Saturday, June 30, 2007

Rule of Five

Duluth has a way of growing on you. At first I thought the bridge was ungodly ugly, and tried to think of various ways a concerned municipality could circumvent this metal monstrosity.

But a funny thing happened as we drove and walked around Duluth - I started to like the bridge.

I liked how often it goes up and down, I liked the little building next to it and the lighthouses at the end of the canal piers.


And I began to actually appreciate the skeleton of the structure itself. So my "rule of fives" worked this time.


RULE OF FIVES

I've long thought that if we allow ourselves 5 of anything - 5 days in a new place, 5 dates with a new guy, 5 repeats of a new stitch pattern - that should be long enough to determine our true feelings about something.


In general, we're too quick to make judgments (I thought long and hard before writing that last sentence, don't judge it too quickly.) Something that can make us pause and live through something for a little bit of time is all for the good.

Most decisions don't need to be made as quickly as we've come like to think. We've had decades of 'split second decision making' being touted as a positive character trait, but I tend to think that most important decisions slowly evolve from a set of facts - that is, if we give them time.

That's how my most successful designs have transpired - I have a spark of an idea, I don't lock myself into ONE direction with the idea, but work it out in a few different scenarios until something just feels right.

When I do make a snap judgment, there's as good a chance as not that I will have to go back and revise it
(I do a lot of revision) When I have the luxury of working through something slowly, it actually goes much quicker in the long run. That's irony.

Right now I'm creating a design for a shawl for VK, which is due soon so I'd better get finished, and after a few false starts I devised what I think will be a good and fun-to-knit design which addresses what most folks find objectionable when working intarsia.

Of course, I may be wrong - but so far it's fun for ME to knit!


FIVE MONTHS OF ILLNESS
Gerry's cancer is turning out to be the same way. The initial knee jerk reaction is that it sucks, it's awful and there's NO good that can come from it.


Well the first two things are certainly true. It DOES suck, it IS awful, and my mind alternatively reels and is numb when I consider the outcome possibilities.

But after living with this for 5 months - as of July it will be 5 months since we became aware that something more serious than a 'bad back' was probably at the heart of Gerry's constant pain - I'm seeing different sides to this whole journey.


A friend sent this quote to me, I've begun using it at the end of my emails, and it speaks volumes to my current state of mind:

"When it is dark enough, you can see the stars."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

The stars we've been seeing lately are the hundreds (yes, hundreds - we're blown away) of folks who are writing with good wishes and donations.

Some folks apologize that they can only make a small donation - or no donation - but I write back to tell them that their good wishes and thoughts are the best gift we could receive.


Having said that, I can't deny that as the worry of running through our savings to cover accommodation expenses* while Gerry's at the Mayo Clinic diminishes, I find myself much more able to focus on what truly is important
in life:
  • Making sure the kids are okay
  • Finding small moments of joy that all of us can remember (or not...)
  • Concentrating on my own work so the mortgage is covered
  • Creating private time for myself and for Gerry (together and individually...)
  • Filling each day with as much grace as possible!
  • Teaching Gerry to knit (whether he likes it or not)
  • Getting Gerry Better!

So a very heartfelt Thank You to all of you who are helping us - either with good thoughts & wishes, small treasures (like ice cream - thank you Beth; and chocolate Buddhas - thank you Amy!) or financial gifts.

Please know that you're allowing us to get through this as a family - and have relieved one of the great emotional burdens that we are carrying right now.

We are humbled and heartened by your magnificent response.



*Mayo does Bone Marrow Transplants as an out patient procedure, but Gerry MUST stay in a hotel in the immediate area. Roughly 50% of the recipients end up as in-patients for a brief time, but most of the time we'll be going to the clinic every day for chemo or a doctor visit.

That's why we'll have to pay for 6-8 weeks of hotel coverage. Folks have asked about this, and I was confused about it at first, too!

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Incredibly Beautiful!

Yesterday was our driving up the coast day - and we picked a good one for it!

No more hailstorms, hardly even a dark cloud (just enough to make the photos look good!) We romped and splashed and climbed on rocks,

Atticus joined us and loved every minute of it
(although he was a little worried when his "pups" crossed over a waterfall to a rock and he couldn't follow.)
Gooseberry Falls is as lovely as everyone told us it would be, and it's a very nice adventure for someone in a walker, too (nice, paved paths to the falls.) I'm only sorry that I didn't get a pair of earrings I saw in the gift shop - they were stunning!

How cool that not getting something I don't really need is my only regret!


Best part of the day - when Gerry agreed that next year,
when he's feeling better, he'll be able to climb across the falls, too! Actually, that was the best part of the vacation so far - the hopeful feeling that we all seemed to gain just by being in such a beautiful location.

CLEAR AIR = BETTER BREATHING
Our fracas the other night was very necessary, and helped us clear and air and discuss things that needed to be discussed. We felt like our old selves as we drove around yesterday (although at one point, my mind was so crammed with stuff that after paying for my gas I drove off without taking the nozzle out of the tank... oops)

That was my Lucy moment for the day. It didn't seem that a lot of damage was done, but I guess we'll hear from the BP guy if there was...

BEAUTY
We're blown away with this area.

The scenery is absolutely breathtaking - like walking through a post card, and the weather yesterday was perfect! We met very friendly folks along the way and a few nice doggies, too! Then we continued up to Split Rock lighthouse (what a CLEAN little lighthouse!)

I carried the walker up a flight of stairs and Gerry made his own way up so he could see the view (he didn't make it up to the top, of course, but we were so glad he could see the vista from Split Rock!)

The colors of the lichen and the water was amazing - I'd love to find a yarn with those shades - just wonderful!


As a side note, I was very taken with the wonderful Split Rock Lighthouse logo - what a simple and elegant design!

But I'm kind of a nut for signs and logos - I always photograph them when I see them!

Continuing on we had a terrific lunch, chicken for the kids a burger for Gerry and walleye for me - whooppee! I even got my non-fish eating kids to try it and sort of admit they liked it!

Then a drive home - back in time to receive a LOVELY gift from Beth at Lorna's Laces (ice cream!!) and some grilling and walking and splashing in the lake (after a slightly nerve wracking slippery walk down to the shore!)

A great dinner of grilled chicken and corn (we were all SO full from lunch!) The kids slipped upstairs to watch TV, Gerry and I watched the Daily Show, and we just rested from our travels.


BUZZ!
Those who know me know of my fear of flying, stinging insects. I'm finally okay around bees (it's taken me 40-mumble years to get to this point) but wasps and hornets paralyze me with fear.


So imagine my horror when I looked out onto the back porch yesterday and saw not one, but two hornets nests.

"Oh,"
I thought, "surely they're not active..."

Then a hornet flew out of one and onto the other.


So I contacted the house owner about it, and when we got home from our trek north they had been smashed down from the rafters (using the big stick I'd used as a walking stick the day before) and our friends are now looking for new digs. It's a shame to make them give up their lakeside retreat, but we're paying more rent than they are.

Problem solved.

EMAIL
I'm only able to check email once a day or so, and when I do check I have between 50 - 100 emails to answer (NOT counting the viagra and Nigerian investment opportunities) so if you've written to me and I haven't written back, I may not be able to until we're home on Friday evening. Home. How nice it will be to be there. How we will miss this HUGE house, hornets and all.

Our cat sitter told us that Gigi hasn't been out at all, but she DID kill a bat in the living room. Happy days.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Remember the Fights, Remember the Fun...

One of the suckiest (is that a word?) things about this whole mishigas is the frayed nerves. Mine, Gerry's, the kids, the dog's - everyones.

We try not to let stuff get to us, but it does. Gerry's pissed off because - well, wouldn't you be? Suddenly the guy who was the tallest in his family (average height, 5'2") has shrunk. And that's the easiest part of this thing to deal with.

I'm pissed because - well - because I'm tired and at the end of my rope half the time. Luckily, I know how to tie a big, fat knot in that rope. I can even knit a little hammock-y chair to sit in, so the end of my rope is a relatively comfortable place to be. I'm settled in for a long swing.

Stress sucks. It would be so nice to live in a made for TV Hallmark movie where everyone deals with tragedies with tears and hugs. But that's not always the case. I used to say my mom worshipped at the church of Hallmark.

Now we're on vacation - and I'm taking a little mini-vacation from the guy I love more than anything, who can't seem to see anything good in what I'm doing these days. A little positive reinforcement, fella...


I can't blame him - all he can really see is the pain and the black fogginess that is our immediate future. I hesitated to post this, but I figured, if someone's in the same boat we're in, perhaps it would be nice to see that just about everyone has the days and moments they're not too proud of. Or when they let stress get the better of them. Like me, this evening, when I sounded like a reject from The Sopranos.

I got hailed on today. There was a bad storm as we were driving along Lake Superior. I'm sure that's where some of the stress came from, too - it was pretty scary, I pulled over and prayed that the hail wouldn't crack a window (it was pretty big) and haven't had the heart to inspect the PT to see if there's any tiny dent-age.

And a teaching engagement that I'd planned on briefly reneged (they were fearful of Gerry's illness - that I may have to back out - totally understandable) But then they came through and we're back on. Yay.

