Thursday, January 28, 2010

... Just keeps pulling me back...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And we could always use more knitters, right?

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Winners, Patience & Spritual Sections

To listen to this blog post read by Annie, click here: /111309.mp3
Winning Section
The winner of the Lily Chin book is Jill. I threw a dart at the computer and it landed on her. Now I have to get a new screen. I've emailed her, and I'll send off Lily Chin's Knitting Tips & Tricks as soon as I get Jill's address.

THANK YOU to everyone who left a comment or tip. What a great idea, a TIP exchange! I loved reading them, and feel like I learned SO much.

You readers are a font of information, thank you.

Patience Section
I'm FINALLY coming in on the end of Anne Boleyn. I swear, I feel as if I've been working on this thing longer than she was queen. But I'm doing the bottom edge now, and I'll have some nice photographs in my next blog post.

I'll also have a new contest for a totally non-knitting related audio book. The book is John Irving's Last Night In Twisted River. I like Irving, but at the same time I also don't like some of his stuff. Which is probably as it should be.

I've long felt that we don't have favorite authors, artists or designers, or fall in love with folks because the recipient of our affection is the BEST writer / person / musician / designer we know.

We fall in love because the author / musician / designer suits us, makes sense to us, in a way that no one else does.

As much as I love Gerry - and I adore him - I love him not because he's inherently good, but because we suit each other so well. Likewise with Irving. I like him as an author because his work resonates with me, but I don't necessarily love everything he writes.

So I'm excited to listen to this book and think up a compelling (?) question to pose that will get everyone involved and won't limit the contest to only Irving fans. It will be a few days, but patience is a virtue.

Horoscope Section
Speaking of patience, I read my Virgo Twitta-scope again. Once again, it seems eerily on track for me. Here's today (Friday's) message:
Clarity is beginning to return, but it still may be too soon for you to make any big decisions. Your emotions continue to cloud your normally cool analytical style, even if you can tell where the current situation is leading.

Attempts to make changes today won't likely be very effective, for they could get lost in the larger shifts that are coming your way. Avoid impulsive action that is motivated by frustration; patience is now your best friend.
Okay, that makes sense to me and really fits with what I'm struggling through right now in design terms. Keep plugging along. And I will.

But it was my scope for tomorrow (Saturday) that really got to me:
It's all about communication today, but sticking with detached analytical facts will likely leave you feeling unsatisfied. You must dig a bit deeper now in order to get past your logical filter that can keep you from fully engaging with your experiences.

You may not understand the reason for everything that's happening, but you'll have time to put your amazing day into perspective later if you just let it unfold without resistance.
Spiritual Section
You see, tomorrow the kids and I (and Gerry for part of the day) will be attending a weekend retreat held by our temple for families of B'nai mitzvah candidates. Max's Bar Mitzvah is scheduled for next January (2011) and Hannah's Bat Mitzvah is ... in a holding pattern.

But I'm thinking this weekend may be a very good chance to introduce both of them to the part of Judaism that I've been missing for quite a while. The community part.

For whatever reasons - various and non-specific - we've had a hard time connecting with the temple here. We attend services every now and then, the kids go to Hebrew School, but we're not engaged in the way we'd like to be. The last time Gerry and I both felt fully engaged in a congregation was back in Brooklyn when we were members of the budding Kolot Chayeinu.

I'm not Jewish, Gerry and the kids are (we're Reform, please hold back the comments that the kids aren't REALLY Jewish, we're proponents of patrilineal descent, or perhaps bilineal descent..?) and we have a casually Jewish home.

I'd like us all to take the holidays a bit more seriously, but Gerry's initial and painful exposure to a 1960's Hebrew School experience (sadly, not unusual) soured him a bit on the whole raising-the-kids-as-Jews thing.

I think the fact they have this descent is a gift, and should be treated as such. I don't care what path they follow as they grow older, I just want them to learn all they can at this point so their future spiritual decisions are made from an intelligent and well informed place.

I'm hoping this weekend will awaken some questions from the kids, light a bit of a fire, and maybe even bring Hannah to a point where the idea of her Bat Mitzvah isn't so totally foreign. We'll see. Obviously, the most important thing is that Hannah is a good person, and I don't think ANY religion (or philosophy) has cornered the market on that.

One doesn't need religion to be "good", one just has to be considerate and respectful of the needs of others. I think religion can help us put that in perspective, but we've also all seen examples of religion binding folks' eye's from the obvious truth that you should treat those around you with the same love and respect you'd like to be shown.

So I'll hold the horoscope to this tantalizing promise,
You may not understand the reason for everything that's happening, but you'll have time to put your amazing day into perspective later if you just let it unfold without resistance.
and we'll see what this weekend brings.

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Don't I Know You?

It's been a week since my last blog post - I seldom let this much time go by without an update.

