Category Archives: Bicycle

Summer in Minnesota FLOWS On!

Gorgeous, MN

Gorgeous, MN

I love it here. I’m a woman who likes cold weather, and I LOVE chilly Summer evenings and sleep-with-the-windows-open nights.  I love Minnesota.

And, being a Virgo, I love home.

Being home is better than anything else to me (and I do love travel!) so this is a very special time – I know I’ll be home for a few weeks and I’m in heaven!

Butts at Olds!

Butts at Olds!

Last week I traveled up to Olds, Alberta to teach at Olds Fiber Week – which was lovely – but I am SO glad to be home, back on my bike, and getting my health back in order!

Travel really takes it out of me (out of so many of us) and it generally takes me about 1/2 the time of the trip to feel like ‘myself’ again.

Having said that, at the start of August I’ll be teaching at the Midwest Fiber & Folk Art Fair! I’m offering 4 classes (listed to the right in the calendar area) and some are filling up very fast! If you’re in the Chicago area or will be attending this great festival, please register soon so you’re not disappointed!

Bolero Book

Right now I’m focusing on finishing writing the 25 patterns for my book, working up the schematics and charts.  It will be published by Stackpole books, and the samples have received HUGE positive comments whenever I show them while teaching. I’m afraid I cannot show pics of the finished items (it’s in my contract) but I can give a small taste of some of the items!

I have a feeling this will be an pretty popular book; the patterns are very wearable, many of them are very simple to knit, and the yarns I was able to use are just gorgeous!

And – BONUS! – I just heard from my editor that I can have a bit more time for the pattern writing. This is HUGE because I’m dealing with a cracked tooth/abscess thing right now, so my thoughts are scattered, to say the least.

Dealing with mouth pain is not the best frame of mind for doing lots of math.

ModeKnit Yarn

In our own little corner of the knit world, we’ve begun a new line of colors called FLOW!

They’re long-color change yarns, and we’re using our established Semi Precious colors as a jumping off place – here you can see Spessartine (hand painted) vs Spessartine (Flow)  Basically I’m deconstructing the colors and layering them, separately, with the actual blending happening between the hues.

Right now we’re offering selected colors, you can buy them by the ball (limited quantities, once they’re out of stock they’re gone until I dye up more!)

I’m open to any color suggestions you might have for blending; what would YOU like to see?

Writing Less, Dyeing More!

It may seem to those of you who read my blog that I’ve been abducted by aliens, biked off a cliff, or lost the use of my fingers.

None of those are true, but I HAVE been abducted by a dye pot!

ModeKnit Yarn is doing extremely well – we’re having a hard time keeping up with demand (getting easier every day as we figure this thing out) and we’re planning for our next big show in Illinois (the Midwest Fiber & Folk Art Fair)

New colors, new inspirations and ESPECIALLY new ways of dyeing yarn is on the horizon. We hesitate to offer the newest items online because my personal preference is to only sell things online that I know I can duplicate (for future, follow-up orders)  So in order to see our latest colors and dye methods, catch us at the fiber shows.

To see a list of ModeKnit Yarn fiber shows, and where I’ll be teaching, click here.

BOOK

This weekend will be the final photography for my newest book (due out Spring 2015 with Stackpole Books) and I’m finishing up the patterns. It’s been a VERY fun book to work on, all of the pieces are small items, boleros & armery pieces and head-wrap/scarf types of things.

Once that is out the door I’ll have MUCH more time to devote to developing pattern support (and having samples knitted) for ModeKnit Yarn. There are SO many ideas I have, I cannot wait to share them with you as this Summer stretches out before us!

ModeKnit FLOW

Some of our earliest Semi Precious colors, as interpreted in FLOW

Our earliest Semi Precious colors in FLOW

We’ve been toying with methods to create long gradient color changes, and I believe we’ve hit on an excellent method.

You’ll be able to read more about this over at the ModeKnit Yarn Site as the colors are available online (as noted above, before I offer them online I want to make certain I can reproduce them faithfully and in quantity)

But here’s a taste of what I’m dyeing up these days! That’s Spessartine, Lazurite, Mercury, Tanzanite & Ametrine, all anxious to be knit up!

Health

I think I’ve figured something out, and I’m a bit chagrined that it’s taken me so long to come to the following conclusion; my fibro is strongly affected by synthetic sweeteners.

This Spring Vickie Howell expressed surprise when she saw me drinking a diet coke. Her own mom has Fibromyalgia, and the aspartame in DC is a trigger for her flare ups.

I laughed it off, saying I’d never noticed a connection. And I took a long sip of my Diet Coke.

The truth is, the only time I generally drink Diet Coke is when I’m traveling, on the road, and there are so many variables that when I have a flareup while I’m on a trip I hadn’t put two and two together.

When I’m home I drink water (a LOT of it) and unsweetened tea (hot and cold).  I generally don’t add sweetener to anything (when I do have sweetened foods, it’s a cake I’ve baked myself or a piece of candy, not drinks.)