I'd done so much planning to make it work, it was very odd to feel that if it went either way it would be okay (but I'd rather be part of the decision making process as to which way it should go...) I'm babbling.

Maybe tonight would be a good time to try out that jacuzzi? Maybe a glass of wine would be in order, too...

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Black Eye in Duluth

It actually looks now as though I'm just wearing a lot of eye shadow on one eye. If I match the other eye, it's not bad! I like to think of it as my Alex DeLarge look.

I wish I had a really fun story about how I got it, but it was a taxi driver. Specifically, it was a really rude driver who refused to put mybags in his (filthy) cab - I didn't want them in the trunk with the dirtiest spare tire in history - and putting them in the backseat on the (ripped and torn) upholstery was so far out of his job description that I put them in myself.

And as I shoved one of the bags along the back seat I hit my eye on the door. That's the story.

So I did it, but because the rudest taxi driver in history wouldn't help with the bags. Did I mention that the window didn't roll down, the door had a big HOLE in it above the handle (probably someone kicking to get out of the cab) and it was about 101F in the cab?

As he drove off he yelled, "You may THINK you have a pair, but I MINE are bigger!" - which I found amusing because he was hugely fat and had man-boobs, so although he may have been alluding to a different part of his anatomy, all I could think was he was bragging about his bra size.

Oh, and he smelled. Eh, I guess there's one in every town.

So imagine how thrilled I was to see Gerry and the kids arrive at the Waterpark motel! Always great to see my family - and the dog - and the PT Cruiser - all in one piece!

The kids absolutely LOVED the Edgewater - it's a very kid-centered experience. Gerry and I were less excited about the pool, but seeing the kids so happy is exitement enough!!

Atticus was just happy to watch the seagulls from the balcony. So the kids splashed and played and swam until 9:30, then up the next day to splash and play until we packed up and hit the road.

We were early to check into our rental, so we went to the Depot and rode the North Shore Scenic Railrorad, then the kids explored the museum while Gerry rolled along with his walker (which is also a "sitter" with a built in seat - THANK YOU MARTHA!) and I walked Atticus up to the Wells Fargo to make a deposit.

Duluth reminds me of other Great Lakes cities I've visited in Ohio, NY & Michigan. It seems less Minnesota to me - folks seem to be rushing more (maybe because it's colder here?) and I've seen a lot more impatient drivers. It's always odd to judge a town by the driving when it's on a highway and has a lot of tourist or seasonal traffic. Or maybe I'm just traumatized by my cab ride...

After the kids were worn out at the Depot (they LOVED it by the way - THANK YOU, CASEY!) we 'checked into' our rental and were immediately hit with house envy. This is ONE HUGE house - lots of room, two bathrooms (with showers) on the second floor and a powder room on the ground floor. It's a house that needs a few more kids, and we feel oddly alone in the house. [Sigh] But we'll somehow get along in the luxury surroundings...

The end of the yard is a cliff down to Lake Superior, but there's a rustic stair down to the pebble shore which I'm sure Atticus and the kids will explore today. It makes me think of other Great Lakes houses I've stayed at in my life (we used to have friends with a house like this when I was a kid in Ohio) and we're settled in very nicely.

We even barbequed last night - steak and asparagus and after dinner, S'mores!

Let's see the Girl Scouts do better than THAT when Hannah goes to camp this summer!

The house doesn't have internet, which is kind of a blessing, so every day I'll come down to Dunn Bros for some mommy alone time, and check email.

Today that may take a while - here's what was waiting for me at my in-box. I usually get between 30-50 emails between checkings. This is a new record for me.

I guess that makes it understandable that we'd have missed the Rhubarb Fest. Damn.
However, there may be a future for me in rewriting long-winded political catch-phrases...




THANK YOU
Gerry and I have both been overwhelmed by the kind comments, the financial gifts, but most of all by the LOVE that has been showered on us. It's hard to express how much this means - how it affects us when someone writes with a similar story, or to give us advice on a good pillow to use or a nice kind of walker. THANK YOU!

I've been enough of a busy body in my life to NEVER resent a good wish or thought from someone else. We all know why we want to help - it makes us feel good, it makes us feel worthwhile if we can prevent someone from going through a bit of pain, or feeling something that we had to feel. Gerry and I both greatly appreciate the sentiment and the love that is behind all of the comments.

To say that we're overwhelmed would be an understatement.

What I would like to say is that Gerry's more relaxed and has slept better in the past few days due - in no small part - to a bit of financial worry that's been eased from his mind. I told him right after the Mayo visit that the kids and I will ALWAYS be fine, we'll find a way through this so that financially we'll be okay, and that his focus should be on his health - not on the bank account.

But he hears me on the phone (even though I try to talk on the porch or in the car) and he knows that this whole thing can run someone a little ragged. After all, he cared for me body and soul when I had my OWN medical emergency 4 years ago, and I will never forget him for that.

And then there's this:
Anonymous wrote in my comments: You can "pay them back" by promptly writing every single person that gives money a personal email to thank them. Knowing you appreciate the time and money they sent and took time to thank them personally makes people feel good.
Dear Anonymous - You're absolutely right - I feel the same way. That's why I have been writing everyone back. Today I spent over 3 hours doing just that, and every other day I spend about 1-2 hours doing it. (And answering the responses I get to my emails. And writing nice notes to folks who just write to say they're thinking of us.)

I'm sorry if I sound defensive (I know I do - it must be the black eye talking - sorry!) I don't mean to - I just want to clarify!

I just don't want folks to get the idea that I'm NOT thanking everyone - or that I'm not terribly grateful.

I would not have mentioned this on the blog if it wasn't a in the comments, but once things are out there, folks might remember the comment and think, "It's a shame she can't find time to personally thank folks..."

And I'm very happy to write and thank folks! I wish I could do more. Emotionally and mentally, I get a lot out of writing to all of you, it's good for me. Thank you again.

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Duluth Mistresses

Not to be sexist or anything, but does it bother anyone else that probably 98% of the folks who've completed the TKGA Master Knitters Program are women?

Myself, I'm waiting until they call it the Mistress Knitters Program (or maybe the Consummate Knitters Program?)
I know that "mistress" has a bad connotation, but "master" isn't exactly a free of bad echoes, either...

So, in the same vein, I give you The Duluth Mistresses
: The Knitters of the Northern Guild

I had the nicest time at the guild on Friday night - they made me feel so welcomed and one of the family immediately! Knitters are amazing, huh? I had met some of the women before when they'd been in classes at Yarn Over or just through emailing, and it was very nice to see them again.

I don't remember EVERYONE in my classes, but I'm amazed at how many I actually DO remember (if not names, I remember small, useless details about them like their husband was related to Gil Hodges or they own a standard poodle, too!) and that brings back so much of their knitting personality to me.
I think when we have a passion - be it knitting, gardening, fishing or anything else - we show much of our personality through that passion. We can use the passion to help us shape our world, or to understand parts of the world that can be mysterious.
I tend to remember the way folks knit - how they talk about their knitting, whether they're tentative or fearless - much easier than I remember their names.

I feel this forgetfulness on my part is rude at times, and I do try to remember names, but I seldom forget knitting.


There are a LOT of things I'd like to forget, some things I just forget as bonus amnesia.


After the Guild Gig Jennie (my ride and my roadie) drove out to the Point - she was coming up here for the Park Point Art Fair - where we put up her tent in about 30 minutes.

She seemed non plussed, but I was impressed by our speed AND by the amazing sunset. It's hard for me to get used to how LONG the days here are in the Summer, and how SHORT they are in the winter.

I have to look at a map at least once a week to remind myself exactly how far North we are - a new experience for me - and how that affects the quality of the sunlight. Have I mentioned lately how much I love - we all love - being here?

In an effort to rid myself of annoying brain cells (I think of it as mental sloughing) I tried the 7-beer sampler. Mmmmm.

I'll admit to having an inelegant palette, but I liked the Apricot Wheat (beer masquerading as perfume) which is no surprise because I'm fond of white zinfandel (wine masquerading as kool-aid)

Hi, I'm 4.Have I mentioned lately how much I love beer?

Apparently Jennie also loves beer, but she's more grown up and enjoys a nice oatmeal stout. I feel like a piker.

If I'm 4, then Jennie's 14 (it's the bangs) and she got carded while I didn't. But, with my new haircut, I did get to use the bathroom and didn't have to go to the lakewalk...

Yarn Harbor is a WONDERFUL yarn shop! Kathy's just owned it for a bit, and if I were going to purchase a yarn shop this would be high on my list! The stock is fun, beautiful but also very pragmatic. There's a wonderful selection of Louet and Brown Sheep as well as other sturdy, rich, well-priced yarns.

The students who came to the classes were a pure delight, and I felt comfortable enough with all of them to berate them mercilessly (I kid because I love) and engage in some tough knitting.

Best part of the class? When I told the Combo class that they'd be cabling without a cable needle by the end of the class and they looked at me in total disbelief! I so enjoyed that. And guess what...? EVERYONE was cabling like a friggin' Irishwoman by the end of the class!! Even the woman in the gorgeous dress who told me at the start of the class that she didn't know how to purl. HA! She just didn't KNOW that she DID know how to purl!

