Thursday, January 28, 2010

... Just keeps pulling me back...

We had our Mayo day yesterday for Gerry's Multiple Myeloma check up. Let me just say, Gerry's pretty damned amazing. There was just a slight increase in protein and calcium in his test numbers, but otherwise he remain steady. YAY!

We got a HUGE thumbs up from the docs on our planned trip to Ireland. One of our docs, who's had her own cancer adventure, was positively giddy for us. (Extra bonus - with just a small amount of begging I was complimented for my weight loss.)

The trip just about took it OUT of me entirely, though.

I'd been feeling so hotsy-totsy, feeling SO much better than a month ago, sticking my face up in fibromyalgia's face and staring it down.

However, doing something like our round of tests and doctors visits at Mayo that I've done a dozen times before really highlights how diminished my strength is.

I'm getting stronger, getting better, but realism is a virtue as long as it's married with hope. Days like yesterday keep me honest about the effects of the fibromyalgia on my daily energy and pain levels.

When I got home I was SO exhausted (I do the driving, Gerry's concentration for long periods to drive isn't as good as mine is - we're a real pair!) and dear Hannah, who woman-ed the fort by getting Max up and ready for school (we'd left at 6:30 am), left a sink full of dishes, bowls and pans (she made pancakes for Max) which had to be cleaned up.

It seemed churlish to demand that she clean up the mess, especially when she'd been very responsible and had done exactly what we'd asked. (Besides, as any mom knows, we clean the pots and pans better...)

So a clean up of the dishes, a quick bite for dinner, then to my hour-long chat for the January Online Combo Class, which went beautifully. Sometimes we talk a lot about knitting, sometimes we just build our cohesion as a class, but it's always fun.

Then the Prez's speech (which I feel was exceptional - exactly what we needed to hear, with a masterful amount of push, stroke, admonishment and praise) and then to bed.

My reward? This morning I woke up with a clear idea for a new hat pattern and ideas for some other stuff. I was explaining to Gerry that sometimes taking a break from the designing is so good because then stuff will come to me without being forced. I can't blog about the hat pattern because it's for a magazine, but it's crocheted and will involve embroidered flowers.

Part of today will also be dedicated to creating a FREE online "how to knit" class, covering the basics of knit and purl (from a Western and Combination perspective) AND casting on and binding off.

It will be free for 2 reasons: 1) to get more folks knitting, and 2) to give folks a chance to take one of my online classes and see if it would be right for them.

So stay tuned. If all goes well I may have the class up by the end of the weekend, then those of you whose interest has been piqued can sign up, take the class, and decide if my online style works for you.

And we could always use more knitters, right?

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Guilt Has Kept Me Away

I've been feeling guilty for not blogging more frequently. I hate guilt - useless, numbing, soul-sucking guilt - and it's been doing it's dirty work on my psyche. [idle thought: if you have a really bad psyche, would that be a psuche?]

I've been working on my online classes - no big surprise there - and they're doing REALLY well [I have to admit, I'm a little suprised, happily, that they've been filling up so well!]


I've just added a class on making my Universal Mitered Handbag (I'm starting one up in Feb, it's VERY soon, but it will give me a chance to try out a project-class with a smaller group.)

I've also added a self guided Combination Knitting class for folks who don't want to stick to a schedule or don't care for online chats. The self guided class is also $10 cheaper...

Registration for both these new classes and the original Combo class is through my Ning networks. And there's even more information on the classes here.

And, just for fun, here's my overview video from the Universal Mitered Handbag class. Watching it is a great way to find out if my voice or teaching style will make you nuts before you sign up for the class!


And, for even MORE fun, here's a link to a video I made on Blocking with Steam. (The videos are a lot of fun to make, but I really should buy stock in Scunci...)

Every day I'm feeling so much better! It's amazing when I think of how low I was in December (this is when it's good to have to blog, to remind me of how painful it was and how far I've come!)

