Thursday, October 30, 2008

Phrasing

Max and Hannah have been taking piano lessons since May. I know I'm their mom, but I'm just blown away by how much they've accomplished. I never played the piano, so I don't really have a clear idea of how hard different things are (as with so many skills, I'm sure that parts that seem hard are easy, and vice versa...)

But they're making MUSIC - they feel so empowered to just play around on the piano and make up stuff - to rephrase their lessons and create new feelings with tunes they're mastering. It makes my heart so proud - and it's a gift I'd longed to give them for years.

We found a digital keyboard on ebay at half the price it was at Costco (already a bargain) and it was the best purchase we made this year. Our piano teacher says it's a good one - a Yamaha with weighted keys - and the kids love it.

I'm of so many different minds and emotional states these days - listening to the kids play piano is one of my pure, undiluted joys this Fall. Like the gorgeous leaves that are green rimmed with gold and edged with red, every sensation seems to have many contrasting echoes.

Max has discovered the difference that phrasing can make in a tune. It's exciting to hear him learn a song, memorize the notes, then slowly make it his own as he changes the phrasing. When he got back from his piano lesson on Tuesday evening he rushed right over to the piano to practice new phrasing his teacher had shown him - she's a wonderful teacher. She has a knack for picking tunes for the kids that really excite them, that make them want to strive!

I think she and I have the same philosophy about encouraging students. I hate seeing new knitters work the same scarf pattern over and over again - it's so sad (unless they love it!) If a new knitter has the passion and desire to make a sweater, then they SHOULD make a sweater! I love that she has the kids start right out with tunes, with music, with JOY! If anyone in St. Paul wants her info, I'll be happy to pass it along. We just love her.

Speaking of knitting scarves, I've been asked to donate a scarf to a fundraiser for the Peoria Contemporary Arts Center. If you're in the area, I hope you'll consider going by and making a bid on one of the items in the auction! I have to get to work on this scarf - I think I'll use some beautiful Americo that Amy Singer gave me last year (I love it, but I'm allergic to it so I can't wear it...)

Jan
I have never missed anyone as I miss Jan right now. It's odd, because as close as we were, we didn't talk on the phone that much. But we were very close. And the fact that she was such a strong thread, the last tie, to my childhood/adolescent/adult memories makes the severing so complete. I feel weightless, rootless, unsettled right now.

I've been riding my bike a lot, the weather here is amazing (60's and sunny) and the bike is the second best purchase we made this year. Yesterday I rode down to my pulmonary specialist for a good visit and we discussed the fact that my asthma just doesn't seem to be getting better.

I said I felt greedy for wanting so much - good lungs - when I already have so much. I'm riding my bike, something I couldn't easily do last Spring (I couldn't even ride to Max's school without walking my bike part of the way...) But I want more.

He commiserated with me about the fact the prednisone, which is what is allowing me this respite from my asthma crazed lungs, also packs on the pounds and makes me look like a potato with stick arms and legs.

My legs are thinner and more muscular, my arms are thinner and stronger, I think I'm in not-bad-shape as far as exercising goes. But my middle section is thick and thicker. When Gerry videotaped me last weekend I watched part of it and spiraled into a funk at the hunched-back, round, potato body specter I saw on the screen. I cannot STAND to see myself in photos or videos these days.

My doc said that I'm not the only one who has this reaction to the steroids - Gerry had the same reaction to his dexemethesone last year - and he was very impressed that I'd ridden the St. Paul Classic. He - very kindly - told me he didn't think I was fat. Have I mentioned how much I love this doc? He's also amazingly handsome, so that doesn't hurt...

Last week when Gerry was getting his chemo there was a very round young woman, bald, getting her chemo in the chair next to Ger. Her reaction to her meds had made her balloon up. Her lack of hair created the perfect Buddah-esque silhouette, she was really quite lovely. She probably hated how she looked as much as I hate my own appearance right now, but she seemed peaceful and lovely.

Jan was big, our whole family was large. When I'd stand with my family they'd make me look thin, so maybe I'm missing that, too...

Sometimes I think about how much of my life has been wasted on fretting over size, how much mental stress and depression has surrounded my inability to fit into a commercially sanctioned "beauty" I'd like to get that time back - I'd like to have the strength not to waste another minute on it again.

Every second of life is so precious, and can contain so much joy, it's sad to toss them away in useless worry.

Pix
My camera stopped working, but it's still under warrantee (Actually, just past, but the camera store was SO human! Thank you National Camera Exchange! They really do treat you the way they'd like to be treated!)

My Canon's been sent back to the factory for a fix up, and with any luck I'll have it by Christmas. Seriously, that's what the guy said. So I'll be photo-free for a bit, I'll borrow Hannah's camera (my old one) when I travel to Boston next week to take photos of New England in Autumn. I can upload sounds, though - here's Gerry making a funny noise.

I've been contacted by a local audio recording studio which would like to put Knit With Courage out in audio book format. It's definitely worth speaking with them - it's something that's been on my mind for a while. Gerry loves my voice and has said that I should do voice overs, but he's biased and kindly overlooks my aspirated T's and other vocal hiccoughs.
It's become a tremendous source of solace for me, the fact that so many folks who read the book really LIKE the book - they quote the book to me - which kind of blows me away. I meant to give a copy to my doctor yesterday, maybe I'll ride past his office and drop one off. I did mention that he's tall, dark and handsome, n'est ce pas?

I think today I'll ride my bike down to the Minnesota Historical Center and see the Vatican exhibit. We're members - we love the center - and I could use a day of beauty and introspection. And a good bike ride.

Projects
I'll take my current project, a beach wrap worked in entrelac for Interweave Knits. It can be worn as an around-the-shoulder poncho type thing, or pulled down so it sits over the hips as a skirt. I mean for it to be worn with a bathing suit, and the entrelac (done in lace - entrelace! I'm not ashamed to say that I've been wanting to do something along these lines since seeing the Forest Path Shawl in IK years ago...) is a lot of fun to do.

My challenge is finding a good, visual way to explain the concept (I have been playing around with charting entrelac) so that more people feel able to really throw themselves into this wonderful technique.

I have been threading the stitches in finished sections onto waste yarn so it's easier to stretch the whole thing out and see how the lace is falling, and easier to block it as I go.

I think I'll add this as a tip in the pattern. It's so hard to really visualize how this thing is turning out if you can't spread it out, and blocking it makes it look nicer, which makes it more fun and easier to work on. D

amn, I wish I had some photos to show you what I mean...

See, don't you miss my camera, too?
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Monday, October 27, 2008

It went well!

I didn't post after the signing because I was - well - indisposed.

That's the official title for imbibing almost a full bottle of champagne, then having a wonderful burger at Costello's across the street (seriously, one of the best burgers I've had all year! Just the right amount of cheese and a little bit of garlic - yum!) Then stumbling upstairs to sleep it off.

During our dinner the kids played pool, I played pinball (I'm NUTS about a good pinball game!) and Gerry moved back and forth between the two. We're so danged low-rent.

But most important, the signing at Common Good Books went really well - hooray!

Mary, the kind woman from the bookstore (who, it turns out, had been asked to handle the signing by one of the younger, male bookstore employees because she's a knitter. He thought "only two chairs" would be required...) said that the turnout was record breaking.