Now I'm sitting at a Dunn Bros Coffee across the street from a water park hotel, waiting for Gerry and the kids to come up (they're on their way!) so I can give them all big, wet sloppy kisses (maybe not Atticus - I'll let him kiss me) and hug them until my arms get tired.

One day away has felt like a week when my heart is in such a sensitive state. I worry about the kids being away for so long this summer, but I'm heartened by the fact that they'll be with very well loved friends. Thank god for love.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Rushing, rushing

We're in a very golden time now - probably the best Gerry will feel until a while after the bone marrow transplant. They've cut down some of his meds so he doesn't have some of the side effects, but he's still feeling the good effects from the Zometa and steroids. I hope he continues to feel this well through July, and is in very good shape for the transplant, which has been scheduled to begin on Aug 7th. Now we have a date.

GUILT
I'm writing this when I should be going to CVS to pick up milk and then running by the PO box to see what's inside. But here I am, blogging. I can hear Gerry getting some of the recycling out to the curb, and I've got guilt on top of that
. I can't get him to sit - PLEASE SIT, GERRY - I HAVE TO GO OUT OF TOWN AND I CAN'T GO SO WORRIED!

Guilt assuage: I folded a few loads of laundry to day and packed for all of us - I'm taking the kids clothes up with me so Gerry has less to deal with on Sunday. He's all packed, too, and his suitcase is in the car with the walker. I just have to put the soft roof rack in the car so we can use it on the way back.


KITCHEN
Today we're meeting with a contractor to actually hear the bid. Yikes. Then Jennie The Potter is picking me up and we're going up to Duluth together. She's doing a craft show up there, I'm speaking to the guild and teaching at Yarn Harbor, then she'll drive home and I'll hang around waiting for Gerry and the kids to arrive on Sunday.

That's when the vacation starts (back home on Friday - thanks to our house sitters!) and we're all SO looking forward to it!

SHOWERED

This arrived a few days ago - it was actually SEVERAL dozen, but these are all that are left.

They were ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS, TANIS - and so generous and wonderful of you!


Luckily, today this arrived (watch out world, I'll soon be amazingly thin with my Pilates circle!)

Having a husband who's becoming so thin is a strong inducement to lose a bit of weight myself...



Mysteriously - 5 cases of Diet Coke arrived (wha--? It's hysterical, and as you know - I do love my diet coke.)

I'll try to be sensible and keep it down to a can a day.


ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ's After selling off our HUGE furniture, we were lacking a good chair in the living room. It's become more important because

Gerry really needs a place to rest, to get on the computer and to snooze if he wants. I've been on the lookout for a smallish recliner, one that's not overstuffed and is still comfortable.


Yesterday I had an inkling I may find one at IKEA - so I passed by there on my errands and found this in AS IS. It was $260 marked down from $550 - because the recliner cable had broken.

I spent a good 2 hours on it last night, and finally jimmied it in a non-satisfying way (I'll readress it - it WILL recline now, but it's not an elegant looking solution...)


At any rate, it was a good bargain, it's comfortable leather (Amy Singer and I were pondering the question the other day - would a vegan sit on a leather sofa?) and Gerry likes it. Yay!

He fell asleep in it yesterday, and I was very happy.


SPORTS

Max hit the ball several times yesterday, and made a play at first base. I was here working on the aformentioned recliner, so I missed it.

Perhaps he only does well when I'm not there...?

At any rate, Gerry was able to go to the game and saw it - and it meant the world to Max.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Payback, Baby...

Evidently I can't get that last episode of the Sopranos out of my mind. I actually think that what did him in was the onion ring - massive coronary, right there in Montclair (or wherever they were...)

Yesterday I got to pay the universe back a little bit for the myriad times I've been ferried around new towns by kind folks - sometimes in blizzards (hi Shelley!) - but usually just in a car... [rimshot] Thank you ladies and gentlemen - I'll be here all week...

Amy Singer - la Knitty as we call her - was in town to speak at the Minnesota Knitters Guild and is also teaching a lace class. I volunteered to be her wheels, and after a false start at the airport (a perfect storm of mis-labeled luggage pickup and BOTH parking garages being full and my cell phone running out of power at the exact moment when Amy found her bags...)

Finally our eyes met as I drove by Door #3 again, and she was in my car in minutes!

We did the cook's tour of St. Paul, starting with my home - an intro to Gerry (tired, but in good spirits - yesterday was a odd lot day for him, always a joyful experience) and then we dropped her bags at the hotel.

On to a wonderful lunch at Dixie's (there's a TRAIN in the ceiling!), then a little more driving around and finally coffee at Dunn Bros. on University before arriving at the Textile Center. Can I just say that this center is one of the really amazing resources that fiber lovin' folks in the Twin Cities have?

The most gratifying part of the day was seeing how much Amy loved St. Paul (we didn't get over to Minneapolis, that's today) I know that I loved this area when I visited last year, I know that my family loves it, but it's very special to see someone new come to town and see all the beauty and earnest, crunchy goodness that I see.

I - we - feel incredibly lucky to be part of this town.

Amy's talk was based on her new book - No Sheep For You - and she was very informative and entertaining! There is SO much I don't know about - everything - and the talk cleared up a lot for me.

I loved her explanation of non-animal fibers, how the fibers are spun / extruded and finally spun to create non-wool yarn (my mom used to work at a Viscose Factory during the war, so let's just say I have a much more personal feeling toward Rayon than Amy does...)

Oddly, there was a 10 minute break between the intro and Amy's talk - but she rallied. I'm thinking it wouldn't be a bad idea to have a warm up act for these guild appearances - maybe I'll start hitting the road with her...?

The line to have Amy sign her book was long and incredibly well mannered. I was hoping for a Who Concert type of rushing of the stage, but everyone was very well mannered. This ain't no Cleveland. (sorry, This ain't no Cincinnati...)

Then I drove Amy back to her hotel, we went across the street for a late dinner (I talked us both into salads - this is a singular event and must be noted!) and a cosmo (Amy) and a Blue Moon (me) later she crossed the road to her hotel (against the light - for SHAME you Canadian, flaunting our laws like that!) and I drove home to watch the Colbert Report with my honey. All in all, a magnificent day.

Amy even snapped a photo of a PT Cruiser for me - there are an inordinate amount of them here, and I've started photographing all the ones that I see for a future photo essay - "The PTs of StP"

Today I'm picking her up from her class at Needlework Unlimited, and we're going to have coffee with Jennie (la Potter) because Amy - having exceptional taste - loves Jennie's stuff as much as I do. I may even walk Amy over to Minnehaha Falls (she thought I was joking...) for a stellar cap on the day.

This evening the kids have a playdate with new friends - Hannah watching the soccer game her friend's playing in, and Maxie playing with that friend's little brother at the cool playground next door.

Did I mention it's sunny and in the 70's here today? And Atticus is groomed? And Gerry put together a wire shelf in the basement? All around good. I worry that he wears himself out (Gerry, not Atticus) but I hate to hound him about it. A fine line to cross between cautious wife and harridan.

FLOWER POWER
I am remiss in now mentioning the exceptionally BEAUTIFUL flowers that arrived from Soho Press. I know Tanis was behind the whole thing - thank you Tanis! They've been on our dining room table and they make all of us feel happier and loved - which is exactly what you want a nice bunch of sunflowers to do!

LOVE
The lovely emails and very kind donations we're receiving are heart-warming and very humbling. Gerry and I just stare at each other when new emails come in, and I can read the look in his eyes, "How can I ever pay these folks back?"

Believe me - we both KNOW it's not about financially paying it back - but when we're given this much care & love from friends (known and unknown) it makes us realize what pikers we've been at times when we could have been more generous.

I think the best we can do is say, "Thank you!", live the best lives we can, and make sure that in future we're the first to join in any barn raising we pass.

Thank all of you so much!

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Amazing

The response to the donation button has been overwhelming - humbling - and amazing. Thank you to all who have donated, who are thinking of donating, or who are sending good thoughts our way.

Gerry and I were discussing the other day that - like just about every family - we have been in some bad financial straits before. But we've never had such a frightening and life altering cloud looming on the horizon. During my illness 4 years ago we racked up a bunch of credit card debt - but it was with the knowledge that we'd have two reasonably healthy adults working together to pull us out of it eventually.

This time I feel like I'm leaping off of a cliff, and my parachute - my Gerry - may not be there to help me sail out of it. Your good thoughts, prayers and wishes for us give me the strength I need to face this, and give Gerry a sense that he's wandered into the most amazing community one could find. It's a terrible way to find this out, but it's a beautiful thing to know.

I feel compelled to mention - in light of the fact that many of you are helping us with the costs associated with this illness - that we are very frugal people, we are incredibly careful with our money (vacation house next week aside...) and we will make sure that any amount you have entrusted to us will be spent as intelligently and cost effectively as possible. Thank you for your love and your trust. Please know how appreciated it is, and how overwhelmed we are.

Thank you.

