Tuesday, July 31, 2007

60 More Days of Waiting

Every day is a new lesson - our lesson today:
What's a Disability Quality Branch?
The DQB, or disability quality branch, is the Social Security Administration's version of quality control when it comes to the handling of social security disability and ssi-disability claims.
Why should WE care?
[chord of ominous music]
A random number of disability claims (for which decisions have already been rendered) are selected each month for "review" at each region's DQB.

Cases pulled by DQB for review can remain there for an inordinate number of weeks or even months. The obvious effect of this is that some cases are significantly delayed by DQB (decision letters cannot be mailed until DQB has finished reviewing a case.)

You know what's coming, right?

We were supposed to have the decision on Gerry's Disability claim by the end of July. Today is the end of July (coincidentally, it also would have been my dad's 85th birthday)

When we didn't hear anything from SSI today Gerry called and we discovered his application has been chosen at random to make sure that all the i's are dotted and the t's are crossed. How odd that they didn't arrive in a van at our front steps with a bunch of balloons and a TV crew to announce that to us...

We were told to expect at least a 60-day wait before we hear anything. So we're looking at October before we get the word. Now THAT'S how we put someone's mind at rest when they're about to undergo a serious medical procedure.

Needless to say, THANK YOU SO MUCH to everyone who's been so kind to us in the past few weeks! I'm not sure what we'd do without the love, kindness and help we've been receiving. Your good thoughts and wishes are the best gift we could ever get - thank you!

We're not feeling killer worried - well, we're trying not to - because the Social Worker at the Mayo told us that a Bone Marrow Transplant is pretty much an automatic approval from SSI.

Note: SSI is not impressed by the phrase, "But the social worker at the Mayo said we'd be approved!" Especially not when you say it in a really whiny voice. Live & learn.


So until we hear positive news, we'll just keep on keeping on.

In that vein, we're getting a HELOC (Home Equity Line of Credit) with Gerry's bank, it's a good rate with no fees, and we can use it as we need it for the bathroom/kitchen redo. We'd always planned on it, now it makes even more sense. We need to continue to think of this as an investment in Gerry's recovery.

DODGER BLUE
Max played on the Dodgers this summer - the LA Dodgers (but we kept pretending they were la Brooklyn Dodgers, en Fran¨ais, s'il vous plait!)

And, lo and behold, the Dodgers won the Linwood Rec Center Championship! WOO!

We had a TOTAL Red Barber moment up in the cheap seats at the rec center last evening.

It was so exciting to see how Max improved over this Summer, how he went from striking out pretty consistently to finding the spot on the bat that needed to be hit.

Last evening he made a great play from second base & Gerry said he had more RBI's than anyone else. I'm not quite sure what that means, but Max was happy!

We took him to Snuffy's for dinner - he told the waitress, "If it wasn't for me, my team would have had to finish the 9th inning!" Who knew?

His coach is an amazing guy - just the nicest, sweetest, most confidence-building coach a kid could ask for, and it's been a pure gift that Max got him this summer.

We've been so lucky. And next year Max can be on the same team, with the same great group of kids, as he was this year. YAY!

I want to sign the kids up for Soccer this Fall, but they'll be away for most of August, when a lot of the practicing happens, so I'm a little fearful of that. I don't want them to start out feeling behind everyone else - but I want them to have a sport this Fall (and the rec center makes it so easy and economical for local families!)

ONE CHILD FAMILY
Hannah's at camp - I haven't heard from her so I'm thinking this is a good thing (we sent her an email, I want to wait another day before sending another one - apparently if they get too many emails from home it can make them homesick!) This camp is one where almost all the girls are new at the overnight camping thing, so we're hoping that she's fitting in well!

She's such a great kid - we all miss her SO much! Max is not as enchanted with being an only child as he thought he'd be. Live and learn, Max! He's going to be SO happy when she gets back - but I'll be away...

MICHIGAN / ONTARIO
Back to the stomping ground of my youth (okay, a little NORTH of my youthful stomp) to Sarnia, Ontario (Check out my lecture on Wednesday at Feather your Nest) and Lansing, Michigan (finally, FINALLY, THREADBEAR!!) this weekend for some lectures and classes.

On de road again! I am a Happy Wanderer!


I haven't taught in over a month - I'm feeling rusty. I know once I get going I'll be fine, but whenever you take a break fro
m something there's a little fear about jumping back in.

So I'll jump - right out of bed and over to the airport (stopping on the way to drop off the car to have the brakes checked) and off to Detroit for a drive up to Sarnia. I wonder if Northwestern will cancel my flight...

Gerry's brother is coming out to be here while I'm gone - just the guys & Atticus. Gigi the cat will be the only girl around. She looks frightened and she misses Hannah terribly!

When I get home on Sunday night I'll have about 12 hours to turn it around before we leave for Rochester. Still so much to do. But we're in good shape with the packing - I'm just worried about getting the kids all ready to go off on their NJ adventure on Wed.

Perhaps after I get Gerry settled down in Rochester I'll come back up to St. Paul on Tuesday to make sure the kids are packed (a good friend is staying here with them until they fly to NJ with another friend on Wed)

This is all happening so fast.

VANITY
The vanity top is pretty much finished! I removed the aluminum foil dam, drilled holes and cut out the center - it's sitting pretty and the contractor is psyched about it, too! So our vanity cost us a grand total of $40 for the grout & poly-resin. If it works...

FLY FISHING
I've always wanted to, that's all.

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Monday, July 30, 2007

Oh, uh, the release date for Romantic Hand Knits is really 8/7/7

Do you think anyone will notice...?

(Naaah, they're all too busy looking at the Butt Skirt)

Romantic Hand Knits
26 Flirtatious Designs That Flatter Your Figure

See what you miss when you don't get my newsletter? Amazingly glaring mistakes in the release date of books!

It must be because I'm still not used to Central Time.

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

It Ain't Heavy, It's My Blender...

Today Hannah left for Girl Scout Camp in Wisconsin - she was SO excited, I was SO excited - we ALL were excited! The bus left at 8:30, we were there at 8:00 and she was ready to go!

We spent the last few days packing, labeling EVERYTHING she took with her and picking up the last few things that she needed (boots... long PJ's) This has been an exceptional summer for her - not the usual summer by any means - and I don't know who is happier about it, Hannah or Gerry.

Hannah hugged us all, thanked me profusely (now THAT made me cry!) then hugged Max again for good measure. They're tight - Irish twins!

It means the world to Gerry to see both kids having such a great summer - it makes us so happy to see them adjusting well to St. Paul, making friends and finding cool stuff to do. We don't dwell a lot on Gerry's sickness, but - of course - it follows us at every moment and sometimes has to break into conversations like an excited child.

If there were ever a summer when it is important that the kids and Gerry make excellent memories, this is it! Timing is everything.

LONDON CALLING
Today a new friend, London (coolest name since Hannah Brooklyn...) came over - ostensibly - to help us empty the kitchen for the contractors.

But I'd moved a lot of stuff this morning into the dining room (doing double duty, and soon the basement will be our second kitchen.)

So when London arrived, ready to work, I was tired and ready to sit and chat and knit. She agreed. No work for YOU!

As a wealthy friend in college said to me when I told her about my summer job - with absolutely no irony - "Work? That's for the birds!" Eh, it will all get done. Every bit that needs to be done will be done.

Nothing feels better than a well deserved break, and we had a lovely visit. London showed us the yarn she'd just spun with her new wheel. Very beautiful!

Gerry came downstairs and joined us, we talked in detail about his procedure (we don't really talk to each other about it unless we're talking to friends, so this was good for all of us!)

The Mayo had sent a DVD outlining the blood & marrow transplant process in graphic detail. It's very informative, but both of us wish that there were more real interviews with actual patients & caregivers.

I tell Gerry that THIS is why it's important for him to think about starting a blog. "Think how great it would be to read about another person's experience right now as we are entering this adventure ourselves."

I gave London some roving that I bought at Shepherd's Harvest, I knew I'd never get to spin it or use it in the manner I'd intended, and she's showing such a skill for the spinning!

She divided it into strands and created faux dredlocks - fetching (I photoshopped in the beach.) Then she went home and spun it up! Another hard worker...

Later in the afternoon, a bit of private knitting, a walk with my Max (picking him up post-playdate) and much more moving of pots, pans and dishes.

I'll work for an hour or so, then rest and knit - answer email, chart a pattern - then back up and move stuff. I will be leaving on Wed and I do NOT want Gerry to start feeling that he has to move anything around himself.

And I'm really loving this Evolution yarn from Chameleon Colorworks!

No wonder they're sold out until late August, it's the softest and most lovely merino I've every worked with! It has a cottony-silky feeling because it's pulled before it's spun, and knits up beautifully. I think I'm going to make a summer-wool tank top with it!

I can hardly believe that in a week we'll be going down to Mayo. I have to say that I'm scared for Gerry. Not scared in a long-term sense as much as just wanting any discomfort or pain to be OVER.

It feels as though we're about to enter a long, long dark tunnel. I have to let Gerry go first because it's his journey - he's the one who knows the way. All I can do is follow close behind and hold the flashlight straight.

And carry stuff.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Me Time

I take it when I get it - and I get precious little of it these days - but when I do get it, I enjoy it!

Me time. A time when I can do something that no one is waiting for, expecting, directing me to do, or needs. No one but me, that is.

In the same way that babies raised in large families can sleep through lots of noise and chatter, I'm learning to grab this time whenever I can - even in the midsts of some non personal event. I can now sit in a car with my husband and daughter and spend 15 minutes tweezing my way to a groomed state, oblivious to their presence.


This skill will either save my sanity, or I am just one step closer to changing my underwear in the middle of a traffic island.

This has been a week of driving - a week of sitting behind the wheel, usually in traffic, trying to find a bit of peace at each stop light and seeking new routes from St. Paul to Lake Calhoun.

Adventure is a fine thing, but I'm glad that next week we'll return to our more calming and healthier routine of me walking Max a mile to his day camp in the morning, walking home (with Atticus), then repeating the exercise in reverse later in the afternoon.


I miss these daily walks - but I don't think I could have taken them this week anyway, what with the humidity and heat and my wacky breathing. So it worked out that the week I needed to be in air conditioning for my breathing, I was able to spend HOURS in my PT Cruiser. Yay.

