Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Rethinking due to Reassessment...

Here's my Twitterscope for today:
You may need to reconsider a decision that you made recently, especially if you weren't being realistic about your abilities. Your expectations might have been exaggerated because you were looking at the world through rose-colored glasses, but now you are beginning to see things in their proper light. Although you could be a bit discouraged today, the situation will likely work out beneficially in the long run.

Ironically, I saw that after I'd had a good heart to heart with myself about my ability to finish History On Two Needles on my own. I don't know if I can do it, given my diminished energy and my new diagnosis of Fibromyalgia.

The book WILL get done, but I have to face the fact that things are different now - at least for the short run. I've been beating myself up for not getting more done on the book, but when I look at the last 6 months I realize just HOW MUCH I've been in pain, how difficult life has been, and how I'd been avoiding seeing that.

Barrelling through IS a good strategy, but it doesn't work forever.

So now that I've been sidelined, seriously, I need to reconsider how I'm going to go about publishing this book. I think I'll contact publishers I've wanted to work with for a while and see if they have any interest. I've already done the research, and most of the patterns are written and finished garments are ready to be photographed. I just cannot see myself arranging that as I thought I could a year ago.

I can't tell you guys how sad this makes me. But to have the book not see the light of day would make me much sadder. So, we pick the level of our sadness, I guess, and we pick our battles.

I think the Trazodone has been helping my sleeping. I don't think I'd realized that my sleep WAS being interrupted by pain, but it had been. I have half-awake remembrances of rolling one way and finding it agonizing, then rolling the other and finding THAT agonizing, too.

I've also been waking up between 5 - 7 every morning. Nothing wrong with that, but I'd been going to sleep later and later. Laying in bed felt good because I was tired, but it HURT to be in one position for very long. The Trazodone is helping me go to sleep at 11 and sleep, FULLY, until I wake up at 8 or so. Very late for me.

I guess that's what vacations are for!

And - irony of ironies - how brilliant that this is all coming to a head right when my first online class is about to start. It's a beautiful thing, to be able to teach and not have to drive, carry bags (the hardest thing for me) walk up stairs, carry bags up stairs.

It's nice to not have to unpack all my stuff, dance around a classroom to act out Stitch Theater, move from student to student bending over and looking at work (I'd been doing more "gather 'round me, students!" moments) and then packing everything up, carrying it out to the car and driving home. It's good to not have to do that.

What's been hard is finding a day when I look halfway like myself to make videos. I look at myself in the mirror and I hardly recognize myself. I look very old, very wrinkled, very tired.

So I brush my hair and put on makeup and I feel better. And today I WILL make several videos and thus be finished with the pre-recorded portion of the Combination Knitting Class.

I'm blown away by the fact that the January Combination Knitting class is sold out, and February is one space away from being sold out. I'm contemplating adding a second section to February, there's no reason why I can't, but I want to get an idea of how much email / chat I'll be fielding on a week to week basis before I make that commitment. I'll decide by mid Jan.

In the mean time I'm making a few samples for a new class, the Universal Mitered Handbag, and I cannot WAIT to get going with that class! I'm thinking hard about how best to feature a project class, how much can I expect from the students when we don't have the 3-hour time constraint. This new way of working out classes is fascinating!

Something else that's fascinating is a new book I was just sent! Myra Wood's new book, Crazy Lace, is just lovely! It's well photographed, laid out in an easy-to-read manner, and has a lot of useful images to help a knitter through the concept of creating your own lace.

I really like the "go for it!" attitude it has about lace, that you should approach it fearlessly, with a bit of a 'go to hell' attitude about making sure everything is perfectly symmetrical. I think this will free up a lot of folks to begin to play with their lace.

It's through this kind of play that we become the knitters we want to be - folks who don't lose themselves in their knitting often have a hard time finding themselves in their knitting, too.

One thing that I thought was odd was Mrya's use of the left leaning triple decrease in all the patterns. I think it would have been helpful to introduce the concept of a centered (or vertical) double decrease, which can add such a dramatic effect. And, like many books, this one works on the assumption that every knitter is a Western knitter (all decreases are described as if all stitches were seated on the needle in a Western fashion)

It's understandable, but I keep hoping that as wonderful books are being independently published, the concept of a universal knitting pattern style will begin to take hold (describing decreases as left and right leaning - k2togL and k2togR - instead of using the terms SSK and K2tog, which only apply to Western knitters.)