The truth is, I've been frustrated. BY THE SKIRT.

Stupid skirt.

The good news is that the Mango Moon Silk Ribbon rips out and reknits VERY nicely. The bad news is that I'm just not able to get my mind wrapped around the best way to get this skirt done.

I'm at the point of just leaving it and moving on to something else.

I know that's the wise thing to do - obviously this skirt is just not that into me, and the more I pursue it, the more of an idiot I appear. Didn't I go through this in college? Several times?

I need to be cagier, less eager, act like I don't really care.

"Oh, I remember you!
You're that - skirt - I used to hang around with, right?

I was SO young and inexperienced then, what a fool I must have seemed.

So how are you? Been getting around much, finding other folks to knit you up?

No?

Quel suprise!"


So I'm putting it aside and moving on. At my low points it makes me sad, makes me weep, and makes me feel as though I've wasted a week of my life.

But it's not a failure, just a deferred success, right? The time spent on the skirt isn't wasted, it's hard earned knit design training and when I DO return to the skirt I'll be more refreshed. I hope.

So I'll put this lovely yarn away, to return to another day, and continue on with the EGYPTIAN SET! I'll be swatching this morning so I can figure out the pattern, then I'll dive into it.

Shoulder
Yes, it still hurts. Dang. Perhaps if I hadn't been fool enough to RAKE THE ENTIRE BACK YARD the other day, I'd be more whole. And for added emphasis I dug out all of the leaves in the front yard under the hedge.

I am a fool - but my yard is tidier!


To be honest I couldn't help myself - it was a lovely, warm day, I was reading about gardeners, and I felt the need for seed. Unfortunately there's still no planting going on in our tiny yard - the ground is solid (it's frozen just a few inches down wherever I dig, and we still have a couple of icebergs in our yard) but the trees are budding.

Visits
On Saturday afternoon my good friend Karen came by, along with Gail and Annie A., and we sat on our back deck and knitted, ate, drank some fine wine and had a lovely time. I love my friends, love meeting new ones and love that I've reached a point where I'm developing some deeper friendships here.

Earlier on Saturday I biked over to Amore Coffee with Maxie and met a neighbor who's also a knitting guild member. What a joy to have neighbors who knit - nice, kind, smart, funny neighbors who get my jokes and KNIT!

So sore shoulder and non-functioning skirt design be damned, it's Spring and every day that it's sunny I'm out on my bike. Life is good, my taxes are almost done and I never have to get on skiis again if I don't want to.

Speaking of skiing, Gerry and I have both been pretty shaken by Natasha Richardson's tragic accident.

As you may recall, he did great with the skiing, even making it down the smallest non-bunny hill a few times (sitting down on the way twice.) I gave up after lesson #2, falling on my shoulder during the second lesson seemed to have clipped my wings.

So when we heard about Ms. Richardson's fall on a beginner slope, and how quickly it became fatal, it made us both swallow hard. I wear my helmet when I bike, and from now on I'll make sure that if any of us are doing something with the possibility of a violent fall we'll have appropriate headgear. I hadn't realized just how many fatalities are caused by head injury.

If nothing else comes of this senseless accident, I hope that more folks begin to realize how fragile our skulls are, how sensitive our brains, and how easily we can leave those we love behind.

So, yes, I guess I'll take the sore shoulder with gratitude. Now on to some new swatching...

...and have I mentioned how in love our cats are with each other?

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

On to Greece!

I'm sorry I've been posting less often, my shoulder's been pretty painful and I've been devoting my active time to knitting rather than blogging.

I've been working up the 3 pieces I'm calling the Minoan Set, so named because the design is based on garments worn by the Minoan Snake Goddess statuette discovered on Crete. I thought this would be a wonderful chance to use simple shapes and rustic fibers to create an interesting historical silhouette.

The fiber for the two tops (Shrug & Surplice) is Dharma, a recycled silk by Mango Moon, giving the piece an almost 'raw silk-like' appearance. It looks rough, but feels SO lovely and has a deep shine that isn't apparent at first glance.

These aren't showy pieces, but they're warm and very alive. They're also an odd combination of body skimming, yet barely shaped.

I'm particularly happy with the shaping on the surplice, which is so simple that it feels like an Eileen Fisher piece to me.

There is a bit of shaping lower down on the fronts, and I do a tricky manuver where I join the shoulders except for a few sts at the front necks and use these stitches to create a neck hugging back collar.

The shrug is shaped by creating a rectangle which is split halfway up the length to create the Fronts edges. When the rectangle is finished, it's folded lengthwise and the underarm seams are joined. The remaining stitches are picked up and worked in ribbing to create the very short body.

Simple, but effective.

I think I'm especially pleased with these pieces because I had an idea for them, but I wasn't 100% sure it would work. It was one of those things where I held the details at arms length and just picked a yarn which spoke to me and jumped in with both feet.

