Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Have You Seen This Dog?
DOG IS FOUND!!


Cleo in motion
Originally uploaded by kpwerker
If you're in Whistler, BC - near Emerald Estates (or anywhere up there, really...) please keep an eye out for this lovely blonde Shepherd, Cleo.

She's Kim Werker's dog, and was spooked by some blasting.

If you see her, please email kim at kimwerker DOT com.

Thank you!
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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Cool Inertia

I've been fighting through inertia for quite a while now. It comes, it goes, sometimes I even feel as though I've conquered it - but then it returns and I feel nailed in place. Good morning, Inertia - sit down...

Is it the cold? It's been a balmy 24F degrees (feels like 14) so I'm running around in shorts. I'm insane.

I think it's the losses, sharp icicles of pain that take my breath away when my mind wanders over to Jan, of Gerry's health, of my mom and my brother. I'm sure this is what is mostly behind the hovering depression that seems to be haunting me.

I was watching a special on the History Channel about Christmas in America, and I swear that they briefly showed a bit from one of our home movies. There was a redhead (me?) opening a gift, and then a brown hair boy (Jimmy?) unwrapping a Captain Kangaroo toy of some kind.

When I was kid my mom sent a bunch of our movies off some place to have them spliced together. The company went out of business and our films were lost. She never got over the disappointment of losing so many home movies, and it makes me wonder if somehow some of them ended up as stock footage somewhere. Maybe on the History Channel?

I bought the program on iTunes and grabbed two of the frames that show what I think are our home movies. I don't recognize the carpet, but everything else looks oddly familiar to me. What a weird feeling.

It's probably similar to the feeling my Dad would have when we'd watch a WWII program and see footage from North Africa or D-Day (he filmed and photographed lots of stuff in the Army Air Corp, that was "his" war. He also took some of the first footage of the survivors at Dachau, too).

I knit up some designs this Fall, I was happy with most of them but the whole heartbreaking episode at Jan's passing seemed to insert itself into every aspect of my work.

I found that actually doing the maths involved in writing the patterns so far beyond me that I was confused and slow. But I needed to get done, I had short deadlines, and I pushed through. Subsequently, I'm afraid the math didn't make much sense in some cases.

That's the hardest part of the job for me, doing the math for the patterns. Or, rather, doing the maths ALONE.

I twitted about it this morning and got this lovely twitter back. So I'm not alone. But I am sort of still in math hell.

Unfortunately my visiting inertia seems to want a hobby, and the hobby it's chosen is mulling over episodes in my life where I've fallen short or have let folks down - like my lack of pattern writing math skill. My inertia has a suite at the self-pity chalet with a nice view of the wallowing pool.

I find it practically impossible to double check my work by myself - and in my worst moments nasty little inertia whispers to me, "You know, you can think up beautiful sweaters all day, but if you can't write the pattern then you're useless..."

Did I mention there's a bar at the wallowing pool?

I feel so guilty about not being a pattern writing genius that I want to go hide my head. And if I didn't feel nailed to the floor by this damned inertia I'd do just that.

Knowing that dwelling on this was digging myself into an even deeper pity pool, I took Atticus on a little adventure for some REAL digging. Nothing like physical work to give inertia a slap-down.

We noticed while sledding at the school yard across the street Thursday that the adjacent ice rink was covered in snow. With the rain yesterday I figured the surface would be pretty useless if the lumps of gritty snow weren't scraped off before everything re-freezes later today.

So I grabbed my shovel, donned my yak-traks and scraped! It took me 2 hours, and it was hard. I was a human zamboni, and it felt good. I even hummed along (with Atticus scooting across the ice like a fuzzy, black Bambi)

But now the kids can put on their skates and head over for some energy burning good fun on a relatively smooth plane. And when it gets colder today the lumpy, wet, rainy snow won't freeze to the newly smoothed ice's surface.

If we're not going to embrace this winter thing, what's the use of moving to St. Paul?

Now I'm back to my "office" - ready to re-attack the sweater maths with new gusto - hopefully with a clearer head and less self pity this time. In the background I'm watching a DVD of The World At War. Maybe I'll see some of dad's footage...?
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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Simple is Good


It's been a lovely, simple, wonderful Christmas chez Landy. We're very lucky, very happy - full of good feelings and happy to spend time with each other. Life is good.

Gerry's had a lot of excess pain over the past few weeks. Little things have happened that aren't so little when everything is terribly painful, and that's been a strain on both of us (obviously, more on him...) I've

Hannah's been stressed with finishing up some stuff for school, Max has just been - well - affected by all of our stresses.

The past 3 days we've been able to be in a calmer place, just blending in with each other as well as we can, enjoying our company. It's been nice.

It was a thin Christmas - not a bad one at all - but very simple. The kids got rather spare gifts, lots of underwear and other necessities. Same thing with me and Gerry, PJ's, hoodies, things that we need. Simple necessities.