One thing I really liked was the encouragement to BLOCK. I'm often surprised when I meet an excellent knitter in a class, someone who obviously knows all the ins and outs of creating beautiful knit fabric, but is wearing a garment that COULD be really stellar if only it were blocked.

When I mention blocking in class, often this same student will shake their head and say, "I never block!" Such a waste - to be SO close to an amazing garment and falter in the last few yards.

Blocking is easy. You don't have to wet down your garment, you can use steam to block just about anything (I use it for EVERYTHING except mostly acrylic fibers, which can stretch out) and the results of blocking are so easy to see, it feels like you've just performed a miracle. This is especially true in lace knitting, when the increases and decreases need to be opened up as only blocking can do.

If folks who read Crazy Lace start blocking more, it will be a wonderful thing for all knitting in general!

I've discovered Ancestry.com and it's a real work stopper. Fortunately I can't afford the $155 for the whole year, so I'll be out before my 14 day free trial is over. But I'm enjoying it right now!

Here's one branch of my father's family that I've been looking up. Is it true? Who knows.

Click for larger version

This does, though, give a good amount of information so I can begin using other resources to verify what I've found. I know the connection to the Cunninghams is solid (we used to go to the Modesitt/Cunningham reunion when I was a kid) and the walk back from Cunninghams to Scotland seems pretty firm. Maybe this is why I felt so at home in Scotland this past Summer?

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Thursday, December 24, 2009


Apparently that's what I have.

We arrived at the Rheumatologists office this morning - Christmas Eve - and he dismissed Lyme immediately. He explained to us that my primary doctor had requested a Western Blot which was negative for Lyme.

I hadn't known this, and my mind was so wrapped around getting a diagnosis of Lyme that he sort of took the wind out of my sails.

We talked for a bit, he'd my history for a few days, and my medical records from my primary doc. He did a pressure point test, pressing against my neck and arms and legs, much more painful than I would have expected. I guess that's what he was looking for...

Because then he told me that, given my history and the test results, he felt I have Fybromyalgia.

I have a friend in NJ who was diagnosed with this back in the late 90's, so I'm aware not only of the pain and exhaustion, but of the mental stress from folks who don't believe it's really an illness.

So now I have a diagnosis. And I'm sadder than I thought I would be. For the past few years I've been eating well, exercising regularly, just being all around generally very healthy, but I've been so exhausted all the time, too.

The doctor wants to start me on Trazodone to help me sleep. Lack of sleep, because of the pain, has been a bit of a problem. I'm supposed to start with a very small dose, so we'll see how it does.

I had thought this pain and exhaustion I was feeling was just a reaction to Gerry's illness, Jan's death, etc., but I think deep down I knew that there was something wrong with a knitting teacher who wore out after 4 hours of teaching. And I had to admit that knitting more than an hour or so wiped me out, which should NOT be the case.

Sometimes I would feel so useless - I'd be in the middle of cooking something, or cleaning the house, and I'd have to stop and go lay down because I was so tired. I think that's why I like bike riding so much - I can pedal, then I can coast...

These past 8 weeks have proven to me that there really has been something - something not good - going on with my body. And now it has a name. Fibromyalgia.

The doctor ordered some further blood tests to narrow down some of my other symptoms, so we headed over to St. Jo's for to get blood drawn and then headed home.

I slept all afternoon.

But it's still Christmas Eve!
The presents are wrapped and under the tree (right next to the Menorah) But I'm the most excited about a gift we got for Hannah.

Hannah astounded us this summer by keeping a hula hoop going for quite a long time at a friend's house, and we've been looking for some solitary, fun, slightly kooky thing for her to enjoy in the winter. I showed her a hooping site and I think she's hooked.

But hoops are pricey, so I wondered if there was a cheaper alternative...

I found this site by Jason Strauss where it explains how to make a hoop - hooray!

