Walking My Bike

It’s been a very busy few weeks, mostly with me sitting squarely on my butt, but yet it’s been frantic. But more about that later…


Cover by Franklin!

Whenever I travel and teach, I’m asked by at least one person, “How can I become a hand knit designer…?” and I answer them as best I can.

Actually, I start by asking, “Do you have a secondary income source and health insurance…” because you’ll need that as much as design chops or knitting skills.

As long as magazines like Vogue Knitting continue to pay designers only 10% of online pattern sales (they’re actually paying me NOTHING right now because I won’t agree to their insulting 10%) then other  magazines have no problem offering 36 designs in an issue where 24 would do, and – like Vogue – paying the designers a watered down fee that is lower than designers were paid in the 80’s.

But I rant digress.

When folks ask me now about how to become a hand knit designer, I can point them to the best book on this subject I’ve ever read.  And that’s NOT just because I have an interview in it.

The KNITGRRL Guide to Professional Knitwear Design is wonderful.  In appearance, it’s like those generic “SUGAR” and “CIGARETTES” packages you’d find in supermarkets in the 80’s (second 80’s reference in one post.  I am old.)

It’s simple, direct, and doesn’t pull any punches.

If you’re contemplating a career in knit design, or if you’re already designing, this book is WELL worth your time!

And I’m giving one away!  Look under your chair and you’ll find your copy!

Just kidding. Write a comment about ANYTHING and you’ll be in the pool for the book.  The winner will be picked at random on July 7th.


Twisted Float in LL Shep Worsted

Four online classes started on July 1, two old friends (Combination Knitting & Mitered Handbag) and 2 brand new ones (Twisted Float & Lace Bootcamp). You can still get in on them without missing anything, really.   Just sayin’  Use code “july” for 25% off!

As of right now, I still have several videos to complete for the new classes (there are at between 5-7 videos up in each classroom, plenty to keep the students going for at least a week)

Why am I behind?  If I say, “I don’t know.” would that officially count as denial?

I have pain. That’s the truth.

I had been thinking about getting an intern, an assistant, something to help me get through the work.  I wasn’t quite expecting that my constant companion would be Pain (and let me tell you, Pain is a notoriously bad assistant.)

Pain is like that friend who comes over and just hangs out, and you can’t get ANYTHING done while they’re lounging on your sofa, eating your chips and watching your cable TV.  My pain just drops in, always uninvited, and I really never know when it’s going to turn up.  Sometimes it doesn’t even knock, it just barges in – SURPRISE! – like Jill Zarin in St. John.

But I still have work – a mountain of it – and I’m just moving slower and slower and slower.

Obviously I’m not blogging as much as I used to, I’m hardly twittering (which I enjoy as the ‘water cooler’ in my life – my connection with co-workers in the fiber world, like the aforementioned Ms. Okey) and my designing is a mere memory most days.

And the mountain grows.

I’ve saw a doctor at the MN Head & Neck Pain Center last week, he asked if I exercised and I told him I ride my bike between 2-6 miles every day.  Which is absolutely true!  I’ve discovered that riding my bicycle, and working up a bit of a sweat, is one of the few ways I can guarantee a few hours of pain free existence.

I’ve learned that one of the best ways to control fibromyalgia pain is through exercise, aerobic is better.  The bike is the most enjoyable for me, it’s something I really WILL do, so I gravitate toward it.

Imagine my chagrin when the doctor responded, “2-6 miles on a bike isn’t that much.  You’re not fit.” Well, obviously not.  Or maybe NOT so obviously not.  Maybe I’m more fit than I look to the naked, size-ist eye…?

As Ramona C pointed out on Facebook when I posted this, Perhaps size-ist prejudice on his part prevents him acknowledging your true fitness level? I think she’s right.  The doctor saw a large woman walk into his office, and his assumption is that I must be one notch up from lazy slob lounging on the sofa (right next to Pain, who hasn’t left yet, by the way…) Well, I’m not.

And I’m not entirely fit either.  Sure, I could lose 20 (or 80) pounds – I’ve lost 40 in this past year – but c’mon doc, give a big girl her props!  I’m MUCH more fit than I was a year ago, even with the pain I’m more fit.  Seriously.