Our big splurge was the skiing lessons, which turned out to be more economical than either of us thought. The kids loved it so much - more than either Gerry or I anticipated - and that made the whole thing an amazing bargain. We also figured out after Day 1 that we could show up early and the kids could get another hour or more of skiing in before their lessons, which was just gravy!
video

Unfortunately the video I shot with my camera was so low resolution that I had to fiddle with it in Photoshop (creating an animation) for any sense of the movement to come across. The kids are both total converts, and Max has already declared he wants to be a skiing, piano playing architect (his 3 passions) when he grows up!

Tomorrow I may look for a coat. Heaven knows I need one!
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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Hoops

When the absolute worst happens, you don't feel equipped to jump through hoops. I know this first hand, for several reasons, and I imagine that most of us have been through a bad spell with the no-question help from an outside source spelled the difference between living and existing for a few months.

Last night there was a terrible fire in Burnsville, MN. No one was killed, mercifully. However, over 200 folks are now homeless - and just 3 days before Christmas.

I have a soft spot for the Salvation Army. They helped us - with no questions asked - at a time when we needed the help desperately. Never once did we feel that as an interfaith, non-Christian family we were less deserving than anyone else, it wasn't an issue at all.

That blew away some of my preconceived notions about the SA, but my mom reminded me that when my uncle Jim Bob was wounded in WWII, he highly praised the SA for giving the guys what they REALLY needed (playing cards, good coffee) when no one else seemed to care about their killer boredom during recovery.

Today if you donate to the Salvation Army, your gift will be doubled. You can earmark the donation for the Burnsville Fire, or you can just give knowing that the Salvation Army will be generous with your donation. Not foolish, but generous. They really are among the first to show up, and the last to leave when people need help.

You have your home, food, maybe family nearby and perhaps even presents. You can spare $5, or $15. You know it. Or maybe you'd like to get some delicious coffee?

Oh - I just got an update on Alex.
Mixed news, but overall a good choice, I think...
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Monday, December 22, 2008

Dowhillers

Today I saw my kids flying downhill and I was very proud!

Their big Hannukah / Christmas gift are 3 days of skiing lessons at the Hyland Ski & Snowboard Area (a few hours a day - it's actually more reasonable than I thought it would be...)

I was surprised to see how much they accomplished today - they both seem very comfortable on their skis; they can stop and go, hop on a ski lift and ride to the top of a hill and come down - all while looking pretty cool.

The Hyland skiing center is part of the Three Rivers Park District, which is amazingly close (just outside of Bloomington, MN). Everyone there was very helpful, the whole thing was so easy - and, as I've already been bragging - the kids were up and flying on their skis in short time!

I found myself feeling a little envy along with the pride. I never learned to ski, but I always sort of wanted to.

In Toledo there were precious few hills, and even if there had been, skiing wasn't something my parents would have been keen on funding. At Denison so many of the other students already skiied and I felt self conscious about advertising my lack of snowy skill. In my 20's I lived in NYC and didn't really pursue the whole skiing thing for 2 reasons:

#1 Fear of Falling - I think the idea of falling (enhanced by my church group field trip to see "The Other Side Of The Mountain" when I was 11) was definitely a deterrent.

#2 Fear of Looking Stupid - Even more than fear of falling was my certainty that I'd look like an idiot if I tried to ski. I didn't know how to lace up the boots, put on the skis, use the poles. I didn't even know how to go about getting a lift ticket or any of the other stuff one must do to get to the top of the hill so that finally one can come down.

But, as my mother would say, if it was something that I really wanted to do, I probably would have a found a way to do it. So the fact I never investigated the whole ski thing probably says less about my fears and more about my inertia.

But here in Minnesota, many folks ski. It's not like Vermont or Colorado, it is rather flat in most of the state, but I've run into so many casual skiers here that it just seems more accessible. If I wasn't still kind of a weenie I might have signed up for some lessons, too.

It was such a beautiful day - tomorrow I will definitely take my camera! And we lucked out - the temps were in the low 0's, not the -20's wind chill that had been predicted. Who knew that 2 years ago we would have considered that lucky...?

As it was I was very happy to sit and knit in the warm lodge, watching the kids practicing on the bunny hill. I think I'm finally making something for Hannah that she'll love, a soft and smooshy scarf.

Oh - the Cookie Swap! It was wonderful! I got to meet some great new friends, and reconnected with others that I hadn't seen since the winter hiberation. As much time as I've spent here in St. Paul this Fall, I haven't been as social as I should have been so I appreciated the chance to reconnect.

I was so eager for the swap, though, that I misread the invitation and we showed up [predictably] an hour early. Lovely.

On any other day I would have just driven home and waited an hour, but there was a snowstorm and the streets were already pretty terrible. So we imposed on our friend's good graces and tried to be as pre-party helpful as we could, she was kind enough to make us feel warm and wanted, if a little early.

Later in the evening, the whole family attended a wonderful concert at St. Mary's Basillica in Minneapolis by the Rose Ensemble. The music was exquisite, but may hve been a little dry for the kids. They were pretty good about it, and listened attentively, though.

