Sunday, August 31, 2008

Award Winning Kids
Yarn on a Stick

It's taken me a day to recover, but once again we had a splendid time at the State Fair!

Our first visit to the MNSF was in 2006, before we moved here, when we were on vacation. Last year only the kids went with their aunt Gayle (Gerry and I were at Mayo)

This year the kids (& friend Charlie) and I took the bus, Gerry meeting us later (he drove over after chemo, he parked the car in a friend's driveway a block from the main entrance. THAT'S the kind of friend to have this time of year...)

We walked, walked, walked - did a lot of people watching and even did a little fish watching. It was entertaining to see so many folks in thrall at the "Fish of Minnesota" pond, just staring at fish.

I let the kids loose with $10 each, they cleverly pooled their resources to purchase 50 tickets (11 more than they could have bought separately) and thus we learn the lesson of collective bargaining. They ate and rode until they should have been sick (but weren't) and they they ate some more.

We visited the Miracle of Birth pavilion (my favorite, I love to see how many pregnant women gather there) and watched the adorable piglets, lambs and calves becoming acquainted with the world.

The kids got their fill of the bottomless milk cup (all you can drink for $1) and Gerry had the clever idea of asking them to mix chocolate and white. Perfect harmony, in a cup.

As we were leaving - me, hobbling on my exhausted feet and ankles - we took a stroll through the creative arts building to look at the creative arts. I was surprised at some of the blue ribbon winners (there's probably always some disagreement with the judges) and really felt that the best stuff had red, pink and white ribbons. Just one knitters opinion.

I love the jellies and food awards, they look so pretty in their random arrangement of color.

Finally we all piled in the car and drove home - exhausted, happy and feeling a little more Minnesotan every day.

Newsletter
If you're interested, I've posted my latest newsletter, which will be going out today. I didn't do a newsletter in late July, my Summer off. Check it out here, and sign up for the monthly heads up on my latest shenanigans.

Bike
Today Hannah and I did a dry run on our bikes to her Jr. High school, she's been feeling a bit uncertain about biking all the way. I think she really needed the ride to feel comfortable on her bike (we just got it back from the shop yesterday) and I'm hopeful she'll enjoy the ride as much as I do. And, there's always the bus if she doesn't want to ride.
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Thursday, August 28, 2008

School Haze

Today

8:30: Headed to New London for some tea and wifi
9:30: Finished blogging
10:00: Visited Uniquely Knit, a WONDERFUL tiny shop with a big, big stock of lovely yarns!
10:30: Back to the Spicer house for packing
10:45: Clean out refrigerator
11:00: Clean bathrooms
11:15: Vacuum
11:30: Pack top of car
12:00: Last look through house
12:15: Last look for lost keys (oops)
12:30: Drive to St. Paul
3:15: Arrive home (yay!)

Hannah had time for a QUICK shower before Gerry ran her over to her Jr. High for orientation. I rode over as soon as I'd showered and Max went to watch his friends football practice.

5:30: Max goes to HIS school orientation with his friend, I meet him there
6:00: I rendez vous with his friends' mom who agrees to take Max home, I give her husband a ride over to the Jr. High to pick up their older child's schedule (I was driving, I didn't ride him on my bike...)
6:30: I meet up with Gerry and Hannah and we go through her day, class by class, until 8:30. She will have to go up and down stairs a LOT during her day... It wore out this old mom, let me tell you...
8:45: Gerry and Han drive home, I ride my bike (and make it in record time!) Just in time to see the coverage of BO's acceptance speech. Which I'm watching now as I blog.

My day. Tomorrow I will sleep in. Yes I can.

PS - Thank you SO MUCH for your balanced and kind comments and suggestions on my last post. I think you're right - all of you - and this is probably the time to find a way to make it work locally and do the midwest thing as well as I can. Geeze, I'm lucky to have the balance that a blog gives me, thank you all so much.
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7 Miles of Heaven

Spicer is 5 miles from New London, but we're in North Spicer so we're actually 3-1/2 miles away as the bike rides.

Last night - finally (on my last evening here) I biked up to New London on the magnificent state bike trail and enjoyed myself thoroughly. Of course, I got here so late that the internet cafe and the yarn shop were both closed (too bad!) but I had a absolutely lovely time.

So this morning, instead of packing like I should be doing, I'm playing hookey and leaving it to Gerry and the kids to do the dirty work of laundry, taking the garbage out, getting the suitcases packed, etc. I figure it's only fair as I've been the pack-mule for all of our trips so far this summer, and I'm feeling so - tired - that I needed to give myself this break.

They can consider it an early birthday present.

I don't know WHAT took me so long to get to New London, but I wish I would have done it on day one. This is a hoppin' place, in a small town sort of way, and really a lovely little town.

The cafe where I'm breakfasting - Latte Da Espresso - is THE place to be! It's jammed with folks talking politics (local, state and national), weather, hunting, fishing, school district stuff. But the big topic seems to be Should Folks Who Can't Drive Be Allowed To Drive Golf Carts.

I hadn't intended to stay long enough to visit the local yarn shop, Uniquely Knits, but it opens in half an hour so maybe I'll just have another cup of coffee and settle in...?

One of the baristas here is a new knitter, but you can tell from the gleam in her eye that she's an ADVENTUROUS knitter - the best kind!

Talking with her was fun - she likes my Knit For Brains T-shirt - and I may run out and get her a set of Flip Knits from the car before I go.

This has been SUCH a wonderful week. Yesterday the whole family went for a bike ride to the park, then Gerry and Hannah rode farther to the grocery store in search of flip-flops (Hannah lost hers in the lake) The bikes we were riding were courtesy of Maria-of-the-cookies, the most amazing unexpected visitor we've ever had. THANK YOU MARIA!! (and you should see her car...)

But the week ends today - we could stay until tomorrow, but both kids have their school orientations this evening, and we can't miss THAT! And just in time, it looks as though the leaves are starting their move toward the crisp, lovely, best time of year - AUTUMN!