The acupuncture/massage and chiro have been miraculous in my healing, but the Vitamin D is the big boost. I'm still going gluten free, and I DO feel very good, so I'm thinking no wheat may have something to do with it. As always, thank you so much for your kind wishes and suggestions.

As great as I'm feeling, I still tire very easily. I had lunch with a friend yesterday and it almost wiped me out. Today I went to Target, came home and dyed my hair (another sign I'm feeling better, I've noticed my roots) and I'm just about out for the count.

THIS is when I'm tremendously grateful that I have work I can do in my bed, on my laptop, editing videos for the online classes and writing new patterns. Overall the last few days I've been off; tired and wheezy.

I figure this is all part of the process of working my way out of a fibro flare up. It seems to be a lot like losing weight. Up a little one day, down a bit the next, but at the end of the week if all goes well (and if I pay attention) I'm better off than I was a week earlier.

The hard part is paying attention to the small victories. Remembering how just the thought of driving to Target - let alone walking in and shopping for a half hour - exhausted me completely.

I've said over and over how lucky we are. Through Gerry's union [thank you, IATSE] we've been able to keep our insurance, and in addition to the doctors it covers the non-traditional practitioners I'm seeing for the Fibro.

They're been helping SO much. I can't imagine feeling any better had I stuck to mainstream medicine only. I feel I have a good blend of traditional and non-traditional going on right now.

However, a lot of fibro sufferers don't have this option. Many insurance companies won't cover "new" treatment options (my own insurance won't cover acupuncture for asthma, but they will for fibro - go figure...) We have a long way to go as a nation to marry common sense with medical availability.

So - not in a gloating way - I'm very lucky. Reaching the point where I'd trust acupuncture / massage / chiro so completely wasn't an overnight journey. I think it's easier to travel this route here in Minnesota, where I've noticed a marrying of traditional and non-traditional therapies.

Speaking of traditional, we're traveling down to Rochester tomorrow for Gerry's checkup. We missed the last one because of the December blizzard, but the weather looks good for tomorrow so all systems are GO. He's been having more pain than usual, more tiredness, but at the same time he's been energized by his online classes through St. Paul college.

I'm interested in hearing what the doctors say about his current test numbers. And I'll also ask them if they think some Vitamin D might be beneficial to his mood and pain.
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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Taking The Frozen (sky blue) Waters

I feel like a partially new woman. Yay!

On Friday I drove up with my friend to her cottage on Lake Ida, where others from our knitting group joined us for some very low-key and loving conversation, wonderful food - just some nice down time.

I didn't do much - well, not much compared to what I would have done a few months ago - but it was MILES more than I've been doing. I carried in bags from the car (yay me!) and when everyone else went cross country skiing I went for a long walk across the lake.

I didn't make it all the way, but Emma the dog and I went pretty far.

Here's a video I shot of the frozen landscape. It's so beautiful - and I was coat-less, just my hat and sweater and was very warm*


Now I'm home after so much relaxation and peace. And also more activity (mental and physical) than I've had in a long time. And EXCELLENT food! I'm almost afraid to hop on the wii...

I'm getting the feeling that rest is a very good idea for the balance of this active day, so this afternoon I'm surrounded by half finished projects from HoTN, finally trying to get some knitting and swatching done that I've put off for many weeks.

I'm firmly planted on my bottom, watching The Heiress and knitting. Who knew the frozen Minnesota waters could be so salubrious?

*yes, and pants and socks and shoes, too. Good grief.
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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Housewives of MN

I realized today that I'm living a dream. I watched those silly women on the Real Housewives of Orange County and - even though they wouldn't agree - my life is SO much FULLER than theirs seem to be. They don't have any pretty snow, for one thing...

With all the physical pain of the past few months, the unwanted drama (actually, it's been pretty drama free...) and other life events that have 'enriched' my life in the past few years, I am SO damned lucky.

But yesterday was a hard day physically.