Thank heaven for the downpour Thursday - blessed relief!

Well, except for the poor men who were in the St. Paul sewer during the storm. Still missing - just terrible.


MORE WEIGHT
And - no matter HOW much I walk, or how careful I try to be with the eating - I feel that my body shape is sort of frozen in time right now. It seems that there are times when weight just falls off, and there are times when it won't come off with a hammer and chisel. This current period of heat and stress is one of the latter - and it will pass - but it's rough now.

I'm not too concerned with it. Aside from the breathing I feel very healthy right now. I'm walking a lot, getting a lot done, doing a nice amount of physical work and I feel good. But I don't feel thin.

Every year in August I feel so lodgy, then in the Fall I slim down without really trying very hard, so I know this will pass. But it bothers me. And it bothers me that it bothers me.


I think it's due to many factors - the societal pressure to be thin, my own desire to wear pretty clothes, wanting folks to think well of me when they first meet me. And, perhaps most troubling, the fact that my husband has "shrunk" - he's shorter now than he was.

I feel so very exposed when we're together. I find myself explaining to folks I've just met why I'm so much taller than Gerry. Not good for either of our egos. I know that this makes him feel handicapped - lesser in some way - and I need to stop it. It's ridiculous to allow my vanity to cause Gerry pain.

But it's hard to be a bit of a sight gag. I've often said that in our society the worst thing a woman can do is take up too much space; the worst thing a man can do is take up too little.

I don't mean that seriously, of course - and things have changed a lot (for the better) since I was a teenager. But there's that feeling that it's just not quite feminine to be too big.

Or, to follow the panty hose corollary, the taller a woman is, the less she is allowed to weigh.

I break that rule. I'm simultaneously happy, proud, ashamed and irritated by my looks - I think we all are. I'm upset that a bias against fat is still strong - and accepted. The last acceptible bias. But on the other hand, I feel that there's a growing movement of pride in our bodies, no matter what their shape and size. I see this wherever I teach - and I do love those Dove ads.

In the shower, soon after I delivered Max, I remember thinking, "How can I hate a body that has given me two such wonderful babies?"

HAIR HOPPERS
This is on my mind because we went as a family to see Hairspray - and I absolutely loved it! I want to see it again - SOON!

I loved every moment of it - it was the best movie I've seen in a long time! The message was so empowering, if a little shiny-happy-starry eyed.

And yet - the role of the fat woman who overcomes her self loathing to come out of her shell and enjoy life with her daughter was played by a man.

I thought John Travolta did a fine job - he's been dissed in some reviews, but I thought he worked his butt off, and did as well as any guy could do. When John Waters made the original movie, Divine was a magnificent Edna - a force unto herself. And there was a poetic balance when Harvey Fierstein was cast on Broadway.

But as I watched the musical film version of this bubbly, period morality play, I felt - I imagined that I felt - as though I were seeing a black-face performance. Why was it necessary to have a guy play Edna, really? Would a middle-aged, fat woman be so terrible to see? Are there no actresses who could have done the part? Queen Latifah was magnificent, Nikki Blonsky was an utter delight, but where was my own personal role model to cheer for?

I wanted to cheer when Edna danced in the street, or sashayed with her husband. But I kept thinking, "He's playing a cartoon character - am I a cartoon character?"

Do I have no right to see myself represented by a "real" actress?

I thought it was especially ironic given the subject matter of the movie - integration and the desire of black folks in Baltimore to see themselves represented on local TV.

And yet, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie - I loved it - and when it comes out on DVD I'll buy it. Hannah's already memorized many of the songs, and Max was dancing in his seat.

I just wish they could have seen a real woman playing Edna.

Hannah said later, "Mom, you would have been really good in that part. Well, if you had a fat-suit on..." Which was very sweet and unexpected. So now I have two dream parts to play someday; Edna Turnblad and Mrs. Lovett.

VANITY
The vanity continues - it's grouted and the edging is in place.

I've run a bead of silicone around the inside of the mosaic area to act as a dam when I pour the poly on tomorrow, then I'll let it sit for a few days.

It's truly been a labor of love, it has made me so happy to make this for the bathroom. I hope it turns out that we really CAN use the vanity top!

SLEEP AWAY
Hannah leaves on Sunday morning for Girl Scout camp. We had signed the kids up for these various camps (canoe camp, invention camp, girl scout camp) in March, before Gerry's diagnosis. Back then we thought it was a back problem for which the doctor would find a solution (like vertibroplasty)

I felt it was necessary to round out the kids' summers as much as possible. As things turned out, giving them such a rich and full summer has been quite a blessing - and has kept both their minds and our minds off of the seriousness of our situation. We'll take the joy wherever we can get it!

GRATITUDE
When it became clear how serious Gerry's illness was, and what this would mean for us financially, I contacted the different camps to see about getting a refund. With only one exception, they each offered us partial scholarships so the kids could stay in their various programs. I was so grateful - we are
all so grateful.

I'd never imagined there was as much kindness as we've been shown since Gerry's diagnosis, and it's difficult to know exactly how to feel (besides grateful!)

I continue to drag my feet about writing to thank folks - partly due to busy-ness, and partly just not knowing how I can express these very deep - and sharp - feelings.

Thank you, everyone, who has been so kind, and please know how much I appreciate your patience in waiting for a decent thank you from me!

Especially these gorgeous chocolates (Thank You Marnie!!) with the little doggie (which I'll send with Hannah to camp)

... And - especially - the Nordic Ice Pack that came WITH the chocolates... Now THAT was an unexpected joy!






Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Always Tired

I feel badly that I haven't been blogging as much as I usually would

It's hot, I'm tired, and I'm spending an inordinate amount of time driving around. That is, when I wasn't hanging out at the Borders Books watching grown adults buried in HP.

I am the only person I know who hasn't finished it.

It finally occurred to me as I was driving home from The Bakken in Minneapolis, where Max is attending invention camp this week, in my fourth round trip (out of 10 this week), during RUSH HOUR (which - no matter how bad Twin City folks think it is, has NOTHING on Rt. 10 in NJ at ANY time...) that it would probably be a good idea to cozy up to some of the other parents and see if we could carpool.

So tomorrow I'll chat with some of them and see if they live on the 'other' side of the river and would like to share a ride. If they'll admit it. The Bakken is in a very chi-chi area...

It's quite a thrill, though, to drive across the Mississippi every day. Cool. The only cool thing in town today. Tomorrow is supposed to be hotter, so we're taking a family trip to see Hairspray (Hannah saw it this weekend, she'll see it again...) so we can be cool in the heat of the late afternoon. And bond.

We're also going to see Circus Juvenitas this weekend - it was recommended by a few friends - then Hannah leaves the next day for camp. I'll be gone later in the week teaching in Michigan, and I get home one day before our trek to the Maoy.

This week, then, is our last chance to really make some pre-BMT memories. Dad with hair... Ah, memories!

So in lieu of blogging, I've been working. I've been planning and organizing and moving and shaking. Lots of stuff.

PLANNING
Kitchen
We met with the kitchen cabinet folks - lovely (and they talked us INTO the lower priced, faster-arriving cabinets - yay!) And it dawned on me that everything must be moved out of the kitchen. Hmmm, why didn't I think of that before? It's like reliving our move in Jan, but this time I won't be pissed off at Gerry for not helping me! I am still feeling a bit guilty about that.
The contractor guys are moving the big, heavy stuff - but all the dishes, food, books, etc., must be moved by yours truly (plus a couple of eager kiddies) I'm going to set up a wire rack in the dining room to keep everything organized, and set up another one down in the basement to act as our short-term pantry.

ORGANIZING
Pets
We've arranged to board Atticus with a Vet down near Rochester for the first few weeks, while Gerry's getting testing, cells are harvesting and he goes through the high-dose chemo.

Atticus will be back with us when Gerry's not quite so open to infection. We'll also board the cat, because we just can't stand the thought that she could get out while the contractors are here and get hurt or get away. We were going to have a friend look after her, but we'd rather be safe. She, too, may join us in our hotel suite - gotta love that Noah's Ark Inn.


SHAKING
Lights
We bought lighting fixtures today for the kitchen and bathroom.

Actually, we bought the parts to assemble the fixtures, as the ones that we saw online at Rejuvination (BEAUTIFUL!) were just too pricey.

So stopping by Mohn electric on Lake Street in Minneapolis we discovered all the parts we need to create our kitchen fixtures at about half the price.

I ask you, though, is NOT this light absolutely gorgeous?

I swear I'll replicate that with the materials we bought or I'll turn in my MFA in set design! More later!

FURTHER SHAKING
Vanity
Speaking of replicating, I am trying to recreate the Roman baths in our new tiny addition. I think of it as our Roman Powder Room.

So I've broken up the big yellow bowl, plus another blue plate just for fun (blue plate special!) and tossed in a few small slate tiles that pick up the tiles from our floor, plus some beads & other wacky things.

Everything is glued down with the adhesive / grout. After it cures for 24 hours I'll grout it, then I'll add the edging pieces I bought. THEN I'll add the bar-pour for that elegant poly-eurethane finish (SO Roman!) And it's waterproof!

The contractor will cut out the space for the sink, the plumber will drop it in and hook it up, and when I get back from France I'll do any touch up I need to do. Yeah, that's the plan.

We're thinking of taking the top of the hutch and mounting it behind the toilet as a linen shelf. I'd like to take the door off of it and use it as a frame for a mirror over the vanity. But that's stuff that can be done MUCH later!

MOVING
Packing
We need to pack up Hannah's camp stuff this week and get Max's stuff together for NJ. I figure we'll just launder Hannah's camp stuff for NJ & toss in some hair care product and lip gloss.

Packing for me and Gerry's trickier, but we have the out that if we forget something we CANNOT live without, we can drive home and get it. For Atticus and the cat we have to pack up food, their favorite toys and blankets that make them think of us. I hate that we'll all be separated. Labor day will be great - we'll all be together for that weekend!

MORE SHAKING
Knitting
I've started the alpaca mitered project - and here are the bottom squares to prove it! It's going on a back burner, though, until all the other stuff is taken care of. Fun must wait!

And now, to bed. With 5 fans on me. The kids are sleeping in the air conditioned office, because we love our kids. The animals are in there, too. Geeze, I'm sure when I go upstairs Gerry will be in there.