These were Garments of Trust, which I've learned can only be created when many, many hours of pondering precede the jumping.

Add to that my discovery that this fiber does NOT like to be ripped out, and once I'd started I knew I had to be disciplined in my leaping, no matter how free-form it may seem to someone watching from the outside.

Next up is the skirt, which I'll be starting tonight. It's going to be out of a lovely, earthy, colorful ribbon and my challenge is to make the fabric light enough to be comfortable, but not too - ahem - ventilated. Stay tuned!

Ski Bum
Max is officially a ski kid. I cannot believe how much he's taken to this sport - it's in his blood. So we headed off to Play It Again sports armed with our 20% off coupon (thank you, local paper!) and got him some incredibly well priced skis and boots. LOVE the end of the winter sales. Bottom line - for the cost of 2 rentals he's outfitted for next year.

Until he outgrows the boots. But we've discovered a wonderful event called the Ski Swap which reportedly takes place in October, and we may be swapping up a size in Max's boots.

We'd love to find some skis & boots for Hannah, too, as that will allow her to join the ski club at her school and go off every few weeks to Afton Alps for less than I'd every expected. It really is a wonderland here - there is SO much for kids to do.

Myself? I will not be downhill skiing. But I have taken the suggestions on snowshoeing very seriously, and that - and/or cross country skiing - may be my winter sport of choice. Or knitting.

Cruise
I just received my tickets / info for the Craft Cruise I'll be participating in with Drew Emborsky in early April. I am MORE excited than I'd imagined I'd be, Drew is such a doll and I'm very excited to have so much casual time with a group of students. The only fly in the ointment is that the cruise - or at least my portion - isn't as full as I would have wished. Oh, well.

I've been told that Caribbean Cruises are especially difficult to fill these days, and I would give quite a bit to be able to afford to take Gerry, but I can either choose to fret over these two things or I can choose to prepare.

So I'll prepare - and hopefully it will be the start of a series of terrifyingly well-attended cruises. ("Everybody - let's play Titanic! Run to the bow!!) and the next one will be a greater success in the signups department.

Drama Queen
Hannah's discovered theater (I wondered when it would happen!) and just came home GLOWING from her first performance at her Jr. High play. I missed opening night (driving Max to his own activities) but tomorrow night is my night to see her shine.

Sometimes Gerry and I just sit back in amazement at how our kids are growing in so many different, wonderful directions here in Minnesota. This is a good place to be for an 11 & 12 year old, that's for sure.

Tweedle-lee-deedle-lee-dee
I am LOVING Twitter, and I don't care who knows it.

There's been a lot of trash talk about it lately from folks who a) Aren't tweeting, b) Are threatened by the tweet, and c) Just like to say nasty things about new technology.

But I adore it.

I get updates from my congressman (okay, I wish he were, but he's in the adjacent district. Love me some Keith Ellison...) and from one of my favorite senators, Claire M. And my favorite Top Chef contestant.

I get coupons from my favorite local pizza place, got back in touch with an old friend from my Martha Stewart days, and receive Ravelry updates on open ad space. I can find out what my favorite NPR pundit, code monkey, fiber mover & shaker, dark lord, yarn company, political TV wonk (and this one, too) or independent soul are doing.

When one works at home - works alone - it's, well, lonely. I'm very self motivated, I can get a lot of stuff done AND do a Wii workout before noon, but I miss having other designer-y, knitter-y, crochet-y folks to bounce ideas off of.

But this is the closest thing I have to co-workers - to a water cooler - here in my house.

It's also a great place to troll for unsuspecting scrabble partners (I recently got five bingos in one game and have my opponent convinced I have sacrificed a small animal to the Scrabble gods)

And that's why my Tweeter avatar is the image to the left.

If you're interested in Twitter, a great place to start is one of the desktop applications that allow you to receive tweets, follow folks, without tying up a browser window. I use Twhirl, suggested by Guido (it's a purl man podcast) and I've been loving it.

So - here's one vote FOR Twitter. And Daniel Schorr agrees.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

JAX

I think I received more emails from folks about how much they love Jacksonville, and I have to visit X, Y or Z while I'm in town, than I have any other city I've recently visited.

The flight here was uneventful - an exit row was the key to my joy, and excellent knitting (Hannah socks), and a new British History book on my ipod.

Why is it that yarn looks so much better on a plane? Is it the quality of the light up above the clouds?


Speaking of looking good - I'm in Jacksonville! It's absolutely beautiful here. Lovely. And it's 70 degrees. I'm insane enough to love snow, and cold, but I'm also no fool.