I had planned to take my driving test. Then I thought I couldn't. Then I wanted to. Then I didn't want to. You see, I've failed it twice since we moved here from NJ. I allowed myself to psyche myself out. I kept seeing THIS

And Here was my horoscope for yesterday (Mr. Levine, are you watching me...?):
You can't decide whether or not to go ahead with your plans because the pros and cons seem pretty evenly balanced. But even if you finally choose against pushing forward today, you might surprise yourself and suddenly take the next step anyhow. Be careful; if you make a false start, you may just have to begin anew next week.
And damned if I didn't drive to Eagan, take the test, and score 100%!

But damn if I also didn't forget my 2 forms if ID... So back home I drove, picked up my passport, then returned and waited in line AGAIN.

The drive(s) to Eagan, the waiting in line(s), the test itself, it all just exhausted me.

When I got in the car to drive home I realized how tired I was. Across the street was a movie theater, so I figured I'd see ANYTHING just to sit down for an hour or two.

Happily, I saw most of The Young Victoria - it was lovely. I'm afraid I didn't like the bonnets as much as I'd hoped, but the dresses and men's clothing were brilliant. Sandy Powell continues to be my heroine. I am proud to have worked with her once upon a time (I knitted a sweater for Dennis Quaid for Far From Heaven back in 2002, she was the designer.)

Then I drove home and rolled into a little, tiny ball and wept in pain until I slept. A rich and full day. And that's the price we pay for 100% scores on driving tests in Minnesota.

I started the day with a wonderful session with my acupuncturist at Crocus Hill Acupuncture.

The woman is a genius. She cupped me - which my father-in-law would call toten bahnks - and oddly enough much of the continuing pain in my shoulders and neck was beautifully reduced. Huzzah!

Before I left, she put little 'beads' on points in my ears, stuck with clear plastic, so I can self-pressure -point myself to help with my breathing (she said one client kept them on for a month!) AND my breathing is so much better today.

Then home to work a bit - polishing up videos for my next online class, The Mitered Handbag - and then continuing my day of leisure for a massage in the afternoon.

Several years ago I got a pretty 'severe' haircut at a local salon. To apologize, the manager gave me a gift certificate for a massage, but their massage guy left soon after. The gift certificate sat unused for 3 years.

When I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia this past Christmas I dug up the certificate, saw that it had NO expiration date, and was gratified to learn that they now have TWO massage therapists on staff!

Let me tell you, aside from a massage I got from a friend in Colorado a few years ago (my first - thanks Ruth!) this was the BEST I'd ever had.

This, joined with the acupuncture, created the PERFECT day for a woman with Fibro!

I miss travel. I don't miss the pain, the exhaustion, and I don't miss missing my family (what a dream it is to be able to hug them, kiss them, whenever I want...)

But I miss being on the road, and I miss seeing friends. So guess what Mr. Levine had to say to me TODAY?
You may be frustrated by the lack of fun in your life now. Even if you have attempted to make time for some pleasure, it's been hard to make much progress these last couple of weeks. Don't lose faith; things are going to loosen up very soon. In the meantime, try to get your ducks in a row so you are ready to fly when given clearance for takeoff.
My local knitting group is going away for the weekend, women who are good enough friends that I can just sit on the sofa and rest - they'll let me be a piece of broccoli and stare out the window. But it will be insanely good to be with friends all weekend. I miss seeing friends.

I'm going up tomorrow, back on Sunday, and I'm taking my gluten free snacks with me.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Successful Lace Knitting

Today I'm participating in Donna Druchunas's blog tour to give you a sneak peek of her new book, Successful Lace Knitting, which includes one of my designs, and to let you know about some other exciting things Donna will be doing in 2010. Enjoy!

Dorothy Reade was an expert knitter, spinner, and designer who was a publishing knitting patterns at the same time as Barbara Walker, Elizabeth Zimmerman, and Mary Walker Phillips. In fact, some of her original lace stitches are included in Barbara Walker's Treasuries.