Annie, Gerry, Hannah & Max

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

Happy Father's Day

Our plans on this hot, hot Father's Day? Why, to go to a movie, of course! We're thinking we'll take the kids to see Pirates of the Caribbean. If Ger thinks he can sit for that long (doubt it) then we'll join them. Otherwise we'll drop them off then go have a cup of coffee and pick them up later. Hot days.

Atticus is getting trimmed, Gerry's reading the Times & the Press, Max is watching cartoons and we gave G his gifts of shirts (that fit! - he's so thin now) and the new Al Gore book.

I figured today - Father's Day - would be a good time to release the Red Carpet Convertible pattern.

Here's where I've put some pithy details about the pattern.

You can make a donation if you like (minimum donation is $4.50) and download the pattern right here from the blog, or from the info page.

I apologize if the initial logistics of this are wacky - I'm still figuring out how to do the donation thing with paypal.

And now back to some hot knitting.

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

Back To Some Knittin'

Yesterday the loveliest thing happened. Friends came by with a bucket from the colonel, some grapes and carrots, and all the diet coke a girl can drink.

It's my weakness, diet coke. I don't keep it in the house because I'd OD, but when I'm out of the house I'll have it. My own version of 'house kosher'

And they stayed for a visit. Love the visits.

And
Gerry was feeling really good - he had lunch with us, Maxie had a great playdate with my friend's wonderful son, and I got to sit and chat with friends while we all knitted.

I
t truly was just what the doctor ordered. I'd become rather tired - feeling the pinch of the drive over the past couple of days - but this was absolutely lovely!

And What Did I Knit?
Why the turban (above). It doesn't look very turban-esque now, but I have a trick up my sleeve and it will be astounding (honest, Catherine!)

Then I received some beautiful yarn - to replace the yarn lost from the luggage - and have returned to the colorwork piece for VK (left, with photoshop liberties.)

And, wonder of wonders, the photo shoot's been pushed back so I have an extra 2 weeks. Life is good.

You know, in the midsts of the deepest crap on the planet, life is good. Even when it sucks, there's a beauty, like the view from our back deck.

Today Max had another playdate and I got to see the AMAZING playground he's been talking about for days (aka, "Treasure Island" over by Hamline. Huzzah.)

Then back home just in time to pick up Han and scoot her over to her first birthday party here in MN (she got her friend a mug with a kitty-esque quote on it - it was a hit!)

I did a little shopping (for Father's Day - and for myself - I'm dangerously low on comfortable shorts and shirts without spots on them...) then back to pick up Hannah and home to see G sitting on the back deck, enjoying the wifi and checking email. And his feet had swollen so badly he may as well be pregnant. A call to the doc - becoming routine.

After 36 hours on pain meds, he's his old self. Yay! I was so grateful and happy to be just sitting with my guy on the back porch, that I spilled the beans a day early about our big Father's Day Gift

The Big Father's Day Gift
When the possible date for the stem cell transplant was moved up to August instead of late September, I realized that my pipe dream of taking Gerry with me to Provence was NOT going to work. I also very much wanted to have a family vacation while he's able to enjoy it, and the kids are able to spends some great, quality time with him.

Since I'm teaching up in Duluth next weekend - and had thought I'd bring the family along - I checked out rental properties in the area for the week and found a lovely home right on Lake Superior which was available for the 5 days after my gig is over. YAY!

To be honest, it's a bit pricier than we usually rent for our summer vacation - 5 days is as much as a full week at our last year rental - but the timing couldn't be more perfect.

Fishing, rocking on the porch, fishing, looking for frogs, fishing - it will be an amazing week. I wonder what kind of fishing license I need to get... And we need to get some poles. I love to fish!

So I spilled the beans - and Gerry's very happy - and the kids are happy, and I'M happy. Atticus is happy because the owners have agreed that he can come.

Life is damned good. And even more gifts tomorrow!

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Mayo Recap

We've had our field trip to Rochester to the Mayo clinic (twice) and have met with a few people. Now we wait.

The good news is that Gerry's body is responding well to treatment, (even if his spirit isn't right now.)

He has a lot of pain, which makes everything much harder. One of the hardest things is convincing him to TAKE HIS PAIN MEDICATION, but slowly we're getting that message through. He's stoic, our Gerry.

(We just got a scrip for Oxi, god help us if he starts spouting Rush-isms...)

The bad news is that even though he's responding well, he's already in stage 3 Multiple Myeloma. These stage things aren't used that much anymore, actually, because they're so inexact. Gerry's frustrated because they keep telling him his numbers are good, and he feels like crap.

The worse news is that our second opinion at Mayo was somewhat worse than our first opinion at U of M. So much for second opinions. Remember this the next time you say you want a second opinion.

LinkWe met with a BMT (bone marrow transplant) Fellow at the Mayo clinic yesterday. He was very kind, very informative and easy to understand - thank heaven. And sympathetic. But no matter how sympathetic, there's not much you can do to sugar coat the phrase, "terminal illness"

Which is why I love Elizabeth Edwards - "LIFE is a terminal illness."

The 3 year life expectancy time frame we were given before was reduced to 2 years in this conversation - but they promise nothing, and guarantee nothing. It's life, not a radial tire.

The meeting was sober, but not somber. When Dr. Haman came in I asked if we should get out our noisemakers - she laughed. I babbled about my knitting until I remembered that we weren't there to discuss yarn. We were there to discuss how much time a bone marrow transplant may add to Gerry's life.

Who knows - he may respond miraculously to the treatment and we'll be dancing at Hannah's wedding - but the feeling we had from both doctors was more subdued.
They asked, "What are you looking for in this treatment?"
I answered, "A 50th wedding anniversary."
Realistically, though, we're looking for a little hope. And a little more time.

Heads up everyone - Never, ever, complain about growing old in front of me.

Gerry and I are not being pessimistic, just realistic. And we are hopeful.

This is how we live our lives - we're frugal, pragmatic and realistic. We have a great marriage and a lot of fun together, but ultimately we see things as they are, and try to deal with them gracefully.

We can't change who we are right now just because it might make it easier to tell folks "We're SURE he's going to be in the 10% who have more than 3 years! We refuse to believe otherwise! [Not.]

We are who we are. Neither of us has ever been a fan of the 'failure is not an option' frame of mind. Humanity is our only option, and humanity = failure sometimes.

Faking something at this point would just be - very sad - and not what we love best in each other.

Mayo wants to do a stem cell transplant on Gerry sooner rather than later - they're shooting for very early August so that when he's in the deepest throes of recovery and needs me down in Rochester, MN 24/7, the kids will be in New Jersey visiting friends.

This is amazingly hard - I never knew anything could be so hard - and if it's hard for me, I can only imagine how difficult it is for Gerry. Dealing with this is hard - asking for help is hard - keeping the family running in a relatively normal way is very hard.

It still doesn't seem to have sunk in fully for either of us. I think we have to take small bites of this big meal to fully comprehend. We'll have a brief moment when it will dawn on one of us that Gerry probably won't see Maxie playing ball in a few years, may not meet Hannah's first date, won't be there when I finally run for president (oops, I didn't mean to let that slip out ...)

Small bites. Many, many small bites. And we both have the tooth marks to prove it.

Helping
A group of dear friends down in Georgia (former students and yarn shop owners - just amazing folks) are putting together a fund to help us cover the expenses that are adding up because - well, because neither Gerry nor I have been able to win as much bread as we have been needing. He's been out of commission, and I've been spending a lot of time taking care of him.

I'll post information on this as soon as they have their website up. Man does this feel odd.

I'll also have a pattern for the Emmy Dress (which I'm calling Red Carpet Convertible) up and available soon. It will be available for a donation - you can pay what you want for it - and that way I won't feel quite so begg-y.

For those who are interested, I have acquired a PO box so you can correspond with me via snail mail. I don't promise to answer, but I'll try. Chocolate is good. Maybe a chocolate Buddha?

Here's the info:
Annie Modesitt [aka Landy]
1043 Grand Ave
PO Box 117
St. Paul, MN 55105
Busy
Finally, If any of you have written and I haven't gotten back to you - please forgive me! I read every email - many times - and they make me very happy and weepy. Life here is good, very good, but you guys are better.

We're definitely in the right place, though - this is the hotbed of Multiple Myeloma research, and the Mayo does 300+ stem cell transplants a year.

We're in very good hands. In spite of all of the crap, I think we still feel very lucky.

Okay, maybe not VERY lucky. I'm pushing it.

But I know we'd rather do this together.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

730

We heard the news today that we didn't want to hear (oh boy)

Although Dr. Costas at Mayo did say that sometimes folks with Multiple Myeloma go on for long periods of time, it's not common. He wasn't hopeless or pessimistic, but realistic. We appreciate this - we've not based our marriage on false hopes, we're pretty honest with each other. It seems this is the best way to continue - hopeful but realistic.

We were told what the doctor at U of M told us - but the blow seemed softer somehow. Probably because we had heard it before and we were waiting for it. I recorded it on my iPod, but I think I screwed it up. Damn.

Dr. Costas was frank. He said the time frame we're looking at is a couple of years.
Me: A couple of years?
DC: A couple.
Me: As in - two?
DC: Yes, two.
Gerry seems as if he hasn't 100% absorbed this. Sweet JC, I haven't either. Who could?

