in the bird bath. This is heaven.

It really is such a beautiful view through the rain. That adorable old hermitage and fence covered in vine, the bird of paradise rising high in the humid summer rain.

While staring at that little cottage I grabbed my knitting and got back to work on my teddy bears, peering up from purling paws to spy outside. A sense of peace began to settle on my soul, while a candid desire to survive and keep this view kept my hands working diligently through row after row, stitch after stitch.

Through the rain and window pane I began to pray. I’m afraid I can’t tell you that prayer, for it is not something that be easily cast into words. No, it is a prayer that uses only thoughts, moments, feelings, and visions of the future. It is a prayer that does not dialogue with God, but instead shares with God my emotions, my fears, my joys.

That sort of prayer through the rain and the window pane doesn’t tell God what you’re thinking…..instead it shares with God what you’re feeling.  And Lord, I am feeling terrified right now. Just terrified.

If you appreciate my work and would like for this blog to continue, please donate to help keep it going. I wouldn’t have the courage to do it without your support. And right now? I can safely say that EVERY dollar counts. Thank you. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Especially on Grey Days

Everything felt slow. The humidity was so heavy that my limbs labored moving through the wet air. There was no sun to burn it off, leaving us with only a boring grey sheet of oppression hanging over us in the sky. Gloomy doesn’t even begin to glorify how the tone in the air was.

Anyone still wearing a mask outside in this weather was looked at oddly. None of us can figure out how you can even breathe…. None of us are wearing them until the absolute last possible moment we absolutely must have to (i.e. passing someone on the side walk, or simply walking into a store). We can’t figure out how you seem to have it on all the time. Florida humidity is one thing….now try it while wearing a mask. It’s a bit like sitting in a sauna for hours on end with a pillow case over your head.

I was headed to Publix, my little shopping buddy, Rolly with me. We short cut through Lake Eola, see the early morning up-and-at-ems walking, jogging, screaming at themselves….

(Fun side story. I saw this homeless man, just a wreck, in very bad shape just screaming his head off at something that wasn’t there, nothing the rest of us could see. Just five feet in the opposite direction was a gorgeous young woman in her exercise gear, hair pulled back in a ponytail pulled through the back of her hat screaming and yelling at something that just wasn’t there! ((ear buds)) She was louder than HE was! And oddly enough, the homeless man’s conversation with whomever wasn’t nearly as threatening as pretty girl’s. I was scared of her!

Sorry, it was a juxtaposition that should not go unnoticed.)

Anyhow, there is an interesting mix of people downtown at 8 o’clock in the morning. Not a lot of middle mix, if you will. It’s really a solid bag of have and have not. However, this strange group of socially different people all seemed to have the same mindset today, all trudging in the same weird way.

They all staggered with an ill slowness as they headed in what seems now as meaningless directions. Everyone’s face, rich, poor, or quietly in between, said everything. “I don’t know what to do, because I don’t know what’s going to happen next.” You can’t go anywhere, you can’t visit anyone….you just walk your lapdog in circles around the lake….

It didn’t matter what social class you were from, everyone was walking with a sense of meaningless direction.

The hand reaching for the face cover, or mask, the moment we see each other approaching has become so habitual that the muscles have begun to memorize it. But, I will say, there is some beautiful shyness that sweeps over people when they cover their faces. They act begrudged because they have to do it, but do it with a twinkle in their eye that shows respect and gratitude that we both complied whether we wanted to or not. We both hate this. Thank you for hating it as much as I do.

(Sorry, another side story. There was another homeless man in terrible shape, even more so than the gentleman I mentioned before. I could see him a block away. I’ve seen him before. I call him the prophet. Every town has one. He is this enormous 8 foot tall, black man who wears what looks like a monks cowl fashioned out of burlap. Which gives him serious monastic credit, by the way. He has no shoes, nor does he even remove the cowl from his head. He is covered in sores in an almost biblical fashion, his feet are marked with grotesque scarring and scaling from walking the asphalt piously, parasites riddle his exposed shins as some plague warning, his skin sweats in drips with a scent that only his life with God can explain.