Gerry jokes that every Fall I get itchy to do something new. Move, start a new job, go someplace. And it's true - a convergence of my birthday (second hint) and the pavlov-like ring of a new-school-year make me feel that something DIFFERENT should be happening.

Could it be that this is why I'm feeling - unsettled - in my knitting/ designing/ teaching life right now? I've been fighting with demons of insecurity for a lot of this summer; am I doing the right thing by continuing the designing? Am I strong enough as ONE designer and teacher to alter the mindset of so many organizations to treat us [designers and teachers] with respect [decent teaching & travel compensation, IP rights to our designs, etc.]

I just don't know if I have the stamina right now. So I'm foundering.

The article on shaping is taking so much longer than I'd anticipated (I think I'm just not sure if it's an article on shaping a SWEATER, or on creative ways of shaping like entrelac and mitered knitting...?) The last deadling for IK submissions came and went and I couldn't dig myself any time to put together sketches and swatches (with the full knowledge that the large majority of them would be rejected) I think I'm just tired. Creatively, mentally, physically, emotionally exhausted and drained.

But there's still so much work to do. The Knit With Courage books should be ready from the printer soon, and at that point I'll be sending out the pre-orders and doing more marketing stuff. I was going to devote most of August to marketing, but we all know how THAT turned out.

I talked to Jan yesterday, she's nauseas from the chemo, bored, heartsick at missing her dogs, and she could really use me there.

I could use me here.

And do not forget this little cautionary tidbit: 100 Things To Do Before You Die author Dave Freeman dies at 47

Get out and do something new today, even if it's just a new knit stitch.
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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Group Fun!

On Sunday after Hannah finished her St. Paul errands we headed back out to Spicer to rendez vous with Gerry and a few friends who had come out from the Twin Cities.

As much fun as the house was when it was just the 5 of us, it was so much MORE fun with others with which to share the lake!

We swam - they swam and I watched - and fished - and swam - and kayaked - and swam. What a lovely day! Then we had a wonderful dinner and sat outside, around a fire, watching the lake grow dim.

When the stars came out we saw the Milky Way. I've never seen it - nor had anyone else up at the cottage! It was so exciting for us, and we made the kids (who were playing pool in the basement) come out and see the stars. Gratifyingly, they were as excited as we were! I tried to take a photo, but I just don't have the right equipment.

Then a wonderful night's rest, and the next morning I was up to make bacon and scrambled eggs for everyone. Cooking for such a large group was really fun, I enjoyed it, and it made everything so much nicer when our friends came downstairs to a kid-set table and hot coffee. Life is good!

More swimming, walking, kayaking, diving, pool, more tournament SORRY! and we saw a loon in the lake.

All the time, in the backgroud, is playing a 4-disk "History of the First World War" by Channel 4 that someone seems to be watching all the time (perhaps me?)

It was sad to say goodbye to our friends, but we'd convinced them to stay a lot longer than they originally intended. And we're keeping one of their kids, so that makes up for the loss...

I brought my bike back from St. Paul and went for a 5 mile ride last night. I was looking for a liquor store, I wanted to make Pina Coladas (Gerry and I make them every year around our anniversary, we're such light weights) but I didn't find one. Returning home I realized that at one point in my ride I'd been within 2/10 of a mile from the local booze-barn. Dang.

So I returned for groceries and PC mix, and a nice evening became even mellower. Of course, now that I have my bike here, everyone wants their bikes here. But mom rules (baby!) and I could only fit one bike on the rack (well, only MY bike as it has that big front basket)

Let's just say everyone benefits when mom is able to get a nice bike ride in every day.

Two more days, then home on Thursday. This is heaven, and a wonderful gift - I can't believe that I was so divided about coming out here after the WV/NJ jaunt. It turns out this is exactly what I needed.

We may take the kids to a movie tonight (Mummy 3) and I may look into how much it would be to rent bikes for a day. I'm not promising ANYTHING, though.
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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Green Lake

We drove up yesterday, Gerry, the kids, Max's friend, Charlie, Atticus and me - a car full!

On the way we stopped at Wendys and Gerry walked the dog. When I looked out the window I saw him resting (goofing) and realized just how badly Gerry needs a break, too!

Our trip to NJ - as fun as it was - was not really a vacation for anyone, and all the travel was exhausting for Gerry.

I was feeling sort of guilty for dragging Gerry up to the lake house (was it fair to make him crawl back into a car again?) But this past day has been so great, and we have 5 more to go!

I'm actually back in St. Paul, I had to return with Hannah (she has an event tomorrow that she can't miss, a school thing) but we'll be driving back tomorrow afternoon and then I'll be dark (no internet) until Thursday. So enjoy these shots now, I'll be back at the end of the week!

The house is just delightful - quite lovely! The lake is beautiful and warm and wonderful (and inspires Gerry to strike a Captain Morgan pose!)

I went into town to check about renting a kayak or something for a few days, but found this inflatable one on HUGE sale.

I'd been toying with the idea of getting something like this, I know it's not a 'real' kayak, but it will be very easy to store this winter and pull out for other lake weekends. And the cost was about what I'd expected to pay for a canoe or kayak rental.

After some paddling around and some swimming (yes, I joined the kids) we all had a killer game of Sorry!, where I was soundly trounced by all three kids. One would think they'd have more respect for their poor, old mom.

Hannah made a pet of a grasshopper and named it "Fred." Then it flew off. Fickle, Fred.

When Hannah and I left today the boys were heading out to the dock for some fishing. We started packing some stuff in the car and who should arrive but a blog reader with a plate of the best cookies I've had in a LONG time!

Thank you SO much, Maria!! Please, do come by again for a visit and some swimming! And, yes, I have been working on that article...
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Friday, August 22, 2008

Disconnect

I've been home for a few days, and just can't seem to get myself back into my own body. Things feel uneasy, disconnected, not quite right.

Yesterday was our 15th anniversary - the first one where we've been able to leave the kids alone while we went out to dinner. Granted, we went to dinner a few blocks away and were gone for less than an hour, but it's a milestone! Gerry gave me a lovely candle and some roses, Hannah gave me/us a card that made me cry.
Being Happy doesn't mean everything is perfect
it means you've decided to look beyond the imperfections
I won't say what she wrote on the inside of the card, but this is a keeper, that's for sure!