I'm clinging to numbers, math, things that can be quantified. It was stressed to us that everyone is different, every scenario unique. All they can tell us are the averages.

My mind is filled with numbers and math;

Max is 9 and Hannah is 10.
730 days.
17,520 hours.
24 months.
We've had 15 years together
Married August 21.
Gerry was born 54 days before my brother, Jim.
Mom's birthday was May 24.

Useless numbers.

Since our appointment with the
social worker is tomorrow morning, we decided to drive home and save the $$ on the hotel. More numbers. We leave at 7:30. Home, if lucky, by 1:00 ish.

We did stop on the way and had a very good dinner - 1 down, 729 to go? Don't you DARE tell me not to go there - How can my mind NOT go there. I won't dwell there, but I can't help but peek inside, and don't try to stop me. You're not the boss of me. So there.

It was a long and quiet ride home to get the kids, and thank our friend who'd watched them for us. Thank you Jane, thank you Cora - thank you so much!

This has come on very quickly - as you know - and Gerry's in stage 3. That was news to me, but Gerry seemed aware of it. He's better read on this than I am. 3 is worse than 1.

Mayo wants to do the stem cell transplant sooner rather than later (he's responding very well to his medication - yay - and they said there's nothing really to be gained by waiting 3 months) so it may begin to happen as soon as end of July / beg of Aug. They're worried about the Zometa's effects on his kidneys' so they're stopping that.

And - the day after he finished a few sessions at the dentist - we're told that going to the dentist while on Zometa probably isn't the best idea due to a not-nice but unusual side effect.

Mayo will try to arrange it so that Gerry's worst phase - when he really needs 24/7 care after the high dose chemo and I need to focus entirely on HIM - will coincide when the kids are in NJ for 10 days.

I need to book those flights.

More numbers.

I'm numb with numbers.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Comments on Comments

Not much to write today - we spent the day driving around the TC, picking up test results, xrays, scans, and all manner of other stuff that the Mayo wants to see when we go down tomorrow. So odd to have this in OUR possession. That's 9/10's of the diagnosis, baby.

I was also incredibly lucky to meet a new friend this weekend (she babysits for a neighbor whose boys Max has adopted as new good friends) and she has great kids Max & Hannah's age. Between her and another new friend (whose daughter's in Max's class) we have childcare covered when we go down to Rochester tomorrow.

If they want to keep Gerry a few days for tests, and they probably will, we'll get a hotel room ("GET A ROOM!" - any suggestions?) and I'll come back and be with the kids.

He'll be there alone. Sometimes alone is good, sometimes it's not - we'll have to see which this is. Then the kids and I will go down and spend the last night with him (pool?) and come home. That's the plan, man.


The emails and comments are overwhelming, thank you. I feel very humbled, and very proud of all of my friends. How's THAT for a set of mixed feelings?

I'll try to answer the emails personally right away - if I don't, please forgive me. Below are some responses to some comments...



Gina - you're always nearby, girlfriend!

Barbara - eh - not so hard. It looks harder from the outside. It's hard in here, too, but circumstances alters cats!

Penny - Well, at least take off the stilettos before you stick in in again...; ) My, that sounded terrible...

Judy - excellent comments - thanks for the input!

Susan SW - Sweetie- what can I do for YOU?? Oy, that sounds like a bad fall, and I know you put so much effort into your mobility as it is! Thank you - for everything - you're a jewel.

Shoeboots - All Juju gratefully accepted.

Donna - good advice. No's are hard, but that's where having a dad who was a salesman is a good thing.

Lee - Team LANDY! Rhymes with CANDY! (my husband and I have different last names)

Ruth - We're looking into support groups - lots of stuff to get through at one time. We have not yet had a chance to join a temple and you KNOW how that eats at me, but there hasn't been a time since we've been here that we could have gone. I'm over feeling guilty about it - I know we'll find one when we're able. I'm a big fan of the happy god (vs. the vengeful god)


Marge: [listening to `You Light Up My Life' on the radio] Our song.
Homer: I bet the guy she was singing that about was real happy.
Marge: Well, actually, she was singing about God.
Homer: Oh, well, He's always happy. No, wait, He's always mad...
-- Look, do you want a happy God or a vengeful God?
Margie - (why, speaking of the Simpsons...) Those are pretty much my thoughts, too. I'm not pessimistic at all - just very hopeful, and realistic, too. That's why I'm not really taking many more teaching engagements for next year s I can spend time here. I'm trying to get some book projects happening to make the stay at home part easier to rationalize.

Marie - Lovin' Arlo!

Penny - See the power of the foot-eating dance? It helped your mom's partner!

Joanne - We'll see. I'm not that easy... Care packages, though, not so bad. I may get a PO box nearby.

Rho - Nice lighthouse...

Polarbears - Yes, saying we can handle it can be a big fat lie. I like my lies like I like my men...

Lisa - My heart goes out to you, girlfriend. I cannot imagine what you and Robb are dealing with - which sounds so trite (haven't you heard that about 10,000 times by now? But it's true!)

Dear, you can use ANYTHING off of my blog that you want. Let's email - if I'm near you I'll come and give Robb some knitting lessons and he may turn into the new Kaffe Fasset (if we're not careful...) I'm supposed to be in San Fran area in September. We'll see...

It sounds idiotic, but things WILL work out. You're both plucky, it will suck, but even when it sucks like a hoover, life is beautiful. Put THAT on a pillow...

Gingersnaps - Yes, it made me smile. And the ginger was zing-gy!

Terri - I definitely have to check out Crafty Planet - and Simon Delivers. That will be good when I'm out of town. As far as stalkerish lunch dates - are we talking Barbary Fig, or Wendy's?

Kristi - It doth suck.

Sarah - I will DEFINITELY check it out. My laziness has been boundless as far as checking out knitting groups and temples (the two things I miss so much!)

Caroncm - I've heard that about the Mayo (which Hannah keeps calling - without irony - the Mayonnaise Clinic)

PJ - Wait a few days. I've heard there are friends who are putting a website together for me to help facilitate help from non-local folks, so I'd rather wait until it's good to go before pleas for help start making the rounds. Right now, just think good things for Gerry (like he'll get taller & get his hair back...)

Hey Melissa - email me and I'll put you on the local volunteer list so you can see the evenings when we might need dinner. It may not be for a while!

SusanC - Thanks!

Anon - I have my iPod that records - thanks for the reminder, I have to charge it tonight!

Beth - See my note to PJ above - that might be a more feasible scenario in the coming days. I am slowing coming to terms with the fact that we can't continue as we're going because we'll run out of funds. Odd how things finally catch up with you.

Dragon - You have!

Anna-Liza - I feel that way, too. I've even told folks, "asking someone is giving them an opportunity for a mitzvah / blessing" - feels so different when we're doing the asking, huh?

Shannon - I'll take the shoulder and the ear - but there are few things I like less than talking on the phone! Email, though, is great.

Linguist - NEVER wish yourself out of Cali, baby!

Jess - It sounds like you have MORE on your plate than I do these days - thank you!

Jill - I'm sorry, I just forgot what you wrote - let me look it up again (just joking. I know, not funny...)

RC - OMG - someone in philly loves me!

Keri - Oh, frig, I LOVE crochet. I would never stoop to that silly knit vs. crochet thing. I also love truffles. Just sayin'

Kim - You think you wish you lived nearby because you think you want to help me, but the truth is you really wish you lived nearby because the Twin Cities are so darned amazing!

Emily - Thanksssssssssssssssssss!

Jeanne - I was there, too with my mom a few years ago. It's so rough, isn't it? I'm so glad I was there, though.

Knitintensity - Chins are up - all 5 of them.

Laurie - Damnit girl, let's set the date!

Susan - My mom found me boring, too. Sometimes she talked to my brother (recently passed) or to the walls. Not really. But I was boring. Her roommate looked like the 6 Flags Old Guy from the ads last year, so I was REALLY boring by comparison.

Susan & Harriet - I miss you guys SO much, and I use that teapot almost every day. Mwa. (Everyone in NJ - go visit Knit a Bit!)

SueJ - Are you in the alps in that picture?

Judith - THAT is fascinating - I will definitely look into the GM folks. Wow! H&M could USE some grandparents!

Smittenwithknitten - Thanks!

Cate - Thanks - you may hear from me soon!

Kathleen - Thanks - ditto!
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Monday, June 11, 2007

Okay... So I'll Ask -

UPDATE

We just got the word that the Mayo Clinic can see us tomorrow. As in Wednesday. We're squaring away babysitting for the kids tomorrow, hopefully we can make that come together.

Worse comes to worse, we can take them with us (but I have a feeling this will be another on of "The Talks" and it's best that Dad & Mom have the car ride home to collect themselves before seeing the kids again...)

The, perhaps, more testing on Thurs & Fri (& Sat?) to determine if/when the stem cell transplant should happen (2-3 months is the estimate) In case of more testing we'll probably get a hotel room for Gerry so I can return home and be with the kids those nights. If only I could split in two.