The concert was amazing; wonderful acoustics and a very moving setting. It was quite cold and the snowstorm in the morning continued all day. We were surprised the concert hadn't been cancelled, but the audience was packed with hearty Minnesotans who were not going to be deterred by a small thing like blizzard conditions.

I noticed that no one dawdled, though, between the church and the parking lot after the concert ...
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Friday, December 19, 2008

Cookie Swap

This week I made several casseroles (one with Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup) and I hosted my local knitting group. I feel that all of this Minnesota goodness was in preparation for a prime time event: The Cookie Swap.

When my friend told me about her family's cookie swap last year I wondered, "Where have you BEEN all my life?"

I'm not ashamed to say I desperately wanted to be invited, but alas - it was a long-established and jealously guarded tradition with membership in the Swap handed down from mother to daughter over generations. I may be exaggerating, but not by much.

So imagine my joy when I received an invite to a cookie swap (the same friend, she's branching out and starting her own tradition separate from her mom) Allow me to say, I feel like I'm in on the ground floor of a gigantic cookie pyramid scheme.

But there's no scheme, really, just hours of baking in return for eight dozen NEW cookies in exotic shapes and flavors of which I can only dream!

Myself? Is there any question what I'd be bringing?

My traditional (okay, 3 year tradition, but a tradition has to start somewhere) Gelt Cookie. I also found some kooky chocolate poker chips & chocolate Chinese coins in addition to the usual gelt...

And here's a little video I made of the Wrapping Adventure (I'm told the psychological scars of having a badly wrapped dozen cookies can be devastating.)

I may not sleep tonight - I am absolutely giddy!

video

Gelt Cookies
1/4 Cup Sugar
1 Cup Softened Butter
2 tsp Vanilla
2 Cups Flour
1/2 tsp Salt
2 Cups Finely Ground Nuts (pecans or hazelnuts)
Foil covered chocolate coins
(1 side foil removed, 1 side chocolate exposed)

Cream butter, sugar and vanilla. Mix in salt and flour until well blended. Mix in nuts.

Scoop out 1 Tbl of dough and roll into ball, press chocolate coin, foil side up and chocolate side down, into ball and slightly flatten.

Bake in 350 oven for 10-12 minutes, or until bottom edges are golden brown.
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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Where's the Music?

I'm not sure if we're at a plateau, a cancer backslide, or if it's just the cold, but for a few weeks Gerry's been having a hard time dealing with his pain.

His back pain has returned, along with substantial hip and rib pain. Obviously the cold is getting to him, but it's more than that.

The pain may be linked to his stopping Zometa - he had to do that before the dentist pulled his teeth due to possible necrology in his jaw due to the use of bisphosphonates. Doesn't that just roll off the tongue?

Each day I get the kids up, get them off to school, and take Gerry's pain meds up to him. He stays in bed - warm and cozy - and tries to sleep through the pain. I can tell he wants to stay in bed all day, and I'd like to let him, but I feel it's not the best thing in the long run.

So I'm mean, I try to get him up - and out - at least for a bit. We go out for breakfast, or to shop, or just to get some sunlight.

By late afternoon he's more mobile. He often takes the kids to Hebrew School on Weds and piano lessons on Tues, those are chores that he both enjoys and needs to do.

I think - we both think (without really discussing it) that it's important for the kids to see him as active as possible, as vital to their after-school activities as he can be.

We're both crossing our fingers that this painful period is tied to the cold, that it's temporary, that it's not a return of the tiny tumors that mean more bone disintegration. Well, I cross my fingers, for Gerry any kind of bone movement hurts.

We're due to go to the Mayo the first week in Jan for Gerry to get his regular full checkup, we'll see what's up then. This feels so eerily similar to Christmast 2006. Deja vu.

The day before Gerry's checkup I'll be teaching a small group down in Rochester, so we're thinking of taking a hotel room overnight and bring the kids with us - a fun time for all - and ask a friend to come and let Atticus out and feed the pets. Gerry's first tests are so early in the morning that it makes sense.

I wonder how much of his pain is tied to the general malaise of the economy now? Or to the malaise that is my own outlook with recent losses?

It's hard to know what to do - there's no map for this. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to google ourselves, to see where we are on a grid, zoom in, street view? It would be lovely to type in where we'd like to go, and have google figure out the best route and estimated time.

I feel frightening close to the place where fear can paralyze (I don't dare say "freeze") us into not moving at all. Every day I know I should be connecting with yarn shops, setting up teaching engagements, but I am fearful of leaving Gerry alone to be - well, alone. Alone and in pain is not good.

This is the Hope Dance.

It's that odd configuration where we need to hang onto enough hope to get us through the day, but not lose ourselves in a rosy denial of where we're actually at. Shuffle hop step.

It's a more dramatic and athletic dance for us right now, but I think it's the same dance that everyone does every day. It just seems more poignant this time of year, this Christmashannakwanzica-New Year-Festivus season.

I hope we have enough room to get our moves on in those narrow Mayo hallways...
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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Ode To Joy

Today was Max's band concert at his elementary school, the 5th & 6th grades.