Anyone who knows me or my knitting knows that I love lace - but the dirty little secret is that I used to HATE lace. I couldn't do it, couldn't make sense of the written patterns, and sort of gave up on lace. Then I saw a book about lace charts by Susannah Lewis, and I was in love.

Dorothy Reade was charting lace patterns long before they were part of the mainstream. Folks who appreciate lace knitting owe her a great deal for her furtherance and refining of the craft.

The focus of Donna's book are the charts that Dorothy worked up, interpreted by many designers in various ways. My own design in the book is based on a floral Lace chart. I took the motif and refined it further into a colorwork pattern, then blended the two into a soft & warm, easy to wear Wimple.

I chose Artyarns Silk Rhapsody because I knew it would work well with both the lace portions of the wimple and the colorwork areas, too. The mohair is a lovely choice for the lace portions, and the silk/mohair blend 'fills in' very nicely to create a rich colorwork fabric at either edge of the finished piece, and to give the piece weight to frame the face and neckline.

I'm SO looking forward to seeing all of the other projects in the book - it looks fascinating!
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Monday, January 11, 2010

Are You Watching Me, Rick Levine?

Okay. Rick Levine, you can be honest with me. Are you reading my blog then coming up with Twittascopes that match what's going on in my life?

Come clean, Mr. Levine!

Case in point - here's my Twittascope for today:
It's challenging today to know when to stop, especially if you fall into an enjoyable groove while getting things done.

Others might even think you're a workaholic, while the truth is that you're just having fun. Nevertheless, you can overdo it now and ruin a good thing.

low down or you could be exhausted by tomorrow.
When did I read it? At 10:40 pm, sitting in bed where I've been most of the day working on videos and promotion for the Online Knit Classes, and I realize that it's time to sleep. Yes, Rick, I hear and I obey...

I can see how easy it would be to fall into the bad habit of pushing hard on good Fibro days, then paying for it for the next 2 days.

Today I sent out my monthly newsletter, sent a blast out to my Online Knitting Class network and completed another video for the Universal Mitered Bag class. A few months ago that would have been a morning's work.

But today it took me many hours, and I'm exhausted. The fact that I did most of it from my bed makes it easier, but it astounds me how tired I get now after a few hours of concentrated mind work.

The good news is that the Vitamin D is working well, I'm sleeping a bit better (yay!) and right now the pain is pretty much centered in my upper back/neck. Yeah, baby, I know why you come here...

So, quickly before I slip off to slumberland, here's the news:

February Combination Online Classes

But March & April are open, baby!

Because of my Summer schedule, I won't be offering the Combination class in May, June, August or September. So if you miss March or April you'll have to catch me in July or wait until October.
I'm just sayin'...

Here's what a current student says about the January class:
"I've been playing around with your videos this morning and I finally learned how to cable without a cable needle. Thank you!! I am thrilled. The only problem with not being in a class is nobody is around to see me do a happy dance!"
The four week class consists of 17 videos, many pdf handouts, and 2 mp3 lectures. During the FULL MONTH of your class you will have 24-hour access to all the class materials at our private Combination Class Network, as well as 2 live text chats per week.

And here's the MOST excellent news:

I've lowered the price for
ALL of the Combination classes to $50.

And further,
since YOU'RE reading my blog (and since I like you...)
can use the discount code "blog"
and get 10% off of the already reduced price!*

to register using Paypal or any major credit card.

*Yes, a similar offer was made to my Online class network and in also my newsletter, but I like YOU the best...

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Thursday, January 07, 2010

Good Days / Bad Days

So I'm about 2 weeks into this Fibro thing, and this current flare up is a bit of a roller coaster. The days seem so long, the past 2 weeks feels like 2 months. I get SO happy when it seems the pain has subsided, only to become crushed when it comes back.

This is something I need to get a handle on, I need to work through. From what I've read, just IS an up-and-down road, but mentally coming to terms with this is almost as hard as physically coming to terms.