But this weekend was Andy (Hannah’s) graduation party, and we’d stocked up on Diet Coke for the festivities. It was also, coincidentally, one of the worst flare ups I’ve had in almost 3 years.  As I was lying in bed for the 2nd straight day, not able to do much besides write in agony and play 2048 (damn you, Adina, I will best you yet!) I was befuddled as to what was the cause of this latest flare. And I sipped another Diet Coke.

Was it the pressure of finishing a book, the stress of having in-laws visit and Andy’s graduation? The financial working-out of paying for college? The party? The work of dyeing? The fact I hadn’t been for a bike ride in over a week? I couldn’t put it together.

http://easycooking4one.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/aspartame_artificia.jpgAs soon as I was feeling slightly better I went out for a long ride. Only instead of my regular water I took some vitamin water in my bottle, not realizing it was sweetened with a non-sugar substitute. The effect was immediate.

I rode 19 miles, but I felt like hell by the time I got home. That’s NEVER happened to me—the bike is where I go to escape flare ups!

And then it hit me. The common factor in both my major flare up, and my mini one on the bike was the imitation sweetener.

So I’m off the aspartame. I only wish I’d listened more clearly to Vickie when she suggested the cause/effect her mother experienced! I’ll keep track of how I’m feeling, and I’m hopeful that this will make travel a bit easier, too (no more on-the-road diet cokes!)

Mental Health Day

Today I’m taking a mental health day! After the very busy few weeks I’ve had, I deserve it!

Amsterdam

View near our room

View from Canal Boat

Gerry and I had a magnificent time! After I got my business out of the way (the reason for the trip) we did very gentle sightseeing (canal boats, trams, light walking and a bit of biking among the tulip fields) and spent some time in museums.

It was a VERY necessary trip for many reasons, not least of which to celebrate LIFE together, and the 7th anniversary of Gerry’s Multiple Myeloma diagnosis (SEVEN YEARS – we are very fortunate!)

IMG_1255While we were away we learned that a very dear friend and the leader of our MM Support Group in Stillwater, MN passed away. It was a shock, Carl was so full of life and love and hope every time we saw him.

That’s how this disease goes, though, the final decline tends to be rather quick when it comes, which made our trip take on another dimension; life is to be lived TODAY.

Flower market in Roermond train station

Flower market in Roermond train station

We visited good friends in Swalmen, down by the German border, speed knitter Miriam Tegels and her wonderful husband Frans! It was such a pleasure to meet their son, Thuur, but we didn’t get a chance to meet their daughter.

We did, however, meet the ENTIRE extended family at an Easter brunch, and it was absolutely delightful!

Tulip fields near Lisse

Tulip fields near Lisse

Back in Amsterdam we did a few day trips, one to Delft (more canal boat riding) and another to see the tulip fields in bloom (we took our bikes on the train and rode from one small station to another, through the fields on the way there!)

Frans and Gerry

Frans and Gerry

I was SO impressed with Gerry – with his stamina, his biking, and his general sunny disposition! I think he finally believes me that riding a mile is 7 times more efficient than walking a mile, but we both took it relatively easy and stopped a LOT on our short ride from station to station.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

YARNOVER

Preparing for YarnOver

Preparing for YarnOver, the truck is filled!

I returned home two days before our yearly fiber extravaganza here in Minnesota known as YarnOver! It’s hosted by the Minnesota Knitters Guild and ModeKnit Yarn had a booth this year (well, more of a table…) 

It was wonderful – a great chance to see old friends and meet new ones, AND to sell a LOT of yarn! An exceptional show all around! I was still pretty jet lagged, but Kathleen Pascuzzi (my partner in ModeKnit Yarn crime) was stellar at prodding me into action!

TNNA

And, just a short 6 days after Yarnover Kathleen and I jumped in the car and drove 8 hours to Indianapolis for TNNA! I wanted her to meet many of the folks I work with in the industry, and I wanted to touch base with old friends (and yarn dyeing friends – to chat with them face to face as I jump into their own biz.)

Best among the interactions was a long, lovely chat with Jeni Hewlett from Fyberspates (NOW available in the US!) and Elliot from Artyarns. Thanks, guys, for so much help and love!

I also met with my editor for my upcoming Stackpole book. I’m rushing to get the projects finished so we can shoot them in June, life is busy (but very good!)

Perhaps most notably, Kathleen and I acted on our previous discussions to purchase automatic yarn skeining and balling equipment from Nancy’s Knit Knacks, I’m still a bit in shock (it was a large investment) but – as I told Gerry – it’s certainly cheaper than hand surgery because my arm stops working after all the skeining and balling I’ve been doing!

Interweave Knitting Lab

So today is just for me – riding my bike and thinking – and building up a bit of energy reserve for Interweave Knitting Lab in 1-1/2 weeks!  Check out my classes here - I think some are already sold out (or nearing it!)