Even he put on a mask when I walked by. Not kidding you….Weird! As if the craziest of the crazies had finally said, “This corona virus is way too crazy, even too crazy for me.”)

There just seemed to be this elevated sense of fatigue that had collectively shown itself in people today. The virus is no longer scaring us. Now it’s just exhausting us. That feeling, mixed with the intrusion of this humid, grey day just seemed to make everyone feel disinterested in the future. You could sense it. No one cares about tomorrow, we’re just trying to get through today….and all of its new rules, guidelines and social graces. We’re tired of trying to keep up with what we’re supposed to do.

I hop on bus, head back home. The amount of people allowed on the bus has been cut dramatically, so I’m grateful when I see it drive up and not have a sign that says, “BUS FULL.” (well, shit. It’s only a 30 minute walk….)

I was the only one on the bus. Me and my shopping cart.

We rolled up Central Avenue, through Thornton Park, which is one of the prettiest places on earth, I think. Langford Park…Dickson Park….Central Avenue is a really pretty 10 minute bus ride. As grey as today was, as limp as the human race felt, I was just observant and mindful of what I do have. Not much. But, I do have a shopping cart with enough food to make chili for the weekend.

Promptly off the bus, I walked the few blocks towards Honeychurch. I always look forward to that one moment I pass this huge passiflora that hides my house from me. No matter my day, no matter what adventure I’ve had…..I can’t wait to turn that corner and see this house again.

I’ll be rather brisk getting back to my street, but once I pass the passion fruit? I can see my house and slow my step. I suddenly feel better. In some manner I guess I’m showing a slow reverence as I approach. No matter what mood I may have been in before, the first glimpse caught of Honeychurch as I turn the bend causes me to grin.

I was thinking of the two men I had seen earlier today. I seem to have brought them home in my heart. Having been homeless, there is a weird mix of emotions that comes with stepping up to your front door and putting the key in the lock, hearing the latch fall free, and allowing you inside. Wonderful, right? No. Sometimes you slow your steps as you approach the front door, fearing the key won’t work anymore. You often feel terrified at putting the key in the lock.

That heavy layer of dread….that meaningless sense of direction, that lull in the human spirit….I feel it, too. I really do. I’m moving along in meaningless directions like everyone else. I don’t have rent, but I’m going to do what I can with what I have. I don’t know what happens next, none of us do. Just trying to stay alive and take care of myself one blog post and one teddy bear at a time. And every time I walk up to this house I promise her that I won’t let her down…as long as she’ll let me in!

I’ll figure something out. I am optimistic about that. Optimism is critical right now.  I have no magic wand. I only have a few bears in my shop, a couple of books and some prayers, but….I’m optimistic.

You really need to be, too. Oh, you need to look up at the sky and the people you pass by and tell yourself and each other, “This will pass, we’ll have sun again soon.”

Tell each other that often. Especially on a grey days.

If you appreciate my work and would like for this blog to continue, please donate to help keep it going. I wouldn’t have the courage to do it without your support. And right now? I can safely say that EVERY dollar counts. Thank you. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surviving the American Experiment

On the 5th of July I wrote a blog post about this fascinating red, white and blue skein of ombre yarn I wanted to play with. I wanted to fashion a bear with patriotism. The more I worked on it, the more I was disappointed, felt it looked like someone had tossed bleach on what should have been my homage to the American flag. It looked ruined, imperfect and just…flawed. So, I put the work down and said I wouldn’t touch it again. It was to be the one bear I wouldn’t make. This is the one bear that shouldn’t exist. I’d probably toss the skein in the trash. This skein is useless now….

I didn’t toss it, though. I kept it, eyeballing that skein every time I reached for a different one. I just can’t throw this skein of yarn away. Any knitter knows there is a tug at the soul when you do that. Any knitter knows that throwing yarn in the trash feels like kicking a stray kitten that shows up at your door hungry and starving.