Today I ran errands, returning library books, picking up new ones, dropping off Hannah's bike to be fixed and getting my new shipment of books from the printer. And Costco. And exciting day all around, let me tell you.

I've spent the last few days doing a final clean up on Knit With Courage, re-flowing some of the pictures and text and double checking spacings, that kind of thing. It's really going to be such a good looking book - I'm very pleased with it! I feel like I need a week or so of rest before I'm able to contemplate the marketing and PR I have to dive into, and I think I may just GIVE myself that week.

I think I may just take some private knitting and a non-knitting book with me, work be damned. My brain is so loaded it's nearly exploded, so I'd better find a way to give it a rest.

The lakeside cottage where I'm slated to teach in Oct and Nov will be our home-away-from-home for the next week. Gerry and I have to return to St. Paul at various times, so the cats won't be alone for very long. I'd looked forward to this all summer, and now I just feel too tired to go. The idea of packing up this afternoon - even just bathing suits and shorts - is overwhelming. J'ai fatigue.

Caption Contest
As we were pulling away from the Holiday Inn in Marietta Gerry saw this glass and had me take a photo.

We're trying to think of an appropriate caption. Any ideas?
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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Back Home

We arrived late last night, the drive was long, but not bad at all. We skirted Chicago this time and that made life a lot easier (especially as it was rush hour...)

The kids were absolutely amazing. I don't think I could have been (or ever WAS) quite so good a traveler when I was a child. We worked out a drill when we'd pull into a gas station; Gerry'd start the pump, Hannah'd get Atticus out and start him on a walk, and Max & I would run to the bathroom. Then we'd switch; I'd finish filling the tank, Max'd water the dog and put him back in the car, and Gerry and Hannah would have some bathroom time.

Back on the road, all of us respectively filled and emptied, for another 300 miles. Every two tanks we'd stop, get out of the car, and eat a meal (preferably someplace outside so Atticus could join us, but never at a place where we couldn't leave the car in the shade.)

I did most of the driving - I like it - and I sensed that Gerry was getting pretty exhausted after his stint around Chicago.

But baby, is it EVER good to be home! Today Max is swimming with friends, Hannah's out at Target with Gerry for a restock of perishables, and I'm sorting out the mail and laundry. The pets are happy and well cared for (thanks Jane & Charlie!) and we're ready for some grilling this evening.

Ironically, while in NJ and WV/OH the weather was unseasonably cold. In NY they even had a tornado warning. It was as if we'd brought the MN weather with us. Now that we're home it's pretty warm here - warmer than it was through our whole trip - but it's beautiful.

A bunch of fruit has fallen off our crab apple tree and is rotting in the yard, it smells like Autumn. We left a few small Al Franken signs in our front yard, our neighbor (firecracker boy) put up a much larger Norm Coleman sign the day we left.

I noticed today that the Franken folks came by and replaced our small signs with larger ones. (Unless they grew... Oy, without really trying we're in a campaign sign-off, recycling day should be fun.)

The garden wasn't in terrible shape - the yard could stand a mowing, and the plants need watered, but overall it looks good. The house is cleaner than we remembered, but Max's bike is missing from the garage.

Gerry thinks the day before we left, the garage door was left open on night, and the bike may have 'walked away' then but it didn't register until Max went looking for it this morning. All our other bikes are here and fine, but we keep THEM on the front porch of the house, locked up.

So we may be looking for a new bike for Max for school. We'll have him try Gerry's bike (which isn't too big) and see if he feels comfortable on it. Gerry's not riding as much as he'd hoped, so if Max has grown enough to fit the bike that would be swell.

It's ironic, given our individual bike preferences at the start of the summer, that I'm the one who ended up riding every day...

Also on the bike front, we need to get Hannah's bike fixed up for school. Gerry has finally admitted defeat on being able to fix her gear changer. I'm looking forward to both kids riding to school, I think it will be SO good for them, in so many ways.

Earlier today Gerry and I went to his MM support group meeting in Stillwater, a particularly emotional meeting for me for no specific reason. I left for a bit to regroup in the bathroom, then back to the meeting.

This group is wonderful because it's SO information driven, folks sit in a big circle and really DISCUSS their drugs, their schedules, what protocols they may be on and what side effects they're feeling. We usually have a guest speaker (the last two meetings it's been folks from two drug companies, before that a doctor of accupuncture) and there are some snacks. Gerry felt like a star today talking about the MM Conference in NJ, and I was proud of him.

I still felt like I was driving, though. Even though I'm just not here, yet, it's still good to be home!
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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

On the Roads Again

So we're heading off this morning, back to St. Paul. We stayed here in Marietta an extra day because I just wanted to be with Jan.

It's been frustrating in that I haven't been able to speak with any of her doctors, Gerry and I were discussing what a different atmosphere this medical center is compared to the ones we've been dealing with in MN and NJ. It's almost as if the families here are so USED to deferring to the doctors that the doctors have been able to ignore the memo that they're not gods.

And, as any fan of Greek Mythology knows, when you get more than one god together, they tend to get into spats and disagreements. So Jan gets one comment from one doc, a different from another, and - as she is one of the smartest, most medically educated folks I know - even she is left dazed and confused.

And I hate to leave her. And the small extended family that is here hates for me to leave her, and that makes me feel more guilty than I've felt in a long time.

But there's nothing for it but to do what has to be done, and in this case - because we stayed an extra day - it means tag-team driving for 14 hours back to St. Paul.

I've left the actual packing of the car - the few things we brought into the hotel - to Han, Max and Gerry. Bless them. Traveling with a family is a LOT different than alone. More fun, definitely, but more work. It will be good to be home, I have buttloads of work I need to get done.

Yesterday I felt so tired - heaven knows why because I was sitting almost the whole day! - but I'm sure it was stress. Jan was transported to the hospital for her chemo, which took many hours more than it was supposed to (dang!) and then back to the nursing home where the strong emotions got the best of a close family friend and my only recourse was to just walk away. Maybe being overextended, exhausted and my mind being a bit of a blank makes me behave as an adult?