I only wish Gerry could be here to enjoy the hot tub (he got an okay to go into a pool from his doctor - but she'd prefer we wait until Spring. I feel that will be key to him being able to begin to develop the muscles that have atrophied in the past year)

So here I am, in my great and comfy hotel room, on TV a political festival, and my knitting laid out in front of me. Life is good.

Tea is brewing, cookies are here and I'm missing Gerry and the kids (not good, but bittersweet in that I have such an amazing family to miss... Tonight is Hannah's school concert and I'm so blue that I'm missing it. Dang.)

I found out minutes before I left that due to a misunderstanding the yarn shop hadn't made a hotel reservation, That's really my fault, I don't think I was clear enough - I obviously need to make that portion of my letter of agreement easier to understand.

This is how we learn, right?

It's no big deal - and actually probably turned out for the best because I used Priceline and got a SWEET room at the Radison for $65. Yay!

Then I visited my favorite car rental site, carrental.com, and got a really lovely rate for 2 days- $17/day at Alamo - which turns out to be cheaper than cabs!

I know it's a good rate when the clerk at the desk is impressed...

So I'm here, I'm free, I have the lovely time to decompress and unwind.

The absolute hardest thing about what I do is getting the professional Annie separated from Annie-the-buddy. Both Annies need time to 'get over' a flight (and need to have time to just have the meanies every now and then.)

That's SO hard when you're getting a ride from someone - so hard for them, and so hard for me to be "on" and up and good/kind/sweet when I'm still switching time zones and grumbling about airport layouts.

So the ability to rent a car is my idea of a dream. I'm in heaven. Yay.

And this way I get to see scenery - and go places on my own - and I'm not tied to a hotel restaurant!

So I went for a drive - across the street - and got a salad and brought it back to my hotel room. A salad and a beer, dinner of the gods.

Speaking of dinner of the gods, a friend made us some soup recently and it was delicious. SO delicious, as a matter of fact, that I found myself waking up and sneaking downstairs at 6:00 am to have a bowl.

And the soup is supposed to be good for us, too. That was a kind and dear thing - and so much better than sneaking downstairs for a cookie. Thank you!

Gotta run - Keith's on and I have some knitting to do. Heaven, I tells ya!

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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, June 11, 2007

Okay... So I'll Ask -

UPDATE

We just got the word that the Mayo Clinic can see us tomorrow. As in Wednesday. We're squaring away babysitting for the kids tomorrow, hopefully we can make that come together.

Worse comes to worse, we can take them with us (but I have a feeling this will be another on of "The Talks" and it's best that Dad & Mom have the car ride home to collect themselves before seeing the kids again...)

The, perhaps, more testing on Thurs & Fri (& Sat?) to determine if/when the stem cell transplant should happen (2-3 months is the estimate) In case of more testing we'll probably get a hotel room for Gerry so I can return home and be with the kids those nights. If only I could split in two.

The general consensus from your incredibly kind emails and posts is that I should ask for help when I need it.

PJ said it best in her comment on my last post:

...make a list of all the things that need doing that are getting in the way right now - meal planning, grocery shopping, car pooling, you know - all the crap. Then enlist friends, community, knitters at the LYS, support groups of any kind and ask them for help.

I have learned the hard way that the asking for help is the hardest thing to do, but that people are so thankful to be asked, given a task, made to feel helpful in what turns out to be a small way for them and a huge relief for you.

It works best if there is one person to coordinate all the helpers and then all you have to do is ask that one time.
As you know, we're new here in the Twin Cities. Folks are great - everyone here has been very kind - but I know you know what I mean when I say there's a certain familiarity one feels they should have before asking for a ride somewhere, or if someone knows of a babysitter (or might babysit themselves...) or could drop off dinner while I'm out of town teaching. Asking is so hard.

The social worker at the University of MN gave us information about a website, lots a helping hands, which coordinates helpers, and after a few false starts I've actually been able to log on and establish a website.

The idea is that as the caretaker for a person with cancer, I'm allowed to establish a private web page where I can post things that our family needs done (rides, meals, babysitting).


We will slowly start developing a group of volunteers who live near us and want to help out in some way. I think it will make coordinating the help that we'll need MUCH easier - and makes asking less uncomfortable.

I'm hoping that it will be a tremendous resource. I don't have a lot of folks to add right now - I have a buttload of friends in cyber space, but not a lot of flesh-and-blood friends in the area. I'm thinking before I actually add someone to my volunteer list I should at least meet them in person (make sure there are no axe murderers lurking - yeah, right...)

If this sort of thing interests you, and you live near-by-ish, drop me a line and perhaps we can get together at a knitting meetup or stitch and bitch. I actually haven't been to any in town since we've moved here, and I'd LOVE to go to one or eight, so let me know where you meet and I'll try to come by and say "Hi!" Perhaps that will allow us to develop an in-person friendship and I can add you to the list of volunteers.