So Hannah - who is handy - will be getting all the components (tube, joiners, electrical tape) along with the instructions tomorrow morning when she wakes up, all tied up in a big, red bow. I hope she's as psyched by it as I think she will be!
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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Registration for Online Classes is LIVE!
This post is late due to a publishing problem

The Combination Knitting classes I'll be offering over at the Ning.com site are coming together very nicely. I've got some great videos, some good hand outs and I'm working on a few mp3 lectures so folks who take the class can have some mobility while they learn.

If you're interested in registering you can visit http://www.anniemodesitt.com/onlineclasses to sign up for Jan [sold out], Feb [almost sold out] or March classes (1 class per month)

If you register by Jan 1 you can sign up for the February and March classes for $50 also (use code "introfeb" or "intromarch") After Jan 1 the Feb and March classes revert to $65 for the month-long class.

I hope to "see" you in class - I'm so excited about this whole thing! Especially the chance to share my passion and knowledge without taxing my limited energy or putting undue pressure on my family.

Thanks, everyone, for "walking" me through this process of getting the classes together!

And Happy Solstice! It's lighter every day from now on!

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Working in Bed

Perhaps knitting is the 4th oldest profession? At any rate, it's nice to have a job that I can do while I'm laid up with this - well - whatever it is.

Lupus - test negative
Mono - test negative
Lyme - test very slight positive*
H1N1 - test negative

I swear, I've had everything but a pregnancy test. Now I'm waiting for my Christmas Eve appt with a Rheumatologists (my first ever) and may just get a handle on what ails me. I love the whole Tiny Tim pathos, I hope it's snowing when I go, and that there are carrollers. I may carry Gerry in on my shoulder...

Here I am, for the 4th week in a row, with my swollen glands so painful I can barely swallow (tonsils out at age 13, it's not that) and my joints aching and creaky. I'm either feverish, or chilled, or my skin hurts.

Yesterday I stayed in bed all day, didn't leave once except to go downstairs and say 'Hi!' to the family. I missed Max's band concert (they're doing it again on Tuesday) and - perhaps because of the rest - the onset of my evening's fever was delayed until 7:00 from it's usual 5:00 arrival.

A very good friend took the kids out last night to do their holiday shopping, it was SO lovely of her, and when she brought them home we were able to do a bit of sitting and knitting for a half hour or so. I hadn't realized how much I missed in person contact - well, someone besides Gerry and the kids - and it was a lovely evening. And my fever had passed by then - yay!

Today I'm taking the day off of getting my online classes together to work on a scarf for Hannah for Christmas. I want to finish this up and try to get something made up for Max and Gerry, too.

But first, to sleep a bit...
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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

My Troubled Teen Years

I don't write about this very often, seldom quite so honestly, although I allude to my checkered teen past every now and then

But I have a reason for the following reflections on my troubled teen years.

Be warned: The following reads like a bad Linda Blair 1970's TV special.

My dad was an exceptional person. Handsome, charming, really quite brilliant. My mother worshiped him (her words) and never married after he died because - in her eyes - no one could live up to him.

But, as with many gifted souls, he had a dark side that was terrifying.

My dad had a temper that was legendary. He'd been the victim of child abuse.

In his family they called it 'good parenting.' The family stories of what his own father did to his kids would curl your hair.

I guess in light of that, his own parenting style was an improvement on what he had grown up with. Every generation strives in their own way.

Unfortunately, he would unleash his temper on my brother and me - mostly at me. Now I can see that my poor brother, yearning for the male bonding and positive reinforcement of his dad, had no choice but to act as a sort of 'assistant' (henchman, in my young mind) to dad's cruelty. But at the time I grew to hate them both.

Later, when we were in our 20's, Jimmy fell in love with a woman who'd also suffered physical abuse from her father, he began to sincerely regret his role in my pain. He called one night and after a very, very long phone call we began to put the poison of our raising behind us and move into a new place as siblings. I will always be grateful to his wife for that enlightment.

Dad's abuse was both physical and mental/emotional. During this time his own health was failing (heart disease, diabetes, etc.) and his business failed (he had the first US patent on a single-person hovercraft in the US, but was NOT a businessman.)