Zzzzzzzzzzzz!

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Things I'm Loving

I'm reading an incredibly inspirational book right now - Eat, Pray, Love - a friend from California sent it to me, and I had no idea how much I'd get from it.

It's a popular book - a bestseller, even - and I just love the author's tone. I love it so much that I put HP aside to read this for a bit. Elizabeth Gilbert unfolds the mystery of her journey in an easy, non-fussy or not-overly mysterious manner.

I feel like she assumes that I, the reader, may not know the details of the different prayer traditions, but that doesn't mean I'm dumb. She writes "up" to me, while at the same time informing me. I'm enjoying this book quite a bit.

I'm finding it inspires me to get up and write - there's so much I want to do right now. Not enough hours in the day.

My head is so full of ideas, design ideas, rambling wordy essay ideas, poem ideas (?!), kitchen ideas (stop the madness!), religious ideas (!!) that I need to just take some time and organize them - sort them out - write them down. Yeah, that would be a start.


One thing I do know is that today is Edward Hopper's birthday. He's one of my favorite artists - I love him, and Thomas Eakins.

This painting, which I put on my blog after our Duluth trip was actually a print of an original by Christina Mount Kapp, a Wisconsin artist I met at an art fair.

This is her grandma - Christine paints off of black & white photographs of regular folks - and I just fell in love with this painting. Of course I couldn't afford the painting, so I got a print - which looks very nice.

It makes me think of the Sandberg poem, Red Headed Restaurant Cashier
, and makes me think of Edward Hopper. It's going to be the inspiration for our kitchen colors - she's going to be hanging in the kitchen, our own Goddess of the Short-Stack.

FRESH AIR
My breathing sucks today. Partly because the air is just bad this weekend - I get emails about this sort of thing;

(The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is forecasting an Air Pollution Health Advisory for the Twin Cities metro area from Sunday July 22 through Thursday July 25)
My breathing is also bad because last night my next door neighbors decided to set off all of their leftover fireworks, the wind was blowing toward us, our fans were on and the house was FILLED with that gunpowdery smell in minutes. It lasted for hours. Thanks guys.

SVENS IN THE HOOD
My neighbor is a funny kid (not in a ha ha sense). I don't know him at all, but I hear him on the phone, swearing a lot, talking like a gangsta', yelling at his girlfriend
(at least, I'm assuming that's who "Bee-yotch" is.)

The first time I heard him say, "Yo, yo, mah ni**er" (bear in mind this kid is so white he makes ME look cafˇ au lait) I thought he was saying, "Yo, yo, mah knittah!"

Obviously my mind is always on fiber. Well, it seemed appropriate for Minnesota...


MORE AIR?
But to get back to my breathing, thank heaven I have a nebulizer, which I used to good effect this morning.

Minnesota health care is a marvelous thing - back in NJ I'd just wheeze all day, then get very scared and maybe end up in the emergency room later in the evening.

I probably could have gotten a nebulizer, but my pullmonary doctor never brought it up, and the whole insurance thing just seemed more - daunting - back there.

Running the gauntlet of sometimes-not-so-nice medical staff was daunting, too.


Here, my doctor asked me (as she was giving me a nebulizer treatment in her office - NOT the emergency room - yay!) if I'd like to have a nebulizer, and her office did up the paperwork and I picked it up a few days later.

I've only used it twice since then, but those were bad days and they saved me (and my insurance company) an expensive, scary and time consuming trip to the ER.


TWO INCHES!
And, back to my designing. I'm trying to line up several projects to work on while I'm Rochester, so I can go back and forth between them. I won't have all my yarn with me, but in a pinch I could come back up. Not really. But I could. I'm waffling.

I'm trying to get the smaller stuff I'm working on done now, a bit early, so I can take the larger stuff with me. Here's a little stool I did for a book - it's a fun little piece, and will be fun to knit up!

Design is being able to say, "Two inches." Period. No waffling, no what-do-you-think or maybe-it-would-be-better-if's.

Even if you're not 100% sure, you know you're a designer when you have the ability to take a leap and say, "Two inches."

That's when you deserve the big bucks.


Having an assistant who can say, even more firmly, "TWO inches!" is when you deserve the bigger bucks.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

12:28 and All's Well!


We just got back from the Red Balloon Bookstore. We waited in line for about an hour, oddly I was one of the first to get to the counter. Woo!

Those who pre-ordered had a longer line, so I'm lucky I didn't! Odd...

Of course, Hannah's upstairs with it right now! She, Max & Lucas dressed up in skirts of mine pinned around their necks like capes. It's good sometimes to have a tall mom who prefers A-line black skirts... And all this time I thought that dressing like a Mennonite didn't have fringe benefits!

So I'm off to bed, Hannah's off to Hogwarts, and Max has been asleep just about from the moment he hit the front door. Tomorrow I'll claim the book for a bit so I can catch up to Hannah (and I'll spend most of the morning avoiding her or she'll tell me EVERYTHING she's learned tonight. I'll be surprised if she doesn't wake me up at 3:00 with some vital piece of information!)

Thanks so much, Catherine, for inviting us along on a singular night!

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Fun Stuff

So we've picked a contractor [Drumroll....]

It's Mr. Younger-but-Enthusiastic Contractor - ta da!


Gerry's been elected to tell Mr. Established Contractor we're not going with him. He has the whole pathos thing going, and we think he won't get yelled at or anything. We're really losing a good bet by not taping this whole thing for a reality show on HGTV!

Today we went to the cabinet showroom suggested by our contractor, ALL, Inc., to pick out - well - cabinets. They happened to be having a scratch & dent sale, and we completed our appliance buying needs by picking up a floor model wall oven and stackable dryer. Both were more than 50% off, and both are VERY necessary!

Our current kitchen is pretty appliance poor - part of why the price of the house was so good (the not very inspired kitchen.) We're not setting out to "flip" the house or anything, but that same nagging feeling that told me [Okay, YELLED at me!] that we should move to the Twin Cities is telling me to be intelligent and thorough in any upgrades we do.

I hear and I obey.

Now we have to sell our current (wonderful) non-stackable dryer on Craig's List, and we'll be golden! I think we may be able to sell it for just a little less than the new dryer - we'll see!


There's so much arranging, organizing, lining up of ducks still to do before we all leave town and the contractor comes in. I'm meeting with him tomorrow to set up a schedule that will work for all of us. Thank heaven I shine at this - and dig it - but it is wearying. It's gotta happen, though, and evidently I'm the woman to do it.


Earlier folks were asking, "When are we going to see the FUN stuff - the colors for the kitchen, etc..."

Well, you asked for it, here it is. The photo in the upper left is from a local house that was for sale. I liked the feeling so much that we're trying to match it with our own kitchen. It seems good for the period (1918) and do-able on a budget (without sacrificing style!)

Please don't tell me that I have no business enjoying this part of it, I can't help it...

We're trying to be frugal and intelligent in all of our choices. Doing something cheaply and badly won't be a help to anyone in the long run. As we said to our contractor - we'd like to be frugal - but not cheap - in our decision making.


With the scratch & dent appliances we've bought, the bargain slate tile for the bathroom, the sensible wood floor & locally made and reasonably priced cabinets, we think that we're getting a very good value for the home equity loan we have to take out tomorrow. Hoo-ah.


DEM BUMS
Tonight was another ball game - Max is so great - he's definitely not the best player on the team, but he has so much heart & enthusiasm. Being on the Dodgers (I prefer to think of them as Bklyn, even though their hats say "LA"), which turns out to be a remarkable team, has been the BEST thing for him this summer.

He gets a lot of good male attention, bonding with teammates, gets to run around and he's finally figured out how to hit the ball. Every time at bat tonight he connected, getting a double 3 times and making it home twice. Go Maxie!

Hannah showed me that she can do something I have NEVER been able to mistress - whistling through a blade of grass! And she's GOOD!

After the game Hannah, Max and I walked over to Grand Ol' Creamery and bought cones, then we walked home on this lovely and cool evening.

There's something about a couple of red-headed kids (one in a Dodgers baseball uniform), eating ice cream cones that makes the whole world smile. Well, it made the folks we passed on Grand smile.

POTTER LINE
Tomorrow night we're going to a Harry Potter event at Red Balloon (near our home on - you guessed it - Grand Ave) with our friends Catherine & Lucas. The kids are absolutely THRILLED to be going - and so am I! I've ordered the book from Amazon, but the waiting in line will be fun for the kids. We can pretend we're the Weasleys!

KNITTING STUFF

I finished the Wimple (excellent word, thank you!) and will be sending it out tomorrow.

Now I start on an Alpaca Ruana for a book about Fiber Festivals a friend is writing. It will be a mitered project, worked so that the natural Alpaca colors accentuate and compliment each other.

A simple project, but sort of a large one and the deadline is mid-September. Thankfully, I'll have a lot of mindless knitting time in August, and this is DEFINITELY a mindless project!

The front porch has become an excellent place to knit - I turned one of the bookshelves on it's side - it still holds the same amount of yarn, but now it's counter-top height so I have a working space out there.

I needed a place of my own to spread out - now I have it!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

HP minus 2

Just for fun, because I wanted a break...

The sorting hat says that
I belong in Hufflepuff!


Said Hufflepuff, "I'll teach the lot, and treat them just the same."

Hufflepuff students are friendly, fair-minded, modest, and hard-working. A well-known member was Cedric Digory, who represented Hogwarts in the most recent Triwizard Tournament.

Take the most scientific Harry Potter Quiz ever created.

Get Sorted Now!

Lost Slots

Worry is weird - obviously we're not starving, and we have enough equity in our home to take out a home equity loan to add a bathroom for Gerry. Gotta love the equity.*

BUT, we've worked for 20 years to GET that equity - and we realize that the way things are going we may be eating in to that equity in a very large way in the next few years [months?]

As my mother would say, "That's why we earn it..." But is it? So that a healthcare CEO can earn 419 times more than the woman who cleans the toilets?

I can't help but feel there is something to this beyond helping the insurance company execs become as rich as humanly possible. Or would that be as rich as inhumanely possible.