Max is playing the bells in the back, this is his first year in band and I think he's going to be a band-camp kind of guy. He loves it, and I was amazed at how well these kids play with a weekly rehearsal and some extra time - their director is amazing!

The video kind of sucks, but I put a lot of Beethovan images at the front to make his class laugh. I hope you do, too!

video
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Anyone in the TC want free Punch Pizza?

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Teaching

I miss teaching.

It's been a few weeks - month? - since I've taught a class. I miss it when I don't (and, like cooling hot chocolate, I develop a sort of skin - a barrier - that makes me fearful of jumping back into the teaching again. Hard to explain...)

Anyway, last night my knitting group came by and we had a lovely time! I got to show off the manse again, always exciting, and as a bonus I got to show off Hannah and Max. Atticus and Kiki showed themselves off with mixed results (I hope "Lady Poodle" is recovered by now...)

But for me one of the best facets of the evening was a new knitter (fresh blood!) or, rather, creating a new knitter!

I'd asked her to come a little early so I could get her up to speed, and by the time most of the folks arrived she'd been knitting Stockinette Stitch and Garter like a pro! I taught her both Combination and Western purling (Harvard grad = she could get it FAST!) and then just for yuks I had her do a few rows of ribbing.

She was amazing. She really has an intuitive sense for knitting, and I cannot wait to see what she chooses to make as her first project!

Because she was ribbing so beautifully, I had to show her cabling without a cable needle, which made everyone laugh. I'm hopeful that I'll be seeing a lot of cabled stuff in the knitting group.

Ironically, I'd just received an email from a sister Combination knitter asking me how I teach new knitters, here's what I wrote back:
When I teach new knitters I start by handing them a needle with about 10 rows already worked in St. st. I show them the knit and the purl (combination purl) and have them do about 10 rows in St. st.

Then I show them Garter. I explain my theory about inserting the needle into each stitch so it's "happy" (not twisted) and I make sure they notice that with these sts the needle is entering the stitch differently than before.

Then I show them the Western purl and explain this is how most folks in the US knit, and that it will turn their knit stitch around so it's worked in the same manner as the garter stitch.

I've had EXCELLENT success with this, it gets knitters going right away with St st so they're not afraid of the purl. The concept, "The way one wraps the stitch in one row impacts how that stitch sits on the needle in the following row." begins to make perfect sense.

In the following class I'll have them do ribbing, and then I leap right into cabling.

It isn't until class #3 that I teach new students how to cast on. For me, casting on is comparable to skipping. You don't have a kid learn to walk by skipping. Once a child understands how to walk, skipping is easier to comprehend.
One knitter was working on a beautiful project - the Yoga Matt Carrier from IK (oh, lookey, it's designed by my friend, Alison Will Green!) It was lovely, but she'd gotten off her count so the lace was a little skewed.

She bravely ripped out the errant rows with such confidence (the cat was pretty happy about that...) and soon we got everything set right.

I discussed the joy that is a nice collection of stitch markers...

I noticed that she was working off of written instructions, so I offered to chart the pattern for her. It's an odd pattern to chart, the repeats don't sit immediately on top of each other so there's that leap of faith thing that sometimes happens when a chart doesn't look like a rectangular box.

I'll be interested to see if it helps her, or if, after starting with the written instrux, it is just confusing. Everyone learns and understands differently.
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Monday, December 15, 2008

Baby, it's cold!

I've succumbed. (incidently, that's a really hard word to spell...)

Yes, the feels-no-cold descendant of West Virginia hillbillies is wearing SOCKS. In the HOUSE. Those who know me know what a special day this is. The day the earth froze over. Clog-shoe Binaca knee-toe*

And in celebration I'll work on Gerry's holiday gift, a pair of socks knit from Lorna's Laces Roadside Gerry (I'm also doubling it for a hat for him, he'll match Max!) Hannah gets a scarf - she asked for one, she shall have one. I wanted to make her a cowl type thing, but she wants a long scarf. Okay.

When I mentioned "cowl" her face scrunched up in a look that said, "Mom, you are not only insane, but tastelessly so, OMG!"

Oh, heavens, if only I could convince her NOT to make up her mind about something at the beginning, but to wait until the facts are in.

Oh, well, she could be 5 times as annoying and only be 1/2 as bad as I was, so we have a long way to go before I can complain about anything.

Our house, like many homes in the Twin Cities, is rather small. This is, we believe, to save heat. When our furnace is on, the upstairs gets nice and toasty but the downstairs is chilly-willy. Sometimes the upstairs gets TOO warm, so we turn down the thermostat to a low, low 62 (our new upstairs windows are doing yeoman duty - hooray!) and then it's a little frigid downstairs.