The Friendly Skies

http://www.avionics-intelligence.com/content/dam/avi/online-articles/2013/09/DeltaMD88.jpgGerry and I are embarking on something we haven’t done in over 17 years – a trip alone together.

I’m sitting here staring at a huge pile of clothes and an empty suitcase. My task is to sort through the garments and choose ones that will work for 10 days in Amsterdam, but still leave room to bring home presents.

I’m still jet lagged from visiting Puget Sound University with Andy (née Hannah) earlier this week [spoiler alert, she loved it but she won't be going there, too rich for our blood...] and—as always—I dread compacting my former 6′ frame into a coach seat for 7 hours. But we’re heading out this evening, and we’re excited.

It’s not entirely pleasure, I’m doing a bit of business while I’m there (ostensibly the reason for the trip) but we’ve been reminded time and again over the past 8 years that life is very short, and it’s meant to be LIVED, so we cashed in a bunch of frequent flier miles and Gerry’s going off with me!

We’re staying in a B&B not far from Anne Frank House (recommended by a friend) The B&B supplies bikes, and we have plans to visit another good friend over Easter weekend far from the city.

We haven’t researched or planned this trip as much as we might have, but that’s because just getting alone together is such a new experience that we’re pretty giddy about it! My friend, Alison, visited Amsterdam with her husband in October so she’s been passing on tour books and great tips.

One thing we’ve been told about Amsterdam is that the mass transit is excellent so if Gerry finds himself exhausted we can spend a day on a canal boat tour for a restful sight-seeing adventure.

Andy will be in her dorm most of the time we’re gone (just home next weekend), and the benefit of having a business partner is that Kathleen will be working in the ModeKnit Yarn offices (my basement) so Max can touch base with an adult every day when he gets home from school.  Food has been prepared, friends and neighbors drafted to ‘check in’ on the boy during our absence.

I get the distinct feeling he’s looking forward to these next 10 days as much as we are!

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/57/Keukenhof_May2006.JPGWe plan to visit Keukenhof to see the tulips, Delft to see the china and KinderDijk to see the windmills.

But I’m MOST excited about seeing the knitters of Amsterdam! I’ve scheduled a few get-togethers with folks (and I’m definitely open to do more!)

Obviously, I’m also crazy nuts to get on the aforementioned bike and get some riding in.

I Like To Ride My Bicycle

Giving Joy

I made a documentary! It’s on the subject of Care Giving, and it’s called Giving Joy.

This summer I was accepted into a program at our local public access TV network (SPNN) called DocU, where we spent 15 weeks learning how to plan, shoot, edit and craft a short, 10 minute documentary.

It’s in a competition right now, and if you’d care to vote for it, I’d be thrilled!

I loved this process. It was exhilarating and exciting, and I feel like I’ve had a door opened into a whole new world.

No surprise, my favorite part was the planning and the editing. The actual shooting was fun, but physically a bit rough some days.

Which brings me to a different subject.

I know I’ve been low profile this Summer. I feel that I’m hermitizing myself — trying not to be in public more than I need to — and of course, that’s not healthy.

That’s one reason the DocU program was so great this Summer,
it was a place I needed to be once a week to see other people
(and it was a reason to get out into the world for shooting).

I’d hesitated to write this, but I feel that I’m slowly disappearing in some ways, and I wanted to explain that it’s not permanent. I just need to figure out how to get on top of the continuing pain from my Fibromyalgia, which wreaks havoc both physically and emotionally.

I felt like a fraud some days when making my documentary, because my health’s been so iffy this Summer that there were days that Gerry was the caregiver, and I was the patient!  I don’t know exactly what is changing, but I do know that my pain levels are increasing and I don’t feel able to control them with biking alone, as I have for 3 years.

I’ve been experimenting with different ride lengths, riding at different times of day, in different temperatures, and it seems that riding between 10-20 miles on a 70-85F degree day is best for me if I want to try to control my pain levels (Yesterday I rode 30 miles, and discovered that it might be a bit far for me).

But bike riding’s not doing the trick it has  for the past few years, I’ve been shaking.

In fact, a few times this Summer I’ve gotten the ‘shakes’ so badly while riding I got off the bike and rested a bit until my hands calmed down. I’ve been ‘shaking’ in various ways for years, usually while I’m yawning or sneezing, but now it’s spilled into other moments, too, and has spread to beyond my hands.

I talked about this shaking with my rheumatologist, and a few years ago all kinds of tests were done (brain scans, other cool things) but there seemed to be no indication of Parkinsons (with which my Aunt Wanda suffered for many years).

Two weekends ago I began shaking while with a friend and our daughters in public, and aside from being humiliating, it was a bit terrifying.

So new appointments are being made, perhaps new meds will be tried. I love my bike, but it’s not doing for me what I have needed for so long (but I’ll never give it up!)

As I write this I realize how damned lucky I truly am! I have a source of income which allows me to work at my own pace when I feel strong, and to rest when I feel that’s necessary. I have a few good designs coming out in the next few weeks (more blogging about them in the next few days!) and, of course, there’s always History on Two Needles (more news about THAT coming up, too!)