I think it's all part of a plot to keep the middle class down (man!) Or, more realistically, to destroy the middle class and create a new lower-lower middle class of folks so broke and poor due to health care costs (biggest reason for personal bankruptcy! Oh, I forgot, we can't really declare personal bankruptcy anymore - dang) Then we can finally compete with China to make those 2¢ American Flags the rich folks' kids will put on their bikes on July 4th.
We are the face of the race to last place
Actually, I'm not sure if I'm such a conspiracy theorist - or maybe I am - hmmm, what's your theory on that... But I do think there are powerful entities working to retain the status quo, and the status quo is - quite literally - killing us.

Just keep repeating to yourself, "We're the wealthiest nation in the world, we're better than this."

Because we are.

Then sit yourself down and tell yourself, "I'm the most powerful person in this country, I have a vote."

Because you do.

When I was so sick 4 years ago we rang up a butt load of medical & non-medical expenses (we didn't have insurance, and although my doctor treated me for free, she couldn't get my drugs or xrays, etc. for free.)

But we got through by taking out loans and living very frugally. When we sold our house in NJ this past year we made enough on it to pay off the loans we'd taken out at that time. Yay. Nothing like a fresh start, huh?

So it seemed like some kind of poetic injustice to have this hit us just when we felt a bit free and clear.

Lesson: Perhaps we're not meant to be free and clear.

Better Lesson: This wouldn't be an issue if we lived in almost any other industrialized nation.

Perhaps no one is EVER really free and clear, and this is the impetus we need to keep us striving...? It's a theory.

George Bernard Shaw felt that a person's unhappiness was in direct proportion to how much they had above or below their needs. The very rich and the very poor are both unhappy - only those who have what they need (and not too much more or too little) are truly happy. I tend to agree with that.

I just received an advertisement in the mail asking, "When was the last time YOU had a lifestyle makeover?" Every time I take off my friggin' bra at the end of the day it's a "Lifestyle makeover." Every DAY is a lifestyle makeover.

With the sales from the Red Carpet Convertible (and for income reasons we are considering them as pattern sales) we've socked enough away to just about cover the accommodations in Rochester for 6 weeks, the airfare for the kids and part of the airfare for Gerry's mom to come out. There are still (always!) other expenses, which is why I continue to work so hard right now. Knit, knit, knit!

But I've cut down on my teaching, writing and designing SO much that it's really scary at times. And sometimes shops help me out by cutting my teaching down for me - this evening I received a note that read,
"[We] thought that to pressure you this spring with your family issues was not a good idea. Therefore, we let your teaching assignment ride. We recently filled that time slot and that takes care of us for this calendar year."
Hey - thanks for the heads up!

It was a surprise, to say the least. I guess it does make it easier when I don't have to make those hard decisions like 'Should I teach this Fall?' myself. That IS a weight off my mind!

But this shop is an anomaly. Most shops are being great about waiting with me to see how things shake out. They're being very kind about letting me cancel at the last minute if I need to - even though it does mean they might lose a 'slot.' Dang.

How will things shake out? Someone, tell me - make a decision for me - buy me a crystal ball, f'crissake.

To be honest, if we're not approved for SSD, I have NO idea what we'll do. Oh, who cares, I have 3 full cartons of Diet Coke left, and I'm wild with a chemical high! (Thanks Rob & Matt!)

But if SSD doesn't come through we'll apply again. And we'll get through. We'll borrow, we'll find help [thank you, everyone!], I'll work my butt off, I'll write a best selling book about this and they'll make a movie. Renˇe Zellweger will play me (she'd be able to gain the necessary weight.) Bob Hoskins can play Gerry.

- You had me at 'I love beer!'

We'll become rich, Gerry will be 100% better, and the kids will have no cavities.

But then the tension and stress from all that extra money will make us fuss & feud, and eventually our newfound wealth will cause a divorce.

So see how lucky we are now? And with our newly organized front porch, we're living the high life (let me tell you!)

*The more I crunch the numbers, it seems that the ground floor bathroom is going to be a good thing to have someday if selling the house becomes a necessity. Not that it will. Or will it?

I'm still waiting for that crystal ball...


Speaking of deliveries, my Staples & Simon Delivers orders came in today - 1 day shipping! Both were great (with the minor problem of the worm in the ear of corn ...) but everything else in the Simon delivery was wonderful and we will definitely be ordering again.

And it just feels GOOD to have the back to school stuff in a box waiting to be shoved into backpacks over Labor Day weekend!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Finding Things

St Anthony, St Anthony
I'm calling you today
So you can help me find my
[insert lost object here]
RIGHT AWAY!

And the A-Man (A-Saint?) came through!

I found the keys in a box of books - who knew? YAY!
Which means I can get into my mailbox, and what did I find? A Buttload of mail!

Thank you SO much for all of the lovely cards & small, fun items!
I promise I'll do an itemization for everyone's eddification at a later time - when I have more time - when I FIND more time.

They mean the world to Gerry and me, and make all of us laugh. The Buddha's & the tiny crocheted angel dolls were especially appreciated by the kids! I want to put the Buddha in an angel dress. Hi, I'm 4.


I spent a good part of today trying to find places to put things.

I'm starting to clean out the kitchen, get appliances and unused dishes squared away - a little at a time. It's pretty much the way I packed the house oh, about 6 months ago. Feels like yesterday. Feels like 100 years ago.

Max found his sweet spot - he's finally figured out how to connect with the ball, and although he's not hitting homers, he's making HITS! I keep telling him I'd be proud of him no matter how he did, but I do get a thrill when I see his incredibly happy face. All the way home from the ballpark on Monday he told me about his 'strategy' to hit against the pitchers. Who knew my son knew from strike zones?

We've found a sink & faucets (for both kitchen and bath) and a toilet. Life is good. Now I know how big to make the hole for the sink in the mosaic vanity I'm going to craft.

I have to get going on that crazy thing.


Gerry rode with me to pick up the kids from Lake Phalen today, which is a lovely park in Eastern St. Paul. It's so exciting for the kids to swim in a lake - a new experience for them - and they're LOVING the canoeing and kayaking!


As we drove home we found a few of our friends out on their front lawn, so a brief stop and a kid exchange and we had an impromptu playdate all worked out. This feels so good I can hardly express it.


While the kids played, I rearranged the front porch - we're tossing a bunch of stuff to make room for the kitchen overflow. Since we'll have folks staying here, filling in for me while I'm in France, I want to get a decent, working kitchen set up in the basement - and have a logical place for other kitchen stuff so it's totally out of the way of the workers - and our friendly nannies.


It was hot, I was pushing and pulling and lifting and carrying - so hot. By the time I finished I felt that my legs were spaghetti (the muscles were overcooked, and the bones were dry and brittle, bad combination)

I worked up to the evening, but now we have the sofa on the porch arranged so that it can be an extra pull out bed if we need it. And a cool - if a bit noisy - place to sleep!

After all that work I hobbled into the kitchen to get a diet coke (thanks, Amy!) aching, in pain, exhausted, and it dawned on me;

This is how Gerry feels 95% of the time.

He's getting better about taking pain meds when he needs them, but whether this is because the pain is greater I really don't know. He keeps mum about a lot of stuff.

As he stops his drugs we're both
interested - a bit fascinated - to see what effect it will have. His doctor wants him to be off all meds but the pain meds when we go down to do the blood & marrow transplant.

So between writing a few patterns, running kids around, carrying microwaves to the basement (and the new one to the kitchen), rearranging the porch, submitting classes to TNNA, sendng out letters of agreement, finding & making corrections in patterns from Romantic Hand Knits, library trips and laundry, I gave myself a break and visited www.simondelivers.com to order groceries and staples.com to order the kids' school supplies. I realized that if I don't get all the stuff on their lists now, I won't have a chance in August.

I also realized that neither kid has luggage, so I ordered them backpacks for school - which they desperately need - with wheels so they can use them on their trip to NJ/Boston when running through airports.
So much to remember to do. So many lists. I'm afraid I'll lose my place. God I hope the kids don't get lost.

Simon Delivers was amazingly well priced, and the delivery fee was only $7 for our $80 order. Woo. Plus, we get a first time order discount of $20, so it was definitely worth a try.
If it works well for us, it will be a VERY good way to make sure that Gerry & his mom get groceries delivered to the hotel when I'm gone (there's a kitchenette, they won't need a LOT of groceries, but it's nice to know they can be well supplied!)

It's also a relief to know that when my sister in law or my good friend are here with the kids, I can order groceries and take one task off of their minds. Sometimes it's fun to explore a new grocery store, but sometimes it's a frustrating chore.

Thanks so much to the posters who suggested simondelivers.com - I was glad to find it.

And thus I found a little bit of peace today - a chance to sit still for an hour when I might have been driving to Cub foods on a hot afternoon and filling a shopping cart. The time I gained was spent answering emails.

I'm working on finding a totally quite time and place to just meditate.

I need to return to my knitting. None done today. Very sad. I missed the Guild meeting, too. I was busy moving stuff around the front porch.

I'm finding that I miss the company of other knitters.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Running of the Poodles

I did two things this weekend that I haven't done for a Looooooong time!

Calvin & Atticus doing what Poodles do BEST!

BACKYARD COOKOUT
We had such a wonderful visit with friends this weekend - and it occurred to Gerry and me that we hadn't actually BEEN to anyone's house for a cookout type thing since we left NJ! I don't actually think we've been to anyone's house...

It's hard for Gerry to get around, hard to feel 100% comfortable anyplace but home (and not even here most of the time...) But in preparation for the BMT he's coming off of his meds one at a time, and I think he's a little more serious about the pain meds, so he was feeling good enough to go out to a friend's house in Woodbridge for some grilled burgers, poodle running and kid playing!

A bonus of the blog is that I get to meet a lot of nice folks - like my new friend who has a daughter who was born just a few weeks before Max. The three kids had a GREAT time together, playing games, playing with Angel, the white rat, and playing dress up (yes, my kids are still up for a good session of dress up... future costumers?)

Mostly it was just nice to see Gerry able to get out and be part of the WORLD. I know how isolated he feels, so this was really great for him. I could tell, though, after a few hours he was so exhausted that the pain was creeping into his bones and we had to hit the road.

Atticus had a blast, though! It's been a long time since HE'S had a chance to interact with other dogs (I've been bad about getting him to the dog park - bad owner...) and he was very happy to see Calvin & Daisy. We all loved seeing them running around - but not as much as we thought they would!