At any rate, a walk, a cool-down, and then a very nice dinner at the River City cafe right on the Ohio (and two Blue Moons) made life much more faceable. And as tired as I was, it was NOTHING compared to Jan's continued nausea, pain and exhaustion. This sucks.

The nursing home is quite lovely, though. Getting the social worker to fight for Jan to have internet access is a losing battle ("We don't allow the patients to use the internet. Period." said one nurse who overheard my conversation with the social worker)

Jan is too tired to care much about it, but I'm of the belief that if she HAD the internet, she could write to her friends around the world, look for stuff online, and feel more - connected - than she currently does. But I could be nuts

'll keep on fighting for it while I'm in St. Paul, though...
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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Half Here, Half Gone

So we're in Marietta at the Holiday Inn. We arrived last night just in time for the kids to dive into the pool, Atticus to run wild across the big, big yard and Gerry and I to collapse into the bed. Why on earth is driving so tiring?

This morning I went over to the nursing home to see Jan, she was subdued, but also brighter than I had feared. Her room is lovely, the facility is very nice and she has a good amount of privacy and light.

But she's isolated from all of her friends at the hospital (where she worked for 35 years) and I can tell that she misses the brief drop-ins from sister nurses.

We'd anticipated staying until Monday, but I think I'm going to extend our stay a day just to help her settle in better and to do what little I can. I only wish I could be down here longer, but life is full of requirements and right now I have to be home (St. Paul) for various reasons. Gerry and the kids certainly need to be home.

This whole thing feels so surreal. It's like deja vu, when I was so worried about my mom a few years ago and then my brother suddenly passed. Now I've been so concerned with Gerry and suddenly Jan seems to be moving faster and farther than I'd thought she would toward an ending.

With her current illness, Jan looks so much like my Grandma Williams, who died with I was 10 and she was 81. Here she is today with Joyce.

I'm very hopeful that I'll be able to talk with at least one of her doctors tomorrow to get a better handle on exactly where she stands (or lays) I'm just very, very tired right now, sad and heartsick. This evening we went to the River Cafe for dinner, on the Ohio river, where we could eat outside with the dog and have a beer. A small, delightful, pleasure.

But the kids are back from the pool, Gerry even went in for a dip, Atticus is asleep on the bed (Gerry took him and the kids over to Blennerhassett Island today while I stayed with Jan & her sister in law, Joyce) & On The Town is on TV. Gerry's not thrilled, but I get to watch a wonderful musical with the kids and refresh myself a bit.

On a side note, Joyce says that Hannah looks amazingly like my mother, which I have always thought. It's nice to hear that from someone else!

I would give anything to be home. I would give a lot to stay here, too. Singin' In The Rain is coming on, life really is very good.
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Friday, August 15, 2008

New Cover, New Doggie Digs?

I'd been meaning to update the Knit With Courage cover, I needed to add blurbs and clean up the final look.

While I was fiddling with it last night, my old friend Tomm stopped by and helped me make a MUCH nicer cover.

He's a [gifted] graphic designer, he has his own graphics company, and is the creator of all of those amazing Valentines all around his backyard for his lovely wife.

Actually, the whole family dropped by - what a delight! We just adore this family, we miss them SO much, and it was like a gift to be able to hug them and talk for a few hours. And, of course, the aforementioned graphic help from Tomm actually WAS a gift - Thanks T!

So here's the new cover - what do you think?

I really love it - I was never IN love with the previous cover - I figured it was okay, but hadn't been inspired to do anything better. The photo on the back is the same, sans family and photo border.

Nothing like wacking folks on the head with symbolism, n'est ce pas? Subtle as a tumor, that's me!

WV Continued
Speaking of Tumors, we're going to be going back down to WV as a family, for a visit with Jan on the way back to MN. I feel like we've been away from home for years, and we are terribly grateful to the very kind friends who have been feeding and caring for our cats. You are wonderful, J & C & J!

Slowly, bit by bit things are being squared away for Jan. Four of her dogs (3 Malteses and a Havanese) are going to foster homes this week nearby in WV or Ohio so if she's able to have them again they'll be quickly returned to her.

Jan has 2 standard poodles that need foster homes, and they may be tough cases. Kingsly is going down to his breeder in SC, so he's taken care of. Frank is at the Vets (he's been there since early July, the boarding bill is becoming higher than Jan's mortgage) but he needs a 'real' place to be for a bit. He can be rather "Alpha" and might do better on his own instead of with other dogs.

Ted is the oldest dog, he's 13 but a sweetheart and plays well with others, and also needs a temporary home which may become permanent. It takes a very special person to accept an animal in their home, care for it and love it, be willing to love it forever - and also willing to return it to it's owner if that situation arises.

I feel, however, that the placements will be permanent. I've never seen my cousin sadder or madder at me than working through this painful subject (and I once accidentally dyed several of her bras red, boy was she PISSED at that!) If you feel you might interested in this, and if you live within a 200 mile radius of Parkersburg, WV, please email me and we can discuss it!

Hannah desperately wants us to take Ted, and in my heart I want to. But I'm hesitant for 2 reasons; Jan would very much like the dogs to remain close by (in Ohio, WV or the general area) and we can barely get Atticus out for his walks, etc., as it is.

With me traveling as I do, and with Gerry not really being able to do long walks for Atticus (AND with our very small yard in St. Paul) I'm worried that it would end up being a bad situation for both Ted and for us. We're still thinking, though. I'm just afraid of biting off more than I can handle, and making others suffer for it (mostly Gerry, on whom the dog care would fall when I'm traveling.)

So if anyone knows of a potential foster situation in the Ohio/WV area please let me know. We desperately need someone to foster 2 of the standard poodles, with a nice area for them to run and a HIGH fence (poodles can be jumpers.)

Just thought I'd toss it out and see what the wind brings back!

I've put off dealing with Jan's house until October. In answer to some questions, there really is no way that those of us who are close to Jan can see her returning to the house. She's a - collector - and unfortunately there's been a LOT of stacking, piling, shoving, saving, and NO editing or tossing out. I could easily toss out several dumpsters full of trash - not good, useful or even neutral stuff, but TRASH.