So we're looking into the option of adding a gas fireplace insert to our non-working fireplace in our living room. The variables we're weighing are -

PROS:
  1. Increased home value (functioning gas fireplace vs. nonworking hole in wall) which will probably offset #1 below...
  2. Possible lower heating bills as we turn furnace down (see #2 below)
  3. Warmer living room area (the place we actually hang out...)
  4. Ambience
CONS:
  1. Expense to install (this will BE our big home improvement for 2009 & 2010)
  2. Possible higher gas bills (see #2 above)
So tomorrow we're having the measuring of the fireplace done - mostly to see if it's possible to get a "wood" burning gas insert (it may be too big for our small, 1919 original coal-burning fireplace...) The "coal" burning gas insert will definitely fit, and it makes more sense historically, and it looks really cool. But it's a smidge more expensive. We'll take it one step at a time.

One thing that should warm up the house is my knitting group, which is coming over tonight (hooray!) I haven't had them over, I'm sort of a new member to the group (well, a year, but that feels so new to me) so this will be my first time having them over to my house. I'm making cookies, coffee, tea, grapes and pie, and hoping that's good. I'm both fearful that no one will show, and afraid that we won't have enough chairs.

I've been experimenting with refrigerator cookies, and tried this recipe last night. It is VERY good! So we'll have those and my old standby, the gelt cookie!

* Mnemonic device for remembering Klaatu barada nikto in case I ever need to save the world, a la Patricia Neal ...
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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Roadside Gerry

I love Autumn.

To paraphrase my kids, I love it so much I could marry it.

Common wisdom is that the world comes alive in the Spring, but for me the metamorphosis that is Autumn has always been a time of exciting beginnings.

I love the clear air, the crispness, the cool nights and warm days. But mostly I love the colors. The glorious golds, magentas, and one thousand shades of green compete with the richest blue sky of the year Thrumming along behind the bright shades is an amazing richness of brown, deep and dark, or mild and calm.

Change is often very hard. Last year my husband, Gerry, was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a terminal blood cancer that affects - in my husband's case - the bones and bone marrow. We struggle to be honest with each other. Instead of fighting the changes, we try to embrace and learn from them. We use our energy to fight the disease.

The Autumn metamorphosis makes it easier for us to understand the inevitable final phase of life as an evolution that every living thing must pass through. In the purest non-religious sense, Autumn helps me to find peace with the concept of death, and what may lie beyond.

While pondering these heavy thoughts in a long drive through Wisconsin this October, I rounded a curve and before me was a landscape so lovely I had to stop. As I got out of the car with my camera I thought, "Gerry will really dig this - he loves these colors!"

Gerry and I love car trips. Our honeymoon was a long drive up and down the Hudson Valley in New York, our favorite vacations have been driving ones. We love the forced intimacy of a car, the diners and historical markers along the way, the pure joy of making a journey together.

When Beth Casey asked me to think up a palette for a new colorway for Lorna's Laces in honor of Gerry and his ongoing fight against Multiple Myeloma, I immediately thought of the Wisconsin roadside photo. Here is the photo I took along the road, with individual colors that were eventually used in the dyeing process pulled out.

I've long felt that Beth is a true artist of dyeing, but the experience of working with her to create a colorway for Gerry confirmed my belief in her artistry. I feel that she's captured the beauty and freshness of that lovely Autumn day by the side of the road in Wisconsin in this stunning colorway.

Here's a hat I worked up for Max yesterday, it's close fitting enough that he can wear it under his hood or another hat (we're in 2-hat territory up here, folks...), and it looks adorable on him.

I am in LOVE with this colorway.

But I'm more in love with Gerry.
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Obviously I have too much time...

Send your own ElfYourself eCards
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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Calling In Gay

Hey Folks,

No blog today, I'm calling in gay! (I'm straight, don't get any ideas, but I have a gay-pass for today)

I'm sick about the inability of some fundamentalist folks to recognize that marriage is a CONTRACT. If you want to make it a sacrament, please do so with the help of your local religious authority. When Gerry and I were legally married it was by a JUDGE, and the next day we had what we called our "spiritual" ceremony with poems and readings by friends.

I'm not saying everyone should do it this way, but I don't see why anyone has the right to infringe on the rights of others to enter into a contract (boy how I wish Jon Stewart would have brought that up when talking with Mike Huckabee last night - probably one of the most endearing advocates against equal marriage rights, but he's still wrong...)

Hey - I guess this DID turn into a blog post. Never mind. My volunteer work for today? Taking Gerry around to various appts to deal with his increasing pain. And I got him a humidifier (won't that just make everything better?)
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Monday, December 08, 2008

Think Globally, Buy Locally (and Independently, too...)

I'm trying to get across to the kids this holiday season that it's best for us to support the stores in our community, because those stores are the ones that employ their friend's parents, and other friend's parents work at businesses that are supported by the local stores.

We're very lucky that we live in the Twin Cities - home of Target and Best Buy - which makes them local, in a sense.

Although having said that, I'm stressing to the kids that it's best to get their toys at Creative Kids Stuff (around the corner from our home), their other clothes and gifts from Bibelot (also around the corner) and their book gifts at Red Balloon (down the street)

Yes, it may cost a few $$ more, but it's an investment in our local economy that's more than worth the small cost.

I get sick to death of people thinking that the $1.44 - or even the $150 - that they save on a pair of socks or a wide screen TV is going to improve their own lives to such an extent that it's worth the cost to the larger community. I'm not saying we shouldn't be smart shoppers, I try to be as frugal and cautious in my purchasing decisions as I can.