I’ve cut down on my teaching because, well, I tire easily and I shake more when I’m exhausted. That doesn’t mean I’m NOT teaching (I’ll be at Interweave Knit Lab in San Mateo in early Nov 1-4) but I’ve definitely cut down on the extended gig trips that I feel may have contributed to my initial Fibromyalgia.

Pain Identifies Me

It’s been a crazy, pain-filled few days and I don’t know why.

I’ve been living a relatively clean life; no gluten, biking as much as I can (in the heat), keeping the sweets & dairy to a minimum.  But the pain has been rather intense.

IMG_0004

Me, ostensibly working, in my sky chair in the backyard. Why do I always look drunk?

I’m beginning to wonder if one of the triggers for my Fibromyalgia may be heat? Who knows. Almost 4 years in and I’m still learning stuff.

When I was in my 20′s, my 30′s, even my 40′s, I had SO much more energy.

I could do anything – and many days I did!  I could bring home the bacon, fry it up in the pain, wash the pain (and the whole kitchen) PAINT the kitchen, remodel the kitchen, and THEN make you feel like a ma-a-a-an!

But I am utterly exhausted almost every day.  Physically, mentally, emotionally.

I am just drained. And I hate it.

Recently we spent a weekend with some friends, and the fact of my constant exhaustion was brought home when I needed to take not ONE but TWO naps one day. This is the kind of thing I can ignore within my own family, but it becomes noticeable (and noticed) when other folks are around.

IMG_0008

The sleeping doxy

The dogs were thrilled, both Jasper and another guest’s sweet little doxy crawled into bed with me, and we three tired pups slept the afternoon away.

I apologize if I sound whiney -  I didn’t used to be so worried about whining, but a few years ago a rather nasty blog commented on how odd it was that I was always “moaning about my health, but could ride my bike to the top of the Wallace monument”  Yeah, whatever. 

IMG_0033

My bike by a tiny Free Library in St. Paul

Some folks are always going to be nasty about something, and it shouldn’t matter.  Except the comment is trapped in my head like a wasp against a window and it buzzes every time the pain overwhelms. me.

 

I know my exhaustion comes from pain. Pain EATS energy for breakfast, then asks for more for lunch. If no energy is forthcoming, pain goes on a rampage and sets the garage on fire before fleeing the scene. Pain is a perp.

IMG_0029

My bike at the Lyndale Rose Garden

And, as I’ve related ad nauseam, I deal with the pain with my bike, with yoga (in the winter) and with stretching.

Usually I can beat the pain back.

Or at least I can reason with it and
distract it while I make my escape.

 

So today I took a pain pill – not something I do regularly (perhaps I should take one prophylactically when I know it’s going to be so hot) – and I’m feeling on top of the world right now.  Where’s that frying pan…?

IMG_0025

I offered a “Heat Wave” discount during my class last night, the current temp minus my ideal temp of 70º = 29% off on my books!

DARN KNIT ANYWAY

Last night I taught a lace class at Darn Knit Anyway, which is SUCH a lovely yarn shop in Stillwater, MN!  I love to visit there, I always find inspiration in the choice of yarns they carry (they have a good eye – or perhaps it’s that we share the same taste!)

The class was smallish, but that allowed me to really dig into the theory of lace, why stitches move the way they do, how to create scallops and waves in the edges of your work (intentionally!) and different ways to make a decrease / increase.  Overall, it was a very good class (and I sold a few books, too!)

IMG_0026

St. Paul Cathedral at 9pm, on my bike ride home from SPNN

I’m excited to be teaching the same class next Saturday, this time the class is full, 16 folks at last count.  Perhaps they’ll have me back to teach classes on some other topics, that would be great!

All in all, a really terrific experience on a hot, hot day!

My plans on this steamy day are to bike downtown, sit at an air conditioned Caribou Coffee and knit, then head over to SPNN and edit from 4-9 (it’s ALWAYS cool in the edit suite!)

Yes, I’m working on a project for a documentary class I’m taking at SPNN (St. Paul Neighborhood Network), our local public access station.  It’s going very well, and I’m LOVING the editing portion.

More on this later as it transpires…

Facsimile of the Chocolate Cake

Traveling & Caring

Today we pack up to head up to a friend’s lake house for the weekend. Lucky, lucky us!

We’re SO looking forward to it, and it gives Gerry, Max and myself a chance to enjoy some MN ‘wilderness’ while Hannah’s up at Camp Menogyn doing her wild-girl thing!