I think there are more folks out there will homes full of stacks of stuff than we realize, but as much as Jan wants to return home, there will have to be a LOT of cleaning out to make that even the glimmer of a possibility. I'm taking my vitamins, and gearing up for a hard - but necessary - job.

Article Angst
I cannot get my mind to focus on sweater shaping, and I feel like a heel for being late on my article. I'm not usually late with deadlines. Even when my mind is cluttered and clouded I can usually fight through it to carve a respectable semblance of something. In this case I just cannot wrap myself around this assignment, so I'm going to try not to stress and see what the universe tosses back to me. Evidently, I'm heavily reliant on the wind and the universe these days.

Good Times
Being able to stay here at our good friend's home while they're on vacation, feeling at home in a familiar surrounding, playing with their cat and relaxing with good friends - this has been the most amazing trip and gift we could have had. 18 months ago I couldn't imagine it. A year ago I would have told you this was a pipe dream. But Gerry continues to look and feel better and better, and all of our friends have been astounded at how magnificently he's doing.

They look sideways at me, as if I'd been exaggerating, and we have to pull out the photos from last year showing "Grampa Gerry" and how far he's come. Everything is relative, and if you hadn't seen him since we'd moved and didn't know about his illness you might think he looks smaller, weaker, not great.

But knowing the hell he's come through this past year, he's nothing but beautiful! Watching his family watching him last weekend was a delight. Gerry got to spend a nice chunk of time with his mom on Wednesday when he went into the city to finally say goodbye to his old co-workers (he missed his last week of work due to his back ache) and to visit his union to sit down and sort out so much confusing information.

That Insurance Thing
We're covered insurance wise for a bit longer, but we have to make some decisions. I may have to make the decision to hang up the design/teaching and get a 'real' job. It's not the income, I think I'd do about the same as I'm doing now. And the loss of flexibility will be very rough with all of the health juggling that we've been doing. But there's that insurance thing. This may not have to happen, I'm a great believer that folks should work at their 'calling' whenever possible (and my calling is, for better or for worse, fiber related stuff) But there's that insurance thing.

We're in relatively good shape, all things considered. Thank you, Unions! I'm heartsick over my cousin's current situation and the long term implication, which is enough to make god cry - but not the insurance industry... And SHE'S worked as a NURSE for the past 30+ years, which nets her a big, bit 60 days at a nursing facility if she needs to go. It sucks so bad.

Aside from the financial loss, the waste, the pain, the heartache that so many Americans go through with inadequate insurance, one of the great unspoken tragedies of our American Insurance Crisis is the loss of productivity. Folks can't work at their chosen profession - use their full gifts - because they have to take ANY job that insures them. It really is a wonderfully evil way of controlling a work force, huh?

And, as we all know, you can NEVER be as productive as you might if your heart is not in your job.

Universal healthcare NOW!

Every day a different rant, fresh for you each morning!
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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I'm Tired

It's been a rough couple of days - more rough for Jan than for me, so I have no room to complain. Yet I will.

Have I mentioned lately that cancer sucks?

Did I tell the sad tale of my meltdown at the MM Conference a few days ago? There was a raffle, $20 for 5 tries at a Tiffany box, ostensibly with something pretty amazing inside.

Gerry bought the tickets and I memorized the numbers because I KNEW that I was due for some luck.

The next day they had the raffle - and we won - but the tickets were left at home so we couldn't prove that we'd won and they had to move on to the next number.

I was pretty angry. Stupidly so. Poor Gerry.

I just kept thinking, "I want something GOOD to happen, I need something UNEXPECTEDLY GOOD to just happen!"

And it did. I missed it, but it definitely happened.

The anger I was feeling was due more to the tension and stress of life right now than missing out on a stupid prize (I'm not even a big jewelry wearer - I got a lovely pair of Annie Adams earrings 9 months ago and I've worn them just about every day since then, I'm so predictable!)

I think I was just mad at the world for a few minutes, and Gerry happened to be standing in for the world at that moment.

On Sunday we went out to Long Island for a family visit / reunion of sorts, and everyone was so glad to see Gerry looking amazingly well. His cousin, Melissa, has become a knitter and showed off her socks with her beautiful little daughter. My work here is done...

Now I'm just tired. Being the bad guy is wearying, bearing necessary but bad news is exhausting. And I have a drive back to NJ today. I also have a really wonderful audio book that I'm listening to, but it's the kind of day when it seems that all the bleakness and pain in the world is hovering over my head.

It is quite lovely outside here in beautiful Marietta, though. On the trip down there were a few thunderstorms, and it's been misting every morning here in the Ohio valley. This is a beautiful little town, the oldest in Ohio, with some stunning period homes.

The cemetary is quite lovely. I try not to drive past it, though.

Enough with my blogging break - back to my cousin! She's feeling as though I'm taking away everything that she loves, I know it must seem that way.

How can I explain that it's Cancer that's taking it away. I just want to make sure that she retains as much control as possible over her life as things seem to be slipping away.

Pretending a loss isn't happening doesn't keep it away. Facing it allows one to retain whatever small control is possible.
But that's easy for me to say, I'm the one with the keys to the car.
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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Talking

When a really crappy thing like cancer happens, there is BOUND to be a certain amount of anger, especially for the patient.

One thing I noticed in this past year was that when someone is ill and the 'bad' topics have to be discussed, there's usually a strong emotional reaction. After an initial anger or frustration fades, a stream of common sense can flood in to fill the void. Maybe this is the famous 'clearing the air' that folks talk about.

Jan wants to be home eventually, with ALL of her animals. Home is not safe for her right now, there has to be a LOT of cleaning out, a lot of fixing up, the animals need a better life right now, and it's not 100% certain that her home will ever be the best place for her again. This makes her so angry, though - it would piss me off, too - and that scares her friends, who don't want to upset her.