Seriously, though, I have seldom had such a delicious hamburger. Yum! We brought dessert - ice cream cake from Izzys (see, Heather, you had an impact!) And everyone was glad.

WEEKEND KNITTING
Second, I spent a good part of the weekend knitting. Just sitting, knitting, and thoroughly enjoying what was coming off my needles.

It's true that I knit a lot, but finishing the VK shawl was more embroidery than knitting. My weekends for the past few months have been spent mostly running errands (grocery, menards, target, etc.) but this weekend I knew that I needed a break.

I can feel a bit of a head cold coming on - actually, it arrived on Sunday (which is partly why I didn't blog this weekend) so I thought I should just rest, rest, rest. And what goes better with resting than knitting?

I have a head scarf thingie I'm working on - a tube worked in lace with a colorwork pattern on either end based on the lace pattern. A cowl? I keep thinking there's a better name for it out there...

It's moving along beautifully - it's for a book by Donna Druchunas which makes it more fun to knit. The lace pattern has a LOT of twisted stitches in it, so it's not as easy to memorize as other lace patterns I've worked, but it's still a lot of fun to do.

I'm using Artyarns Silk Rhapsody for the colorwork, and Silk Mohair for the lace section - both are dreams to knit up.

Once this is finished, I have a new kind of chair seat I'm working up in lace for Shannon Okey - I was so excited to find the right frame at an outdoors shop this weekend, so I can move along with that project.

CANOE
We just dropped Hannah and Max off at Phalen Lakeside for a week of canoeing & kayaking camp, with some archery (Hannah's VERY excited about that!) Gerry went along, and we got there SO much more quickly than I thought we would that we were 20 minutes early! Gerry insists that he wants to be able to pick up the kids if I'm 'in the middle of something' - but I worry about the driving with the pain meds. And - truth be told - he does, too.

It is absolutely amazing to me how many wonderful park activities there are here at a very reasonable rate. We've discussed our present situation with the parks folks, and they've been kind enough to offer us a discount for the weekly camp that Max and Hannah attend so that Gerry and I can be free to get to the doctor and make other appointments when we need to.

BOOK IDEA?
I have a few book ideas that I've been kicking around, but they seem distant to me. Books to be written by a different person (or perhaps this person in a different time...)

But I very much want to get something going - so my mind races even when I want it to calm down.

On my mind these days, most of all, is Gerry & the family. Our present, our future and our past together. Outside of this layer are my friends, internet friends personal friends, kids friends, long-distance friends, casual friends. Surrounding the whole universe is my need to find some way to record and express what we're doing now, how we're dealing with Gerry's illness & our newness to MN. I keep trying to find some kind of grace - logic is impossible and faith escapes me - when I think or write about this.

I want to be able to return the good feelings to those who have been so kind to us, but I can't even find my keys (and it's driving me nuts*) let alone send "thank yous" to everyone who deserves one. Well, not yet. Maybe someday. I have a plan for that, but it's down the road a bit...

So as I'm mulling all of this over, plus my gut-wrenching desire to be designing more than I am, I think I'm going to try to put together a collection of sweaters & accessories for friends. Who knows if it will be a book, or even a set of knit-able patterns. But it will help me focus two overwhelming needs; to knit and to show gratitude. If I can bring something out of that, then that would be grace.

*paging St. Anthony... Please notify me if you've found my keys! That is all...

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Things That Grow

The sky is blue, the sun is shining, and - the best part - the temperature is in the upper 70's. I can take just about anything but heat - I hate it! Right now I'm in heaven.

Walking the kids to camp ever day we pass so many amazing gardens! Beautiful yards, plants, flowers - a fence made entirely of cultivated apple trees - folks here LOVE their greens!

Hannah's taller, Max's shoulders are filling out, our kids are growing. You don't notice it for a while, then one day it just dawns on you how tall your kids really are. Hannah's pretty much taller than Gerry right now.

GROWING CONCERN
I've put off contacting yarn shops where I'm teaching this Fall. Actually, not "put it off" as much as it's just slipped past me. So finally I'm writing to each venue offering to gracefully let them off the hook if the idea of waiting for me to possibly cancel is just too nerve wracking.

A yarn shop is a narrow-margin business. Not many yarn shops owners I know are getting rich, most are happy to keep body and soul together and pay the rent (like all of us!)

I understand that between the extra planning and advertising and any other costs that may come up when engaging an outside teacher, it may be too much to expect a shop to keep dates open for me if I can't guarantee that I'll be there to teach.

Here's the email I just sent to shops where I'm scheduled this Fall. I've already had to cancel a few engagements - I hope to be able to visit them in the future! - because I couldn't handle the guilt that I'd be costing them any money. Guilt is like a weed, it grows if you don't pull it out by the roots.
THE SITUATION
As you may have heard, my husband is very ill. He has been diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a form of blood cancer which affects the plasma cells in the bone marrow. His prognosis isn't great, but we're hopeful. (We'd never heard of this type of cancer before, but we've become armchair experts in the past few months, as you can imagine!)

MY INTENTIONS
I've written privately to some of you regarding my Fall engagements - please know that I fully intend to honor each engagement.

However, I can offer no guarantees on my husband's condition. Gerry is scheduled to have a Blood & Marrow Transplant (BMT) at the Mayo clinic in August with a 6-8 week convalescence in Rochester, then back home to St. Paul for further recovery.

Although we're new to Minnesota - we just moved here in February - the fiber and knitting community has rallied around us tremendously and I feel that I have coverage for Gerry-and-Kids-care while I will be away at various teaching engagements this Fall.

THE REALITY
But things don't always work out the way we'd like. It's possible that the transplant won't "take", that Gerry will have a bad reaction to some of the medications or that he might get an infection during his susceptible time.

For this reason, although I DO intend to be at each of your venues and teach my full slate of classes,
I cannot offer an iron clad guarantee
that things will go without a hitch.

WHAT YOU NEED TO DO
If you're okay with this uncertainty, then as far as I'm concerned our agreement is intact and I'll see you at your shop.

Just drop me a line to let me know you're aware of my situation and you'd be okay with me canceling rather late in the game if I need to. Obviously, the cancellation policy in the letter of agreement you signed and returned to me would be null and void and I would not expect you to pay anything for my fee or my transportation if I have to cancel so close to the teaching date.

However, if this level of uncertainty is a little too high for you, I totally understand! The demands of running a yarn shop bring their own set of worries, this may just be one worry too many. Please send me an email letting me know you'd prefer to cancel the engagement rather than wait it out in the hopes that all will go well.

WHAT I CANNOT DO
I can't give you any guarantees.

If you need a guarantee, it's probably better to cancel my engagement than to create a situation where we both have more worry to deal with. You know best what level of uncertainly you're comfortable with - after all, you have a business to run!

The worry surrounding this situation is immense. There is worry about the future, about the kids, about the mortgage and - obviously - my main worry is about Gerry. I just can't add to that pile by taking on worry that I'll be costing a yarn shop money, or disappointing folks terribly if my visit must be cancelled.

Please know that the only reason I would cancel would be if Gerry's health had significantly deteriorated.
I think I've put this off because the ONLY reason I'd be canceling is if things don't go well with the BMT. I don't want to think about that. But the head can't stay under the pillow forever, and it's necessary to deal with this possibility in terms of how it will affect the shops that have hired me and my editors sooner rather than later.

I am DEFINITELY planning on being in France for the French Girl Knits retreat. The tickets have been purchased, I'm arranging child care coverage for those weeks, and dang it - I just want to go.

CULTIVATING ASSISTANCE
French Girl will be during the time that Gerry's supposed to still be in Rochester, but nearing the end of that period. Gerry's mom is flying in and she'll be staying in our suite taking care of him for those weeks.

His sister may be able to fly in and be up in St. Paul with the kids when they return to MN for the start of school - but it's looking iffy.

We're actually trying to find an alternative (having the kids stay with local friends for that first week of school?) because Gerry's sister is in the throes of job hunting and the timing really couldn't be worse for her. If you're on my Twin Cities helper list - especially if you live near me - and feel you could take a kid for a few nights let me know.

A good friend from NJ is flying in on 9/10 to be with the kids until I get back from France, so the dates that we need coverage are 9/2 - 9/10. It also wouldn't be bad to keep them out of the house, staying with someone else, to give the contractor as much empty house time as possible! Oh heaven's I just realized we need to arrange cat care!

The sad truth is, cancer comes at inconvenient times - but bills still have to be paid!

Those of you who have been kind enough to give us help during this period - THANK YOU! Most of those fund will go to our accommodations and to pay for flying the kids back and forth from MN to the East Coast for August, and for flying Gerry's mom out to be with him.

Some of it also is just going to cover our mortgage, etc. We're nearing the point in donations where our budgeted expenses will be covered HOORAY!

If we qualify for Social Security, it's supposed to kick in sometime in October. It's hard to imagine Gerry wouldn't qualify, but weirder things have happened.

Once we hit that point I'll post it on Gerry's Multiple Myeloma's page. If folks still want to purchase the Red Carpet Convertible, it will be available - but at a set price, not for a donation any more. For all intents and purposes, our needs will have been met then.

Our hope has been growing right along with our non-medical fund, thank you SO much!

OUR OWN PERSONAL SICKO EPISODE
Just this week the insurance company for Gerry's former employer (Fox, where he was working when he initially visited the doctor about his bad back, the first symptom of the osteporosis that is a symptom of Multiple Myeloma) has agreed to pay the princely sum of $170 per week for short term disability.

They had been insisting that since that first doctor misdiagnosed the condition (he said it was a back sprain and prescribed physical therapy - which is probably how Gerry crushed his first 2 vertebrae) and that same doctor wrote a note to Fox TV that Gerry should be out of work for only 4 days. This was the diagnosis the insurance company said they had to accept. Insanity.

But apparently the letter from Gerry's oncologist and our GP have finally convinced them to relent. So we'll be the proud recipients of $170 per week - the NY State minimum, among the lowest in the country we're told.

An interesting side note is that there was a form which Gerry's GP had to fill out. The insurance company said that it had to be in within a certain number of days or we'd lose our eligibility. Gerry asked that they fax it to him so he could run it over to the doctor, and they said they would, but they faxed it to the doctor instead.