The thing about traveling these days is that I know I have to be the mom and the dad; I have to make the packing list AND I have to get everything packed up and in the car.  It’s not that Gerry doesn’t, but the amount he can carry, etc., is limited (as it is for me, too!) and I have to admit that today would be easier if Max didn’t have his part time job this morning (we’re picking him up from work and traveling from there…)

So while Gerry gets a couple shipments of books together (he IS my shipping department) I get our clothing and toiletries packed, get the dog crate folded and stowed, police the backyard and put away everything that shouldn’t be left out (cushions, tools, etc.)  I do some gardening that can’t wait (cutting fast-growing sprouts off of trees, do some visible weeding that is getting out of hand…)

I go through the house and empty the garbage, drag the huge backyard container around front and make sure all of the compost stuff is in the composter (not left under the sink for a long, hot weekend – ick!)

Gerry is handling the kitty litter (and for that he deserves a medal!) and while he tackles that odious task I load the car, get the bikes up on the rack, do a house walk through and make sure doors and windows are locked, contact the neighbor kid to look in on the cats (and leave money for him along with the cans of catfood – he’s an old hand at this by now!)

We have this down to a science, the quickest we did it was when, on the spur of the moment, we decided to go to TNNA last month. But it’s friggin’ exhausting.

I am ashamed of how easily I tire, but if I’m honest with myself a lot of that exhaustion comes from the stress of keeping so much on my shoulders. There’s no remedy – I pass along to other folks what I can – but at the end of the day there is a lot that I MUST be in charge of (and I’m actually quite fortunate that I have so much to be responsible for!)

Please don’t read this post as a complaint, rather as a catalog (I am a virgo, I love a list!) – for myself as much as for anyone else – and the love that comes back to me from my tasks is huge and outweighs everything.

But it’s a different kind of life than the one where Gerry did the “dad” stuff, I did the “mom” stuff, and it seemed that both of us had more opportunities to just sit and have a glass of wine together!  I’m hoping we’ll have that chance this weekend!

Myrna's CLASSIC book on lace knitting

Myrna’s CLASSIC book on lace knitting

Our friends, Myrna & Bob, are such gracious and kind hosts, we love to spend time with them. Myrna’s also a knit teacher and designer, as well as an attorney (oh, how I admire that!) and she’s a lovely, funny, down to earth friend.

Gerry doesn’t make friends as freely as I do – I have the grease of knitting/crochet to ease myself into many situations – so spending time with another couple who mesh well with us is a delight!  Husband play date!

Bob was recently diagnosed with Celiac Disease, so I’m making one of my favorite GF cake recipes, a chocolate/coffee bundt cake by Joy The Baker that Gluten Free Girl tweaked on her blog. This cake is moist, crumbly in the best way, and totally does NOT feel like a GF cake.  I’m experimenting with using only honey in the recipe today, no refined sugar – I can’t wait to see how it turns out!

BTW, If you’re gluten sensitive, you MUST put
Gluten Free Girl and The Art of Gluten Free Baking
on your list of recipe sources!

Max is always great company, we were discussing today that he hates for anyone to be disappointed or upset, not unusual in a younger child, and it’s probably something that he’ll grow out of (as we all do!)  On the positive side, that makes him a stellar companion, and makes us very proud to take him anywhere with us.

I wish Hannah could join us – she, too, is a great traveler, and is so helpful that she makes herself welcome everywhere.  But it’s been really great for Gerry and I to have so much one-on-one time with Max this past year & Summer while Hannah’s been at school and at camp, it’s good for Max, good for all of us!

So we’ll spend a lovely few days chatting about life, knitting, politics, Minnesota and bicycling around Pelican Lake. We feel immensely fortunate at the friendships we’ve made here in MN, Myrna & Bob are two of the nicest!

The down side is that another new friend (this one a MN native who lives in Florida) will be in town for the weekend and it looks like I’ll miss her.  Dang.

DESIGNING STUFF

I’m sending off three sweaters today, a twin set and a hooded jacket.

Screen Shot 2013-07-03 at 12.11.44 PMThe yarn I’ve used for the jacket is Freia by Tina Whitmore (KnitWhits), and it is astonishingly beautiful to work with!

The colors are crisp and bright, changing beautifully, making the whole project pure delight!

Screen Shot 2013-07-03 at 12.11.37 PM

Freia’s Flux colors are AMAZING! (Could you plotz?!)

Databases for Back Pleat Jacket

The various databases I use in my pattern writing / designing

I can’t post pics of the pieces, but I’ve been making copious notes of the process, step by step, keeping everything well documented in my various databases (yes, I’m a FileMaker ho’!)

When the jacket is published in Interweave Crochet I will run a companion blog post walking through the process of designing, swatching, patterning, crocheting, ripping out, re-crocheting, blocking, measuring, packing and shipping this garment.

SoulMateThe Twin Set’s been worked up in SoulMate by Lorna’s Laces.  I don’t think I’d used this yarn previously, and it’s amazingly resilient!

I’ve ripped out and re-worked both pieces several times, but the yarn looks as if it was just pulled out of the ball this morning, fresh and virginal.  Add to that the lustre and shine of the yarn, the softness, the pure, understated quality of this beautiful blend of  Superwash Merino, Nylon and Outlast (my first time using this last fiber, it feels magnificent!)