The general consensus from your incredibly kind emails and posts is that I should ask for help when I need it.

PJ said it best in her comment on my last post:

...make a list of all the things that need doing that are getting in the way right now - meal planning, grocery shopping, car pooling, you know - all the crap. Then enlist friends, community, knitters at the LYS, support groups of any kind and ask them for help.

I have learned the hard way that the asking for help is the hardest thing to do, but that people are so thankful to be asked, given a task, made to feel helpful in what turns out to be a small way for them and a huge relief for you.

It works best if there is one person to coordinate all the helpers and then all you have to do is ask that one time.
As you know, we're new here in the Twin Cities. Folks are great - everyone here has been very kind - but I know you know what I mean when I say there's a certain familiarity one feels they should have before asking for a ride somewhere, or if someone knows of a babysitter (or might babysit themselves...) or could drop off dinner while I'm out of town teaching. Asking is so hard.

The social worker at the University of MN gave us information about a website, lots a helping hands, which coordinates helpers, and after a few false starts I've actually been able to log on and establish a website.

The idea is that as the caretaker for a person with cancer, I'm allowed to establish a private web page where I can post things that our family needs done (rides, meals, babysitting).


We will slowly start developing a group of volunteers who live near us and want to help out in some way. I think it will make coordinating the help that we'll need MUCH easier - and makes asking less uncomfortable.

I'm hoping that it will be a tremendous resource. I don't have a lot of folks to add right now - I have a buttload of friends in cyber space, but not a lot of flesh-and-blood friends in the area. I'm thinking before I actually add someone to my volunteer list I should at least meet them in person (make sure there are no axe murderers lurking - yeah, right...)

If this sort of thing interests you, and you live near-by-ish, drop me a line and perhaps we can get together at a knitting meetup or stitch and bitch. I actually haven't been to any in town since we've moved here, and I'd LOVE to go to one or eight, so let me know where you meet and I'll try to come by and say "Hi!" Perhaps that will allow us to develop an in-person friendship and I can add you to the list of volunteers.

Those of you who don't live nearby - your support and friendship is so needed and so appreciated. It's hard for me to express how grateful I am, knowing I can come to my blog and write about a crappy day, and get a few very nice responses that make me feel less alone.

You have no idea how many times I've edited and re-written this post. Such a flagrant appeal for help is rough to do. As much as you guys think good thoughts for me, I think the same thoughts for all of you.

My great hope for you is that you don't find yourselves in this position.
Or, if you do, that you have the kind of on-line support system that you're all providing to me.

Thank you!

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Saturday, June 09, 2007

Knitting The Threads From Which I Hang

Friday Gerry had his monthly Zometa drip - always an exciting Friday - they're moving next month's up so that he'll have it before the 4th of July. Plans are good, I'll take plans.

He hadn't felt very good all week - tired and achy - we think he may be fighting off a cold. At the doctor's office they discovered he had a fever, and that he was a bit dehydrated, so in addition to the Zometa they also gave him some fluids intravenously to pep him up a bit.

I was struck by how unexpectedly serious such a seemingly minor thing would be.

The extra drip was going to take about an hour, the kids would be home from school in 20 minutes, so I drove home to pick them up, then drove back to Maplewood to get Gerry.

I finally experienced the joy that is St. Paul rush hour. Twice. My, you folks DO start your rush hour early out here, huh?

So many things about this situation are hard. One of the hardest was the heart-to-heart I had with the kids in the car on the way back out to pick up Gerry. We had mentioned the word Cancer - Max heard it - but Hannah was surprised to hear me use it in the car. We discussed the cancer, what the treatment would be, and the kids were terribly upset that Gerry may have to be away in Rochester for a while.

I didn't even go to the next place. One step at a time.

This is hard. That seems to be such a self-evident statement, that I feel silly saying it. And - more self-evidence - it's much harder for Gerry than it is for anyone else.

Friend In College Sez: "Annie Modesitt, Mistress of the Obvious."

Yes, it's hard for me, hard for the kids, but hardest for G. I never want to lose sight of that. It's easy to get very "me" centered - how does this affect ME? - but that's a little whiny when the issue is so much more serious for Gerry.

Me having an emotional meltdown does not make the situation easier for Gerry, which is why I tend to have them far away, usually in the car, away from the kids. There are a few friends I feel that I can melt in front of - and I do - but not as many as I had back in NJ and I miss that greatly.

It takes time to develop the kind of friendship that allows you to be a slobbering, snotty-nosed, weepy, red-faced lump and not lose your dignity. Not that I don't do that in my classes, but that's performance art.

Sadly, yesterday that happened in public (at the public library, to be exact...) and I lost control. I hate that. I feel like I'm just hanging by a thread many days, which is not a comfortable position to be in. It makes me do mad, crazy things like ending sentences with a preposition.

But there are so many good things (and always the option of a nice, long walk - Atticus loves that) that can break up the impending storm. The seriousness of our situation becomes very real at the oddest moments, sparked by innocent little things that a few months ago would have been a minor annoyance or even a joke. Now they bear a lot more weight - I bear a lot more weight - and I'm not just talking about how tight my shorts are fitting these days.

Aunt Lorraine Sez: "Oh, Annett-y, do you always have to act-afool?"
"Yes. Yes I do." Now get back in the box.

Yesterday, after trimming the hedges (my first time!) and doing some yard work with Maxie, I took the kids off to Comotown to give Gerry a little rest after his big day. He's been admonished to KEEP HIS FEET UP (which he won't do) because he's having swelling again from the Zometa and steroids.

We had a great time - they rode the rides and Hannah made an appearance in a magic/comedy show while I knitted a tremendously beautiful piece of fabric from Tilli Tomas yarns (it's going to be a turban - ooooh! - very Norma Desmond! - I'm excited about the construction of this piece.)

Then we went to the grocery store and stocked up on stuff. Always more stuff. I lost my cell phone, I found my cell phone. It was in the pocket of my bag, where it belongs, and where I found it after sending Hannah out to the car - then going out there myself.

Have I mentioned my mind is taking little vacations without pre-approved consent?


We dropped off the groceries at home, picked up library books and tapes, and went off to the library.

Apparently a few weeks (?) ago Max took out 2 movies - a Star Wars movie and Home Alone (?!) and promptly forgot that he had them. That's our Max. The sweetest boy around, but he has his forgetful moments. Oh, he's 9, too.

I hadn't received any overdue email notices on these - I guess they send a notice out a few days before the item is overdue, but no more after that. I knew Start Wars was overdue, but I actually had no clue that Max still had Home Alone out.

I've been so distracted (overwhelmed?) with getting Gerry to appointments, Max to Baseball, Hannah to - wherever. Oh, and my writing & design work. The Social Security interview. Digesting the Multiple Myeloma diagnosis & it's implications, the TNNA trip last week & my teaching.

My Fourth Grade Teacher sez: "Annette Modesitt, you are an EXCUSE-MAKER"

As I pulled out my wallet to pay the fine on the first DVD (& I am sure I looked mad as hell - well, I was pretty po'd at Max) I mentioned to the guy that my husband had just been diagnosed with MM - yada yada yada - and it had slipped my notice that we even had these movies. He dispassionately, and a little distastefuly, said, "Oh. That'll be $10."

I felt hot and cold and my throat went dry. "Uh-oh, I'm on the verge of losing it..." popped into my head. I asked if there was a manager and he gave me a business card and said they'd be in "maybe tomorrow..." Okay. So I paid the $10. That's 2+ weeks allowance, Max.

Then he told me about the OTHER fine on Home Alone that would be $20, and I moved toward that dark, rainy, teary place that is usually only experienced in the privacy of the PT Cruiser.

I said, "Look, is there anyone here today I can talk to - any manager on duty?" He directed me to a woman over at the info desk. I told the kids to wait and walked over to her - I know I looked like a maniac with my red/white face and skull length hair. I waited until she was finished with the woman ahead of me and explained the situation.

Lo and behold - there IS a policy of forgiveness for fines when folks are dealing with this kind of - I'll just say it - shit. Yay shit!

Of course, I was so close to the edge that any kindness was just the tap I needed to jump/fall. I excused myself and went to the bathroom for a good cry. Damn! This would be a money-saving, ecologically minded bathroom with the hot air hand dryers and no paper towels.

When I emerged - slightly less red - another woman who'd been sitting next to the on-duty manager was waiting outside the bathroom to tell me that they had 'a lot of folks who abuse the policy' Really? Can't imagine.

I had nothing on me that would prove that I'm the spouse of a person fighting a serious disease. We don't even have the same last name. But I did have my little design sketchbook with notes from our U of M meeting (the sad, scary notes) so I showed them to her. She wasn't ASKING for any proof - she was very kind - but I felt that I had to show something.

Walking back out to where the kids were - calmly, thank god - waiting for me, the on-duty manager approached me to say, in a sympathetic way, "I know what you're going through - we just went through that with my brother in law. He just died a few months ago."

THAT'S always helpful in front of the kids.

I said, sotto voce, "We're trying not to go there in front of the kids right now..." I think she got it. Unfortunately, the kids got it, too - it was a rotten and rough moment.