I know that all seats were filled and there were f0lks standing! And not just because they were leaving!

I liked Mary immediately. She's a former Jr. High principal, and I loved how she interacted with Hannah and Max. She's a friend and fan of both my kids' current principals (who I also LOVE) and there's something about admiring the same folks that helps the bonding.

My friend London shared some of the white hot chocolate she got upstairs at Nina's (where, ironically, Hannah and I came to knit during our visit to MN in Summer 2006) and it was the MOST amazing hot drink I'd had. It made me think of the hot soy-based cinnamon drinks I would make for Hannah's dairy-allergic friend, Jaiden, back in NJ.

As yesterday was the first day of snowing here in the Twin Cities this year, it felt festive and just perfect to have something hot and delicious. I wondered how it would taste with a touch of rosewater...

I talked for a good 45 minutes, answered some questions, then at the prompting of a good friend in the crowd told the story of how Gerry and I met. Folks were grinning.

My publicist, who I had never met in person, Jana Robbins was there (Hi Jana!) as was Kari Cornell (author of Knitticisms and a supportive friend!) It was a big deal for me, this book signing, and I felt very loved.

After I talked, I moved down to the shop where I signed books, sitting at GK's desk [qvell], offering plastic cups of champagne to anyone who desired. The kids helped Mary fold up the chairs, Gerry bought Hannah Persepolis II, and a fine time was had by all!

Speaking of graphic novels, the other day when I was putting away my mom's china I found my original boxed set of Maus, which I shared with Hannah. She was fascinated that her mom had been 'cool enough' to read graphic novels before she was born, and was intruiged with the Jewish-ness of the story. She's currently struggling with the whole "Why do I have to go to Hebrew School?" thing. Maus may help make it a little more pertinent.

Gerry was amazing - he videotaped the event - and ran around like a proud husband. Seriously, he seemed more like his "old self" than I've seen in a long time, recent fall notwithstanding.

We both collapsed when we got home, but I tried to make up for my dissolute ways by getting up early this morning and making waffles for the kids before they headed off to school. A hot, fresh waffle on a cold, bike-riding morning. One of Max's friends dropped by this morning and had a waffle, too - we're so friggin' Ozzie & Harriet these days!

I think I'll go out for a ride - my breathing is better than it's been in months (thank you Prednisone) and tomorrow I go see my Pullmonary doctor to try to find a strategy that will allow me to retain this ability to breathe.

I think I'll ride past the Center For Grief & Loss and see what programs / groups they have (they're just a few blocks away) where I can interact with other red-faced, snotty-nosed, loving folks. Then I'll find a quiet place to write some thank-you cards to folks who have been so kind in light of Jan's recent passing.

Of course today, true to form, Gerry's body is making him pay for his walk down videographer's memory lane, and he's laid up in bed today. I brought him coffee and waffles and tucked him in, told him to take his pain meds and stay in bed as long as he wants. He won't.

He SO needs something to make him feel that he's making a difference. Buttering cheese sandwiches, picking up kids at the dentist and making sure that homework is done - although necessary to our well-run family - isn't entirely cutting it for him.

The kids were - ahem - active during my reading. Max stealing the spotlight whenever he could (neither of my kids are shy) and Hannah chatting with her friend Lydia (it made me feel so glad and loved that so many new friends came to the signing - ) Hannah said I was "good and loud" - which is my own pet peeve when I go to hear anyone read - and announced that she could hear me all the way upstairs. Excellent.

One of the more moving things about writing this book and doing signings are the numerous folks who have had their own brushes with cancer and come to share their experiences with me. In the case of Common Good Books, the actual signing was in a very intimate corner of the shop, so I had the luxury of talking to folks individually, as if we were alone having a nice chat, as I signed their books.

One very lovely woman, who came with her daughter and son-in-law, told me of her husband who had passed from MM 6 years ago. We hugged, cried a little, and she told me that her doctors told them that because her husband was over 72 "we don't treat folks that age with MM..."

That was sad to hear. It's kind of understandable because a stem cell transplant can be a VERY exhausting and overwhelming experience. But some 72-year olds I know are more vital and strong than some 56-year olds. I told her I hoped that this cut off date had changed, and we teared up a bit more.

Another woman told me how her daughter had been diagnosed with skin cancer recently and I immediately thought my own kids as babies. When they were little, I intimately knew EVERY inch of their skin, every little freckle and wrinkle and dimple.

The idea of either of them having something like cancer - that's what would rip my heart out. But this woman was so brave, so lovely, and said that her daughter agreed with me that the health care in Minnesota is so good and - almost as important - SO empathetic.

I swear, every day we feel so damned lucky that we ended up here. Snow yesterday notwithstanding.
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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Hopeful Haunts

We'd promised the kids we'd go to Cedar Point this Summer, but events transpired to prevent that (the detour south to West Virginia from New Jersey made the trip a bit impossible.)

So then we edited the promise and said we'd go to Valley Fair before the end of the Summer, but that didn't happen either.

We don't make promises lightly - the kids are constantly trying to get us to make promises that we have no intention of making, but we hold firm. We only promise what we know we can do.

Life is so uncertain, it's better to be upfront with the kids about what we can promise vs. what we hope.

So the fact that we'd told the kids we WOULD go to Valley Fair this year (which is part of the Cedar Point family) was weighing heavily on Gerry.

Yesterday we told the kids we had to go to a political event, they gamely piled into the car and we drove a half an hour to Shakopee. Hannah and Max were shocked and delighted when we turned into Valley Fair for the evening Starlight Valley Scare event, and we rode the rides and walked through the manufactured fog and the wooden-backed gravestones, waiting patiently in line for the big rides and rushing through the smaller attractions.

We picnic'ed before we went in, picked up the $3 off coupon at Taco Bell for each ticket and tried to make it as frugal an event as possible.

I felt so disconnected, so distant. Constantly asking, "Are you having a good time?", "How are you feeling, Gerry?", "Isn't this fun, Hannah?" but feeling out of body myself. Maybe it's making sport of the dead when I feel so raw from Jan's death. Maybe it was just my own under-the-surface malaise that haunts me these days.

We had fun, but I was subdued. I was thrilled to find "Whack A Mole" before we left, my own personal favorite (and one on which I've never been bested...) and won both kids inflatable billy clubs so they could continue a rousing game of "Whack A Sibling" on the way to the car.

Gerry joked that he thought the game was "Whack A Mohel", which made me laugh.

Today is a big day for me, I'm doing a reading at Common Good Books [downstairs] that I've been looking forward to for weeks, and I feel scared. Gerry wants to videotape the event, that's fine with me, maybe we'll youtube it in our own nod to BookSpan TV.

Reading out loud about our fears in 2007, the tensions and the heartbreaks, will be hard with the memory of Jan's recent passing.

I miss her very much, I know the pain will abate but right now it's very raw and intense.

Seeing old friends this week was wonderful, lunch with London at Nyes; an evening chat with Jane while the kids played. It made me feel a little more myself.

But it wasn't until our friend Jim stopped by to pick up his son after a playdate that I realized how disengaged I felt.

Usually I jump up, stand around, chat, we laugh. This time I was so introverted, so inside myself. It wasn't until he'd left that I realized how small in the room I felt.