It’s good for me to keep track of these things, and my ‘Anatomy of a Design’ posts have been pretty well received.  Look for these in the Winter IK Crochet!

First attempt at a colorwork repeat.

First attempt at the colorwork repeat – I want something that will echo the cable motif.

MORE DESIGN STUFF

I received a big box of lovely Drops yarn for a piece for The Knitter (a UK Mag I feel very fortunate to work with from time to time – it really is a great publication!)  I’m working up a “Men’s Quartet”, scarf, gloves, hat & sweater.  Colorwork AND cables are involved, two of my favorite things in the world. The hat is finished, it only took a few hours, but that doesn’t include the two PREVIOUS hats I knit and ripped out to get to the one that works well.

Designing IS making decisions,
and ripping out.

The colors are woody and natural and understated (lovely tan, brown, white and deep green) rather like our weekend will be!

I Like To Ride My Bicycle

Signing Books & Saying “Hey!”

Shepherd's Harvest FestivalIf you’re in MN and you like fiber related stuff, you HAVE to go to Shepherd’s Harvest.  It’s held every year during Mother’s Day Weekend (or, Fish Season Opener, as it’s known in MN) at the Washington Fairgrounds in Lake Elmo, MN.

I’ve taught here several times, and I’m always blown away by the variety and quality of the vendors and displays at this show! I visit a LOT of fiber shows, and perhaps it’s because this is in my backyard (in a large-backyard sense…) but I just adore Shepherd’s Harvest!

I’ll be signing books on Sunday at noon at Shepherd’s Harvest, I’ll have several of my books, including my newest (History on Two Needles) and I’ll be able to take credit cards (but hugs are just as good!)

Cycles For ChangeIN OTHER NEWS

It’s well known that I bike a lot – I LOVE my bicycle, I love traveling around the twin cities on two wheels, I love the exercise and how great I feel after a nice, long ride!

There is an organization in St. Paul that helps an under-served community experience the pure joy of cycling and bike ownership. It’s called Cycles For Change (formerly known as Sibley Bike Depot) and it’s a wonderful non-profit organization that offers classes, bike share programs and bikes and parts for sale.

They offer Youth Programs, amazing “Earn a Bike” programs and Women/Trans bike repair class nights

I’ve taken advantage of a few of these and they’re GREAT! I have no problem with male cyclist, I love them! But sometimes learning about the mechanics of bike repair can seem like a cool-boys-grunge-club, and a middle age woman can feel out of place.  The women/trans friendly bike nights have helped me gain a lot of confidence in my bike repair skills

In early June they’re having a Bike-A-Thon – basically a fund raising bike ride around St. Paul. Of course I’ll be there – with BELLS on – and with my son, Max, who will be riding with me.  It think we’ll do the 20 mile loop, (but I reserve the right to do the 10 mile if I’m feeling less than 100%)

It’s a fundraiser, so if you’d like to sponsor me I’d be thrilled!  Click on this link to support our ride to help Cycles for Change!

Bridging Fear

We think about our lives in different ways, on different days, trying to make sense of the incomprehensible.

Some days I think of my life as a long trip; a rough journey at times, an easy skate at others. In the movie Parenthood, Steve Martin comes to a place of peace when he envisions his life as a roller coaster. I find this a helpful analogy.

But there are periods when my life feels like a war zone – I think all of us feel that way at times – but it’s never been so vivid as in the past few years.

And, of course, being a child of two members of The Greatest Generation, loving history as I do, and making a hobby of reading about Europe in the 1930′s and 40′s, the war I can most easily reference is World War II.

This past year I’ve read several first person accounts of London before, during and after the war. The courage of the citizens is well documented; the steadiness, humor and ability to keep some semblance of a daily routine have resonated in my own personal life.

Early in the war, the citizens of London found ways to cope with incomprehensible terror. But exhaustion and time led to a war-weariness that made subsequent rounds of bombings 4 or 5 years into the conflict harder to bear. I identify with those late-war Londoners, too bone weary to head to the air raid shelters, numb with daily terror.

As many of you know, Gerry, my husband, has cancer. Multiple Myeloma, to be specific. When he was diagnosed in 2007 – soon after our family moved to Minnesota – the prognosis was poor; 2 years. At the Mayo for a second opinion this was reduced to 1 year, and a blessed numbness settled over both of us when we heard that.

A friend refers to this sensation as ‘god’s anesthesia’ and that’s not a bad way to think of the mind block that keeps overwhelming pain at bay. I wrote about our first year with cancer in my book Knit With Courage, Live With Hope, and it was a helpful way for me to face fear head on. I’ve heard from other caregivers that it has been helpful for them, too.

Fast forward 5-1/2 years and Gerry’s still with us, we feel that we are the most fortunate family in the world, even though the anesthesia has long worn off.

And I am exhausted.

This past Autumn Gerry’s cancer came back (his numbers were slowly creeping up since last Spring) and a new round of a trial drug, Revlamid, seems to be working well. His test numbers are up where they should be, down where we want them to be, including the dreaded M-spike.