We had a very quiet car ride back home. Then Max and I drove back and returned Home Alone. Hannah stayed home so Gerry wouldn't be alone.

The rest of the evening was taken up with dinner, caterpillars, a big biscuit and a movie - more about all these delights on another day. But the experience at the library kept floating around my head.

I want to go back - I have a book on hold - but I feel way too ashamed of getting so upset while there to return. Maybe I can wear a wig?

The original guys' attitude is one that I've run into before. Not rude, not unfriendly, but sort of quietly shocked that I would expect to skirt the rules. Just who do I think I am? I am not entirely sure some days.

At times life makes some rules seem pointless.

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Making Peace With My Hair

So I returned to the salon for a "fix" and we decided to wait on a color.

When I walked in I was a lot more upset than I realized - I also figured out rather quickly that I just wanted
someone to say, "I'm sorry about your hair!"

Once I made that clear - sometimes asking is the best way - everything was cool and they
were very sorry about my hair. We were all sorry. And I found the picture that I'd shown the original stylist (princess Di on the cover of Bazaar, with short hair at the sides, long on top - a sort of Brideshead Revisited public school boy cut) so I KNOW I wasn't insane.

I'm more than willing to take a certain amount of responsibility for the original haircut. I'm thinking of it more as a breakdown in communication than a '
They tied me down and force a bad haircut on me!' episode. I figure that's one way I can grow from this experience. Hopefully my hair will grow, too.

I said Princess Di - she heard me say Princess Dyke... Once again, said with love...

So I had a different stylist this time, and I really wasn't expecting much. But she was able to 'texturize' my hair, shorten the top a bit so it wasn't quite so Sargent Carter

And she was able to "round out" my head. I have a square head.

I feel like it's a whole new haircut, and I'm really much more at peace with the hair. I can actually LOOK at myself in the mirror without bursting into tears (and isn't that what we ALL want?)

I'm still recovering from TNNA - what a body blow that was!

I swear, I wish it were spread out over a week. But even THAT wouldn't be enough time. I saw so much, ran into so many folks, and yet I MISSED so much (and stood up a few folks I didn't mean to - I'm sorry!)

And I keep getting emails with allusions to things I said or did while - ahem - impaired. I have NO memory of any of it (that's my story, and I'm sticking to it...)

SCHOOL
Today was FIELD day at Max's school, so I volunteered at the Oversized Clothing Relay.
It was a friggin' HOOT! I think I got the best assignment of the day (I kept yelling at the 3rd graders as they ran by in gigantic pants and shirts, "WHO ARE YOU WEARING??")

Well, I know I enjoyed myself!

Tonight - if it doesn't rain - Max has baseball again. Woo! And Hannah? She's been getting phone calls like mad - I guess she's making friends... Woo Woo!!

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Stuporvision

A shot of Columbus in the rain, after a few G&T's, stumbling strolling back to the hotel. Quickly. Because I had to pee.

Thank god for the lobby bathroom at the Hyatt. Aren't you glad you left early, James?


TNNA Redux

I had a hell of a time. Yes, I did, an I'm not ashamed to say it. Haircut and all, I was a friggin' derelict. I haven't had that much fun in Columbus since I was 20. At least I'm legal now.


Max just asked me how old I am for a class project on finding averages & means. I told him I was 25. He doesn't believe me.


The Potter Party on Sunday night was amazing fun. Then again, I have fun just about everywhere I go. I had several G&T's, my drink of choice for a warm night, and bonded with new friends (whose booth I TOTALLY missed) and with some old, good friends.


The
Lorna's Laces girls are wild women - be warned...

Favorite part? Whenever they called a winning number for a raffle I'd squeal and yell, "Oh my GOD!" I kept changing my location around the room.
Hi, I'm 4.

Next favorite part? When I convinced Amanda
to yell, "BINGO!" when the final number was called. Meet my friend, Amanda - she's 4, too!

Third favorite part? Engaging in some rather - ahem - salty dialogue with a few guys & a girl from the
Vermont Organic Fiber Company.

I thought they were the AV guys because I'd MISSED THEIR BOOTH (what a fool I was) but they were incredibly cool. We had a Tony Soprano-off (which continued pretty much the entire evening, and was a magnificent way to relieve a little stress.)


This was after we'd compared our adorable kids' photos on our ipods.
Techno-geeky proud parents showing photos of their 4-year old children.

Then on to the Tip Top bar for more drinks (I had iced tea) and the aformentioned stumble back to the Hyatt.

Passing through the bar on my way to the elevator (funny how that route goes, huh?) I spied Eliot from
Artyarns and sat with him and Joanna [friendly neighborhood yarn rep] & her husband. A G&T and a bit of conversation later (Eliot, you ignorant slut...) I was finally, to bed, to rest from my 4 maniac days of yarn-walking.

The yarn booth reps rush over when someone is mauling the fibers to see if they can gracefully extricate the fingers from the yarn. I always say, "I'm not a yarn shop - I'm just a designer!" because I'm not a potential sale - and that really IS the biggest reason to have a booth at TNNA!

However, it's nice when they stop, look at my name and
(if they know me) ask me if there's a yarn I'd like to swatch up. That means so much, and I put those companies in the front of my to-be-swatched basket when I'm trying to come up with new ideas.

At times this weekend I would see a yarn I really, really liked, but just didn't feel that I had the mental energy to schmooze a swatching ball out of the rep
(not to take away - usually they'll send a ball to me after the show and I'll find a way to use it in a pattern or book.) I'm usually better at this, but just seemed to be lacking the "Hi, I'm Annie - I love your yarn!" patter this time around.

Best Stuff I Saw

This can in no way be a totally
complete list. Bear in mind I was in a fog this TNNA. I had 3 classes, 2 book signings - those take a lot of energy and focus.

Because of this blog & the kindness of knitters, there were myriad lovely folks stopping to give me a pat or some encouragement.
If they got weepy, though, I stomped on their foot. Be warned. And Thank You - everyone!

Prism Arts
Perhaps my favorite yarn at the show was Lotus (wool/bamboo/silk), which was dyed extraordinarily well. I stroked, loved it, made a fool of myself, and slunk off without the courage to ask for some. Alas.

Artyarns
I am thrilled that Iris has added beads to the Silk Rhapsody (one of the nicest knitting experiences one can have, and the main yarn in the back cover sweater for Romantic Hand Knits) Serendipitously, I had added some beads to my own ball of SR when working up a little bag, so Iris was able to use the bag as a sample!

Tilli Tomas
We know I love these yarns. I love them. Mwa. I kees you, you magnificent yarn! I'll be playing with some new spun silk, Plie & Demi Pli, later this evening. I'll be taking the phone off the hook.

Yarn Place
I hadn't used these yarns before, but I fell in love with their Bel Canto DK and Vivace. I truly am a sucker for a multi color ply. I cannot WAIT to get some of this on my needle!

Trendsetter Yarns (Lane Borgosesia)
I adored Harmony (wool/polyamide/polyester) - it's a really lovely blend - not too novelty-y for me (I'm so square) but with lots of zing. Just lovely. I was also transported by their yarn, Tonalita (wool/acryllic) - I love the colors and the way it's dyed. And I left my hat at the booth. Damn.

Needful Yarns
Their wool/silk/cashmere Feeling was extraordinary, as was their new Kaleidoscope (which is rather bulky as it's a chained yarn, but had a light feeling)


Crystal Palace Yarns
I fell in love with Taos (wool) and Kaya (wool) - I really dig the blending of the yarns. Very nice. They also had a yarn, Maizy (corn & elastic nylon) that will be a fun yarn to use for a variety of projects. Very pretty.


I LOVE Southwest Trading's AMaizing - it's the yarn used on the cover of Romantic Hand Knits - but this may give it a run for its' money! It's a trifle thinner.

Lorna's Laces
Shepherd Wooltop - Just being around this stuff makes me happier than is legal in 4 states.

Mountain Colors Yarn
I stroked and stroked their new Mountain Goat yarn until David from
Unicorn Books across the aisle came over to see if I was alright. Yes, indeedy. I'm fine.

Cherry Tree Hill
The Supersock Dk that they had was really stunning - great colors - and lots of good "guy" colors!


The Alpaca Yarn Company
They were presenting a new yarn, Paca-peds, which is an alpaca/wool/nylon blend - great for sox, and beautifully dyed! And Superwash!!

Ecolution Pure Hemp
Lanaknits has it all over them on color choices, but I liked Ecolution Pure Hemp's selection of twine thicknesses, and will be asking for some to work up a series of hemp hats (some wired, some not...) which should be easy care and fun to wear. I like twine.


I think Lanaknits is the place to go, though, for cutting edge colors and really nice blends of hemp and other fibers, as well as pure hemp!


Alchemy
There were amazing colors and fibers at this booth - great textures and lovely yarns. Unfortunately, I've found that it's hard to get swatching balls sometimes from them, which is understandable (I'm sure everyone and their sister wants several!) so I don't work with this yarn as much as I'd like.