When Gerry & I stopped by to make sure it arrived - something we thought we didn't need to do since the insurance company assured us it was faxed - we discovered that the form WAS sent, but with NONE of Gerry's information so the doctor's office had no idea who the form was to be filled out FOR!

It's hard for me to believe, especially given the time sensitive nature of the form, that leaving Gerry's info off the form was entirely accidental.

Cynicism grows like a tumor, too!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Perfect Fit

For a knitter, good fit is prime. There's that great moment when a finished sweater is tried on, the sleeves are long enough, the waist fits, the neckline sits at the right place; life is good! I feel like I'm wearing that sweater today.

Today was a wonderful day - wonderful in the sense that it just feels right to be here. There was nothing particularly special about the day - we dropped the kids off at camp so that we could drive down to Rochester and check out some of the housing alternatives.

EXTENDED STAY
We looked at several places, but hands down the best fit for our circumstance was Staybridge Suites. We have the option there of moving into a 1 or 2 bedroom setup depending on whether Gerry's mom and the kids are able to come down in September, and then moving back to the studio so we can save money by only getting a 1 bedroom when we actually NEED it. And - very important - we can have Atticus with us. Huzzah.


Bonus: They have wifi and cable - we'll get MSNBC (I get to see Mr. Olberman every night), Comedy Central (ditto Mr. Stewart & Mr. Colbert) and Bravo (Kathy Griffin & other fun stuff) My circle of friends.

While in Rochester we popped into a Home Depot for a sink fix. As we look around at bathroom stuff and worked on ideas, we tried to figure ways to save some $ and "express ourselves" in our bathroom and kitchen.

We still haven't locked into one contractor - and against all good advice we may be moving away from Mr. Proven Contractor to Mr. Younger Flexible Contractor. Tomorrow YFC is coming by with his plumber so we can get a final quote from him. You're all on the edge of your seats, aren't you?

We'd looked at some tile for the bathroom a few days ago and really liked the idea of slate - although the $6/sq ft was a little pricier than our budgeted $4/sq ft. But today we saw a very similar tile on sale for $1.25/sq ft (victim of a broken pallet, but the tiles we chose were not broken) So we got the tile for our bathroom for $30!


I haven't been at peace with the idea of a run of the mill looking vanity sink, so I had a brainstorm. It may be idiotic, but I'm going to visit a few Menards & Home Depots and kick the following idea around to get feedback.

THE WACKY BATHROOM SINK IDEA
We all remember The Bowl? The yellowware bowl that was broken in June? I saved all of the pieces because I just couldn't bear to part with it.


We have an old 1920's hutch we acquired when we were first married and living in Brooklyn. It's not in great shape (but not falling apart - it's just been painted too many times and it's a little chipped - shabby chic looking) It's in two parts with a 2-drawer bottom and a glass-door china cabinet top.


The bottom is counter height, so I'm thinking I'd like to create a lip around the edge with some type of moulding. Then I'll take the pieces from the beloved yellow ware bowl, break them into even smaller pieces, and use them to create a mosaic pattern on top on the hutch bottom.


Once that's finished and grouted, I'll cover all of it with bar-pour (like the polyeurethane I used on the dining room table - it's water proof and excellent for counters) to make the top flat and even. The moulding lip will hold the bar-pour in place. I may even toss in some other stuff, other dish shards, pennies, shells, stitch markers...


We'll cut a hole in the top of the hutch to accommodate the drain for a vessel sink. Ideally I'd love to find a sink that resembles a yellow ware bowl. These two are the front runners right now. Both at ebay, both less than the Corianne sinks our contractor has proposed.

Will it work? Who knows. I think so - I'm going to research it. If it does work we end up with a groovy, expressive sink for peanuts. If not, we haven't lost that much...

BEAUTIFUL MINNESOTA
Driving back home from Rocheste
r, with our slate tiles and tile adhesive (for the hutch) squared away in the back of the PT, the landscape was breathtaking. I've never seen corn look as beautiful as it did along highway 52. Lush and tall and 50 shades of green! The sky was a deep, rich Dutch blue. The light on the fields, the wind moving the grasses and stalks, it almost made me cry.

We got home just in time to sign for a delivery, check my email (FLASH: VK is very happy with the shawl - YAY!- and I got the pattern and charts out tonight! It feels so GOOD to be finished! I think it will be in the Holiday issue.)

I changed my clothes and strolled over to The Yarnery to meet some new friends for knitting and dinner/dessert at Cafe Latte.

I have missed connecting with a group of knitters as a KNITTER - not teacher - just Annie. This was lovely.

I miss my group back home - the Yarrrn Pirates - and this was the first time I'd just hung out knitting for a long time. Thanks, ladies, for having me.

The special bonus - one of the women's husband had a stem cell transplant (slightly different from what Gerry's having) five years ago and is doing great after being 'given' three years. Love to hear that.

As I walked home at 9:30, the sky still light with northern evening brightness, I felt so at home, so happy.

Back at the house Gerry was snoring in his recliner, the kids were getting ready for bed, the cat and dog asleep in the living room snuggled next to each other (it's just chilly enough for some good pet snuggling.)

What a nice fit.

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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Generosity, Foolishness and Horse Sense

It's so hot - the kind of days where women in corsets used to faint and horses would droop in their stands. Sometimes they'd be overcome with the heat and expire (the horses, not the women - or, maybe the women, too.)

And, of course, when your horse is dying and you still need to get across town,
beating a dead horse gets you nowhere. So instead of beating it, I'll try to gently move it to a resting place where it can be at peace.

I think our most humane urge is to give, to be generous, to be kind. Once we outgrow the 'gimme' stage of childhood, we begin to see the benefits of giving, and we also may be on the receiving end at one point or another - THAT'S an enlightening experience.

When someone takes advantage of such beautiful generosity, it's treachery. A deep and nagging anger can consume the fooled giver. I think what happened was the woman I quoted in my earlier post - let's call her Mrs. X - misinterpreted what she'd read about Gerry's MM Fund on a different website, then felt that she'd been suckered in some way, and has a lot of anger about it.

Anger is strong, and - by definition - maddening. Once anger is felt and expressed it's VERY hard to go back and apologize. (Or even admit to ourselves that we may have been mistaken in expressing such anger.) Heaven knows I have been the guilty party in getting mad over insignificant things many times in my life.

I wasn't going to blog about it again - it just seemed like bad karma - but this morning I read a comment on my original post about the kitchen re-do misunderstanding and I realized that there still may be questions out there about our high on the hog lifestyle.

Party, party, party!

It made me realize that someone has to go out and scrape up the dead horse and bury the poor thing. So I'll do it. I always wanted to be a large animal vet!


Here's the comment - which I think is very kind and I'm very sad that the writer felt they couldn't leave their name. But I do understand - the righteous indignation by my readers was pretty strong (and, yes, even as I appreciated the sentiments I was troubled about the nasty turn some of the comments took. I know you guys want to protect me, but be kind and assume the best when you post to my blog. We all know that nastiness has a way of coming right back and I am - at the end - responsible for my blog and comments.)
I want to thank you for writing this post. I wasn't the person who sent you that email but I was feeling a little bit that way. When you are struggling to pay the normally week to week bills you can feel pretty foolish for sending money to someone who can afford to renovate her home. After reading your post, however, I can appreciate that the renovations are necessary as part of the care of your husband.

I never sent you an email, however, because my attitiude was that in a worse case scenario I had simply bought a pattern on impulse that I was unlikey to use - and who amongst the knitting community hasn't done this before? I think we all have to take responsibility for the decisions we make - including sending money to someone else.

I am leaving you this message because I think it was appropriate for you to address the issue raised and to say that I appreciated it. However, I am signing this as annonymous as I do not wish to be attacked by your fans.
First of all - thank you to the person who wrote this.

This was exactly my reason for posting the original email from Mrs. X. I hadn't particularly thought it was a bad email, but I thought it did bring up a point that needed to be addressed.

As I said, I was afraid that others may have thought the same thing, and it was important for me to express to folks who hadn't been reading my blog that the kitchen re-do was necessary, and it is really just dividing our kitchen into a bathroom/laundry/kitchen due to my husband's illness.

Unfortunately, it was my posting of the email - and the comments from readers - that really angered Mrs. X. I received 8 not very nice emails last night from the same source. I responded to 4 of them before I realized that it was a losing battle. There was no way I could get her to understand our reasons for needing a bathroom, and no matter what I wrote it was perceived as a lie. She accused me of using her email as a fundraising opportunity.

Silly her - Gerry's illness is the fund raising op! Sheesh!

Mrs. X also wrote to the blogger from whom she'd originally read about Gerry,
As it turns out, those donations are also being funneled toward expenses for vacations and non-essential home improvements that have nothing to do with her husband's illness.
Fabulous - I'm making the email rounds. The jig is up - we didn't go to Duluth, we went to VEGAS, baby! Actually, the entire Duluth trip was paid for by my lecture and teaching engagements at the start of the trip at the guild and at Yarn Harbor.

Well, when something is stinking up the street, you go clean it up. It's not fun - no one wants to get the flies all riled up - but it's the best thing to do. People might even yell at you while you're doing it, but it's got to be done.

This, dear readers, is the stomach clenching fear of anyone who asks for help. This is why some folks are "proud" and won't accept help from others.

Once you're given something - be it an old dress, $50 or a scholarship to Harvard - you feel an obligation to wear the dress well, spend the $50 on sensible things, and succeed in your studies. This is a good instinct - we should always try to honor the giver of a gift by using the gift in the best way possible.

But sometimes the giver of the dress tells you you need to lose weight to wear it, the Aunt who gave you $50 is angered that you spent some of the money on candy, and the Harvard benefactor feels you should really major in chemistry, not Latvian folk dance.


And - we can't escape from the sad truth; Some folks DO lie. They exaggerate situations, they make up things to get money - they scam.

The kindness we've been shown (in emails, cards, purchases of the pattern) has been SO great that I am filled with worry that anyone would think, let alone write, the following:
Whatever your rationalization might be, I chose to donate to a woman whom I thought needed care for her husband. I DO NOT CHOOSE to donate any money to someone who thinks that the world owes her a new kitchen because her husband is dying. Shame on you.
Please know - this is not a scam. How humiliating to have to write that. I swear, if I didn't laugh I'd cry. Oh, crap - I am crying!