I rode my bike to my physical therapy on Wednesday (my last day with insurance – live it up!) and got a much warmer response from my PT about my bike riding.  Thank you.

And I felt encouraged.  Not like I wanted to tie myself to my bike and throw myself in Lake Como.  Which I sort of felt like when the doctor dismissed my measly 2-6 miles a day.  Just sayin’

I ride my bike whenever I need to make a short local trip (Trader Joe’s, Kowalski’s, CVS, or to Max’s baseball games) and I feel pain free afterward.  It’s a great high.

I’ve been experimenting with longer trips (no, Dr. X had nothing to do with that.  Okay, maybe a little) and I definitely need to balance the length vs. pain-free outcome.  Too long of a ride and I hurt in places I didn’t before.  It’s a pain trade off.

I rode down to Trader Joe’s yesterday – we were out of oatmeal and I crave it now for a variety of reasons.  [hint: if your digestion could you a kick start, try oatmeal for a week]

It's a cat...

Coming back from Trader Joe’s with a basket full of bananas and oatmeal, I realized I just couldn’t ride up the long,low-grade hill up Lexington.  So I hopped off and walked.

A few bikers passed me, they were nice about it, but I felt a bit like a sludge.  A sludge pushing a bike.  Not to be confused with a cat flushing a toilet.

And then it hit me – the hill, the bike, the groceries – they were an analogy for my current situation.

The bike is my life.  It can go fast, or it can go slow.  I’m in control to an extent, but the landscape I travel is also a consideration.

Just when I think I'm at the summit...

The basket is my work, my duties, all that I’ve taken on.  Sometimes it’s empty, usually it just carries my knitting bag, but sometimes it’s filled with heavy groceries.

The hill is the trajectory my life’s taken.  Right now it’s uphill.  That’s not to say it’s entirely not enjoyable, there are GREAT moments when you’re going uphill, but it’s definitely harder than riding downhill.

Gerry’s illness, my illness, that’s the hill.  When the pain abates, when Gerry’s doing well, it’s a plateau.  It hasn’t been downhill for a long, long time.

Gerry’s cancer numbers are on the way up again for the 3rd straight checkup, I have days when I feel absolutely frozen in place, paralyzed by soreness. And my basket is full of the classes I’m teaching, my blog, my designing, my writing – it’s all in there.

The thing is, much as the groceries from Trader Joe’s were all heavy, they were all vital.  I needed all of them.  Well, maybe the chai was an extravagance, but I needed the oatmeal, berries and bananas.

So I pushed my bike and realized that there will be times when I move slower, when I’m carrying the bike as much as the bike is carrying me.

If I were to set the bike down and just walk up the hill, I may be lighter, but when I get to the top of the hill not only do I NOT have my bike and groceries, and I’ll miss out on a lot of fun going down the hill. 

Running down a sidewalk is NOT the same as scooting down the bike lane on my cheap Target dream bicycle!

48 thoughts on “Walking My Bike

  1. Oh Annie, what a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing. I won’t drown you with empty platitudes, but I admire your ability to continue moving forward, inspite of the pain.

    It reminds me of when my mom was going through really bad boughts with her fibro. I remember seeing her sitting in a chair every morning to get ready for work. It took her two hours, but eventually she made it. Like you she is a fighter.

    Keep on fighting Annie, if you have to walk the bicycle, walk the bicycle. The most important thing is that you haven’t stopped moving. The wheels are still turning and you are still on the way to your destination.

  2. Don’t let the dr get you down. They get very limited training in exercise science. What you are doing is spot on. You should feel great after your rides. If you don’t you’re probably overtraininging. It is great to have a goal to do more but go very slow to get there adding no more than 10% a week.

  3. Thank you for the lovely analogy: I can clearly see that several challenging years for my family were much like walking the bicycle up the hill. We had a few beautiful plateaux, and some amazing rides down the wonderful slopes. A very thought-provoking post.

  4. I’ve taken up the bike again after about a 15 year hiatus. I used to ride a good bit, so I still have the mad bike skillz, but I’m out of shape and slow.

    I totally give myself permission to walk up hills now when I need to.