And today I have to inhabit a larger room and be big, broad, and kind of funny.

I can't let myself retreat into the withdrawl I crave, not today. I bought champagne because I want to celebrate today.

I want to be so happy that I'm signing my book about living in St. Paul at Garrison Keillor's bookshop, but the sadness of Jan is the crack that allows fears to invade my bliss.
  1. What if I suck.
    I could. It's possible I could just be terrible, not funny, not coherent.
  2. What if I cry.
    Not pretty cry, but ugly-red-face, snotty-nosed bawl?
  3. What if no one shows up?
    Or worse, what if 3 folks show up?
  4. What if 100 folks show up?
But regardless of the fears, which usually don't haunt me, I'll be there at 2:00 and I'll sign as many books as folks want me to.

I'll even sign books that aren't mine, that's how accommodating I'll be. Bring me your Nicky Epstein's and Sally Mellville's, I'll sign them all!
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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Shoes!

I bought shoes - hooray!

One of the casualties of Jan's house were my Keen's (which were looking pretty ratty). After walking through Jan's house for 4 days, the shoes could NOT be salvaged and I hesitated to even put them in my car (I'd change out of them on the carport every day, leaving them on outside).

So I visited Zappos, found some NEW Keens, and now I'm suited up to visit Portland again (no plans for that, I'm just ready is all I'm sayin')
In other news, I'm VERY proud to announce that Knit With Courage, Live With Hope (a year in St. Paul) has been nominated for the very prestigious Stephen T. Colbert Award For The Literary Excellence.

While, technically, I cannot win the award as I am not Stephen T. Colbert, simply to be nominated is honor enough.

And although it is also true that, technically, I nominated myself, simply to be a part of the nominating committee (of one) is yet another honor I will treasure forever.


And just in time, too - I'll be able to tout my newly nominated tome at my booksigning this Sunday at Common Good Books in St. Paul!

Sunday, Oct 26th, 2:00 pm
FREE!
Book Signing & Reading

Common Good Books
165 Western Ave N, #14
(corner of Selby & Western, Downstairs)
St. Paul, MN 55102

Come prepared to laugh - and maybe buy a book...?

The prednisone is working, I took a bike ride yesterday to Common Good Books to drop off my books for the signing this weekend. Just as I arrived it started raining, none of the books were damaged, but the ride home was a wet one.

However, I really like riding my bike in the rain - humidity challenging my breathing notwithstanding - so aside from the chilliness it was an enjoyable event. Then home for some designing work (I told Gerry last weekend I thought I'd be ready to design again, and three opportunities have presented themselves this week - hooray!) and to send off my Fall Newsletter (available for your perusal at here!)

Gerry and I have also been engaged in a little job of trying to organize our garage a little better. We've put up the leftover cabinets from our kitchen redo, and yesterday I put all of our stuff in the garage away and re-stacked my boxes of books in a more manageable pile.

Now that we have all this extra room I can move most of my packing stuff out there instead of in the basement. Little by little the house is becoming manageable, something that feels more like our home, something that works better for us.

The new cat (Kiki/Lena) jumped up on the mantle, settling in next to a lamp I brought back from Jan's house, and I took a photo. Amazing how many other things snuck into the picture, too!

In Feb we'll have been here 2 years, we're settling in.
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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Poem I Found Last Year

Last Oct 30th I read this poem and put it away. I just found it again. It makes me smile.
As Death Approaches

I can't believe I'm laughing!
I'd have sworn I'd be
shaking or sniveling.
And I sure didn't expect
a limousine.
I've never been in a limousine.
No biggy.
I've had better than fame.
Who needs the pressure?
As for fortune, I'm filthy.
That's why I'm laughing.
I've had so much love:
the giving, the getting.
It's shameful.
It's embarrassing.
And it's too late.
No one can take it away!
And I've had the pain
to help me appreciate it.
Thank God for the pain!
Easy for me to say
now that I'm going!
But no, seriously,
the kicks in the teeth,
the gut, the rugs
pulled out, slammed doors,
setbacks, snubs.
Without them, I'd
never have recognized
Love, bedraggled,
plain eyes shining,
happy to see me.
Do I want more?
Of course I want more!
I always want more
of everything: money, hugs,
lovemaking, art, butter,
woods, flowers, the sea,
M&Ms, chips, tops, bottoms,
trips — I did give up drinking —
time, sure, and yes,
I'd like to see
my grandchildren,
if there are any.
I'd like to see my books
but more has never
been good for me anyway.
Enough — that's what I've
always needed to learn,
and is there a better way?
So this laughter
I had to work up to
through so many tears,
it just keeps coming
like a fountain, a spray.
Let it light on you
refreshment, benediction,
as I'm driven away.

"As Death Approaches"
by Susan Deborah King,
from One-Breasted Woman.
© Holy Cow! Press, 2007.

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Ms. Goliath, may I introduce Mr. David?

I love this story. No matter how you vote, you have to admire the strong reaction that is going on in response to some rather unfortunate comments by Michelle Bachman on Hardball.

Anti-American, indeed...

We're just a little too close to Wisconsin to go down that bad road again.

Anyway, here's El's ad - I like it. And no scary music or husky baritone 'fear' voice. Yay!
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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Light Bulb

Thank you, Sue!

Sue left a comment that I may be experiencing APD (or CAPD), which I may have heard before, but didn't process and investigate until just now.

This time I googled it, and found various explanations of APD along with a blog by a woman named Andrea who - although different from me in many ways - seems to share this:
I have especial difficulty on the phone or when I am not watching someone speak. When writing for newspapers and magazines I hated doing interviews, and have never been fond of carrying on extended telephone conversations.

I really hate checking voice-mail, especially when I have to listen to the same rambling message three or four times just for the fast, slurred phone number at the end! Text messages work much better for me.
Reading someone else writing about my own plight is like a huge weight being lifted off of my shoulders.

Often I'll call someone and leave my name and number, spoken V E R Y slowly, because it drives me nuts when I have to listen and re-listen and re-listen just to get a number that's not exactly right.

I feel so relieved, so vindicated, that what I have may be "real" and may have a name.

For so long I have felt stupid and lazy. I hated having folks characterize my telephone experience as, "Oh, you just don't like to talk on the phone..."

When there's loud electronic noise I can't hear what ANYONE says, and when there's rap with a heavy bass beat going on outside (thank you, neighbor's child) I may as well hang it up when I try to understand what's being said on TV or the radio.

The odd thing is that I love books on tape, audio books. Although I will admit that I do find myself repeating sections of the book several times to fully understand what's been said. Maybe I just like the sense of someone talking to me when I don't have to answer back?

At any rate, I'm going to see about making an appt with an audiologist to see if I can get this officially diagnosed, then perhaps there are strategies or things I can do to better comprehend telephone conversations.

BREATHE
Also on the medical front, my breathing's been SO bad since leaving Jan's, and I finally had to admit that it was much worse than it's been in about 4 years (since the Winter of my COPD diagnosis) It's been so bad that just getting up to walk to the front door winded me, and worried the kids. I hate to worry Hannah, she's handled so much so well this year.