She ended her last email last night with,

I'll blog about my experience with you tomorrow in the hopes of saving other stupid suckers from falling into the trap of donating to you and after that, I'm done.
Attention Stupid Suckers; Please DO NOT purchase the Red Carpet pattern - that is all.
I don't like to admit it - it's probably because I have a lot on my plate right now - but I was up a good portion of the night lying in bed fretting about this. I didn't want to tell Gerry because I knew it would make him feel bad - but I was a silent, dour shadow of myself last night when I received the awful emails.

However, this morning she wrote to say that she wouldn't blog about me because it wasn't cool. But when I read the comment from the kind person above, and discovered that Mrs. X had been emailing to others - friends of mine - about this, I figured it had to be addressed.


So I guess I'm not cool - no big surprise there. It's friggin' BROILING here.


I'd rather just deal with this openly, get it out and get the damned horse buried. So now Gerry knows, the world knows, and it's easier to breathe. Neigh.

I'm not doing this for Mrs. X, but for anyone who may have a nagging doubt about the whole friggin' kitchen or our propensity to want to live our lives as richly and fully as possible.

The nerve.

Mrs. X did say that on three occasions she's been the caregiver for folks in serious medical situations, so I think she does have an inkling of this situation. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy, and I'm sorry that she had to go through with it three times. That is rough.

Thanks for allowing me to go on about this (as if I could be stopped, huh?) I could let it fester, I could wait for the city authorities to remove the carcass of poor Dobbin, or I could just go out and do it myself.

If you need me, I'll be in the back yard with a shovel.


As a side note - we are planning to take out a short term home equity loan to cover the cost of this renovation. We've always planned that, and we will designate the Red Carpet Convertible funds to pay for accommodation and travel expenses for ourselves in Rochester and our kids during the BMT. I write a brief note to everyone who buys the Red Carpet Convertible, and I've mentioned in some of the notes specifically what we've earmarked that donors funds for.

As someone else suggested in my comments, I'm going to write a little blurb about this - along with the plans for the kitchen - and link to it from the Red Carpet Convertible page so folks can read and understand what's going on with that. This is NOT a cosmetic re-do of our kitchen (although while we're doing it, we're trying to do it as beautifully as we can afford - not expensive, just tidy & well designed.)

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Time Out & Time In

I'm running away today - I packed my two little bags and I got as far as the local Caribou Coffee (which was, quite honestly, my destination...)

I've settled in, a cup of tea, a scone - and later a frosty chocolate drink - and 3 hours later I'm still here, getting more work done in the air conditioning than I've achieved in hours in our steamy, humid home. Thank heaven the folks are nice about me hanging around. I lend local color (my current project is intarsia)

It's hot here - it's hot everywhere. It's July 7th - day of the Live Earth Concert - and anyone who says the climate hasn't altered in the past century (most dramatically in the last decade) is a fool.

There, I've said it. Don't be shocked, I also believe in evolution. And gravity (both are theories) I continue to be amazed that out of the nine men running for the Republican nomination, three say they don't believe in it (evolution, not gravity - although I have my doubts.)

But I digress. I'm obviously enjoying the air conditioning waaaay too much. Perhaps it's the eccentric guy with red suspenders, a fixture at this Caribou Coffe, who hums to himself and plays with a rubber ducky while he sits in the air conditioning next to me. That ducky may have worn me down. I wonder if he believes in evolution?

He was annoying to me when he first walked in, but I've become used to him. Now he's bouncing a rubber ball and I'm finding it weirdly soothing. A very chic couple came in and scowled at him - I found myself being oddly defensive (I didn't say anything, but I was fully prepared to scowl back at them if they looked over at me in solidarity.)

So while I've been sitting here I've completed the VK Intarsia shawl except for crochet chain stitch "fringe" around the edge of the piece (not fringe at all, just an edging) and I'm ready to go home and give it a good steam block. Which seems absolutely redundant given the temperature in our house. The walk back home will probably block the darned thing.

How soon we forget, huh? This was typical summer weather back in NJ, where it's roughly the same temperature. Looking at accuweather it's supposed to STAY that way for most of July in NJ, but here after Monday we go back to the 80's during the day, 50/60's at night. I wonder if I feel the heat so bad on the hot days because so many of the other days are temperate and my body just can't get used to it like back in NJ?

At any rate, it's MUCH nicer to work on a wool shawl with lots of embroidery in a cool place - and now it's pretty much done and I'm pretty much happy. I'd show you, but then I'd have to kill you. Just kidding. I kid because I love. And it's hot.

After this I have a few other things to knit up - not killer deadlines, but things coming up that should be finished by the end of this month, next month and mid-Sept. I'll be teaching in Michigan at Threadbear and Ontario at Feather Your Nest in early August, returning here the day before we go down to Rochester. It will be air conditioned at the Mayo - what a concept, spending August in an air conditioned place! I expect to get a LOT of work finished while I'm there!

TEACHING DATES
I've canceled a few teaching engagements in the next few weeks, check my appearances calendar to see what my current teaching dates are.

It's so hard to try to project the whole future-with-Gerry thing. In the immediate future, I have to either decide if I can fulfill my engagements, or cancel them. Everyone has been SO kind, but even so I still have to earn a living, and the teaching keeps me connected and sane in a way other parts of my life don't.

For the most parts the shops where I'm teaching have gone out of their way to write and say, "We know things are up in the air now - we're willing to wait to hear how they turn out, and we hope for the best!" I am SO grateful to these shops.

In just one case a shop wrote informing me that folks weren't signing up because they thought I'd be canceling my engagement - which I certainly was NOT planning on doing!

My sense was that this particular owner really needed a guarantee, which I couldn't give, and I felt immense pressure. There's a chance with ANY engagement that a cancellation is possible - but the chances are greater in the next few months for me.

I know how hard the waiting and not knowing is for me - I can't expect someone whose income is in part based on me showing up and teaching to bear the same burden of not knowing.

The pressure was strong, so I went ahead and canceled this particular engagement. The pressure was lifted and I felt much better.

And here's a new lesson. I'd never thought of it before, but now I know exactly what someone in my position needs to hear; We'll wait for you, we're here for you, don't feel pressured to give us guarantees that you can't make.

The fact that so many yarn shop owners instinctively know to write and say this is a tremendous gift. The kindness of yarn shops is amazing.

Go visit your local shop - it's probably air conditioned!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Clarify (& Justify?)

Cancer isn't fun. It's rotten, mean and sneaky.

Cancer may seem horrible - and it is on many levels - but in one of those insane ironies it's also been an odd kind of blessing. It's forced us to see how lucky we have been (and continue to be) in our lives. Things are not dire for us - we are among the luckiest people in the world. We have a good home, indoor plumbing, hot water, all the food we could want and things to amuse us (like knitting!) We also have each other - and the fact that Gerry & I found each other is sort of a minor miracle. But we did, and we're lucky.

When my brother died a few years ago at age 44 I said to his wife that it was tragic, but not a tragedy. The tragedy would have been if he hadn't met her, and they hadn't had 14 good years together. We don't know how this will end, but we're hopeful that by preparing for the worst & hoping for the best, we will find the best in both of us!

If we didn't have a good attitude and a good sense of humor
(which, thank heaven, we both have!) we'd be totally lost now. Our jokes and laughter are like the white stones we can follow through this dark and scary forest of cancer back to some kind of normalcy.

It's good to note that Gerry is LIGHT YEARS better than he was in March when we had no idea what he had. For a few years Gerry has also suffered with ulceritic colitis, which tends to rear it's ugly head every now and then, sporadically. At the onset of this disease Gerry was in the middle of a several-months-long bout of UC, and he was so exhausted, tired & in so much pain that we both felt rather hopeless. This was BEFORE we knew he had cancer. We just knew SOMETHING was seriously wrong.

One of the drug therapies that's been helpful for MM is a combination of Deximethezone & Thalidimde. This cocktail has not only been helpful with the MM, it's also been working wonders with his ulceritic colitis. A colonoscopy in April showed how well it has been working, and he's better in that regard than he's been in a LONG time!

Not being able to get up and down stairs quickly married to ulceritic colitis is a very hard thing to live with and creates - quite often - episodes that are painfully embarassing as well as just plain painful.

Right now Gerry's trying to wrap his mind around the fact that he's lost so much of his bone density and some of the changes are irreversible (he was never a tall man, but he's 3" shorter than he was in February.) I'm trying to keep him focused on FUTURE - but he has to come to terms with what he feels he's lost so far before he can move ahead.

Part of the focus on the future - as I tried to say in my last blog post (I think I was a bit incoherent) - is going ahead with dividing our kitchen into a kitchen / bathroom & laundry area. As I wrote earlier, I have very mixed feelings about this. Just who do I think I am, going ahead with this? Even though it's going to be a relatively inexpensive redo (as these things go), shouldn't we put this money entirely into recovery-related expenses?

This email came in today, and I'm thinking I should address this here as it's likely that others feel the same way:

I was just sent a link to your regular blog where you discuss remodeling your kitchen and bath.

I was under the impression that your financial needs were dire in relation to your husband's condition. I must say that I am now very uncomfortable at having made a donation to you under the circumstances.

I can definitely understand these feelings. I haven't hidden anything, I've been very up front with what we're going through now (and all of the other little incidentals of our life, like the move, the kids settling in, the effect of this on my work and, of course, adding the bathroom...)

But the email hurt a bit - the sense was that the author thought we are trying to get away with something, and that's the most stinging thing of all. Actually, it didn't sting, it felt like a sock in the gut. Of course I returned her donation immediately.

I'm still sorting out my feelings on this whole chapter in our lives. My gratitude to all of you who have sent a kind note, a small gift, a donation, or a story of your own battle with cancer is boundless. I'm not being as quick as I'd like to be with the personal notes to those of you who have written, and I apologize for that. Life is - well, busy. It is for everyone.

But here's what I wrote back to the emailer. Perhaps it will be helpful to those of you who may have the same concern that she had:
We have no bathroom on the first floor, which makes Gerry a virtual prisoner of the second floor of our home on many days. The small amount of money for doing this (very small) renovation has been set aside since we purchased our home this past February. If you have read my blog you will see that I, too, have mixed feelings about going ahead with this at this time.