    Here’s one lesson I learned from cycling, way back when:

    When you’re at the bottom of a hill looking up at it, it can look horrible and impossible to get up. But if you keep moving (pedaling or even walking), once you’re on the hill you see it’s not quite as steep as it looks from the bottom. The trick is just to keep moving along, and before you know it, you’re sailing down the other side of the hill. 🙂

  5. I was so happy to see your new post….but sad that you are feeling so badly. I admire your persistence in the face of unbelievable adversity. It is very intriguing that bike riding stops the pain – even though its only temporary.

    I hope you feel better soon. You accomplish more sick than most people do when they are at the top of their game.

  6. Hey, I am with you , I have Fibro too, I find stretching and walking, to be a great help ( they won’t let me ride a bike, coumadin )

    Laughing relieves the pain too. In Madison they have a laughing club. It helps with pain and relieves stress, and brings oxygen into your system. I watch a lot of old comedies.

    Plus knitting helps calm my nerves when the pain gets out of control. Keep the joints warm.

    You are as old as you feel, right. today I feel like 103. Smiles,

    I too remember the white labels with the black printing.


  7. Finding a doctor that you click with can be such a pain. I had a similar experience with a doctor this week (including a disturbing diagnoses).

    The first things I did when I got home were to make an appointment with a specialist, and start looking for a new GP.

    I am more than my size and so are you.


  8. I always enjoy reading your posts. I relate to them so well. I have been living with lupus for 10 years and I understand your struggles and the attitudes of the doctors. Sometimes they are just pompous asses.

    I used to be really active but I get discouraged from the pain and the limitations my lupus puts on me. I used to do a lot of biking in St. Paul when I lived there.

    I miss Crosby Park, Edgecumbe Road and all the other places I used to ride in Highland Park. Please take care and thanks for sharing your rants.

    cindiluhu4u on ravelry

  9. You lost 40 lbs and are exercising several days a week and all your doc can do is discourage you? I am trying not to be a hater but it is hard.

  10. Thank you for standing up for designer’s rights. It is hard to make a living in the arts and it takes a special person to take a stand to try and make things more fair for everyone. I appreciate it and I know a price is paid for the effort.

    • Thanks so much, Kate!

      It becomes very apparent that I’m a pariah in some knit world circles, I am a loud-mouthed designer who wants to get the clean (non sh*tty) end of the stick every now and then. That’s the price, and it feels high sometimes, but it has to be paid.

      Every plus we have as workers – 2 day weekend, 8 hour day, age limit on child labor, social security, etc., was hard won. This will take time and be hard won, too!

  11. Feel better soon, Annie! (and keep up the bike riding. Doctor dude was not being helpful there, and we all know it! He could have just gently encouraged you to try a bit more…and it doesn’t sound like he did that.)

    I am always impressed by the way you stand up for designing. I’m just copying the last post here but I appreciate it.

  12. The appalling treatment of independent designers by the magazine industry is unconscionable. This resonates for me as a performing artist because it can often feel as though my work is undervalued, that I should be so very thankful for any opportunity to do something I love this much that I should do it almost for free or should overlook unfair practices by employers.

    As to pushing your bike up the hill, honey – keep right on pushing and if any snooty bicyclist riding past gives you a disparaging look just smile and know that you are doing just fine and you don’t have to prove a thing to anyone. Besides, pushing your heavily laden bike up the hill counts as the strength-training portion of your interval workout.

  13. P.S. I just remembered the spandex-clad sylphlike trainer who exhorted zaftig me to do full hardcore push-ups, to which I replied with a smile: ‘how about I just bench press YOU instead?’

  14. Don’t let the doctor dictate how you feel. There were days my husband (a hemophiliac with joint damage everywhere) would “hold his shoulders on” but he never let it stop him. He would say “there are 2 types of people in the world. Underachievers who whine about pain and say “why me”. And overachievers who say “:this is what I have to deal with, let’s move on from here”.
    You, my most wonderful inspiration, are an overachiever.