This made him angry, resentful, dangerous - and on the prowl for a target.

My own snappy, surly-teen personality was a bullseye. I was constantly in his sights, and he fired often. I had more spine than sense, but in retrospect I believe it was my ability to fight - my instinct for survival - back that kept me sane, and kept me alive.

I won't go into the list of physical abuses, worst among them a broken wrist and broken tooth (both with the assistance of my brother) The worst emotional abuse was a constant, water-on-a-stone recitation of my faults as a female member of the human race.

I was told many times a day that I was" ugly", "stupid", "fat", "mean", "a terrible daughter" and a "slut".

I still can't figure out that last one, except this really had NOTHING to do with me, and everything to do with my father's twisted, pained brain.

Unfortunately, the stereo back beat to my father's sad tune were the taunts of school bullies, "Big Red", "Moose"
But that's a different story for a different day.

I escaped into school. I joined the orchestra that practiced at 7:00 am, and I worked on plays so I could stay at the school painting sets until dinner. The less time at home, the safer I felt.

When I was 14 an opportunity to get out of this painful situation presented itself.

My friend, Heidi, was running away - so I left with her. We fell in with some Jesus-freaks-in-a-van where my Free Methodist childhood of bible verse drills paid off big time. I was lucky - being part of a group who fed and respected me was light years better than most run-aways have it. I was gone a little over a month.

I returned home when I learned that a favorite uncle had died of cancer, and I missed my mom. But I retained that sense of freedom I'd developed on the road. It sustained me when life as the child of a tortured bully became too much.

My father died on January 6, 1978 - my last year in high school. I'd like to be able to say I was sad when he died, but it was one of the greatest reliefs of my young life.

At the end of her life my mother and I were finally able to come to terms about the rift my father had caused in our relationship. Her apology for not defending me was long in coming, and ultimately not really necessary. She was torn between her kids, who were growing up fast, and her husband, who was declining even faster.

WHY am I going into this in such detail today? Because there are a lot of kids in similar situations to my own, who are not willing or able to return home. Runaways, who become victims of gangs and thugs and pimps, inhabit every city.

A local organization here in the Twin Cities specializes in caring for these forgotten teens. It's called "The Bridge" and they could use support. A good friend told me about the work they do, and it's impressive.

If you are looking for a worthwhile, very deserving charity to fund this holiday (pre-tax) season, please consider the Bridge. Or look for a similar organization in your own town. Those of us who suffered abuse, who were runaways, we may not be very vocal about our pasts - perhaps because not many of us fought our way out of our situations.

I haven't heard from Heidi for many, many years; I think of her often.
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Friday, December 11, 2009

Happy Festival of Latkes!

It's a low-key Hanukkah here chez Landy this year.

I can't get rid of this crud, Gerry's laying low, but that's no reason not to make it happy for the kinder!

I'll be moistening the dehydrated grated potatoes (they're actually pretty good) and forming some latkes, I'll be making a shortcut version of my hanukkah cookie (with slice and bake dough.)

And, yes, we'll decorate the Christmas Tree tonight.

In the window. So the lightning bolt can hit us directly.

It's traditional at Hanukkah to play dreidle, a game where you spin a top and bet on the outcome. Usually raisins, nuts, or gelt (chocolate coins) are used in the betting, but I ordered these from the US mint as a fun first-night gift for the kids.

The kid will getting their allowances for this month in "gelt" - Thomas Jefferson $1 coins - and that's pretty darned cool! (Who knew Jefferson was Jewish? I thought he was a diest!)

You can order them in $25 rolls, no shipping costs, so I figured, "Why not?"

Playing dreidle will be a heck of a lot more exciting this year!

You know what else I'm doing? Getting my online class ready to GO!

I've set my deadline, I'll be taking registrations as of Dec 23, and I'm limiting the class to 15 students, and if you go to ning and join the free information network, you just may find a little discount hiding somewhere for you...

Here's a promo video I worked up to explain the class, and also to give folks a good heads up on what they'd be watching when they tune into the Annie Channel

Be warned...

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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

I am embarrassed when I'm ill...