When I start wheezing and coughing uncontrollably, turning red, she says, "Mom, are you okay?" with so much fear in her voice. The feeling that I'm scaring my daughter is almost worse than not breathing.

So I went to the doctor yesterday and he agreed that I sounded terrible, very inflamed, and that he felt that something in Jan's house had triggered some reaction in my lungs. He said it usually takes a few days for the symptoms to present themselves fully, which is why it seemed to get worse after I left Jan's. So I'm back on the steroids again. Dang. I hate them.

I hate how puffy I get, I hate how irritable I feel, I hate not being able to sleep (they make me fidgity.)

But I love to breathe, and after one day of them I must admit I am breathing better.

I told the doc I'd been trying to walk and ride my bike, but he said to cut that out until my breathing was better.

Which I hope will be soon because nothing makes me happier than riding my bike. I always imagine myself as a French Resistance fighter (I kept yelling, "Vive la France!" on our bike tour of Paris, my dreams fulfilled...)
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Monday, October 20, 2008

Taking A Break

I'm trying to heed the advice of so many commentors, trying to take it easy and give my mind and body and soul a chance to rest a bit. I baked an apple pie (we went apple picking on Thursday) and made some baked apples. Relaxing!
I'm also enjoying our new kitten, although she's such a pistol that it's hard to pin her down. She has a wonderful personality, very energetic, and is quite beautiful.

But that voice! She has one of the loudest, most insistent meows I've ever heard. I told Hannah we should name her Lena after the character in Singing in the Rain (click on the link and you'll see one of my first screen appearances as Phoebe Dinsmore)

She's beautiful, but that voice could knock you flat!

I do believe that when I'm energized again, I'll know it, but until then there's that irrational, scary feeling that I'll never not feel tired again.

Phone Strategies
I do use a set "patter" when I'm talking to a new person on the phone, I explain that I have a hard time understanding what I'm hearing, and that I'd love to do as much as possible via email.

Unfortunately many times folks interpret that as me saying, "I don't want to talk on the phone with you." which can lead to unfortunate misunderstandings.

I don't get that reaction all the time, but I get it often enough that I realize some folks just don't get how difficult it is for me to process non-visual audial cues.

I didn't used to be this way, and right now I'm better than I was 4 years ago. Here's a photo of me in happier phone times...

It started after I'd had my hysterectomy in 2002, which makes me wonder if there's some hormonal or physical reason for this difficulty. I just don't know - all I know is that it definitely is real.

Family Walk
So after my phone time yesterday I took the family, as promised, to the dog run for a walk. Gerry was in pain but moving better than I was, my breathing has been pretty sucky since working on Jan's house (and before that, too)

Disclaimer: I did wear a mask with a filter while I was in Jan's house, and I limited my time inside to short periods. But even with precautions it was hard to avoid the air there. I can't help but feel that the toxicity in the house had a negative effect on Jan's cancer.

But breathing notwithstanding, I promised I'd get the kids out, and the dog, and Gerry, too!

So off we went to one of the jewels of the Twin Cities. When my breathing is bad I like to push myself a little bit because I think it keeps my lungs strong and active. I fear becoming sedentary and not getting my lungs the fresh air they need. Annoyingly, with the biking and walking I do one would think I'd be getting thinner...

Yesterday was one of the most beautiful Autumn days ever! Warm enough for shorts, cool enough for comfort, and sunny. Gerry thinks Max and I are NUTS for wearing shorts when it's chilly outside, but our legs and feet are the last parts of our bodies to get cold.

Like me, I've noticed that Max sleeps bundled up with his legs sticking out because they get too warm. Odd how these little physical oddities are passed down...


We love the dog run at the Minnehaha park because it's a relatively even path, not a lot of trouble for Gerry, but the kids can run off into the wilder areas with the dog and they're not out of shouting range. Atticus loves it because it's like this huge open-air singles club for canines.

It starts with a downward sloping path, with some stairs at one point, toward the banks of the Mississippi River. Yesterday the river shore was lousy with happy people and happier doggies, running and splashing and fetching all kinds of tossed items. We walked until Gerry or I cried, "Uncle!" We'd rest, then walk a bit more. There are several well-walked paths, easy going, and perfect for such a lovely day.

I had a rough time up the hill coming back, darned breathing, but overall it was a phenomenally wonderful romp. We regretted that we hadn't brought a picnic lunch, so we stopped for fried chicken on the way home and had a little celebratory dinner then a take-no-prisoners Monopoly game. The game is still set up, we didn't finish it, we're hoping to this evening...

Canvassing
On Saturday I went canvassing for BO. This election is so important, I can't live with myself if I didn't make an effort to BE the change I'd like to see in the world. I can't say it was my favorite thing in the world to do, but folks reactions were very positive, and overall it was a very good experience. But tiring!

Hannah went with me (civics lesson) and held the bag with the handouts, which was such a help!

I'm concerned about vote manipulation (especially in places like Colorado where 20% of the voters have been purged from the rolls!) so I urge everyone to double check your voter registration AND if it's possible, vote early IN PERSON!

I've already voted (I had planned to be in Boston on 11/4) and I feel so happy and proud that I know my vote has already been counted - or, will be, on 11/4.

If you live in Ramsey County, you can VERY easily vote at 90 W. Plato in Saint Paul before election day. Check online to find your local county election board, and see if early voting is allowed in your area. The lines will be LONG this year, the more folks who can vote early IN PERSON before 11/4, the easier it will be for everyone who has to vote on that day.
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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Call Me (not!)

It's been a week of such mixed emotions, it's hard to reflect on anything without breaking into tears or laughter. Emotionally it's been one of my hardest weeks since 9/11, even harder than the heartbreak of Gerry's diagnosis last year (when we were in a kind of trauma-numbness).

Some of the emotions I've felt make me ashamed, some make me proud, but most just leave me numb after the initial rush of sadness or joy.

- I'm very sad to lose Jan, the closest thing I had to a sister.
- I'm glad that her suffering is over.
- I'm ashamed at the condition of her house.
- I'm sad that I didn't do more to correct the situation while she was alive.
- I'm relieved to be home.
- I'm very happy to reconnect with distant cousins in my mom's family.
- I'm queasy about our family's current financial outlook.
- I'm terrified about our nation's financial outlook.
- I'm proud of my family, of how well they've handled this stress so far.
- I'm feeling paralyzed and confused about my own future.

Because of Gerry I cut down on my teaching for most of late 2007/early 2008. Just when I was ready to take on more teaching engagements, it became clear that Jan's condition was so unsettled that it would be prudent for me to take on even fewer teaching engagements this Fall to leave time open for the resolution of Jan's life & stuff.

But she left much sooner than I'd expected.

I can start arranging classes again, I'd love to get back to my 2006 level of an average of 2 trips per month, but I feel paralyzed in an odd way. I think perhaps I just need to take a little more time without putting too much pressure on myself - but then again, the combined pulls of the mortgage, heating bills, groceries, etc., put more than enough pressure on me.

The various financial elements put pressure on everyone, that's for certain. But I'm just not certain if I have the energy for all of the non-teaching, non-knitting nonsense that come with teaching knitting for a living.

Enter My Nemesis
Talking on the phone, always difficult for me, becomes impossible when I'm juggling emotional hacky-sacks.