Those of you who don't live nearby - your support and friendship is so needed and so appreciated. It's hard for me to express how grateful I am, knowing I can come to my blog and write about a crappy day, and get a few very nice responses that make me feel less alone.

You have no idea how many times I've edited and re-written this post. Such a flagrant appeal for help is rough to do. As much as you guys think good thoughts for me, I think the same thoughts for all of you.

My great hope for you is that you don't find yourselves in this position.
Or, if you do, that you have the kind of on-line support system that you're all providing to me.

Thank you!

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Stuporvision

A shot of Columbus in the rain, after a few G&T's, stumbling strolling back to the hotel. Quickly. Because I had to pee.

Thank god for the lobby bathroom at the Hyatt. Aren't you glad you left early, James?


TNNA Redux

I had a hell of a time. Yes, I did, an I'm not ashamed to say it. Haircut and all, I was a friggin' derelict. I haven't had that much fun in Columbus since I was 20. At least I'm legal now.


Max just asked me how old I am for a class project on finding averages & means. I told him I was 25. He doesn't believe me.


The Potter Party on Sunday night was amazing fun. Then again, I have fun just about everywhere I go. I had several G&T's, my drink of choice for a warm night, and bonded with new friends (whose booth I TOTALLY missed) and with some old, good friends.


The
Lorna's Laces girls are wild women - be warned...

Favorite part? Whenever they called a winning number for a raffle I'd squeal and yell, "Oh my GOD!" I kept changing my location around the room.
Hi, I'm 4.

Next favorite part? When I convinced Amanda
to yell, "BINGO!" when the final number was called. Meet my friend, Amanda - she's 4, too!

Third favorite part? Engaging in some rather - ahem - salty dialogue with a few guys & a girl from the
Vermont Organic Fiber Company.

I thought they were the AV guys because I'd MISSED THEIR BOOTH (what a fool I was) but they were incredibly cool. We had a Tony Soprano-off (which continued pretty much the entire evening, and was a magnificent way to relieve a little stress.)


This was after we'd compared our adorable kids' photos on our ipods.
Techno-geeky proud parents showing photos of their 4-year old children.

Then on to the Tip Top bar for more drinks (I had iced tea) and the aformentioned stumble back to the Hyatt.

Passing through the bar on my way to the elevator (funny how that route goes, huh?) I spied Eliot from
Artyarns and sat with him and Joanna [friendly neighborhood yarn rep] & her husband. A G&T and a bit of conversation later (Eliot, you ignorant slut...) I was finally, to bed, to rest from my 4 maniac days of yarn-walking.

The yarn booth reps rush over when someone is mauling the fibers to see if they can gracefully extricate the fingers from the yarn. I always say, "I'm not a yarn shop - I'm just a designer!" because I'm not a potential sale - and that really IS the biggest reason to have a booth at TNNA!

However, it's nice when they stop, look at my name and
(if they know me) ask me if there's a yarn I'd like to swatch up. That means so much, and I put those companies in the front of my to-be-swatched basket when I'm trying to come up with new ideas.

At times this weekend I would see a yarn I really, really liked, but just didn't feel that I had the mental energy to schmooze a swatching ball out of the rep
(not to take away - usually they'll send a ball to me after the show and I'll find a way to use it in a pattern or book.) I'm usually better at this, but just seemed to be lacking the "Hi, I'm Annie - I love your yarn!" patter this time around.

Best Stuff I Saw

This can in no way be a totally
complete list. Bear in mind I was in a fog this TNNA. I had 3 classes, 2 book signings - those take a lot of energy and focus.

Because of this blog & the kindness of knitters, there were myriad lovely folks stopping to give me a pat or some encouragement.
If they got weepy, though, I stomped on their foot. Be warned. And Thank You - everyone!

Prism Arts
Perhaps my favorite yarn at the show was Lotus (wool/bamboo/silk), which was dyed extraordinarily well. I stroked, loved it, made a fool of myself, and slunk off without the courage to ask for some. Alas.

Artyarns
I am thrilled that Iris has added beads to the Silk Rhapsody (one of the nicest knitting experiences one can have, and the main yarn in the back cover sweater for Romantic Hand Knits) Serendipitously, I had added some beads to my own ball of SR when working up a little bag, so Iris was able to use the bag as a sample!

Tilli Tomas
We know I love these yarns. I love them. Mwa. I kees you, you magnificent yarn! I'll be playing with some new spun silk, Plie & Demi Pliˇ, later this evening. I'll be taking the phone off the hook.

Yarn Place
I hadn't used these yarns before, but I fell in love with their Bel Canto DK and Vivace. I truly am a sucker for a multi color ply. I cannot WAIT to get some of this on my needle!