But being clever is different from being wise. I'd rather be a WISE shopper.

WalMart has a VERY effective ad campaign - "Save Money, Live Better" (which is suspiciously similar to Target's long-time tagline, "Eat well, pay less", I'm just sayin') - and it kind of makes me ill whenever I hear it. But they are very appealing ads, there's no doubt about it.

Ask yourself though, WHO exactly lives better?
  • Are the families whose jobs have been shipped to China (hello, Wooster, OH!) because WalMart insists on such a teensy-tiny practically non-existent profit margin for their suppliers living better?
  • Are the local small shops that have been run out of business by Super Wal Marts living better?
  • Are the folks in the Chinese government-run prison/factories/sweatshops living better when they crank out another 1,000 sets of incredibly cheap holiday lights for WalMart?
  • Are the families of employees who can't make ends meet because WalMart cuts their hours to just under full-time so they're not eligible for health benefits (and they have to go on Medicaid) living better?
I'll tell you who IS living better - the Walton family.

Yes, I know, I'm picking on WalMart. They deserve it.

So before you rush off to the big "W" for some extra cheap tinsel and popcorn-in-a-can, ask yourself if a local shop may offer the same thing (yes, it's true, for $1.99 more).

Then ask yourself if the $1.99 isn't a very good investment in your community. Fighting our way out of this current economic nightmare means we all have to be concerned about our own communities.

Btw, Frontline did an amazing documentary a few years ago about just this. It's really worth watching this shopping season...

News Flash
Gerry just got home from the dentist. THREE extractions. His mouth is full of gauze, he has a dazed, very pained look (not unlike a mass murderer. Have I been watching too much Forensic Files?)

This disease is merciless. He's been off the Zometa (a bisphosphonate he takes monthly to strengthen his bones so they don't break as easily) for a few months in preparation for this, but we still worry about the long term effects of an extractionn with residual traces of Zometa.

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Friday, December 05, 2008

Okay, Cancer,
You're Officially At The Top of the List

And the list ain't my Christmas list. It's the list of sh*ttiest things that can happen to folks. And you, Cancer, are at the top. Number one, numero-uno, Primo.

So after my own brush with Ovarian nonsense (I'm the luckiest person in the world, my tumor was caught in a pre-cancerious stage - I've heard folks like me described as "Previvors") and my mom's demise due to colon, lung and liver cancer, I felt all cancered out.

Then Gerry got sick and it was a whole NEW cancer which we continue to deal with every day. Then Jan's cancer returned, stronger than ever, and she passed in October. Now my cousin Patsy's colon cancer is coming back at her stronger than she may be able to handle.

And now, the absolute worst, the most heart breaking family cancer experience to date is my nephew Alex Modesitt's fight with Ewings Sarcoma.

Alex is the adopted son of my brother and his wife, Karen, but as much a son of their heart as if he was carried by Karen herself. Jim and I both agreed that there was a definite resemblance between he and Alex (dark hair, blue eyes, fair skin) I know it gave Jim a little extra thrill of happiness, but he would have been nuts about Alex resemblance or not!

Alex came to Jim & Karen (or, rather, they went to him) when he was 11, he's from Russia and they traveled to Moscow to complete the adoption. Gerry, the kids and I first met Alex at the JFK airport when we drove down to spend a few hours with them on their layover from Moscow to Dallas. The kids adore their "big" cousin, who is a remarkable gymnast!

It was just a few years after the adoption that my brother and mother passed away. Karen went from being one of 3 adults in a household to a single mom of a 12-year old in a few short months, and although it was devastating, she did it gracefully. Obviously, Alex has had more than his share of burdens to carry in his young life.

Karen was keeping Alex's illness more private at first, he was diagnosed this Summer and has been undergoing chemo on a regular basis and is home from school this year. Karen, of course, needs to be there with him.

As the disease progresses it gets harder and harder to keep up with the many, many medical bills that aren't covered by insurance.

Alex is a charming, brave and singular young man, and is finding a way to grow through this horrible experience, to use it as a life lesson. Alex recently gave a speech to a group in Dallas, and by all accounts he did a stellar job and it was incredibly well received.

Few folks embrace the fish-bowl openess that is a blog, it's not for everyone. But here I am, blogging about Alex's cancer, with Karen's permission.

And you all know why I am.

How insane that we have to even deal with this garbage, huh?
Wealthiest country in the world, and all that stuff. I've said it before but this is just wrenching.

On top of this, Karen has a great job (they're allowing her to work at home part time) with good health insurance, so if anyone should be covered it should be them. But no. There are SO many things that slip through unpaid, especially when a child is the one who's sick and a single mom has to be there to care for him.

But I rant.