I am working up a shawl right now for VK in their Wool/Silk blend Sanctuary - it's going to be gorgeous

The Cascade Yarn Company
I really liked their new Dolce (alpaca/wool/silk) and Cash Vero (merino/acryllic/cashmere) - they seemed to have a lovely hand, but I'd really like to knit some up to see how they "play."


Back in St. Paul

Now I'm home - home to my husband who looks great
(and apparently walked quite a bit yesterday up Grand Ave during the Grand Old Days celebration with his walker) and to my kids, who are beautiful and loud. Life is good.

I can tell he's glad I'm here - 4 days just about taxed his resources.

He didn't want to drive much while I was away, but we live near a CVS so if we need milk, etc., the kids can run up and get it. Thank heaven. And we have friends. It's hard for me to reach out - it's harder for him to do so.


Of course, into each life a little rain must fall - and when it rains on me it tends to pour. I'd love to see my horoscope for this day, but so far this has happened to me:
  1. A beautiful yellow-ware bowl that I bought several years ago, and was worth $300 on Saturday, was broken into 300 pieces on Sunday. By Max. By accident. Geeze, I loved that bowl. Here's a photo of Max & Bowl in happier days.

  2. Two bags in my suitcase - a small manicure case and a larger matching bag - were missing from my luggage when I got home. This has been the cursed luggage trip.

    The damage? Oh, only the Alchemy yarn that I was supposed to be making this shawl out of, that's what was in the bag. I've written to VK for more yarn, let's hope it's not too much of a nightmare. I've filed a report with NW, but I'm not expecting a lot.

  3. I discovered that my beautiful Motobecan bike was stolen during the Grand Old Days celebration when Gerry and the kids were out for a walk. The question about who left the gate open is up in the air, but I'm going with Hannah because Max has the bowl on his ledger right now.

    Damn. I'd only ridden it half a dozen times, but I loved it. Damn.
Everytime I go to TNNA I seem to lose something. I was so proud that I had my phone, ipod, glasses - EVERYTHING when I left the hospital. So I guess they made up for it at home and at the airport.

And now I just feel - tired. I'd love to snooze for a week, but I'll be knitting for this evening. I did get a nap today (yay!) and Gerry was feeling well enough to take Max to baseball this evening. I hope Maxie did well!

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Saturday, June 02, 2007

Cool TNNA Stuff

I saw some new stuff at TNNA this time - cool stuff - and here are two of them:

HUGE KNITTING NEEDLES from Bagsmith. Rachel John, the fiber artist who was working with them today at the Bagsmith Booth, was making really lovely pillows and totebags knit up on this supersized needles. I, myself, want to take them and work up some hammock-y type stuff - we'll see!

The second thing was some terrific yarn by a company called Chameleon Colorworks. I hadn't heard of them before (but I HAD used the AMAZING glass knitting needles from Sheila Ernst, who was sharing booth space with CC) The Chameleon Colorwork yarns were dyed in lovely hues and were exceptionally soft. There's a merino I really want to play with, and a superwash tencel that I can't wait to swatch up!

I'll write more tomorrow about new yarns from old favorites of mine tomorrow - I wanted to mention these two cool things right away, though!

Naked Soul & Pia Coladas
If drinking alone is sad, then drinking fruity blender drinks alone is downright pathetic. Welcome to the world of pathetic, where we carry not one, but TWO blender drinks up to our hotel room.

I just needed a respite from so many faces at one time. So many folks seem to know me, and it's confusing to the soul because I just don't know them. I'm not shy about saying, "Uh - help me out - who are you?" but after a while it sounds very rude. And I don't want to be rude.

The TNNA event is really great - overwhelming, exciting, awesome, inspiring - a great deal of attention must be focused and split all over the place. It's wearying. I'm enjoying myself quite a bit, but I'm exhausted - mentally, physically and emotionally - and I'm looking forward to a salad, a roast beef sandwich and an apple crisp this evening.

My Classes
The classes on Friday were great - I enjoyed them so much, and I think the students enjoyed them, too! I think that EVERYONE "got it" - everyone obtained some bit of knowledge - and we had a friggin' blast. Fun is such a gift in this life.

Starting with the Mutt Luks class at 8:00 I was very impressed by the caliber and enthusiasm of the students. It's great to see the same students signing up for more than one class - it makes things very easy for a teacher, because diagnosing the different needs of the students is a mentally exhausting thing. Seeing a familiar face makes all of it a bit easier.

The more I teach, the more comfortable I am saying, "I just don't know - I'll try to find out..." And that should be a good-enough answer for anyone. It usually is for my students, and I thank them for it.

The afternoon class was more of a blast for me - it's a more lighthearted class, because the techniques are a bit easier to grasp and since it's not project oriented everyone doesn't have to get it at the same time. I'm not a big fan of synchronized knitting. I love the cables and lace class, I love to teach how to cable without a cable needle, and love telling folks my secrets for remembering an easy way to figure how to do a left or right slanting decrease. When I'm in the thick of a class like that, I feel that I totally understand my reason for being a knitting teacher, and feel entirely in my element. A very good feeling.

Future Book Sales (?)
After my first class I had lunch with an acquisitions editor from Potter. I'd been toying with the idea of self-publishing two books in the next few months, but with the situation the way it is I doubt that I'd have the mental resources to do all that needs to be done. I discussed this with the potter editor, but she didn't seem very excited about either of my wacky ideas for a book. Oh, well...

I think I'm missing the part of my salesman's soul that makes it comfortable for me to sell an a idea to a publisher. I feel so - invested - in whether a book will sell well, whether it will be well reviewed - whether it will be a GOOD VALUE for the buyer.

All of that can get in the way when pitching a book proposal. I find myself playing devil's advocate more than I should - "On the one hand, this is an exciting idea... On the other hand, it may not appeal to a huge audience..."

Oy.

Like I really need ME to tell the acquisitions editor this stuff. So this may not be the show where I sell a few book ideas. It's as though I have several personalities. Can I please talk to the book salesperson now?

The Show
I walked the show today - did a total of almost 2 hours of book signing (my handwriting is so bad at this point I could probably qualify for medical school) and met with a lot of yarn companies where I dropped off samples knit up for Romantic Hand Knits and copies of the book so they could put them up in their booths. I also picked up a magnet to replace the SSK one I lost in the carwash this spring. Thank you, Modern Yarn!

I ran into friends, did a lot of hugging and laughing, and a lot of keeping back tears and bad feelings. It's a lot like taking a long-distance drive. When you stop for a bathroom break, you're more likely to need another right away. In my drinking days in college, we called it, "Breaking the seal."

I'm afraid if I allow a tearful episode, I'll need to engage in more and more of them here at the show. Not the place. Odd, though, how some folks seem to want to see a tearful episode.

It's also so odd how folks who are good, good friends (but not blog readers) are unaware of the last few months of my life. But folks who barely know me - not personally at all - know so much about it. An unusual dynamic - not bad, just very odd.

Folks kept asking if we'd moved yet, and how we liked St. Paul. Answering was hard - do I just say, "Great!", or do I go into the song and dance about Gerry?

I ran in to
Bonne Marie Burns who said blogging was like living the life of a newspaper columnist - and I think she's right. Folks see into our world - what we allow them to see - and they have an unusually intimate feeling about how much they know.

Lily Chin had asked me a few months ago how I like blogging - how can I do it so regularly? In the past few weeks I've received my answer - the blog is my extended community, my connection to folks who share my passion. Thank you all so much for your input and for just reading (hey lurkers!) my errant ramblings.

Tears Before Beers
I had a stupid, useless crying episode late in the day - as I was on my way to the Vogue 25th Anniversary party - so, being red-faced and emotionally overwrought, I decided not to go.

As a red-head, I always look like I'm on the brink of tears, and when I DO cry I look absolutely drunk. Not that there's anything wrong with that... But I didn't want to show up at the Vogue party looking as though I needed an intervention.

So I returned to my room to settle down, but ran into my good friends from Main Street Yarns in Atlanta. So I took a rest stop and had a nice laugh with them - bless them!

Main Street Yarns
I love these people. I feel like they're cousins - family - and between dinner last night with Ruth and James (Happy Birthday!), and drinks this evening with (oh, god, now I can't remember names...) other folks from the shop, they've been in the right place at the right time for me this weekend, and I'm grateful.
If you live near Atlanta and you're looking for a yarn shop with an amazing amount of beautiful yarns AND tremendous heart, visit Main Street Yarns. What an wonderful staff & owner. I'm only sorry I couldn't see Darilee this time! And, I also have to give a shout out to Whole Nine Yarns, who I saw this weekend - love you guys, too! Sh*t I had a good time in Atlanta - for the most part...

Drew & Company

As always, it's a joy to see Drew! We had SUCH a great time signing books today - we really do have a nice energy together. And the bonus was seeing Marsha Polk on Thursday night for some drinks and dinner. She's a lovely person, and I had a great time catching up with her.

I totally humiliated myself today by not recognizing Sasha Kagan, but I DID tell her where the TNNA registration desk was, so that counts for something! Clueless but helpful, that's me!
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Alison's Scarf
Link to pdf file of cable/trellis lace scarf


Hannah's Poncho
Link to pdf file of multi-sized poncho



Chullo-licious


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