Trendsetter Yarns (Lane Borgosesia)
I adored Harmony (wool/polyamide/polyester) - it's a really lovely blend - not too novelty-y for me (I'm so square) but with lots of zing. Just lovely. I was also transported by their yarn, Tonalita (wool/acryllic) - I love the colors and the way it's dyed. And I left my hat at the booth. Damn.

Needful Yarns
Their wool/silk/cashmere Feeling was extraordinary, as was their new Kaleidoscope (which is rather bulky as it's a chained yarn, but had a light feeling)


Crystal Palace Yarns
I fell in love with Taos (wool) and Kaya (wool) - I really dig the blending of the yarns. Very nice. They also had a yarn, Maizy (corn & elastic nylon) that will be a fun yarn to use for a variety of projects. Very pretty.


I LOVE Southwest Trading's AMaizing - it's the yarn used on the cover of Romantic Hand Knits - but this may give it a run for its' money! It's a trifle thinner.

Lorna's Laces
Shepherd Wooltop - Just being around this stuff makes me happier than is legal in 4 states.

Mountain Colors Yarn
I stroked and stroked their new Mountain Goat yarn until David from
Unicorn Books across the aisle came over to see if I was alright. Yes, indeedy. I'm fine.

Cherry Tree Hill
The Supersock Dk that they had was really stunning - great colors - and lots of good "guy" colors!


The Alpaca Yarn Company
They were presenting a new yarn, Paca-peds, which is an alpaca/wool/nylon blend - great for sox, and beautifully dyed! And Superwash!!

Ecolution Pure Hemp
Lanaknits has it all over them on color choices, but I liked Ecolution Pure Hemp's selection of twine thicknesses, and will be asking for some to work up a series of hemp hats (some wired, some not...) which should be easy care and fun to wear. I like twine.


I think Lanaknits is the place to go, though, for cutting edge colors and really nice blends of hemp and other fibers, as well as pure hemp!


Alchemy
There were amazing colors and fibers at this booth - great textures and lovely yarns. Unfortunately, I've found that it's hard to get swatching balls sometimes from them, which is understandable (I'm sure everyone and their sister wants several!) so I don't work with this yarn as much as I'd like.


I am working up a shawl right now for VK in their Wool/Silk blend Sanctuary - it's going to be gorgeous

The Cascade Yarn Company
I really liked their new Dolce (alpaca/wool/silk) and Cash Vero (merino/acryllic/cashmere) - they seemed to have a lovely hand, but I'd really like to knit some up to see how they "play."


Back in St. Paul

Now I'm home - home to my husband who looks great
(and apparently walked quite a bit yesterday up Grand Ave during the Grand Old Days celebration with his walker) and to my kids, who are beautiful and loud. Life is good.

I can tell he's glad I'm here - 4 days just about taxed his resources.

He didn't want to drive much while I was away, but we live near a CVS so if we need milk, etc., the kids can run up and get it. Thank heaven. And we have friends. It's hard for me to reach out - it's harder for him to do so.


Of course, into each life a little rain must fall - and when it rains on me it tends to pour. I'd love to see my horoscope for this day, but so far this has happened to me:
  1. A beautiful yellow-ware bowl that I bought several years ago, and was worth $300 on Saturday, was broken into 300 pieces on Sunday. By Max. By accident. Geeze, I loved that bowl. Here's a photo of Max & Bowl in happier days.

  2. Two bags in my suitcase - a small manicure case and a larger matching bag - were missing from my luggage when I got home. This has been the cursed luggage trip.

    The damage? Oh, only the Alchemy yarn that I was supposed to be making this shawl out of, that's what was in the bag. I've written to VK for more yarn, let's hope it's not too much of a nightmare. I've filed a report with NW, but I'm not expecting a lot.

  3. I discovered that my beautiful Motobecan bike was stolen during the Grand Old Days celebration when Gerry and the kids were out for a walk. The question about who left the gate open is up in the air, but I'm going with Hannah because Max has the bowl on his ledger right now.

    Damn. I'd only ridden it half a dozen times, but I loved it. Damn.
Everytime I go to TNNA I seem to lose something. I was so proud that I had my phone, ipod, glasses - EVERYTHING when I left the hospital. So I guess they made up for it at home and at the airport.

And now I just feel - tired. I'd love to snooze for a week, but I'll be knitting for this evening. I did get a nap today (yay!) and Gerry was feeling well enough to take Max to baseball this evening. I hope Maxie did well!

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Man Proposes

Today was rough. We met with a doctor and social worker at the U of M's Bone Marrow Treatment Clinic, they discussed treatment options (really, only one option) and their words reinforced what we'd read - but not really digested - before.
The average survival is more than 3 years after the disorder is diagnosed, but survival time varies widely depending on the features at the time of diagnosis and the response to treatment. ...