...and I'm ashamed to admit it.

It's been a full month of this flu-cold-whatever I've had, and I'd give a small fortune to SMELL SOMETHING.

Which reminds me of my favorite joke of all time


How do I smell? Who knows - I certainly can't tell...

I hate being sick, I hate feeling like I may have done something wrong to get sick (this is a constant fat-girl worry - that someone will say that anything bad that happens to us is because we're not thin.)

I imagine myself going to go to the doctor and hearing, "You have a hangnail. If only you had lost some weight this wouldn't be a problem..."

Which is absurd, but the whole judgemental thing gets a little crazed when one has had a sore throat for a solid month.

The throat has gotten REALLY bad this week (I'm a soup and tea girl), but the tests for RA, Lyme & Mono are all negative. I was actually SO disappointed that the mono test was negative, I feel certain that's what my body is telling me it has.

Full disclosure: I had Lyme really bad back in 1991/2, it took forever for me to get over it. My Lyme titer is at 9.5, because I've had it, but that's not high enough to mean I'm having a flare up.

The physician assistant told me they'd make an appt. for me with a specialist (Rheumatologist) but the soonest I can get in is Jan 11, if I want to see the person my doctor wants me to see, it will be Feb 1.

Wow, good thing we don't have that horrible Canadian system, I might have to wait a full 2 weeks for an appointment.
That was sarcasm.

Sitting up hurts, laying down hurts, but mostly in the evenings. During the day I'm actually pretty good (definitely under the weather, but it only feels like a bad cold)

When it gets to be 5:00 my fever goes up, the aches expand, and my ears ring like a dinner bell. What are we having? Soup.

Good heavens, could I WHINE any more?

And I'm not even the sick one! Gerry's been having pretty rough pain, it kept him in bed all day yesterday (with 2 cats and a dog for company.) He's been doing some work in the basement, fiddly stuff, but stuff that needs to be done, and he's been overdoing it.

We had to cancel our trip to the Mayo tomorrow for MM testing due to the blizzard warning. It's a shame because we're both a bit anxious to see what his M spike is doing right now.

I'm trying to use the down time to work on my Online classes, to get 2 projects set up for knitters and to write some patterns. I'm succeeding - partially.

Even though I'm starting with a class I've taught dozens (hundreds?) of times, putting it into a format that is clear in an online setup is a mind twist. I've made several more videos, my plan is to have a handout, video and lecture for every part of the class, more for some parts, less for others, and divide the class into 4 parts which the student can run through at their leisure.

One of the hard things when teaching an in-person class is dealing with the different rhythms of the students. I'm hoping this online class thing will help combat that by allowing everyone to work at their own pace, and offer questions in the discussion forum (and perhaps answer some by other students) as they arise.

Each person learns in different ways, so I'm trying to address that with the videos by demonstrating, using artwork where appropriate, writing the instructions AND voicing them. That way folks who learn by hearing, or reading, or seeing can all benefit from the video.

Here's a syllabus - in process - that I'm working on for the Online Combination Class.
I keep telling myself that a technological class like Combo Knitting will actually be more difficult to put together than a project class.

Part 1 - The Nuts & Bolts
I'll give you an overview of the three main knitting styles (Western, Eastern, and a variation which I'm calling Combination Knitting) and my theory of the worldwide spread of these styles.

I'll talk about whether you're a Right handed (English) or Left handed (Continental) knitter, why it really doesn't matter, and give you a tip to help you create better tension no matter HOW you hold your yarn.

Part I Source Material:
Lectures [Geography of Knit]
Videos [Geography of Knit, Setting Tension, Western Knit, Combo Knit, ]
PDF Handouts [Combo Knitting ]

Part I Practice: Student work will consist of listening to the lectures, watching the videos and reading the handouts. No practical student work is done in this portion of the class.

Part II - How Do YOU Knit?
We'll determine our own knitting styles (Western, Combination, some other variation) and examine how we form our stitches.

This will mean you'll have to watch the Western and Combination videos, knit a little bit, then determine what it is you're currently doing. (Mainly I want to know if you normally purl by wrapping clockwise or counter clockwise.)