Then of course, I’m from a military family and you just can’t toss the red, white and blue into the garbage. No, it must be disposed of properly. So, I’ll just hold on to it for now.

I have a tendency to listen to podcasts, news feeds, or even just the radio while I’m knitting….and the indignation for this country, by its own citizens, is at an unparalleled zenith. And I hear the same demands (no discussions, just demands) that we torch the country, forget the American Experiment ever happened, throw the Constitution in the trash and start all over….

Legend has it, that this country was crafted wickedly by evil, grotesque men with only one ambition: oppression of the marginalized and privilege for the few. The anthem represents slavery, the flag represents empirical colonialism. Belief in this flag, in the country for which it stands, is blatant racism.

(I hope you rolled your eyes, I certainly did).

Furthermore, appreciation for these symbols is now abhorrently, morally, and socially wrong. These symbols, anthems, are too memorable of an oppressed period in time and we must destroy them, trash them, dispense of them immediately. At first glance, these signs, statues and sounds may cause immediate panic in some. They are a problem.

So, I grabbed that damned skein of red, white and blue yarn just a few hours ago, sat in this chair and kept telling myself, “Ok, teddy bear, let’s go.”

I used TWO strands of that skein so that I could get a more solid block of color in the stripes. Yes….I tend to speak metaphorically. It required TWO strands of yarn to make this bear better, not perfect. Better. I saw a better colorway develop in the body, one I could work with, solid stripes that formed easier and worked better when two strands were held alternating row after row, rather than this nasty mess you get when trying to do it with just the one.

And I kept knitting….thinking, watching the colors of my flag born in this bear. I kept thinking how offensive he was going to be to some because he was proud. I kept thinking how nationalistic he’d be seen because he was being patriotic. His intention isn’t to be rude, just to show some recognition and appreciation for the people that have made it possible for this man to be free.

This bear’s red, white and blue may be viciously unkind to the perfectly aware (or tragically woke), but he’s just trying to show some sincere appreciation for anyone who tried to make this life, my life possible. Anyone and everyone who marched to their death under this flag (no matter many how many stars at the time!) deserves to be recognized.

The more I worked on this bear, the more I thought about the recent climate in America….and how knitting a teddy bear in reference to its beloved flag could be vilified.

A sadness fell over me. I sat the bear down, sat back in my chair and glared at that little bear.

There should never be a moment in a knitter’s life, a writer’s life, in an artist’s life, where the feeling of showing an emotion, an idea, a value, should be second guessed out of fear.

But, this is a new world, where an outdated man like myself still feels that there is still some sort of national euphoria we should ALL sense when we see the flag. It used to be a signal of comfort. A symbol in disastrous moments that still waves, all the while still battered….

I’ll knit this bear, write this post and meanwhile, followers will drop, hags will comment, trolls will mine and nothing will change. That is quite alright. Because this bear shows me quite clearly something everyone seems to have overlooked. And it’s right there in the pattern.

You need both strands in order to get more cohesion, in order to make the bear better. Not perfect, but better.

We’re going to need both strands in order to get better….

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We Huffed, we Stuffed, and We Knit a Little Bear…

So, I finished my final live knit a long for my teddy bear yesterday….

You know I paused just then, wasn’t sure what to say about it, wasn’t quite sure what to write. I wrote that first sentence up there, then started gazing out the window. What do I want to say about it? How did it go?

It was probably the most wonderful thing I’ve ever done for myself. It truly was.

In many ways it was an exercise in exorcism. So many fears were wrapped up in my delivery, not noticeable at first, but by the second session, I had to admit the gripping fear I was experiencing and had considered cancelling this three day project right away. But, that would have just been tragic for me.

It would have allowed all the therapy I’ve worked for in my battle to beat my agoraphobia to be squashed quickly and without redemption. I honestly think I never would have recovered. Why? Because on an emotional side? From my point of view? I had let my fears win and I would have felt a decade of shame, I’m sure. I’d go back into my shell.