Because multiple myeloma is ultimately fatal, people with multiple myeloma are likely to benefit from discussions of end-of-life care that involve their doctors and appropriate family and friends. Points for discussion may include advance directives (see Legal and Ethical Issues: Advance Directives), the use of feeding tubes, and pain relief (see Death and Dying: Choosing Treatment Options).
I took notes today - I know I did - but when I look at them I find them completely confusing. I need a translator to read my notes.

It's like in college when I took my zoology notes in French - which I was failing - in the vain hope that I'd improve in both classes. I didn't.

The doctor we spoke with was very nice, if soft spoken. I wish I could have heard what she was saying better.

It seems so inelegant to keep saying, "Huh?!" when someone is telling you that the love of your life has incurable cancer.
She did her best, we definitely had some kind of a delayed reaction to her words.

Huh? Wha? Excuse me?


The whole thing was very surreal.
I noticed a sign in the elevator explaining that translators would be available for patients and family members. I wonder if I can get a medical-to-English translator?

So - on to the good news. Hmmm, what IS the good news...? [sound of crickets]


Well, Gerry's young, and he's pretty healthy (except for this Multiple Myeloma garbage) so he should respond well to treatment.

It seems that sometime in September they'll remove stem cells - they need to get at least 2 million, 5 million is what they're looking for. (A million cells here, a million cells there, and pretty soon we're talking about a mess o'cells.)


This is where I get foggy.

I seem to recall something about removing the cells, giving Gerry some high dose chemo and then putting the cells back IN the bone to rebuild the marrow that they've destroyed with the chemo. Of course, they're aiming to destroy the plasma cells, destroying the marrow is just a little extra touch.

And this is how they'll rid Gerry of the cells causing the myeloma - the bad guys. (If we don't fight them over there... well, you know how that ends. At least we can say with full honesty that THEY attacked Gerry.)


When all of this is done, the "life extension" (which sounds like something that bald men order from late-night TV) would be from 3-5 years. We're both still wrapping our minds around this.

T h r e e - t o - F i v e.

How much extra can we get for good behavior?


In our current medical climate, 3-5 years is a long time. Of course, not as long as it would be if we had a prez who actually believed in stem cell research, but a lot can happen in 3-5 years.

Right? Tell me I'm right.


Apparently there are two markers which portend a person's chance of getting this illness, and our Gerry has both. Always the overachiever. According to the doctor, this would put him in the shorter end of the 3-5 year scale. A lot can happen in 3 years, right? Right?

We both gulped hard - we were very adult - we didn't cry (at that moment) and Gerry was amazing with his stack of test results and envelope of paperwork. Later at home he asked me if he seemed obsessed with his manilla envelope - not really.

Manilla envelope = vague sense of control over this thing.

I have a database, he has a manilla envelope - each of us clings to our own coping mechanism.


Of course, just before we left we discovered that our insurance doesn't want Gerry to go to U of M for treatment. They prefer the Mayo Clinic. I don't know WHAT we prefer - but I am looking forward to meeting with the Mayo folks and getting a second - perhaps clearer? - opinion. How clear they can be when so much is in question is not - clear.

I have to say that this whole thing sucks. Sucks for Gerry, sucks for all of us. We're ready for that metaphysical infusion of wisdom and clarity, Mr. DeMille...

S.S.
We're dragging the manilla envelope plus every family document we've acquired in our 15 years of marriage down to Social Security tomorrow when we go to convince them that yes, he is sick and cannot work.

There's a 6 month waiting period from application date until disability payments begin - ch and ching - so the drunken sailor spending will have to stop. Actually, we're spending like a very sober sailor, I'm being facetious. The small extravagances aside, we're a frugal lot.


I think I scooted into "dealing with it mode" with alarming speed. Hmm, maybe THIS is my coping mechanism? Or perhaps I'm kind of in denial, but in my heart of hearts I feel that Gerry's going to be in the 10% that makes a good, full, longer-than-five-years recovery.

And you know I'm never wrong about these things.


Immediately I began making plans for turning our upstairs office into a faux guest room, making space in the basement for another sofa bed in case we need it, and seriously doubting the sanity of adding a bathroom when we may need the money for - well - getting through this.


I wish we had unlimited money - don't we all? - so I could just take time off and be with Gerry. I'm doing quite a bit of that this summer, but bills are bills. Ours aren't going to stop any time soon. The last thing I want to do is cancel teaching dates, but looking at my Fall teaching schedule I'm getting a little scared about being able to be with Gerry when he needs me. We were told by the Social Worker that now is the time rely on friends and family in the area.

This is the point I broke down sobbing in the office. (No, not when they told me that the worst case scenario is that Gerry is looking at 3-5, no, I cried because we'll have to get help. Lovely.)

And what a helpful thing bursting into tears is - if only I had been alone in the car.


Coming on the tail end of our solo Memorial Day Weekend, we're feeling rather isolated. How Little House on the Prairie of us.