  15. Geez Annie 40 lbs is a lot to lose in a year … it’s close to a pound a week which is terrific and the proper pace for permanent weight reduction …. maybe the up side of no insurance is you don’t have to go back to that poor excuse for a physician … I had a thought … i lived in MPLS long ago and know that the weather allows outdoor biking too infrequently … could you get an indoor bike upon which you could hop as the urge arose … or one of those in place gadgets for using your outdoor bike indoors … since it is your chosen and enjoyable exercise … it might work/help in that you find relief after biking … if I had a magic wand I would wave it over your household to make all the worries abate … but since I can’t I just offer oms and good vibes and a listening ear …

  16. Have you thought about checking with some of the local colleges and universities about taking on a student intern.

    A lot of programs will offer course credit for independent study projects.

    You usually need

    A) a willing student,
    B) a professor to sponsor the independent study, and
    C) the desire to teach. (Bet you’ve got that last one covered!)

  17. Hi – I’m sure someone will have suggested it before but have you considered accupuncture for the pain? I have MM and find that it increases my overall feeling of well being.

    Oh, oh and I’ll be your intern although my time keeping may be a bit lax as it’s a bit of a commute.

    And while I’m at it, loved the flushing cats! 😀

    • Hi Paula,

      Yes, I’ve been seeing an acupuncturist for over 2 years now. I credit her with allowing me to live pretty much medicine free for my asthma and she’s been AMAZING with the fibro.

      I blog about her every now and then – for folks in the Twin Cities the practice I go to is Crocus Hill Acupuncture. They’re VERY caring.

  18. Dear Annie

    I have to tell you that your post is like my life. As you know, I also have the FMS CFS Along with the Neuro TN ETC.

    Last week after I had lived most of the month on zofran, not eating, I had GAINED 3lbs a day – for 2 weeks.
    The Dr did a similar thing. My trusted confidant Dr did NOT believe me.

    He said, “YOU MUST BE PACKING IN THE FOOD!” And I ate a meal every three days..

    What fools they are who “Treat pain”… without experiencing it. As my dear Hubby who is also ill says “THEY NEED A SMACK UPSIDE THE HEAD!!!”

    I think that every doctor needs to watch THE DOCTOR MOVIE… and get some good old fashioned tests.. and be treated like a patient for 3 months. That will wake them up. If this was instituted in all medical schools maybe the next group of drs will have ENLARGED HEARTS of KINDNESS.

    I feel like Pain / grief are like an ocean wave on the beach. Sometimes it puddles by your feet and tells you it is there… and other times like a tsunami it TRYS to destroy you. I put pain with grief, for there is indeed a sense of Loss and dreams that happen with chronic untreatable incurable pain.

    However I also put my heart in the Place of HOPE. Only God really understands when it is 3 am. Do take care my dear… and keep on writing.. the world needs to hear.

    Hugs, grace

  19. What a FABULOUS post!

    You’ve taken me to school today! THANKS!!!!

    I’ve had a similar experience with my doctor (male, which is part of the problem, I think..) “Eat less, exercise more”- constantly droning in my ear……

    Be PROUD of losing 40 pounds!!! That is QUITE an achievement!

    You do SO much GOOD for so many people…folks you haven’t even met! SO…here’s a little exercise for you.

    Raise your right hand up high over your head…twist at the wrist so your palm faces backward..bend your arm fully at the elbow so your hand (fingers will work) touch your shoulder….. raise your wrist up and down several times in quick succession and PAT YOURSELF ON THE BACK for a JOB WELL DONE!!!!! Repeat as many times a day as necessary!

    You are WONDERFUL! And the best YOU in the whole wide world!!!

  20. Such a wonderful post! with a very true analogy.
    I nearly left my “bike and basket” behind and would have trudged on without them – until I realised that the struggle was worth it. So thank you for putting things into such lovely words…

    And I have to chime in with all the others – 40 pounds is amazing! You are such an inspiration to me (and I’m sure to others as well) not only for knitting, designing but on how to deal with life in general.

    As to doctors – they can be absolute rubbish – my best friend’s doctor suggested she jog several km a day – to someone with MS who is exhausted after a 50m walk on a bad day. Yeah. She ditched him quick luckily. So – if you can – don’t go back to that quack, some of them have lost touch with reality big time.