My hearing on the phone sucks, and I can't remember anything that is said. (Talking to me is like making airline reservations - there's the constant 'tap-tap-tapping' while I write copious notes on my keyboard, noting salient points of the conversation)

I hate talking on the phone.

So, on top of the financial pressure I'm feeling, I think I just blew a gig because the person planning the engagement insisted on a phone call and I sounded like a raving idiot.

She emailed late on Saturday asking for a call at my earliest convenience, but unfortunately when I was able to call (noon on Sunday) it was a bad time for her (she was about to walk her dog)

In my stupidity I was honest about how difficult phone calls are for me, hoping to cram in a brief call that would . I think I sounded like a lunatic, and unfortunately the call went south.

Telephoning folks is not just a casual thing that I can easily do - I need to steele myself for a while before I even make a call.

Some folks who are good on the phone believe that the only way to create a personal relationship - outside of meeting in person - is to talk on the phone. And I sound like an idiot on the phone (my constant refrain of, "What?", "Huh?", "Excuse me?" doesn't help, either!)

I feel that good relationships can be forged, too, via email. But I'm happy to make a call every now and then. I just like to make sure that details are handled via email so that I can refer to them later and remind myself exactly what I said.

It's been a hard, awkward day. Week. Month. I've had this feeling all week that I just want to crawl into a hole and cry. We're going off to the dog run by Minnehaha park, maybe I'll find a good hole there...
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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Wrench Dancing

I was following various links to their idiotic ends online at 6:00 this morning (up early - travel does that to me...) and ran across this video. It made me laugh - and I found myself dancing around the kitchen singing, "Pipe -- wrench -- fi-iiiiiiiight!"



So even though I'm sad & troubled - even PO'd at a lot of things, I'm happily dancing around the kitchen.

Schedule Ch-ch-changes
I've shortened my trip to New England in Nov a bit, I just don't feel I should be away from Gerry for so long again so soon. He fell while I was gone, he's good, but it rattled both of us. I've been away more than I've been home since Sept 1, and I can see how it's wearing on the family.

So if you were going to attend the WEBS class, or even if you weren't, please know that I'm offering two classes right in downtown Boston on Nov 6th at the College Club.

I'm gratified with how quickly they seem to be selling out, so if you'd like to register please do so right away! I'll also be at Slater Mill in Pawtucket, RI the 7th - 9th of Nov, check out my classes there!

Also, I've been asked by Rainbow Yarns in Memphis if I'd like to try to reschedule the engagement I had to cancel for Jan's funeral. I'd love to, and we're working with the Memphis guild to see if we could work that out.

Common Good - Oct 26th
If you're going to be anywhere near the Twin Cities, please consider coming out to Common Good Books (Garrison Keillor's bookstore) for a signing I'll be doing on Sunday, Oct 26th at 2:00 pm.

The location is 165 Western Ave N, Suite 14, St Paul, MN 55102

I'm pretty psyched about this, and I want to show the folks who arranged it that yes, a book with 'Knit' in the title CAN bring out a good response.

I'm considering legally changing my name to Stephanie Pearl McPhee, just to be safe...

So if you'd like to hear me ramble on for a bit, reading from my book, come on by! It's free, and you'll have a good time!

Back To My Routine
As soon as I finish my oatmeal this morning I'm going to go for a long bike ride. Maxie just left for the Science Center with a few of his friends, Hannah's sleeping in, and Gerry's still in bed, too. A Thursday masquerading as a Saturday.

Later we'll carve pumpkins. We may even try to duplicate this funny thing that was sent to Gerry by his sister.
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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Finally Home!

This has been the longest week of my life, and now I'm home. I hope I never have a week that feels this raw, rough, and physically challenging as this week has (but I know I will someday!)

The drive home was long, and harder than many of my other drives. Almost 1,000 miles, and I felt every foot of it.

Last night I stayed with a distant cousin (our grandmothers were sisters) in Indiana and had the loveliest chat about life and our family. We have a very - unusual - family. And I slept like I haven't slept in a week.

Tonight I'm back at my own house, my own bed, my own husband, kids and pets. Yay! With any luck they'll ALL be in our bed at various points tonight.

The icing on the cake is that the kids don't have school for the next 2 days, so I'll have a lot of time to become reacquainted with them.

On the drive home I stopped more than I usually do - stretching my legs, just getting breaths of fresh air.

I took a lot of photos once I got past the Wisconsin border and the rain stopped (rain just follows me on these long drives...)

I'm not sure if it was a beautiful day simply because it was, or if it seemed even MORE beautiful to me because I knew I'd be home soon.
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Monday, October 13, 2008

Sunset At The Chemical Plant

A magnificent sunset at the Chemical Plant on the banks of the Ohio

An alleged cancer cluster has never looked so beautiful...
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Priorities

Here's a sign I passed on the way to breakfast

I'm having oatmeal at Bob Evans, but now it's time to return to the house. If you don't hear from me in a few days send reinforcements...
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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Exhausted

Will I ever not be tired?

Okay, enough whining. Besides, look at my Grandma's ring! I touch it and I think of her - I'm not a jewelry nut, but this is very affecting, very special to me.

Today was a symphony of moving, packing, sorting, cleaning, with assorted mumbles and frustrated pleas to Jan, "What were you THINKING?"

In a way, it's a blessing to have this work. It seems to increase that 'emotional anesthesia' that kicks in when a dear one is gone. And, as awful as it is on some levels, it forces Joyce and I to honestly and fully come to terms with the end of an era.

The Era of Wanda
Aunt Wanda bought her house in the early 60's - I'm not exactly sure what year - it was a lovely ranch style home built as the parsonage to the Stout Memorial Methodist Church on Broad Street.

The church didn't want it, Aunt Wanda did, so for the entire time she owned the home every now and then someone would come knocking at her door asking for the minister. Various hilarious answers were always ready.

My own family was in a bit of an upheaval in the 70's. My dad was very sick, his business had failed, we lost our home in a sheriff's auction and moved from rented house to rented house (eventually to smaller and smaller apartments) for the next several years.

During that rough time, Aunt Wanda was there for us. She always had some cash for mom to help us through a rough time, extra clothes, whatever we needed. That's when I began considering her as a second mom. The fact that Jan and I were as close as two peas in a pod helped that along.

I would spend weeks each summer at Aunt Wanda's, staying in 'my room' in the basement, enjoying my time with my favorite relatives in the world. This was the point in time when Wanda stored many of my mom's things for her, it was just so hard to move them every few months.

When I went off to college I grew even closer to Aunt Wanda and Jan - Denison is just a few hours away from Parkersburg. I'd visit weekends, coming home. Wanda was persnickity about her house, she wanted everything perfect (maybe too perfect) but even so it was a wonderful place to be.

She had been a 'beauty operator' - a hair dresser - and owned her own salon. She worked SO hard all of her life, on her feet, and eventually moved her salon into her home when she semi-retired and only 'did' her most loyal customers. Every time my mom visited, she got a color rinse of "Frivolous Fawn" and a permanent wave.

Jan painted a very artistic sign with the name of the salon, Vanity Case in calligraphy. I made the mistake of telling her - honestly - that I thought it said, "Sanity Case." The 'V' was very scroll-y. Oops.