KNITTING et al
Part of me is happy to be going to TNNA on Thurs. I'll see a lot of friends, teach some classes - work is good for occupying the obsessive part of the brain, and do some schmoozing. I'd put aside the idea of trying to pitch a book to anyone there - I'd been playing with the idea of self publishing a color book.

But now all I can think is that I need - really need - to find some large scale project I can do here at home without a lot of travel, yet still make enough for mortgage. Something good will fall in front of me (which is why it's a good idea to stop the insane crying before I hit it with my PT cruiser.)

Another part of me is afraid I won't be able to face ANYONE without bursting into tears. Or vice versa. This has been known to significantly reduce the enjoyment of a class, so I promise not to do that. They have wonderful drugs for that now.

But I can't promise that I won't have a lot of "bathroom time" during the weekend. My own little porcelain, tile & chrome oasis. I should probably think about renting a car just to have something to sit in & bawl.

I think I may be avoiding some of the parties. On the other hand,
can you say, "Open Bar?"

Wish us luck tomorrow with the bureaucrats - another language I never mastered.

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Friday, April 20, 2007

They're HEEEE-EEEERRRRR!

Flipknits are here, and they're beautiful [baby]!

I'm as proud as an - well, as an author looking at 10,000 copies of her new books!


When the driver from the shipping company dropped off the HUGE pallet of books, I told him that they were all books.

- You must really like to read, lady!

He was joking. He was actually really funny, and when I told him what I did for a living and what the books were, he asked where he could sign up to take a knitting class (this was after I mentioned Men Who Knit, and we bonded over our love of doggies)

I ripped open the plastic surrounding the pallet, cut through the straps and opened up a box of each type of book and - to my great relief - they were perfectly beautiful! The mix up noticed in the proof of the knit book pages glued to the increase book covers (and vice versa) had been fixed. The covers are lovely and the color clear, they're beautiful books!

I sent out all of the individual orders and many of the wholesale orders - on Monday I'll send out the rest, so those of you who pre-ordered (THANK you!) will be getting them in the next few days!

I donated a box of the books to the Minnesota Knitters Guild to hand out at the Yarnover tomorrow. I'll also have complete sets to sell in my classes - but mainly I just want to get a bunch of them into the hands of knitters so I can see the flipping happening. I'm so easily amused. Maybe I'll have all the knitters do the wave tomorrow...

Friend Time
My new friend Catherine came by this evening and was so helpful - what a gift it is to have someone stop by and lend a hand - she helped me get many 4-packs of books assembled and packed. THANK YOU!

Her son and Maxie have developed a great friendship - there aren't words to describe how happy I am to see Max eagerly anticipate a playdate with his new buddy. She also took Hannah to try a synchronized swimming thingie, which I think Hannah enjoyed more than she admitted.

Although I do live in St. Paul, I couldn't turn down 2 nights in a hotel for some rest and relaxation (and a whirlpool!) This is the "me time" that I've been pining for - and Gerry's just 10 minutes away with the kidlets!

This evening Max & Hannah and their new buddy and Catherine and I went down to the pool (the kids swam, adults watched) and Hannah gave some of the new synchro moves a try. She's not half bad, and I hope that she decides to give it a whirl. Swimming is such good exercise! And I was especially glad that - given how helpful the kids have been - I was able to give them a little swimming treat tonight!


Gerry's stayed at home to rest, and for a bit of alone time himself.


Medical Stuff

Today we saw the oncologist and got the official diagnosis of Multiple Myeloma. He outlined a treatment plan for the next few months and started Gerry on Thalidomide & Dexamethasone right away. The next step is Zometa, an intravenous drip, which will reduce the calcium in his blood and thus help his energy, strength and - not least - his outlook. I am so proud of how he keeps his sense of humor - his joy - in the midsts of what must be a very scary time, not to mention uncomfortable and painful.

We heard from a good friend that he'll be in town in 2 weeks for business and would love to visit. Gerry and I are BOTH so excited to see him - it will be very good for both of us, but especially for Gerry. It's hard that he hasn't had a chance to develop any male friendships, I can tell he misses that.

When Gerry's strength improves and he's feeling better, it will be time for high dose chemo and stem cell transplant (the cells would have been taken from him) I'm not sure how much I understand all of this myself . Gerry - one of the smartest folks I know - is a little foggy due to the pain meds and calcium in the blood. So I have to educate myself and get on top of it. Knowledge is power, and we have a lot to learn and think about.

It seems though, at this time, that we're looking at about a year of this before we return to our regularly scheduled lives. And, as I said yesterday, a year is fathomable.

Just look at where I was a year ago tonight...

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Alison's Scarf
Link to pdf file of cable/trellis lace scarf


Hannah's Poncho
Link to pdf file of multi-sized poncho



Chullo-licious


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