From the audience’s point of view? I imagine I would have seemed unreliable. From that moment forth, anytime I said I was working on something new and please join me, people would have probably said, “No, thanks….”

So, I went ahead and carried on with the second lesson, which seemed to heal the lesions of whatever wound fear had scarred me with.

By the time I did the final live session last night? I was cool as a cucumber. You could see me realizing that one of the critical things that fear feeds on is self esteem. I’m not pretty enough, I look weathered, leathered, big eyed and haggard. My teeth are twisted and weird, the lighting sucks. And somehow, you just don’t seem to care. You see a man sharing the nuances of his craft with a laugh and a grin all born from enthusiasm of the work at hand. And that’s all that mattered….the work, the knitting.

I made mistakes! Many! And they were funny! I had to side saddle my chair, sit upside so you could see what I was doing sometimes, get my funny mug right up INTO the camera so you could see how serious I was.

We’d have quiet moments of silence, then my beginning to ramble with stories, anecdotes. But, when the time was warranted, I was engaged with being as explanatory as I could when it came to the pattern, detailing as much as I could about how to make this teddy bear exactly like I do.

We huffed, stuffed, and knit a little bear. At the very end, when the last arm was put in place, I held up that teddy bear and just smiled with the most amazing feeling of self confidence. I had conquered my fears, moved through them, and came out feeling that the only thing that could have possibly harmed me in this whole processes was to have NOT done it. Having cancelled, decided not to finish, walk away and simply say, “I’m just too terrified to go live….,” would have been the only real thing that could have harmed me, which is what fear wants from us anyway: to harm us.

In some interesting way, it was like my teddy bear was saving me once again. You could see that look on my face, that giggle, when the bear was finished and I held him up to the camera….We had done it. Together. Hour after hour the same names popped up in the chat box, all beaming with encouragement, all engaged and enjoying “the show.” These people came to see me, to visit with me, spend time with me. Had I not done this? The leash of loneliness would have just been tighter.

I truly am so happy I did this project and so grateful that to all of you that tuned in. If you didn’t, you can still watch them. Even if you’re not a knitter, I think you’ll find the stories comical and interesting. I think you’d find the whole experience a lot of fun. Click here to watch.

Thank you all SO much. 🙂

If you appreciate my work and would like for this blog to continue, please donate to help keep it going. I wouldn’t have the courage to do it without your support.

 

 

The Subtle Art of the Knit Teddy Bear

I had one of the best moments of my life today. I did a live broadcast of my teaching people how to knit my little teddy bear from the pattern, with nuances, with a little story behind the way I designed the little guy the way I did.

I almost backed out at the last minute. I was terrified….It’s easy to edit yourself when you’re writing, you know? Speaking LIVE, off the cuff, can be…..intimidating. Especially if no one shows up. I’ll be talking to no one, pretending….

I went live 10 minutes early, only for my first words to be, “Shit. I’ve gone live. I guess I better watch my manners.” I then excused myself so that I could collect myself.

I was broadcasting live from my little office in the house. I do my best writing here. I went to the kitchen to find my soul. I do my best praying there.

A deep breath, a long look around Honeychurch, past my herbs in the window, towards that beautifully pitiful picket fence……

“Just be yourself.”

I came back, picked up my knitting needles, cast on and….I had the most delightful time. How on earth I thought I’d be alone is beyond me. So many friends showed up to cheer me on, to watch, to listen….to see how it is I make these teddy bears, how I embrace this particular end of the knitting world, how I feel this is the one thing I am a master at: the art of the knit teddy bear.

I had more fun than I could ever describe. I felt like a storyteller, like a man of folklore and old tradition. I felt like I was teaching more than just the necessary stitches to sew up a teddy bear….I felt like I was teaching the subtlety of a craft, the details, the unspoken beauties that cannot be explained in patterns, but can only be experienced with finesse and experience.