I see myself as a Warner Bros. cartoon character, just waiting for the anvil of Fibro to fall. Okay, that's a little dramatic. Sorry.

Yesterday I had a massage (I bought a gift card last year, 3 massages for the price of 2!) and had an adjustment right after (the massage therapist works through my chiro's office)

I hurt. Sleep has been hard the past 2 nights, and I can REALLY feel the lack of it in my shoulders and joints.

The night-before-last the pain was so bad that I was incoherent when I woke up, and I missed the online chat I'd set up with my Combination class students. Bad teacher...

The students were very nice about it, but I felt like doggy doo.

Oy. I think I'll just rename this blog, "Come and hear Annie whine..."

However, getting out yesterday felt very good. I don't get out much now, but it was nice to see the 'hood, to visit Target (I had to buy some gluten free flour and earbuds) and feel a little bit alive.

Yay, alive!

And I got a small virtuous internal squee when I told my chiro that I'd been taking Vitamin D and cutting out wheat, and he got a very, "That's impressive..." look on his face. I rarely get that look.

So today my job is to edit a few videos, shoot a new one for the Combination class (on binding off, how exciting!) and create a few pdf files from existing videos. And I'll do it all from my bed with a heating pad slung around my shoulders.

And, if you're in the Twin Cities and you can refer a good cleaning person, I'm in the market for that. I can't clean - when I try I hurt and I become insanely winded. Gerry does his best, but he's not that far ahead of me in the pain department. Hannah's a great kid, but she's 13 and Max is 11.

The result? Our house is making me CRAZY. I do NOT want to end up on some basic-cable clean-your-damned-house show.

I have had TWO spectacular yarns in my hot little hands since this SUMMER and I have not blogged about them. I am remiss in this, it's wrong of me, because I LOVE them so much!

I also just received a box of BRAND NEW yarn line with some economical, interesting products which have an incredible palette.

I will now attempt to make up for my lack of gushiness (I felt it, I just didn't blog it..)

I first used this for a sweater I'd made for Yarn Forward in the UK. Customs mishaps ended up keeping the sweater out of the magazine (and costing me $70) and it's STILL looking for a home. Pattern written, ready to go, I just have lacked the energy to put it together and post it.

This yarn, though, is wonderful! It's not tightly spun, so it can be a little breaky/pilly if you don't treat it with a firm but gentle hand, but the results are WORTH the effort.
While in Shropshire this summer I scammed some from Jennie, the Fyberspates Queen, in a most beautiful gray color (charcoal) which I was going to use to knit Gerry a sweater. That hasn't happened, but it WILL. Yes, it will. Yes. It. Will.

In addition to being a lovely yarn that feels great in the hand and makes a beautiful fabric, it's one of the few yarns my son just LOVES to roll into balls. Sometimes he can balk when I ask him, but he was happy to roll this up for me. Hmmmm, maybe I should knit HIM a sweater...

BTW, here's Jennie's current SALE page - it's worth a look!!

I've had a few "manly" colors of this yarn for MONTHS and I keep promising the company that I'll work something up with it!

Well, I finally am! While I've been laid up I have a lovely black and tan hat pattern that I'm working up for Gerry. If it's good, I'll offer it in some way, but right now it's just something to keep my hubby's head warm.

This yarn is spectacular. And - bonus (especially for the minks) - no minks are harmed in the manufacture of this yarn.

This yarn is direct from the producer, not available through yarn shops, which keeps the price reasonable. They have a mitten kit for $24, which seems like a steal to me!

At the time I got the yarn, only natural colors were available. Beautiful jewel tone colors have been added to the original hues, though, and they're stunning!

So between taping the new "how-to" video and editing today, I'll be doing some more work on that MINK hat for Gerry (his grandfather used to be a furrier in the garment district in NYC, he was born to it!)