With Gerry's condition it's practically impossible for him to walk up and down stairs. The renovation is more along the lines of making that portion of our home handicapped-friendly than a cosmetic change because we want a new kitchen. We don't - we'd be more than happy to just keep things the way they are. But then we wouldn't see Gerry most of the time, and he wouldn't see anyone unless they came upstairs to visit him.

Our kitchen area is large, and rather unfinished. We can divide the space and add a toilet & bring the laundry up from the basement. This will allow Gerry to be part of the family and stay on the ground floor during the day, and I will have less running up and down stairs as I manage all of the other tasks I need to do.

Gerry hasn't worked since Feb due to his illness. I've canceled several of my teaching engagements and have canceled some writing & book work in order to take care of him and drive him to doctor's appointments (a full time job.) We're living on savings, which have pretty much become depleted.

We have been told by the University of Minnesota and the Mayo clinic that Gerry will most likely die from this disease, probably in 1-3 years. It is likely that he will need constant care during much of that time.

We prefer to hold out more hope that in the next few years there will be the same kind of strides in Multiple Myeloma as there has been in other forms of cancer, and that Gerry will be in the 10% of MM patients who beat the odds. At any rate, we'd like to spend the next 1-3 years with the family together as much as possible, and with Gerry as comfortable and stress-free as possible.
So, in case you were wondering, this is why we're adding a bathroom to the ground floor. If anyone feels cheated in any way - that our circumstances aren't as 'dire' as you thought they were - please let me know and I will be MORE than happy to fully refund anything we've received from you.

I'm off now to Comotown, where I'm taking the kids to ride the rides with friends.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Long Run

He looks like Gerry, he sounds like him and has the same sense of humor - but I have the nagging feeling that it's not really my husband sitting in the kitchen or lying next to me in bed. I want to shake him - "Who are you, and what have you done with my husband?" - but that would be useless.

I might as well look into a mirror and ask,
"Who am I, and where did Annie go?"

Gerry has so much pain - it runs through his body and announces itself with every movement. He's taking Oxy, but - being a 12 hour medicine - it tends to get him in trouble. He'll take it and in an hour or so feel well enough to make plans to do this, or go there.

Then a few hours later the medication begins to wear away and I can see on his face and in his posture how much pain he's trying to hide.

But he WANTS to do so much - and it's hard to convince him that he can't right now. I don't think it's a male / emasculating thing (I felt the same way when I was sick, and was ALWAYS being yelled at for going out and mowing the lawn or moving furniture) as much as a feeling that one does NOT want to be considered useless.

Unfortunately, it means more work for me - or, rather, more stress. I feel a bit like I felt when the kids were younger - that they were just old enough to get into a lot of trouble if I didn't watch them, but I needed to get work done so it was hard to watch them every minute. I worry that Gerry will want to go for a drive, go shopping, mow the lawn, move some furniture - and will wear himself out halfway through.

My fear: He'll either be in a dangerous situation, or I'll have to come and finish the job.

Perhaps it's an unreasonable fear on my part, but I've seen how just doing what used to be the most elementary of physical tasks wears him down and makes his pain worse and ruins his focus.

It's a vicious circle; When I can get him to sit and rest, he feels well enough to do stuff. As he sits and begins to feel better, he ALSO feels useless so he wants to get up get stuff done.

And then he wears out so quickly, his tremendous pain increases, and I have to become involved in some way. The mental wear and tear is harder for me to handle than the physical work - jumping all those emotional hurdles; making him feel needed, strong, necessary - but also making him understand that the way he can be MOST helpful is to rest his body so I can get more work done.

And that sounds like such a slap in the face. I feel like a friggin' prison warden (hair cut notwithstanding.) Convincing him that he is FAR from useless is a hard dance. I can tell him all day not to do this, or don't do that - and it just sounds like nagging. The truth is, he has to be the one to give himself permission to slow down a bit, and he has yet to be that kind to himself.

Convincing him that this is NOT HOW THINGS WILL ALWAYS BE is hard. Forcing him - compelling him - allowing him to see that this is just the short run is beyond me many days.

THIS is when I really wish he had some men friends around, who could come over and shoot the sh*t with him, occupy his mind and engage him in some discussions so he's not talking to the radio all day.

There's so much to do (and here I am, blogging...) that I can't really drop everything to drive out to Oakbury to look at a cheap sink for the kitchen and still get my shawl finished. And Gerry can't go alone (aside from the drive, I can't see him getting that sink into the car.)

So I feel guilty that he has to call and change the appointment, and he feels guilty for making it without thinking of my deadline (these have never been a problem, but now I'm pushed and pulled in several different directions.) It's rough.

DUPLICATE ANNIE
I wish I could create a second me - there's so much I need to get done, and so few waking hours in a day.

I'm a nut for sleep, I know that I can't do without it (and I personally feel that sleep health is one place where most Americans could drastically improve their lives - just by getting a decent amount of sleep!) So I'm not really in danger of burning the candle at both ends.

What I am in danger of is stressing myself with the amount of stuff I NEED to get done.

TODAY I have to finish the VK Shawl - it's due to NYC on Friday - I will fed-ex it on Thursday. The knitting went pretty quickly, but the duplicate stitching is going s l o w l y.

The new bathroom - we met with the contractor yesterday and got the news. This is the hard part, where I KNOW that if Gerry and I were able to devote our full energy to this we could do much of it ourselves - but also knowing that realistically we DON'T have this energy now (especially not Gerry!) and we do need the bathroom on the ground floor.

We can go one of two ways
  • The expensive contractor with the proven track record who we feel we could trust implicitly to just get the job done with as little fuss and mess as possible.

  • The less expensive contractor is newer, just starting his contracting business, and that concerns us a bit.
We'd budgeted for this - and had anticipated taking out a short term loan for it - so I think our gut feeling is to go with the contractor who has a proven track record.

A decision like this is so hard because it forces us to not just be penny-wise and pound-foolish, but to look at the long-term picture and calls up every ounce of hope that we have. Hope that Gerry will get better, hope that doing the job right will mean eventually when/if we sell our home this addition will be a selling point (not something to hide or apologize for.)

It's especially hard to be considering an expenditure at a time when finances are blood-chilling scary - but the amazing response to Gerry's MM Fund has helped us look at the long picture. When we're honest with ourselves we KNOW that we must do this, and we must do it right or we will pay for it as long as we own the house. It feels very counterintuitive, though.

Money's tight - so why do this? To save money (and increase Gerry's quality of life) in the long run.

Envisioning the long run takes hope.


It's like the blogging. On the surface it seems so stupid to take time that I can't spare to write my feelings - outline my days - and talk about how little time I have. But this accounting (to whom?) makes everything a little clearer. It's like taking the time to look for my glasses.

Or it's like making a gauge swatch. Not a lot of fun, and feels like a waste of time - but it will save so much time in the long run.

Thank heaven a new knitting friend I met at the guild a few weeks ago has offered to take the kids to the Highland pool today for a few hours with her Max-aged daughter. That will be a relief for the kids, and will give me some uninterrupted, guilt-free time to get more of the damned s l o w embroidery finished.

How we'd all like some more time around here.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Native-esque

This is a shot from the playground next to the high school at Randolph & Hamline (I don't know the name...) just as a soccer game was being called due to lightening. What a gorgeous evening this was.

The sky here in Minnesota is absolutely beautiful. Watching the clouds is better than watching a movie - the weather changes, the clouds are so alive & active. It looks like rain over the next few days - we could use it - and I'm anxious to see the show.


Returning from vacation and getting back into our routine has been a grounding for my mind. I'm feeling like a St. Pauler (St. Pauli?) Walking down Fairmount after dropping the kids off at camp, waving to folks I see just about every day, stopping to pet another dog (while trying to keep Atticus from becoming too - ahem - friendly with the poor pup) - all of these things make me feel so right here.


Well, a right as a lefty like me can feel.


I guess I mean I feel like I'm in the right place at the right time. I think the kids and Gerry feel this way, too - they say they do - but when there's such an upheaval in our lives it's hard to know for certain how we feel about anything.

When we came back from Duluth there were small black paper bats taped all over the kitchen, hanging from strings. We laughed and laughed - and they made us feel VERY much at home. Our friends who had been watching the cat - now re-christened Gigi the Brave for her fearless slaying of the dreaded bat - put them up as a welcome home for us.

Being pranked in such a gentle and funny way is good.


I stopped by the Bravo Bakery (free wifi!) today to pick up a piece of green tea cake (I'd noticed it a few weeks ago and wanted to bring a piece home for us to try... It's delicious, by the way) and sitting outside was a nice mom with her two children.

She looked SO much like my friend from back home, Ami, that I had to stop and look twice. She's a trifle shorter, but in many other ways she could easily be Ami's cousin. Wave of homesickness.


We chatted briefly - they just moved here less than 24 hours ago from Ann Arbor - and I found myself telling her some of the great things on Grand ave, and what a wonderful place this is - on the way home I kicked myself for not offering my email address. I felt like a native. Well, maybe not entirely like a native, but pretty durned close.

I bought a bike on Saturday at a yard sale. It needs new tubes, and the brakes could use new rubber thingies, but it has 3 speeds and it's a girls' bike. Two things I was looking for (if I couldn't have my snazzy 10-speed boy's Motobecane...)

Today after the oncologist visit (he's very happy with Gerry's progress this week) we picked up the dishwasher we bought last month and now it's stored in our garage along with a cooktop from ebay and a microwave/vent unit from an appliance sale. Little by little we're getting the things we'll need for our kitchen re-do squared away.

We're trying to get things set up so that the lion's share of the work will be done while we're in Rochester (and we'll just return home to a beautiful new bathroom and kitchen... [cue music])

Comment Note
The comments have been a WEALTH of information - thank you to all of you who are making such great suggestions! They've led me down some interesting paths as I try to find a place for us to light while in Rochester.

We do have to take Atticus into consideration - he'll be with us down in Rochester. Yes, this is a case of sending the kids away - but keeping the dog with us...

Your advice and help and the stories you are all sharing with us via email and comments are so touching and very humanizing.

Thank you ALL for your care & love - and for being part of this amazing fiber-lovin' community!

Red Carpet Convertible
Gerry's Multiple Myeloma Expenses Fund


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Snail Mail:
Annie Modesitt / Landy
1043 Grand Ave
PO Box 117
St. Paul, MN 55105




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