It's a unique situation because I don't live here - I see Jan once or twice a year - I'm not present in her daily life the way Joyce or her friends are. But because we have that cousin-blood bond, I'm in a different (better?) place to bring up issues that need to be discussed.

Jan's been a nurse for 30 years and is no fool. It's clear that Jan feels in limbo, and because she's a strong person, everyone takes their cue from her and all those around her feel in limbo, too. How low can we go?

I'm happy - willing, at least - to be the mechanism to bring up painful subjects and lance the boil so that Jan can move toward more useful feelings. I love her enough to make her PO'd at me.

But timing is everything. A funny thing happened when I brought up the taboo subjects; Jan was ready to discuss them. Or at least listen.

I get the feeling they are conversations that Jan's been waiting to have - and it had to be in person. It may be that no one has felt comfortable taking responsibility to have the necessary chats, there are so many boundaries that are difficult for friends and in-laws to cross.

And I'm a planner so I cope by trying to figure different scenarios that will allow Jan as much autonomy as possible while also relieving some of the problems that are growing. Taking care of bills, mortgage, setting up pay schedules, all of that being dealt with was a weight off of her mind, I could tell.

And, as I said to one of Jan's friends yesterday, if I'm annoying or the my conversations lead to bad feelings, I'll be out of here tomorrow to give the dust a chance to settle.


So now we're trying to figure out what might be physical goals that will give Jan's recovery some shape; A back brace so she can sit up, perhaps physical therapy which might lead to time in rehab, or, alternatively, maybe a move to a nursing facility.

As long as the steps we take now ARE realistic, we're moving in the right direction. They may come to nothing, but at least we're not closing the door on hope.

I don't want her to give up on her own personal goal of eventually moving back home - even if it seems unrealistic right now - so I'm also looking into waste haulage places so that we can start cleaning out her home, making it more livable for someone with cancer.

Jan's being weighted down, mentally and physically, by the sheer amount of - stuff - that inhabits her home. I'm planning on coming back down in October to spend a week or so just throwing stuff away, sorting stuff, creating some peace.

The question is, where will Jan be in October?
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Monday, August 11, 2008

Best 9 Hours I've Spent All Week

Driving down here was necessary, the minute I walked into my cousin's hospital room, I knew it was absolutely the best thing for me to drive down here to West Virginia (actually, Marietta, OH) from NJ.

My cousin's mother and my mother were sisters, Jan and I are as close as sisters. We've always had a very special bond, she's 8 years older than I, and I've looked up to her my entire life. In some ways I've felt closer to her than anyone in my family.

She's hit a very rough spot right now. Her breast cancer has recurred and metasticized in her spine in a few places and in her thigh bone. Other things are popping up, too, and they restarted her on chemo today after a week of radiation. She's entirely immobile because a month ago her thigh bone shattered at the point where the tumor was hiding, so she had surgery to place a rod up her leg bone.

I arrived here at 4:00 and went right to her room until 8:00 pm. I finally left because I knew she was forcing herself to stay awake because I was visiting. As I was sitting next to her bed, rubbing her sore leg, patting her hand, I had such a strong sense of deja vu. Wasn't it just a few years ago I was doing this with my mom? With Gerry last year?

I stopped on the way back to my hotel and got 2 beers. I just drank one, I feel better, the other will just have to be put away until another day.

I guess I picked the wrong week to give up eating like an idiot.

(I could really go for a few reeses peanut butter cups or some Americone Dream Ice cream right about now...)

In some odd twist of fate, my own kids were the first born into our family since I was a baby. A 35-year dry spell of babies.

Jan, her brother, Tommy and my brother Jim were childless (until my brother and his wife adopted their son from Russia) Since so few kids have been born, there are very few folks left in the family. At this point it's pretty much me, Jan, Tommy's wife, Joyce and Jim's wife, Karen.

It's so weird, so odd, to be Jan's last, close blood relative. Joyce has been amazing - she was at the hospital when I arrived and has been there several times a week. Joyce is feeling - and with reason - that this whole last sickness of Jan's is pretty much entirely on her shoulders.

I'm glad to be here to relieve a bit of the pressure, I wish I could do more, but the best I can do is be HERE when I'm able. No one is at their best during chemo. Jan's flat on her back, in pain, but she was so happy when I walked into the room that it would have been worth 90 hours of driving.

There are a lot of decisions that need to be made (some of them unpleasant and potentially a cause for friction) As I told Joyce, if I do what I MUST do as a sister-cousin, all signs point to tomorrow being a rather rough day.

But if I take the easy way out and avoid the rough subjects, it will make things a lot harder down the road. How on earth did I end up being the last "adult" standing?

Thanks so much to folks who have written with good thoughts and offers of help. If I don't get back to you right away, please know it has a lot to do with erratic internet and not a lot of time for emailing.

And now off to write a bit about sweater shaping. Focus, Annie, focus!
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Saturday, August 09, 2008

Convergence

We're at the International Myeloma Foundation's Short Hills conference, and it's been a very good experience.

I was more - enervated - than I thought I would be when we arrived yesterday. I can go along for periods sort of forgetting that Gerry's ill, but you can't quite push all of that down De Nile when you're at a MM friggin' convention.

There are some excellent question and answer sessions, very good information, and Gerry's having a chance to interact with other MM folks. I'm signed up for a care giver's breakout group today at 3:00, which I'm really looking forward to. MM patients are NOT allowed to go, so it will probably be rather, ahem, honest.

Max is squared away his NJ best friend's house for a few days, in heaven, and Hannah's hanging out with us today at the conference going online and reading.

As is the way with August, most of her friends are gone away to camp or family vacations, but one of her BEST friends will be arriving home today, so we're anxiously awaiting the arrival of JJ!

I'm scooting back and forth between the info sessions and Hannah. She's okay on her own, but I can tell she feels better when I'm around.

So we've taken over a small cafe table as Mac Central and I'm blogging while she's surfing. Kowabunga, dude!

Folks here run the gamut of having been diagnosed as recently as July, to having been fighting this disease for 18 (EIGHTEEN!) years. Amazing.