But during those 5-1/2 years, aside from the many joys that our family has shared, something started happening deep inside of me; the slow, steady, unrelenting rise of fear.

A deep, broad river of apprehension runs through my life, fed by tributaries of dread and panic.

The first fear is obvious; fear of losing Gerry. But in the time we’ve had since his diagnosis I’ve lost so many friends and family members that this fear has been wrestled into perspective. It’s an understandable fear.

Right behind that first fear are all of the regular fears anyone in my position might feel: fear that I won’t be able to earn enough to keep the family going; fear that the kids will be strongly affected in a negative way by our experience; fear that Gerry will have more pain. All understandable fears.

The less understandable fears are the ones that haunt me: Fear that I won’t deal with this graciously (I haven’t at times); Fear that I will be harshly judged by outsiders (I have at times); Fear that as I struggle through this adventure I’ll behave in ways that are erratic and incomprehensible (I’ve done this, too).

And these fears, in turn, breed next generation fears that often DO overwhelm me: Do folks look down on me because I’m unable to cope with the fear? Am I really just plain weak, deep down inside? If I ride my bike an average of 8 miles a day and eat fairly well, why can’t I get thinner? (okay, this last more of a whine than a fear…)

Enumerating these anxieties helps me understand how fear can spiral out of control, overtaking common sense with panic, shoving self esteem out the door and replacing it with it’s doppelganger, pride.

Unlike self-respect, which is positive, life enhancing and resilient,
pride can be easily bruised and shattered.

Then, on the worst days, terror comes in uninvited. It kicks pride to the curb and allows self doubt, self loathing and self hatred to make a house call.

All of this anxiety creates stress, which overwhelms me.

I’m certain that – to a large degree – the genesis of my fibromyalgia is rooted in this stress. I believe that my current week-long intense back pain is a product of stress.

Spinning my wheels is how I deal with stress; sometimes I spin my wheels with non-productivity (Tetris and Scrabble, anyone?) and other times I bicycle. The biking is much more effective, and has a double benefit of reducing stress and physical pain while increasing strength and overall fitness.

But it’s winter, not a lot of bicycling is going on, and my body and mind are paying the price. I do yoga in the cold weather, I was swimming but found myself feeling so panicky in the pool that I had to stop, but nothing is like my bike.

It’s been a very rough Winter for me, fearful and painful and so many other bad-ful things. I second guess myself, my work, my abilities, my looks; then I third and fourth guess everything just for good measure. I’ve been in a bad place, re-living every negative interaction I’ve had, replaying every nasty comment I’ve overheard (or over-read), and it hasn’t been helpful.

And because I’m in a rather fragile state, the casual nastiness of an online comment or a thoughtless action are weightier than they would be if I were in a more stable, healthy place of mind.

I need to cross Ol’ Fear Creek, which has so overfilled itself that it’s now a raging whitewater. I’ve tried several times to throw myself into Terror Rapids, only to discover I’m no good with a paddle.

And, at any rate, Terror Rapids is probably a better place to be than Sh*t Creek…

I need to build a bridge over the fear, high enough above the raging river that I don’t get wet as I cross. I’m not exactly certain how to do this, but I feel sure that I have the tools and materials at hand.

La Jolla View

Repair and Renew

The sun is a wonderful thing.

I burn like paper, and I’ve devoted most of my life to staying out of the sun. I’m the only person in my family not to have a skin cancer (and the only blood relative within my immediate family who’s still alive…)

But when I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia 3 years ago my doctor put me on Vitamin D3 and I began to discover the link between good sunlight and my own pain-free existence.

La Jolla View

La Jolla View

Minnesota is cold, and it can be dark in the winter, and I LOVE it.  I get outside every day up there, the cold doesn’t bother me much.  But I DEFINITELY get out in the Summer more than I do in the Winter, and I feel that in my bones.

So when we had a chance to dog-sit in the beautiful village of La Jolla for a week for a knit designer friend, I jumped on it.

Laddie

Laddie

My hope was that I’d get a few days of sun – not sun-bathing, but actually actively moving in the sun – walking the dog by the beach, bicycling.

The drive out (see my last blog post) was great – but we’re a family that travels well together, and with both kids moving into the mid-teens we appreciate every chance we have to share a trip like this.

The home we’re staying in is absolutely lovely, the dog we’re caring for is a WONDER DOG! (He’s not unlike “Laddie” from that great Simpson’s episode)

All who meet him cannot fail to fall in love with Rusty. I’m in love, I know that!

BIKE DAY 1

My first foray on a bike here wasn’t great.  I got my toes caught in the clips, the bike was the wrong size for my long, long, legs, I fell over and damaged the derailléur and I totally blew it.

Guilt & disappointment, my biking companions that day.

I was more depressed than I can sensibly explain at my bike fail. The only thing making it halfway bearable was how humane our hosts have been via texts & phone calls about my fall & accident.