    Oh and if there wasn’t the little issue of a just a little bit of water between you and me, I’d seriously consider applying to be your intern… you are such a great teacher, I loved your workshop in the chapel! If you go for the person who gets the job should consider themselves very lucky indeed.

    Sending you and your family lots of healing thoughts!

  21. Hi Annie,

    First, I’d like to say that I absolutely LOVE your blog. I came across it for the first time last week 🙂

    As a fellow fibromite who also has a passion for knitting, I was pretty excited to find Modeknit/Knitting Heretic.

    I’m doing a draw on my blog as well and invite you and any of your readers who may be interested.

    I hope you have an awesome Sunday and a great start to the week ahead!


  22. Hi, Annie!

    Covert Bailey wrote in “Fit or Fat” that he occasionally came across men who were both fit AND fat. It was usually the case that the men used their fitness as their excuse for being fat.

    You know: “I’m fit so it doesn’t matter if I overeat.”

    On Biggest Loser, the ultimate winner, Michael, weighed over 500 pounds. To illustrate just how overweight he was, one of the trainers, Bob, was loaded with weight until he matched Michael: he could barely stand, yet Michael was walking with so much excess weight.

    Obviously, Michael had more muscle than Bob, just so he could move about. It seems obvious to me that any overweight woman who is exercising as well as watching her diet would be fitter than another woman equivalently overweight who wasn’t. Apparently this has not occurred to that doctor. So, carry on in the knowledge that in this instance, you know somewhat more than the doctor!

    Best, Tony
    (who would be taking your lace bootcamp, but is on her boat for 3 months with limited wifi)

  23. Hi Annie,
    Thank you for your post. I can only imagine what it would be like to live in pain most of the time, I’m really sorry.

    I came across Knitting Heretic a few years ago and was happy to finally be able to put a name to my type of knitting! I was really glad to find your blog again and even more excited to realize that we now live in the same area.

    The intern idea sounds like a good plan, I’ll envy the lucky one. Hope you’re feeling better.


  24. Like everyone else, I think your dr is nuts! Who tells someone who has lost 40 pounds and has gone from little exercise to riding 2-6 miles everyday that they are not fit. Heck, your doctor should be cheering!

  25. First off, please consider finding a new doctor! Like everything and everyone else in our society, we vote with our dollars, and he does not deserve your vote. I know you have a lot to do, but finding a doctor who actually supports you will make you feel better, I promise!

    Secondly, I am a yoga teacher and I teach lots and lots of fibromyalgia patients with great success! Again, you will have to search for a gentle yoga class and a teacher who is right for you. I think the exercise component is very important, but so is stretching. You need to stretch safely, under the guidance of an experienced and GENTLE teacher. We do exist!! And we are happy to serve everyone, regardless of financial situation.

    If nothing else, maybe you could borrow a yoga DVD from the library. A gentle DVD, for beginners. Many of my students do experience some discomfort at first, but it goes away and they are so thrilled with the results.

    Wishing you all the best~

  26. Thanks for warning me, an early-career designer, not to bother submitting to Vogue.

    I hope you find some relief from your unpleasant companion, Pain – or better yet, a divorce from pain!

  27. What an a-hole of a doctor! I once went to see the doctor, a bit scared and upset about a physical ailment, and he proceeded to insist that I was actually just upset because, he theorized, that my partner beats me. I got really, really mad at him.

    Anyway, running with the analogy, you may be going uphill right now, but there’s always a downhill on the other side. Have you heard of the website http://www.patientslikeme.com/ ? I haven’t used it, but it sounds neat.

  28. Annie,
    First time here, as I was following knitgrrl tour.

    I was stunned reading about how you’ve been treated by Vogue Mag., shame on them. I admire your courage to take a stand and speak out about the unfair cut paid to designers. How discouraging it all is.

    I do hope you feel better soon. Your bicycle light bulb moment really helped me to put things into perspective.

    Thank you.

  29. Like everyone else, I shake my head at your doctor’s assessment of “not fit”. “Fit” is not a one-size-fits-all condition. You are doing the best you can to work regular exercise into a very challenging life, and you are doing more than I am right now.

    I took your Combo Knitting class at Rhinebeck, and am using your method of knitting cables right now as I knit Veronik Avery’s Military Jacket for my daughter.