The newest diagnoses are the most afraid, they have the scared, "How much time to I have, doc..." looks on their faces. As the length of their fight grows, folks look much more philosophical - "Every day IS a gift!" - which is sort of how we've felt for a while, now.

File Under "Sucks"
My cousin, however, is having a pretty rough ride. It looks as though she will be moved to a nursing home, the doctor spoke with her about end of life care and she's pretty wrung out over what will happen to her eight (8!) dogs. Three standard poodles and five malteses. Anyone want to give a loving home to a needy doggie?

I need to get down there, stat. I need to be here. I need to drive Gerry and the family back to MN, but I NEED to be with my cousin. I'm looking into options. I also need to finish an article by next week on shaping. Those are the only things I need to do, but they're big ones.

Right now I need to call my cousin, then scoot back in and sit with Gerry. Then check on Hannah. Need, need, need.

Note to comments: Thank you so much for your kind words. Sadly, truly, I am just about the only blood relative around for Jan - and she for me. There's an amazing sister in law who has gone far above and beyond the call of duty, and very, very good friends - but there are some things that need to be handled by me, I'm it.

That's Not Fair!
Because of a thread on Ravelry there's been a lot of new interest in the Ruffled Roses Scarf, and the attending odd emails from folks telling me how unfair it is that I only offer it to Yarn Shops.

Heads up - Life Never Promised To Be Fair. (I guess this is one free pattern that you'll have to either skip, or wait until you visit a yarn shop, sorry...)


I think right now I'm feeling less patient with folks who rail at me because I'm committing the horrible faux pas of offering a free pattern to yarn shops only.
Here's what I need - more patience.

Other Unfair Stuff
I noticed when I started to submit a class to TNNA recently that they've changed their policy so that they will only cover a half night's hotel room for teachers. I'm so dismayed by this that I can hardly express my frustration. Folks attend TNNA for a variety of reasons, but the fact remains that Teachers and Designers are a large part of TNNA. As a trade organization which is supposed to be supporting us, and representing our needs, too, I find this so short sighted.

It's a penny wise, pound foolish economy for TNNA to try to save money in this way. There are other economies they can engage in without asking Teachers to give 6-8 hours of full teaching time in a day, then go back to a room and share it (thus not getting as much rest as is necessary to teach another day)

I know some folks like to share a room, and I don't mind when I'm at a conference and NOT WORKING. But when I'm working - when I have to give so much to my students, I require a LOT of rest. No matter how much I may like a roommate, it's just impossible to fully relax when dealing with another human being in the room.

If TNNA can't afford a private room for each teacher at the convention center, then how about arranging a block of rooms at a nearby less expensive hotel? I think that sort of sucks, too, but I think it would be more respectful.

Incidentally, the TNNA Teacher/Designer Guidelines Group recently finished working on a document where we list a full night's private hotel room as a necessity. Ironic, huh?

Even so, though, I doubt that TNNA would have taken any of my classes for the next convention in San Diego (they haven't had any of my classes for the past 2 sessions) And - unrelated - the workshops and classes have been less full than usual. I see it as a downward spiral, fewer folks attending TNNA, fewer folks seeing a REASON to attend TNNA, classes become less interesting and compelling, fewer folks sign up, etc., etc..

I'm not the only teacher who has decided she doesn't want to "donate" time and money to TNNA to make the convention a success. F'heaven's sake, if a yarn shop can afford to hire teachers and cover a private room, why in the world can't TNNA?
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Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Little Blog Post That Couldn't

Here's what I would have written yesterday if I'd had wifi...

It's my second time in a Holiday Inn Express in 2 weeks, and I'm not having an easy time with the internets - AGAIN.

I don't know if it's a HIE problem, but the signal is just so weak I can't log on.


But here's a short rundown on our Wednesday on the Road.

We drove a lot,
Traffic in Chicago sucked
(we saw TWO accidents!)
There are lots of cops in Indiana
(I swear, more cops than cows!)
We stopped just about every hour for a walking break for everyone
(especially Gerry & Atticus)
The corn was as high as an elephant's eye

The saddest thing, though, is there is no Bravo or Comedy Central at the hotel, thus no Project Runway or Jon Stewart. Dang.

However, there was a very well done documentary on Hirosima on HBO which we watched with the kids, and it was a good jumping off point for a discussion of how complex the whole situation was - the same conversation I remember having with my mom when I was Hannah's age.

My mom had the benefit of referencing my beloved Uncle Jim-Bob (nee Max Hurl - he's partly who Max is named for) who served in the Pacific theater of the war (he was on both the Hornet and the Wasp, and his stories being shipwrecked, and of waiting in shark filled waters for deliverance, were hair raising!)

That made the whole thing make a bit more sense to Jimmy and me as kids in the 1960's - more immediate. It's such a frightening and awe-filled episode in history. So maybe missing Project Runway wasn't so bad after all...

Thursday
Much the same as Wed, nice driving made even nicer with Harry Potter and Gerry drove about 4 hours (so I got some car knitting done - woo!)
Now we're here in Maplewood, NJ, staying at the home of some friends who are on vacation this weekend (they asked us just before we left if we'd house sit and feed their cat - uh, YE-AH!) There's a few days of overlap when the dad in the family will be here with us, which is terrific for Gerry as they're great friends, and Gerry's missed seeing him SO much.

Driving into South Orange / Maplewood was surreal for Gerry, I could tell. He was very quiet, perhaps thinking about how little it's changed and how much he's changed.

And I'm watching Project Runway and Kathy G, both tonight. What a delicious way to unwind after a day of driving!
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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Turnabout is Fair Play

It's been a while since Han's been on the blog, and Max has had MAXimum coverage what with all the kayaking and skiing and baseball.

So here's a shot of Hannah in a wimple type of scarf that I just finished in Buffalo Gold's #13, Buffalo & Bamboo yarn. She looks thrilled to be modeling for mom in August, huh?

Actually, it's absolutely lovely here. My doc (I saw her today because of my breathing) says it's been SO humid here, but compared to NJ or Ohio, it's a balmy breeze.

I'm slightly worried about breathing in NJ, but I have prednisone and - although I had the 'puffing' effects it has on my body - it has a beautiful way of allowing me to breath again.