And he can use it - it's supposed to be -15F today (with the wind chill...) so I'd better get it done fast!
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Saturday, January 02, 2010

Making a Friend of Pain

This can be a very enjoyable day even if there isn't very much going on. The simplest tasks can bring you great pleasure today, so don't go out of your way trying to make something special happen. Just settle in for some well-deserved rest and relaxation. Don't worry; your life will get busy again soon enough.
Am I going to start EVERY blog post with my Twitterscope? Maybe.

Am I reaching for things that will make me feel there is more shape to my days than it seems right now? Probably.

But I like this horoscope, and it fits well with what I need right now. We were going to take Max skiing today, and take our little cat in to have her stitches removed.

However, the high today is supposed be between -5 and 0, so skiing is out. And the vet center is closed today for the holiday so no cat trip. That's FINE with me! I'm currently in bed.

I think after the Fibromyalgia diagnosis
(which I still feel odd about... can't quite explain) I was hoping that the pain would magically diminish.

That didn't happen. I've been wheat free (-ish) for about a week, taking my vitamin D, sleeping as much as I can but also doing yoga with the Wii at least once a day.

The pain remains. In some ways it's worse, the pain across my back and up either side of my neck is so bad that I can't turn my head very well. My knees and shoulders are burning with pain.

I'm seeing my chiro and the massage therapist in his office on Wednesday, and my accupuncturist the following Wednesday. I am EXTREMELY fortunate to have health insurance that covers this (they won't cover accupuncture for asthma, but they WILL for pain!)

I've also been reading about a lot of stuff the Mayo is doing on Fibromyalgia. The next time I see the rhematologist (to hear the test results from my blood work on Christmas eve) I'm going to try to get a referral to the Mayo.

I'm on the hunt for ways to make my pain less of an adversary and more of an un-welcomed friend. A friend who, despite the annoyance, sometimes brings some good stuff (wisdom? patience? perspective?)

Well, THAT'S the mental exercise for this week. We'll see how that goes!

I'm very lucky that my work can be done while sitting in bed. Whether I'm knitting, working on class materials or writing, I can do it in a semi-reclined position (why is this night different from all others?)

So I'm plugging along, sleeping a lot during the day but trying to focus. Focus is hard - my mind wanders, I forget stuff. I've been this way for a LONG time, but I had chalked that up to my hysterectomy.

It's worse now. Stupid things like Gerry telling me he'd fed the pets at 8:30, and me asking Max to feed them at 9:30. My ability on the phone is worse than ever, and I'm beginning to think that my inability to remember things said on the phone, my strong desire to NOT use the phone, may have been a symptom of this FM which has been increasing in severity.

I had an episode while living in NJ where I could hardly move out of my chair (my working chair) for over a month. I had pain, but my breathing was also very bad, so I figured it was all tied up with the asthma. Now I wonder.

I watched a show where folks were building a cat play room for an animal shelter, and I thought, "I wonder if I'll ever have the energy to engage in something like that again..." I know I sound self pitying, I apologize for that, but I think I'm at the low point where the diagnosis is just reaching me and the pain is still hard.

That period when you seriously wonder if your body will ever feel better.

I know it will. I just have to keep believing that.

Soon I'll be able to bike again, and in the mean time I have the Wii to keep me moving at least a few minutes a day!

I really miss seeing people, though. Leaving the house is SO exhausting, SO full of pain. Oh, wah wah wah.

I started my online classes this week, it's SO exciting! I had intended to make a "Welcome to class!" video but I'm just so exhausted, and look so bad (dark circles, shadows on my face, I just look "in pain") that I thought it would be more frightening than welcoming!

But even without that extra special Welcome Video, it seems that folks are taking care of themselves; logging on, checking out the materials, doing their swatches and having a good time.

If you're interested, here's the syllabus for the class, and here's a link to read more about it. They'll give you an idea of what the Combination Class entails.

I'm really excited for the text chat tomorrow, to see what folks want to talk about!
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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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