Wanda never gave me a haircut that I liked (it was the 70's, I don't think there could have been a haircut that I would have liked...) but she still loved me. She recognized our similarities, our persnickitiness.

Aunt Wanda's diagnosis of Parkinsons Disease was incredibly rough for her. The shaking, the drug-induced paralysis - it was a very difficult time. She fought all the way, but finally the disease got the better of her just a few weeks before Hannah was born. I still regret that I was unable to attend her funeral, but I was past my delivery date as it was.

The Era of Jan
On her own, Jan began to let things slide in the house. The angle of the decline increased dramatically as she acquired more and more dogs (which she loved, but which she just wasn't able to handle.) Perhaps she was rebelling against Aunt Wanda's rules & perfection?

As those who loved her best sort through the mess that became her home, we try to comprehend exactly what was at the bottom of her inability to face her situation. None of us have any answers.

Sometimes I wonder if, like myself, she would have benefitted from an anti depressant regime (the prozac I currently take has enriched my life, allowing myself to consider taking it was one of the best decisions I ever made)

At any rate, it's history now. All that remains is the cleanup. And the lessons.

Aunt Wanda's lovely, beautiful furniture is mostly destroyed - only fit for goodwill. But there are some pieces that remain beautiful. We're trying to find an estate-sale agent to sell them. There are boxes and boxes of stuff that was purchased from QVC - never opened. Stacks and stacks of clothes (scrubs), soaps, dog toys, dvds, anything you could think of.

I'm trying to convince Joyce, who has inherited the house, that our best route is to take the things out of the home that fulfill Jan's will, arrange to get them to their various new owners, take out what we'd like to have to remember Jan and Wanda with, then leave what's left for a professional cleaning or estate managing company. I may be wearing her down. If I don't, I think the house certainly will.

But, as Joyce says - and she's right - before we can ask someone to sell it, we have to make sure it's CLEAN. A hard job.

Sitting on the carport today (I can't be in the house for more than 15 minutes or so at a time, my breathing suffers), wiping off literally hundreds of coca-cola collectibles (my own portion of the inheritence. I have decided I hate coke) I have a chance to reflect on the house that has been the constant in my life.

Jan and Aunt Wanda both loved wind chimes, there are many lining the edge of the car port. I sat all day and listened to them. I'd have cried if I hadn't been afraid I wouldn't be able to stop.

Instead I kept up a stream of dopey, foolish jokes to make Joyce laugh, and took her out for dinner tonight to cheer us both up. The magic of Catfish.
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Shoveling

It's been a few days since I've posted - I've just been laying low as far as the blogging goes, taking some time.

I miss Jan. She was a lovely person - so kind - and, as I said at her service yesterday, one of the least judgemental people I'd ever met.

Yesterday Jan was buried, we had a service at the cemetery which was lovely, then a few of us went out to lunch. I have a few second and third cousins rattling around on my family tree, and it was very good to see them again.

When my parents lost their house my Aunt Wanda stored a few of my mom's things for her, her dishes, some furniture, and smaller things. I found the dishes, which was a beautiful thing to see, and packed them up snugly in two bins.

I also have acquired Jan's rings - she loved jewelry - to pass on to Hannah. In the box was my grandmother's wedding ring, which I had never seen. It fits me perfectly, and I've been wearing it since yesterday. It's lovely, I never new it existed.

I have so few things - nothing really - from my family due to our constant moving and clearing off, passing along, storing things in other homes, etc. I don't mind - I'm not a collector - but it feels very good to have this ring on my hand.

After the funeral and lunch and some time working in the house yesterday, I went for a bike ride along some backroads and felt much more at peace. I needed the release, and I was able to rest and relax much easier last evening.

One of the things I did at the house yesterday was to pry another few storm windows off and get some more fresh air in the house, we're pretty certain these windows haven't been opened in 12 years, and with 8 dogs in the house (left alone for long hours) the air is bad.

I know the open windows mean the house may be host to a few flying pests, but there's no help for it, the air in the house is unbreathable. Toxic, even, and none of the windows have screens (they were never open!)

Jan had dogs (!), and she was a Collector. Put those things together, multiply it times 50, and you have a recipe for an incredibly cluttered house that may be unsalvegable.

We think there's black mold in the basement (we're wearing masks when we're in the house) and I can't help but feel the poisons in the house didn't do Jan's cancer any good. Or maybe it did the cancer too much good, and no good for Jan.

No one in the family was able to cajole, wheedle, strong arm, argue Jan into taking care of the house that Aunt Wanda left her (the last rebellion of a child against a strong mother?) and now there's precious little of the beautiful house left. So we sort through the stuff, trying to put together the piles of things that were 'left' to various friends, and it's a hard, smelly, evil job.

The dogs all found homes, thank heaven. Unfortunately, two of them were in such bad shape after being virtually neglected in the house for weeks that they had to be put down (they were older dogs and the separation from Jan was very traumatic)

I feel shame that I wasn't able to intervene with Jan in some way. I was her younger cousin, 8 years separated us, and I just didn't have the authority to make her listen to me. My mom might have had some sway, but she loved Jan so much that it was hard to be firm with her. It's a cautionary tale - how much toughness and how much love is enough?

It's finished now, and all that's left is the very large mess to clean up. I'm afraid to go down into the basement - the basement that used to be my "room" on my frequent visits to Aunt Wanda's. There are mice, and worse, and I'm not ashamed to say that I'm scared to run into them.

One of the things that I've been left is Jan's entire Coca Cola Collectibles jumble. Many of them are still in the boxes, but there are a god-awful lot of tchakes with "Coke!" blazoned over them, all dusty and filthy. I just don't know if I have the patience - or energy - to pack them up, clean them, and try to sell them on ebay or some place.

Whatever I do, I'm only allowing myself to be in the house for 15 minutes at a stretch, then with a 15-20 minute break outside. Maybe I'll move all of the coke stuff out onto the carport and clean it there.

Folks, when it's your time to go, make sure your stash is clean and clearly labeled as to who gets what - this sorting out is one of the hardest things (emotionally and physically) that I've done in years.
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Thursday, October 09, 2008

...and gone.

D. Janese "Jan" Tennant
December 6, 1953 - October 8, 2008

It is with enormous sadness that I write to tell you that Jan passed from this world last evening around 9:45.

Her sister-in-law, Joyce, and I were with her at the end. The love of her life, David, arrived just minutes after she passed - we were all with her.

Joyce has been an amazing angel in all of this, comforting, calming and being with Jan every moment that she could. She continues to be a source of strength. Her friends who streamed in and out of her room and the nurses at Harmar Place were wonderfully uplifting to her spirits, we are grateful for their love and attention.

Jan leaves a space that will be hard to fill - she held so many people together, and was one of the most widely loved people I know.


David said last night, She didn't have an enemy

...Except, maybe, for the woman next door who didn't like her dogs barking.

Jan was that loved.
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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Here

I'm here - so's Jan. But she's been unconscious for over a day, her breathing is labored and her doctor feels she'll be leaving us very soon.

I'm in the same clothes I've been in for 2 days, so I'm going to shower and ask for a recliner in her room so I can just sit with her.

Jan obtained a connect card for her computer, which I'm using now, and which makes the wait easier.