    I love your technique. And feel like I learned something very, very clever everytime I twist a cable – and there are a lot of cables in this particular project. It’s so liberating to not need another doodad.

  30. It’s funny that you mention the 80s twice in your post and then you say that you must be old. I mention the 80s at least once a day, and I don’t feel old! Then again, my memory is slightly skewed because I was a wee thing when the 80s hit. But, I do remember enjoying every minute of it!

  31. Once again, Annie, thank you for sharing your journey.

    It seems to me that you have an awful lot in that basket of yours and you are carrying it better than a lot of others may.

    PS – just ordered 1000 Fabulous Knit Hats. Yay! (sorry, don’t know how to link it)

    Annie’s Note: I was able to link it – hope that was okay!

  32. It sounds like you are doing well & listening to your body. Ignore the doctor’s ignorance. My bad doctor story starts with him saying, “Can you not knit while I’m talking to you?” He didn’t understand I couldn’t stop mid-cable cross. They’re not thoroughly trained in tact 😉

  33. Oh yes please!

    I so need that book, I am doing my City and Guilds handknit design long distance from England and have managed to pick up work as a designer / knitter for costume work.

    Many thanks for the chance.


  34. Hi Annie! Haven’t been here in a long time (another pain story here), but came for Shannon’s book tour, so here I am again!

    SO glad I did…I’m signing up for the Combination class, then I’d like to take the Twisted Float and Lace Boot Camp classes.

    Now I need to catch up with the blog. I’d forgotten how much I learn from you every time I’m here, and adding online classes, I’m almost on information overload (but not quite…keep it comin’!!!).

    Thanks for all you do for the knitting community, and I pray that you’ll be out of pain soon!

  35. And I’ve thought about it some more,…I would find another doctor.
    There are too many Great doctors to settle for one who belittles you and isn’t supportive. ok. I’m done. 🙂

  36. Hi Annie–

    Sorry you’re not feeling better. There is an AP article out today, “No Health Coverage? How to Cope.” (The link was so long I didn’t want to paste it here, but I’m sure you can find the article.) It’s pretty basic but had some useful resources listed.

    As a pediatrician friend recently reminded me, “no health insurance” isn’t the same as “no health care.” There are free and low-cost clinics and practices that provide excellent care to uninsured patients, even ones with chronic conditions. I hope you find a physician that is right for you. Based on your experience with the previous doctor, anything would be an improvement!


  37. Hang in there! You are trying, you are moving, you are working through all this.
    With grace. Thank you for being you.

  38. You do what you need to do to make your life beautiful. We’re all here to cheer you on, so listen to us! One day, that doctor will get a big serving of karma.

  39. The bike story explains it so well and exactly how I feel lot of the time. I don’t have fibro but I do suffer from sever chronic neck and pack pain after two car accidents the last one 10 years ago.

    I had to give up my job and knitwear design has given me a way to get back into work. I take over 20 painkillers every day and have tried every treatment going. So I totally understand how you feel.

    I’m lucky to live in England where we at least have a proper welfare system and free health care and I’ve got a husband who’s working. With your husband ill too, you’ve got a lot on your plate and I do wish you well. Look after yourself.

    Received Shannon’s book yesterday and haven’t been able to put it down. Love it! So useful.

    Read your interview in it too.

  40. I, too, suffer from FMS and have yet to find a way to make exercise a daily routine. I like to dance and thought if I bought a dance-to-get-fit video that I would get so distracted that I wouldn’t notice the pain. Boy, was I wrong. But enough about me… kudos on losing poundage. That in itself is no small victory.

  41. Oh, Annie! I had that same thing happen with me from a dr. that I absolutely thought was “IT”. He delivered my first 2 kids and was so kind but when I told him all the exercise I was doing–and it was a lot–and said I just didn’t seem able to lose any weight his comment was “Just think how big you’d be if you weren’t doing all that”. No help at all!!! Personallyl I think 2-6 miles on a bike is quite a bit–you’re going up hills etc. So hang in there and keep on biking!!! I’ve given it up for the summer because it’s just toooooo freaking hot and humid here in Oklahoma, I’m looking forward to the cooler weather SOMETIME so I can start riding again. Roz

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