Then we'll practice the Combination, (Eastern) Purl, followed by a row of Combination, knit to create Combination, Stockinette Stitch.

After working up a swatch of Combo Knitting, we'll discuss the pros and cons of Combination, and whether it will be an answer to your knitting prayers, or an insidious plot to force you to doubt your knitting chops. Hint: Both are pretty great outcomes, trust me...

We'll finish this part of the class with some Combination Ribbing and I'll discuss why this may be some of the nicest ribbing you've ever created. (And I'll explain how it is that I work my ribbing in the dark.)

Part II Source Material:
Lectures [Happy Stitches]
Videos [Stitch Orientation, Happy Stitches, Wrapping HOW?]
PDF Handouts []

Part II Practice: Student work will consist of working up a swatch of Stockinette Stitch in your own style, then continuing with Combination Knitting and a bit of Combination Ribbing.

Part III - How To Fit Into a Standard Knitting World
We'll discuss pattern terminology, and when is the best time to use - or eschew - Combination Knitting.

I'll give you full translations of what the magazines and books mean when they tell you to K1tbl or K2tog, and help you understand that it makes NO DIFFERENCE which way your stitches are seated, as long as you knit them so they're happy.

Part III Source Material:
Lectures [Standardization & Art]
Videos [ ]
PDF Handouts [Translation Cheat Sheet]

Part III Practice: Student work will consist of listening to the lectures, watching the videos and reading the handouts. No practical student work is done in this portion of the class.

Part IV - The Fun Stuff
I'll give you some fun tricks, a couple of nice increases, some explanations about directional decreases and we'll finish by cabling without a cable needle.

Part IV Source Material:
Lectures []
Videos [Cabling Without A Cable Needle, Directional Decreasing]
PDF Handouts [Cabling Without A Cable Needle, Directional Decreasing]

Part IV Practice: Student work will consist of continuing your swatch, working the increases and decreases we learn, and then moving on to the cables.

Bonus Material
Video [Weaving In Ends ]

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Friday, December 04, 2009

Online Classes?

I've been quiet - but I've been WORKING!

Putting together short little informational videos is a lot harder than I remembered. Getting used to the new imovie has been a sharp learning curve, though.

I generally like video editing. I took some classes in Avid editing about 15 years ago, and I felt pretty good on the old imovie. However, the new & improved one is a little too user friendly - trying to be idiot proof - and that makes it really hard if you want to do anything beyond the pre-packaged "themes" they make available.

It makes me sad when Apple apps go MS.

Anyway, here's one of the videos I've been working on. I'm putting them together for an online class I'm thinking of teaching, and I'm REALLY looking forward to it!

Stephanie Japel
teaches online classes, I'm currently taking an online class with her on how to teach an online class. I'm expecting some mighty speaker feedback from that last line - how may times can I use on and online in a sentence?

Folks who would want to take a class with me would have to register with an online networking site called NING.com, which is free and rather easy to use. Each class will have it's own network within the Ning website.

I'll be offering my classes in 3-week periods, during that time the class participants will have 24/7 access to videos, handouts and any other teaching materials I have up at the Ning site.

I'll schedule a couple of live chats per week, and there are also discussion forums for each network so when folks ask a question they can get answers from me, and feedback from other class participants.

Best of all, folks will be able to upload images in class of their swatches, their problem pieces, and their little victories. We can have class galleries and see how everyone's doing.

I know that one of the first classes I'm going to offer is Combination Knitting. I also want to offer my colorwork class and my lace class.

Aside from these three classes, is there one of my classes you've been wanting to take? Or maybe there's a project I've designed that you'd like to see me offer as a work-along class? I generally don't teach project classes live, but this online class set up seems PERFECT for project classes where folks can work at their own speed.

Maybe I'll FINALLY offer a millinery class where folks can get done what they need to get done from class session to class session - wouldn't THAT be a kick!

So here's a video from the Combination Class. Let me know what you think!

(I'll be adding a voiceover as soon as my nose stops being so stuffy, I promise! Right now there's text to read, that's what my voiceover will be...)

Thanks for all the good comments - here's a new, improved video!

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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


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