Each time I lose someone it's hard. This is one of the hardest. I feel so alone.
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Depressing Drive

I hit the road as soon as Max was on his way to school, Gerry'd already left for the Mayo (where his tests were phenomenal, he's doing beautifully!) and pretty much all day and into the evening it rained like a son-of-a-gun no matter where I was.

Driving through Chicago wasn't bad at all, really! Sometimes I go through Chicago, sometimes I don't, it depends on the time of day (it was midday yesterday - traffic was relatively light) Driving home from WV last time we skirted Chicago because it was rush hour.

An hour into my drive I had a call from Jan's sister in law telling me that she was incoherent, restless, wanting to know where I was and if I was really coming - the implication being that time was short. Talking on the phone is hard for me at the best of times, this was rough (obviously, rougher for Jan) I felt so helpless, so distant.

I spent the next 4 hours of the drive second guessing myself. "Why was I driving?", "Why didn't I fly?", "Should I have left yesterday?" And continuing on down this useless path, "Should I have even gone to Paris?"

Why am I driving - why didn't I fly?
  1. Flying from MSP to Columbus, renting a car for however long I'd need it and then driving or flying to Memphis is expensive.
  2. I need to be flexible - this trip is, if nothing else, open-ended. I don't know when I'll be back.
  3. I need to drive to Memphis on Friday for a teaching gig, it's so much easier to have the car already packed with my books and materials
Should I have left yesterday?
Maybe. I deserately wanted to be with my knitting group on Monday night - I really felt that I needed the connection of other friends. And I'd promised to read from my book that evening. This is something that I'll be wondering about for a while.
Should I have gone to Paris?
Mais oui!
I have a flexible little tripod which I attach to my steering wheel sometimes. Stopping for gas I attached my camera, and a few miles down the road I recorded this little film.


It pretty much sums up the blue, sad feeling that overwhelmed me yesterday - the stock market commentary is the icing on the cake. Folks, try not to panic, take a deep breath and know that the market will correct itself in a few years. In the mean time, just pause for a bit. And consider voting for the guy who made the most sense last night.

I stopped just over the border in Ohio because I was exhausted. I'm off now, it's 6:19, and with any luck I'll be at Jan's side in 3 hours. I tried to eat yesterday, but food tasted like cardboard. I'm off for a quick bowl of oatmeal which should hold me all day - I need to have something warm and comforting right about now.

I feel such an urgency, stopping last night was hard - but it was necessary.

Like Paris - which I'm considering a vote of confidence for the future.
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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

On De Road Again

Off I go again, driving to WV (Marietta, actually) and then later in the week off to Memphis. I'm going to try to do the whole trip on one day, we'll see... Thank heaven for Tom Tom.

I feel as though I've put my emotions on auto-pilot, necessary right now, just getting through this so that I'm as useful as possible is the goal - there's always next month to fall apart.

Speaking of next month, I've just added some New England classes for November 1 - 9.

I'm excited because I'm sponsoring my OWN classes right in downtown Boston at the College Club on Thurs, Nov 6th. I couldn't find a venue to host me, everyone's feeling a little shaky with the current financial nonsense, so I investigated some alternatives and I'll be sponsoring myself! The cost for these classes will be $60, or $50 if you sign up for both.

I've got weekend classes going, too - I'll be teaching at WEBS in Northampton on Nov 1st, and the following weekend I'll be in Pawtucket Rhode Island at Slater Mill

And then, aside from the Minnesota Lake Knitting at Medayto Cottage, this will be it for my 2008 teaching. I'm unsure how much time I'll need to be in Marietta, or what will be expected in terms of putting things in order. I feel very young right now, and I desperately miss my mom or my Aunt Wanda.

Think of my while I'm on the road - I should next be posting from Marietta, or points east!

Feted
Last night the knitting group that I've insinuated myself into hosted me to read selections from my new book, and had a bit of a party for me. It was SO wonderful - so kind of Kathy to go to such an effort (THANK YOU KATHY!) and I was so overwhelmed when I saw the cake she'd had made I cried. I cry at traffic lights these days, but that doesn't take away from how touched I was.

It was good practice, I tend to feel shyer when I'm reading from the book than when I'm teaching - perhaps because the topic is so personal. I'm going to be doing a reading at Garrison Keillor's bookshop, Common Good Books, on Oct 26 and I just heard from my PR person that on Oct 23 I'll be doing the local KARE-11 mid-morning show to drum up some interest. Yay!

How weird it feels to travel between such high, happy feelings (Paris, the book) and such low, sad moments (Jan, leaving Gerry & the kids) It's raining today and it matches my mood. I've loaded my bike on the back of the car to take advantage of some of the biking while I'm on the road, and to give myself a chance to burn off some stress.
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Monday, October 06, 2008

Mississippi Knitting

All the tiny details of daily life are hard to corral together when I travel so much. I get home and I just begin to feel as if I'm in the swing of life again when it's time to fly drive again. I was knitting on the Mississippi this weekend, and it looks like I'll be doing it again way down south next weekend.

Tennessee Bound
I'm teaching next Saturday for the Memphis Knitting Guild (at the Cotton Museum) and also on Sunday at Rainbow Yarns & Fibres. I'm SO looking forward to this - it's my first time teaching in Memphis (actually, in Tennessee!) and it should be a lovely time of year.
Memphis Guild
Classes held at the
Cotton Museum
65 Union Avenue
Memphis, TN 38103

Combination Knitting
10/11/2008 10:00 AM
Love your Lace!
10/11/2008 2:00 PM


Rainbow Yarn & Fiber
1980 Exeter Rd
Germantown, TN 38138
(901) 753-9835

New Directions in Knitting With Color
10/12/2008 10:00 AM
Double Knitting
10/12/2008 2:00 PM

I hope if you're in the area I'll get a chance to meet you and have you in class! I'm always happy to sign books between classes when I'm at a shop, so if you just want to drop by and pick up a book (or some yarn) I'll sign anything - even one of Nicky Epstein's books*

Marietta Mama
But before my trip to Memphis, I'll be making a side trip back to Marietta to see Jan. Before I left for France we chatted and she told me she felt time was short. So, of course I did the loving cousin thing and fled to France (hey, didn't I do that last year when Gerry had his stem cell transplant?) I spoke with her yesterday, she's hanging in, but I need to be there pronto.

This past weekend I was so out-of-body - just not feeling like I'm entirely here. It's not the jet lag entirely, although that's part of it. It's just the culmination of so much emotional input; France, Gerry, Jan, the economy, the kids - we all know how things can seem to pile up in an overwhelming way.

I slept a LOT this weekend to give all the cells in my body a good rest, and today I'll go for a long bike ride (my inner tube had to be replaced, now I'm good...) I'm actually going to be taking the bike with me when I travel to WV and TN so I can get a ride in every now and then - I'll probably end up walking the bike up hills and coasting down, but that works, too...

The designing, book ideas, marketing my patterns and other stuff - that all just feels like white noise to me as I try to wade through a rough spot. One thing at a time.

River Knitting
One thing I DID do this weekend was spend some extraordinary time with a nice group of knitters on the 3 Kittens Knitting Cruise. It was an extraordinary day, folks had such a lovely time and the weather was amazing! We lucked out because on Sunday it rained, which would have put such a dent into the trip enjoyment. Cis and her staff did an exceptional job of making the trip a success, they worked like maniacs and made it look so easy!