I caught myself rambling for some beautiful moments that are akin to front porch rockings while rumbles of summer thunder boomed in the distance; Southern Comfort sipped from an Archie and the Gang jelly jar….I watched the rebroadcast. I was my grandfather teaching me carpentry when I was a young boy….

As much fun as that was, I was still very serious about the work in my hands, paying homage to it, making sure that nothing overshadowed what row we were on, what we were going to do next in the pattern.

I had the best time and I thank all of you so much for watching. If you missed it, you can click here. I cannot wait to see what happens tomorrow.

If you appreciate my work and would like for this blog to continue, please donate to help keep it going. I wouldn’t have the courage to do it without your support.

 

 

 

A Prayer For Honeychurch

I have a solid idea about how Honeychurch should look one day look. I have an idea that uses what is already on the land, whether it be to cultivate something, or tame something back. Just make everything that is here look like a landscaping company purposely put it there.

There is a steady stream of foliage no matter where the eye looks when you step the grounds. It’s just all hidden by overgrowth and….I hate to use the word, but neglect. Why anyone in their right mind would have ever forgotten about this old dear is beyond me.

But, there are mother-in-law tongues, bougainvillea, bromeliads, ligustrums, loquats, cherry shrubs, a handsome two trunk Norfolk Pine posing in the back, a wandering jew that seems to find its own way around, a lantana bursting out of the soil with a bright scream in the worst possible spot, ferns that hide in the sauna of the shade and little vines with yellow flowers that gleefully go, “Yay!” in the sunlight.

Everything we need is already here…..it all needs just a little encouragement and direction, a little attention.

The ferns under the window look too much like a hedge on their own, so there is no way I would rip them all up and replace them with something from Home Depot. No! I want to get a hedge trimmer, just once, and shape them into these big soft, pillowy fern mattresses. I wouldn’t need a hedge trimmer after that….just a quite moment alone with a pair of scissors at dawn with coffee. One snip, two snips….all that’s needed for today.

I’ve been eyeballing this very dutiful periwinkle that seems to be so proud to be here. It’s sits at the corner of the fern hedge quite alone, quite out of place. So, I’ve been propagating it to make more. I’d like the entire front of the fern hedge to be bordered with that periwinkle.

As I snipped the branches and put them in water, I placed them in my front window. I should have root growth within three weeks time. I was told that was the best way to propagate them. And I could have just set them in the window and walked and tended to other things, but I had to turn back and say, “Dear Lord, please help these flowers grow. I just want this old girl of a house to feel pretty again.”

I pray the periwinkles root, get transplanted and this beautiful homage to the land that is, finally receives it’s due credit. Honeychurch doesn’t need to be made over into something she isn’t, she just needs to be reminded of how pretty she already is. Once that happens? She’ll take care of the rest.

If you appreciate my work and would like for this blog to continue, please donate to help keep it going. I wouldn’t have the courage to do it without your support.

 

 

 

I Don’t Like You. I’ve Written Why

I was just doing the silliest thing. I was planning a little get together.

Now, it’s funny the way my mind works. I tend to be old fashioned, I tend to consider manners (so as not to appall my mother), and like to do things (in my long forgotten world of courtesies) appropriately. So, I was looking out the window to my right at the back yard and thought how lovely it would be to have a little barbecue back there. Especially at this time of day. Everything back there is lavishly lit by the sun, or sheltered in the shade of a ligustrum.

I was going to invite the kids that live on the property. There is a young man in his probable early 30’s in the studio I used to live in, and a young woman just shy of that age that lives in the cottage. We’ll just get one of this little charcoal grills that go for practically nothing, grab some Bubba Burgers, fill a cooler full of beer then play a little horseshoe or croquet. Nothing fabulous.

I was all ready to write out a little note to put on their doors, “Come by Sunday if you can. We’re going to have a little cookout and we’d love to for you to come.”

Then I started thinking that kids these days think differently. With such an attention to social media etiquette, social graces are often forgotten about.

And I was soooo ready to spend a lovely time writing about the importance of social graces and how important that is when it comes to interacting with people….