The wimple is a one-skein, 250yd laceweight project, and as soon as I have the pattern written up I'll distribute it in some way (I'm thinking this may be my next "free only through a yarn shop" patterns - I've heard the Ruffled Roses Scarf has been really successful for yarn shops across North America)

We're packing up, which for me means trying to get my projects to a finished state, or an easily transportable state. And trying to figure out ways to make the car comfortable for 4 folks, a dog and some books or games.

Gerry's not big on driving these days, and I don't blame him. Aside from sitting pain (when he's a passenger he can move around and lay back if he wants) he has an awkward tendency to fall asleep (so bad when driving) and he thinks the pain meds makes him loopier than he'd like to be.
But, as he DEFINITELY needs the meds, and we'd ALL like to have a peaceful end, I'll be doing the lion's share of the driving.

But I love that, you all know that...

This means less knitting, but more thinking time. I've forewarned the kids that mom may have one earphone from her ipod plugged in during the trip, and when you see this, don't bother mom.

We're probably going to be listening to a LOT of Harry Potter, though - always fun - and we might even sing. Do families still sing in the car? All of those 'cooler than thou' movies in the 80's and 90's when they parodied singing car trips might have made it a rather gauche thing to do, but we're all lefties.

BTW - anyone have any recent experience with St. Marie Among the Hurons? We went when I was a kid and I was NUTS about it, but I don't know if it would be right for the kids at 11 & 10...?
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Monday, August 04, 2008

Slowly Finding a Rhythm

Last evening we had the nicest visit with some new friends West of Minneapolis, just a wonderful group of folks. We were all so content on the way home, we had a lovely time!

Max was able to get up on the skis again, I got to meet a new friend (several!) and do some knitting, and Gerry got to talk to NEW PEOPLE (not me or other MM folks in his support group - fresh blood!)

Max was in his element, and triplet boys only added to the fun! Hannah was a little bored, I think, but she handled it well by reading and playing the piano while dinner was being prepared.

It's hard to be the only girl in a group of rowdy boys! (Speaking of rowdy boys, here's Max with the scarf just before he gave it to his coach)

At one point some of the adults went for a calm cruise out on the lake, it was pure heaven. I swear, if I lived out there I'd be on the water every day.

As it is, I'm thrilled to be on my bike every day (even if I had to stop for some high-octane wheezing today...) I'll miss that when I'm in NJ, but I really don't want to take the bike, and it's both too hilly and too humid for me to do much riding back east.

I'm very gradually moving into a routine with my new office, and it's such a comfort. I knew I missed having a space of my own, but I hadn't realized just how much. In my living room chair with the overloaded bookshelf there was only SO much I could juggle at one time.

Now - with storage in the basement and an office where I can keep my current projects and, most important, a DOOR I can close to create a private space, I'm able to prioritize.

Triaging my projects, articles, even my fun stuff is one of my greatest strengths - deciding which can be left untouched over the weekend, what needs to "cook" a bit more in my mind, and what should come out right away as a swatch or sketch is what has allowed me to work very fast and smart.

I've spent the last few years getting so much done in short bursts of energy - but those are preceded with months of preparation so that when the 'birthing time' comes I can crank out many projects at one time.

But this past year and half was devoted to so much non-design stuff, so much family work, that I couldn't find the internal space to allow myself to concentrate as much as I needed to on the work that was right in front of me.

The family worries are still here - as they are for everyone - but now I have a physical space which is allowing me to create, temporarily, a little calm time every day. I don't have to answer the door, answer the phone, say "Hi!" to various delivery men and folks who stop by (unless I want to!)

When I was planted in the living room I was in the fishbowl - everyone who even knocked on the door could peer in and see me. I'd wave, grind my work to a halt and stagger across the living room, through the front porch to the door. Usually the visitor wanted me to sign a petition, sign for a package, or buy something. Gerry, being upstairs, would often not even know someone had stopped by.

Now the heat is off of me as far as being the doorkeeper of our house. Gerry's well enough that fielding the various visits is a nice break in the day for him, and I can work uninterrupted!

Last week I finished one article on working with color, and I intend to get a good bite taken out of a sister article on shaping which is due in 2 weeks. With a desk to sit at, and my scanner at my elbow, I can sketch, swatch, scan and bring all those elements together in design submissions for magazines and yarn companies. And I can work on my book!

Knit With Courage will still be out on September 1, but we've moved the "official" publication date to late October to coincide with Multiple Myeloma Awareness Week (10/22 - 27). This also gives us more time to get some nice reviews and blurbs on the book jacket, and hopefully get some national press on a book about a family dealing with cancer. Well, one can hope!

Designs
I have been cranking out some new design ideas, and I have a nice, juicy project to take with me to NJ (a mitered skirt out of Sea Wool) which I'm really excited about writing up.

I'm finishing up a Crocheted Corset (I know, high time, huh?), this one also in Artyarns Regal Silk. I have to write that one up, too! I'm doing it with thin straps, thick straps, and a small sleeve, all crocheted.

It also involves a lot of embroidery up the front, which is - of course - optional. But it's a lot of fun!

I swear, I have SO many new patterns to put up on my website. Hopefully I'll get that done when we're back from NJ.

Teaching
I've been SO foot dragging about setting up teaching engagements - I sort of understand it, but I'm also a bit confused by my hesitancy. The classes that I've taught lately have been very full, with a smallish class every now and then for a bit of relief. It's been surprising to me just how full many of my classes have been, but it's flattering and good for the shops where I'm teaching!

But - for whatever reason - it's been hard to fill up the two weekends I was asked to do at the Medayto Cottage in Spicer, MN.

I can't decide if it's because the weekend setup isn't right for folks, or if the weekend itself isn't 'full service' enough (all meals are not included) for someone who just wants to get away and no think about ANYTHING except knitting for two days. Or maybe it's the price of gas? Of course, it could always be me!

We're debating canceling one or both of them if they don't fill a bit better by mid September, which is sad but only makes sense. I hate thinking about it, but if it must be I'd at least like to learn something from the experience.
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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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