Karen and Alex can use some help with their finances, the cancer is draining their funds faster than Karen can earn it. Happily, there's an amazing organization called the Brandi K. McPherson (BKM) Foundation, which funnels donations directly to families of children with cancer. Here is a bit about it:

BKM Mission Statement: The Brandi K. McPherson Foundation is a newly found non-profit organization (established in 2007) that supports young adolescent and adult cancer patients, focusing primarily on Osteosarcoma patients. Diagnosed in 1995, Brandi is a survivor of Osteosarcoma and an above the knee amputee.

The BKM Foundation allows folks to make donations to the families of kids with cancer, with 100% of the donation going to the particular child's family.

If you like, you can make a holiday donation to the BKM foundation for Alex, and it will help them get through the holidays, Alex's surgery, and his recovery much easier than they might. Any amount is lovely, accepted with gratitude and humility.

And, lest you begin to feel remotely sorry for our family, please know that we are giddily happy folks. I can't quite figure out why, I have no idea from whence the joy springs (although Karen and Alex have their own ideas about that, just one of the many flavors of our ecumenical family!)

But I do know that in the midsts of the garbage we feel incredibly happy and lucky just to have any time with each other.

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posted by Annie at 10 Comments Links to this post

Thursday, December 04, 2008

At least now I know...

I could survive for 57 seconds chained to a bunk bed with a velociraptor

Created by Bunk Beds.net

Well, it IS funny... Sort of.

I stayed in bed until 9:00 with this wretched cold, but no velociraptor was in sight. Gerry's in bed, he's been aching and hurting for a few days, although I think his is partly cold, partly his cancer, and partly his overexertion this past week with his buddy in town.

What I have is not so much an "achoo!" kind of cold, but an aching, stuffy, every part of my body hurts and I want to sleep for a week cold. Is this the 'flu? Yeah, maybe this is what Gerry has, too. I'll take him up some tea.

While I'm just being silly (and achey) wouldn't you love to see THIS on COPS? Never say I don't live in a very exciting corner of the world.

One of my ancillary cousins - a cousin I love dearly, but who was a bit more distanced than my "sister" Jan was to me - is losing her battle with cancer, too. Patsy's been fighting colon cancer for eight long years - she's a strong and remarkable person. It's come and stayed, slept, wakened, and now it's back with a roar. I love Patsy very much - I stayed with her and her husband for a few days while in WV last time I was there.

Of course, I am feeling more torn about not going to WV, more that I really SHOULD be there - just to see her and give her a hug. We had a sensational visit when I was down in October, lots of laughing and just general silliness. She's a riot, I'm a stitch, and when the two of us are together we need to put on our depends.

So think of Patsy for a bit - I swear, isn't reading my blog like checking in on the "relatives with cancer report"?

Self Awareness Alert: I realized when perusing Shannon's blog yesterday that I'm so SELF centered on my blog, I hardly ever mention anyone else's blog - me, me me. Oy.

Well, me and the velociraptors.
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posted by Annie at 10 Comments Links to this post

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Staying Put

I'm Twittering... Follow me if you'd like!*

I'm also staying put. I am not driving to WV, I am staying here in St. Paul.

It's for various reasons, mostly health (mine and Gerry's) Mine is just an annoying cold - but I feel ratty enough that a 16-hour drive looms large against the horizon.

Gerry is tired, hurting, he has aches on top of his aches and I think it's more than the cold. He worked himself into a stuporous, hurting, aching mess of bone and muscle pain this past week, and it shows in every movement and every [sigh] that escapes him while making those movements.

It's getting colder here, the cold affects Gerry more strongly this year. I'm not feeling it, but I'm the idiot who likes to ride my bike when it's below freezing. Oh, wait, that would be my daughter.

Hannah hates taking the bus. H A T E S it. Why is she so scared of the bus? Is it haunted? Alas, a haunted bus would be an inducement for my Twilight-lovin' tween.

She hates what's INSIDE the bus. I can't blame her. I was discussing this with my friend London yesterday and we both agreed that the bus ride was the worst portion of our day when we were in Jr. and Sr. high school. I swear, one bus ride was enough to ruin my entire week.

The bus was the realm of the kids who couldn't (or wouldn't) do well in school. And theirs was a reign of terror.

Any geeky, nerdy kid who had the nerve to work hard and do well in school was fair game. Add height, red hair and a sensitive nature (I cry at coffee ads) and it's a lethal mix. I was the 12-point buck, they were the hunter.

Or, that's how it felt.

I feel like it took years for me to get past high school - the pain, the ostracism, the joyless repetitive class work.

I actually dropped out, in a manner of speaking (that's me, a high school drop out with a Masters). I had enough credits to graduate, the teachers in our school system went on strike (Toledo in the late 70's - a mini-depression) so I got myself accepted early to a private university (no diploma required if SAT's were okay) and went off to Denison when I was 17.

In retrospect it might have been a mistake, I could have used that extra year of maturing. But I was realistic enough to know that a first-generation college-bound kid with so many marks against me might lose momentum and end up as a lathe operator for $18 dollars an hour (princely wages my brothers' friends rubbed in my face when I went home for vacations)

And I might still be there. Yay, escape! (Disclaimer: Not escape from Toledo, but escape from a life for which I was not suited. A life where I would end every sentence with a preposition.)