But, I didn’t get a chance to. While day dreaming about how to introduce ourselves by having a social gathering, the news reminded me of the reality.

Social gatherings are now forbidden. Especially with total strangers. And the nasty question pushed itself forward, “Will I be reprimanded for having more than three people in my own back yard?”

Phillip and I took the bus to my new Publix yesterday. It was his day off. I was so proud of having taken the trip by myself a few days before and wanted him to see how pleasant an outing it really is. When we got on the bus he saw all of these signs that say, “Please do not sit in this seat. Maintain social distance.” I plopped down right next to him. He asked, “What if they say something?” I responded, “I’ll tell them we sleep in the same bed, and piss in the same bathroom. We’re good.”

So, despite my desire to have a nice afternoon getting to know my neighbors, those delightful powers that be have said otherwise. I couldn’t hold a simple burger and beer bash for 4 people if I wanted to. There is at least some moral argument about it….and some legal ones, too.

The social graces I subscribe to have been augmented into social distancing measures that keep us politely apart rather than engaged. The problem, though, is that humans are gregarious by nature.

We need to mingle. We need to all flock to the water cooler and gossip. We all need to be around each other at births and funerals. These are shared experiences of the human. These are moments that everyone alive or dead can understand. These moments aren’t bound by culture. They’re bound by experiences this species has endured for several millennia.

The majority of humans don’t like separation from each other. And this cloud of people you cling to doesn’t always come in the form of followers on social media. It can be an entire metropolis, or your simple church community of 20. We are designed to be around other people so that we can exchange information, ideas, debate, procreate, protect and survive.

I have often thought that the reason we collapse in tears when we are emotionally broken is just to set off the natural instinct in other humans to hug, tend to, and help. We were designed with each other in mind. We were designed to cling to each other, to be watchful over each other, to shield one another from harm.

You cannot apply race to this equation, nor even nationality. Do your best, but it doesn’t work. Our inherent nature to care for one other comes from heroes who give their own lives to save others. That is how far the human will go. They will sacrifice themselves so that others may survive. That tells you everything you need to know about the level of compassion people have for each other.

Martyrs remind us that human nature is truly about the concern of someone else. It’s only the fashionably pious that convince us otherwise, while even they learn the new rules of outrage each day. (…..God love ’em).

I hear far too many cries, far too many pleas for social justice by right of aggression, by right of war. I hear this horrible howl of attack, rather than a plea for defense. This nasty scream heard louder than any death dirge doesn’t wish to console, nor care for. It wishes only to shred, to attack and to destroy anyone within earshot of it’s beautifully twisted message.

It wants you to comply with it’s message of separation, it’s message of revenge, it’s message of orderly compliance to just rid the whole damn world of everything they despise or disagree with.

And that just isn’t human nature. Because the only time human nature is suppressed is when it turns to anger for support. The only time true human nature is suppressed is when it rejects compassion and demands submission to anger.

I am hoping the Black Lives Matter cause won’t last long and I am so grateful for that, for if it is one thing I am certain of is that good always wins. And you don’t stand for any sort of good that I can think of. Every major corporation has given you millions. A giant GoFundMe was just set up by every major company known to man….you’d think there would be no more need for state welfare.

Your methods should be studied in marketing classes all across America…..wait. Damn, I guess that’s where you learned those tactics to begin with.

But, I won’t lie. Those tactics are powerful. They are truly improved weapons in the war on hearts and minds. (Oh look! New marketing classes are being organized right now, as we speak, teaching little businesses how to comply with Black Lives Matter.)

My only defense is prayer, mindfulness, my own sense of self, and being honest about it all.

And speaking of being honest, you know what else pisses me off? I sat down to write about a barbecue with my neighbors right now and somehow, you managed to hijack that, too.

I’m compelled to love you, but I just don’t like you and I’ve written why.

 

If you appreciate my work and would like for this blog to continue, please donate to help keep it going. Every single dollar helps and I wouldn’t have the courage do it without your support.