Pam Allen was in town, we're good friends, so it was with pure delight that I accepted the kind invitation to attend the trip and have a beer (I'm a cheap date - ) Afterward I inveigled Pam to come home with me and we had a nice home-cooked dinner of chicken and rice and brussels sprouts while we reconnected. At TNNA it's so hard to just talk to someone, this was a nice break for both of us.

The kids loved re-meeting Pam - they remembered her (barely) from the photo shoot 5 years ago when they were in IK wearing my fair isle/cabled sweaters. Pam was so kind to them, and said kind things about them later - something I never tire of hearing!

Gerry was - as always - amazing. He's such a mensch. He fixed dinner, made great conversation and always makes guests feel so much at home. It meant a lot of LIFE pushed into a week, and it may be why I was so exhausted yesterday (I slept many, many hours) but it was just wonderful to see Pam.

It was also wonderful to see 3 Kittens new digs out on 110 - WHAT a lovely shop! The selection is just wonderful, and I love how they have the yarns divided by gauge, which makes yarn substitution easier for folks who need to find a new yarn for a project. It was my first time at the shop, but it will NOT be my last!

*Once a woman asked me to sign, Knitting on the Edge so I did. I signed it,

I am not Nicky Epstein!
Best, Annie Modesitt

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Sunday, October 05, 2008

Paris Movie

I put together some of our photographs and small films in a movie of our time in Paris - enjoy!

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Quel Voyage!

I've repeated all of the reasons why this trip was a mistake to myself over and over; it was expensive, it was the wrong time, Hannah is too young to 'get it' ...

But having weighed everything, this trip was a BARGAIN for the amount of self enlightenment that Hannah and I have both experienced.

The trip wasn't perfect - what is? [Gallic shrug] - but, as I'm fond of saying in my classes;

Life is NOT about perfection.
Life is about dealing with the imperfections
as gracefully as possible.

And we did.

There were the inevitable meltdowns that happen whenever anyone travels with anyone else - especially in another country. But when all is said and done, I can't think of anything big that I'd change if I had this trip to do over again, and I'm so glad we took the trip with Amy and Ellie!!

Timing
Of course, we picked the week when the dollar was as weak as possible, an as a result we spent a LOT more money on food, shopping and other sundries than we thought we would. But life is what it is, and perhaps in some ways it was an exceptional way to experience France not so much as tourists, but as folks who had a reason to count every euro carefully.

Weather
We couldn't have paid for better weather. We lucked out royally, especially with our bike tour on Sunday. We saw Paris in the sun, in the drizzle, and caught our first whiff of Autumn-leaf eau de parfume as we walked along the Seine on Tuesday. Could life be better?

Food
This wasn't the gastronomic adventure that last summer's trip was - mostly because I didn't have the hosts that I had last year (Phil and Kris are amazing at picking restaurants!) But we didn't have a bad meal all week - everything tasted amazing - from the simplest noisette cafe and croissant, to the more complex salads or desserts. Everything we put in our mouths made us give a tiny moan of pleasure - now THAT's a Parisian sentiment...

Guilty Pleasure
Last night Hannah and I snuck out to KFC and got wings for her and 3 pieces for me. We ran home and crammed them into our mouths so fast we experienced a grease rush. Then, just because we felt bad, we ran out to McDonalds and got MORE wings and a fish sandwich for me, rushed back to the hotel and scarfed that down, too.

It was our last night, we'd skipped dinner to go to a lovely tea room in the 13th Arrondisement (see below) and it was our guilty American moment. And an incredibly fun one.

Slathering nutella on bananas and clementines in our room was a memorable guilty pleasure, too!

Most Special Connection
On our last night Hannah and I split off from Amy and Ellie so we could each have our final evening with our respective daughters. Han and I headed to L'Oisive The, where I'd read that there was a Wednesday night knitting group. The tea was absolutely amazing, some of the best I've ever had (and you KNOW how I adore tea!)

But even better than the tea, the tiny cakes and fruit (green apples for Hannah, she was in heaven!) Yes, even better than the amazing chocolate cake and the petite scoops of glacé was the company.

There were about 8 of us, knitting and chatting (en Anglaise) and having a wonderful time. I love to visit knitting groups when I'm in a new town, and this was a spectacular way to end our time in Paris. This little taste of intimate Paris, like the tiny bit of ice cream, left me wanting more - I'll definitely be back!

Regrets
I'm tempted to say, Je ne regrette rien!, but that wouldn't be true. I wish we'd gone to Versailles, but the weather wasn't cooperating. I wish I'd packed my ipod, but I forgot it. I wish I had more comfortable shoes (my legs and knees are in dreadful pain) and I wish I would have packed half as much as I did.

I wish I would have purchased $500 in euros last Summer.

I wish I had my REAL glasses with me. They arrived from the Marriott in Portland while I was gone.

I wish we'd been able to use our credit cards (apparently North American cards don't work) in the Velib stations so we could have rented bikes to scoot around the city of light.

I wish the trip hadn't coincided with Jan's turn for the worse, and I cannot wait to see her this next week.

Pride
(or, rather, a healthy dose self respect...)
I'm most proud of actually SPEAKING French - being understood and doing more than just getting by in many instances. My French is, quite honestly, terrible. But having the chance to use it, to try, to be brave with it was priceless - and SO important for Hannah to see! I feel that now she has a grasp on what a gift a second language can be - and I hope it will make her own French studies go a bit easier than my continuous start-and-stop romance with le longue Franćaise.

Recommendations
I heartily recommend the following business that we visited in Paris, these MADE our trip as pleasant and wonderful as it was!
  • Bike Around Tours (we had an absolute BLAST! Thank you, Chris!)
  • L'Hotel Tiquitonne (they have no website, probably why they're such a bargain... You must call & be prepared to speak FRENCH to make a reservation)
  • Breizh Cafe (wonderful, wonderful crepes. Make reservations!)
  • Frog & Rosbif (their wifi was iffy, but their beer was AMAZING!)
  • La Drogerie (lovely ribbons, trims, etc - I wasn't terribly excited about the yarns...)
  • L'Oisive The (wonderful tea, and LOVELY atmosphere!)
  • Coquelicot (I carried a dozen Madelines home with me from this jewel in Montmartre!)
  • rue Montorgueil (the whole damn street, I kees you... And it's near Hotel Tiquitonne...)
And now it's 5:30 in the morning Paris time, I've been home for an hour (caught the tail end of the debate) and handed out the tea, tiny glowing Eiffel Tower and food chopper to the boys. Time for bed. I'm sure I'll think of more to write about later...
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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Le KFC, s'il vous plait!




Finding decent wifi's been difficult, today we're at the famous KFC near the Pompidou center, where the music is loud and the teens are louder...

Hannah wants to leave in the WORST way, so after checking my email (all answered!) and putting up some more photos (yes, I can get them up now) we'll flee for some last minute shopping before we head off tomorrow...

Here are the photos from today - we went to Sacre Coure (we didn't make it to Versailles, c'est a pity!) But we're having a delightful time and enjoying all that needs to be enjoyed (mostly ourselves!)
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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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