Hannah's decision to ride her bike in freezing weather so she can avoid the bus is not one I'm going to dismiss offhand.

Gerry, who had a very good time riding his bike in Jr. High, doesn't get it. He keeps trying to get her onto the bus, but she's stubborn. I feel that at a certain point she'll give in, but every day she avoids it is another day that she strengthens her resolve to NOT let the bus situation alter her unique personality. Ride, Hannah, ride!

So here I am, with more time on my hands (I was anticipating a good 4-day loss of knitting and pattern writing time due to the trip, plus any work down there I'd need to do.) Feeling bad, but not guilty. There's only one me, there's only one Gerry, and we need to be together right now.

Today will be math day for me - lots of pattern worksheets to wade through. I want to take a long walk, or bike ride, but I'll wait until it warms up to 22F. Call me a dreamer...

*I use Twhirl for my twits, thanks to Guido [it's a purl, man]

And for your listening pleasure, here is Maxie practicing Deck The Halls.
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posted by Annie at 14 Comments Links to this post

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

If I Were 20 Again...

I was idly thinking, "What would I do if I could start a totally new career, as if I were 20 and fresh as a daisy, right now?"

There are so many things I'd like to do - to have done. These are the tops on my list today:
  1. Really buckle down and BE a comedy writer
  2. Study hard and become a Rabbi (not being Jewish, this might be hard...)
  3. Become a Jazz Singer
  4. Becom a Pastry Chef
  5. Study Indo-European languages (huh?)
  6. Have a big family (adopted)
Of course, I still can do any of these - so be very afraid!

This morning I woke up with a bad cold. Just as I was feeling my sore throat and runny nose, an ad on the radio announced, "The only thing worse than a sore throat is a sore throat and a runny nose..."

Stupid mindreading radio.


So hot Lady Grey tea has been made, my Vitamin C, Airborne and Alka Seltzer Cold have been drunk and I'm easing in to my day. Gerry's putting away the clean dishes and I feel guilty. Hannah's late, as usual, and someone will have to drive her to school. Life.

Update: Hannah decided to ride her bike. It's 22 degrees. She is my daughter.


Mike, a very good friend of Gerry's, has been visiting this week. It's been wonderful for Gerry, he's been happier, more engaged, just more - Gerry - than he's been in months. But he's also paying the price.

Visiting a computer store yesterday morning, lunch at a Vietnamese Restaurant, then to a hockey game in the evening (my early Christmas gift for him - plus Mike and Max) just about wiped him out.

While they were at the game, I inadvertently slow-roasted eight biscuits for 2 hours. Yep, I definitely have a stuffy nose - didn't smell a thing...

Gerry fell asleep in the car after lunch, and came home and took a 2 hour nap. My 49-year old, 68-year old guy. Maybe he's getting a cold, too?

Mike hasn't seen him for a few years, it's hard for him to understand how exhausted Gerry can get (even though he's looking very good) and it's always hard for Gerry to admit that. Heck, it's hard for ME to see it.

Gerry, of course, feels the need to be the 30-year old guy he was when he and Mike were buddies in Rochester, NY. So he took the stairs yesterday at the Xcel center (and he's paying for it now, Show off.) He didn't want to wait for the elevator or crowded escalator, but the stairs do a number on his hip. Stupid bones.

I've hit the wall with some Math for my Yarn Forward sweater. It's nothing difficult, I justmade a few short cuts in my worksheet (my bible for each pattern) and I'm paying for it. I think the only recourse is to rework the sheet.

I was fretting about this when I received an email from the new editor (Shannon Okey - go Shannon!) explaining that they overbooked pieces for the next issue so if I wanted I could be in the following issue. HOORAY! Those mind-reading lessons that Shannon's been taking are really paying off!

I'm also finishing up a plaid cardigan for IK. Actually, only the yoke, short sleeves and trim are plaid, the rest is ribbed stripes (to carry through the strong horizontal and vertical feeling in the plaid)

It's a sweater I'm falling in love with, and I feel I need to really do it justice. The extra time I gained from pushing the YF sweater back will help.

Tomorrow I leave for WV again. I was going to go today, but - like the YF sweater - I'd pushed it back.

Joyfully, while I'm there I'll visit the gang at Lorna's Laces and see the new changes in the "Roadside Gerry" color. I love LL, I love their attitude, their yarn, the folks who work there - what a delightful group!

I am incredibly fortunate in that the yarn companies I've worked with - Artyarns, LL, SWTC, Tilli Tomas, Spirit Trail Fibers, Argossy, My Friend London, Brown Sheep, Muench, Louet, Malabrigo, Buffalo Gold [oh, heavens I know I'm leaving someone big out, please forgive me! Note that these are companies I've worked with, there are a TON of yarns I adore that I'm not mentioning here...] are all wo/manned by exceptional folks.

Or maybe it's not fortune? Maybe it's just the way of the fiber world?

Maybe I'll add, "Start a yarn company" to my above list...
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posted by Annie at 11 Comments Links to this post

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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