 

 

The Harbor in San Diego

The Harbor in San Diego

WHALE WATCH

The next day I thought I’d hit a home run when I used a Groupon for a whale watching excursion, and for the first hour it was the BEST time any of us had had on a boat.

But the water got choppier, my hubris at NOT taking the Dramamine Gerry had offered came back to haunt me.

I found myself thanking heaven and the Lays company for the empty potato chip bag I found in my purse.

I was the first on the ship to go down, and I’m not proud of that. I swear that 50% of the passengers were ill, EVERY group had at least one person who was sick.

This is NOT me

This is NOT me

I knew we were in trouble when the first passenger I introduced myself to on this ‘Three Hour Tour’ was a woman named “Ginger.”  Yes, seriously.

The cabin (what a mistake it was to go THERE) was like a rocking, too-full sick ward, and I did my best to help other folks by passing out rolls of paper towels and bottles of water for cleaning off kids (& adults) and dragging garbage cans over to folks, pulling hair from faces.

Yes, I am a saint.

The Landy / Modesitt Family BEFORE

The Landy / Modesitt Family BEFORE

No, not really, but I felt that I owed everyone compassion.  They’d all been so kind to me when I got sick half an hour earlier.

Those of you who are fans of Diana Gabaldon will appreciate my sister-feeling with Jamie Frasier.  This is not something I’d want to do again, but I feel I have a tiny sense of what those awful steerage ocean voyages might have been like.

The Waves Got Choppy...

The Waves Got Choppy…

Gerry and Max were dandy. We were very afraid for both of them, and THEY took the Dramamine, and they were okay.  Actually, “dandy” isn’t exactly the word, Max spent most of the trip face-down on a sofa cushion, but neither of them was ill the way and Hannah and I were (I discovered Hannah crouched over a garbage can, swearing at her breakfast and every egg ever laid by hen.)

Obviously the trip wasn’t fun, but it had light moments.

Sea Worthy Gerry

Sea Worthy Gerry

As we rounded on not one, but TWO whales (who were very friendly and kept near us, to the delight of the captain) he kept turning the boat to the left, and the right, and the left, and the right, to stay near them so everyone could get a good look.  Yes, I saw a whale.  Thar she blows.

Just writing that last paragraph made me ill again.

At one point I was being ill into a smart-food bag when I heard the captain call giddily over the loudspeaker, “THAR SHE BLOWS!”  Yes, indeed.  There I blow.

I CANNOT commend the poor kid who helped to keep the cabin walkable and relatively clean highly enough!  I rallied a bit mid trip and did what I could to help him out, but then I collapsed again and was a lump sitting in the open air, head throbbing and stomach churning.  I was feebly aware of how much VERY unpleasant work this young man was doing. 

I stayed on the boat to tell him, “THANK YOU” and give him a small tip.
He deserved 50 times what I could give him.

Heads up, H&M Whale Watching!  You had a PRINCE of a crewman on the Sea Adventure 80′s 10:00 am Whale cruise on 12/27/12.  Give that kid a raise and a bonus!

They gave us an extra 1/2 hour on the cruise because we were seeing so many wales & dolphins (yay?) I felt well enough post-voyage to drive home, we got back around 2:00 and we were all SO wiped out that the rest of the day was devoted to recovery and a small bit of rice for dinner.

 

Rusty & Pippa

Rusty & Pippa

BIKE DAY!

So today I was amazed at how well I felt when Rusty awakened me with some toe licking.  I hopped out of bed, showered and cleaned up the kitchen, hitched up the doggie and took him for an hour-long walk by the ocean.  He played and rolled with other dogs, developed a huge crush on Pippa, and on the way back I passed a bike rental place.  So I rented a bike.

As soon as I brought Rusty home & checked in with the family, I immediately set off on a 14-mile ride down to Mission Bay Park.  Glorious.

The Landy's At The Gallery

The Landy’s At The Gallery

The ride was swell, roses and palm trees and happy kids all over the place!  My ride around the bay was swell, I stopped for some gelato on the way home, and I managed most hills without getting off the bike and walking (it is VERY hilly here…)

I met up with the family at the Contemporary Art Museum in La Jolla and we enjoyed some lovely art (I couldn’t look at the paintings of ships, I felt a bit dizzy and ill) and mostly just enjoyed our time together.  Gerry and the kids had picked up lobster tails and salmon earlier, so Hannah’s cooking up her special broiled salmon and G’s grilling tails while I relax from my long ride.

Bike Ride View

View from the La Jolla Bike Trail

Gerry and the kids are planning on going to the Scripps Aquarium tomorrow, I’ll take the time on my own to get some swatching and sketching done.  I have the bike for one more day, tomorrow I’ll hit the tidal pools by the La Jolla Cave and maybe get some knitting in the sun in before I return the bike.  Selfish of me, but intensely enjoyable!

Non weight bearing exercise in the sun is my formula for anything that ails me, I’m lucky I found it!