Life Gets Away Again!

I’m so good about posting for a week, then life runs away and I’m madly chasing it down the street!

Gerry & Hannah

Gerry & Max

First of all, HAPPY FATHER’S DAY to the best damned Dad in the world!

Gerry, you constantly amaze me with your love, care, tenderness and good humor – you’re the best Dad I’ve ever known, and I LOVE YOU!

Hannah and I are in Ohio right now.  We drove here last Thursday to camp for a few days before my Denison University Theater Dept Reunion.

My bike over the Licking River, Granville OH

I took an opportunity to bike from our current hotel to Granville and back this afternoon, and MAN did I need that ride!  It was only 11 miles, but it was absolutely necessary to loosen up my back and shoulder muscles, get my blood flowing and reduce my pain.  Walking really takes a toll on me, biking gives me back my energy.

Absent Friends

I wasn’t certain how this reunion would go.  I had some very dear friends at Denison, but – being a theater department – we also had our share of drama (and I was not immune to my own immature fits while a student) 

My memory is long and strong, and I tend to remember my worst moments very vividly.  Fortunately, it seemed that my friends were kind enough not to remember as well as I did, or not to remember out loud within earshot!

It was SO wonderful to see these good, funny, witty, wonderful friends again!  Having the opportunity to show off my daughter to my college friends, and vice versa, was a dream come true AND comic gold.

Either a terrible parent, or the best mom in the world, I did NOT subject Hannah to an evening of old-fogy-dinner-conversation.  I allowed her to buy a goat cheese pizza and eat it up in our hotel room, watch TV and check in with online friends while I drank and laughed and talked all evening downstairs.

I was very lucky in my choice of college – it really WAS dumb luck.  I’m the first in my family to go to college, how odd that I ended up in such a preppy-land, and how wonderful that our group still retains so much true affection for each other.

Camping, Phase I

We stayed at the Hocking Hill State Park primitive walk-in campsite, but hadn’t realized JUST how far of a walk our walk-in our site would be (1/2 mile)

We were able to switch to a different site, thank heavens, which was nearer to the car but still wild enough to suit.  It was just busy enough to say, “Hi!” to passing campers about once every 2 or 3 hours, very nice!

We built a fire and cooked our delicious dinner, went for a hike, sat, read, just enjoyed our time together.  Hannah crashed earlier than I did (very unusual – all the physical work wore her out!) and I sat by the fire reading Book II of Game of Thrones on my ipad as the fire died – it seemed most fitting.

Best of all – and I have NO idea why this should be – we were hardly bothered by biting insects at ALL!  Aside from a wasp nest in the picnic table (which we studiously avoided) and a few curious spiders, we were virtually mosquito free. We’re hoping our luck holds out in WV.  I’m wondering if the cedarcide I bought last month had anything to do with it…

We’re treating those first few days of camping as our dry run, knowing we’d be able to escape to civilized hotel living for Saturday & Sunday nights.

Camping, Phase II

Tomorrow, after a tour of Denison (Hannah most likely will NOT be going here, but as long as we’re in town it seems silly not to take a tour – her first visit to check-out a college!) we’ll be driving down to Monongahela National Park in WV for 4 full days of camping.

Our new site is supposedly about 400 yds from parking, we’ll see how I hold up!  I can bike for miles and miles, but walking really takes it’s toll on me.

Luckily our current hotel has a lovely hot tub/jacuzzi where I soaked for quite a while, heat and water are magical things!


I’m choosing not to post or blog about the Kickstarter project for History on Two Needles for a few days. I’ve been so overwhelmed with the positive response, so grateful to all who are funding the project!

I’m taking this time to concentrate on Hannah (who will be away for almost 50 days this Summer camping up in the Boundary Waters) and I’m working on samples and step-outs for a DVD and a class I’m taping this Summer!

Knitting by camp fire – lovely!

Wisp Yarn

Yarn Bombing in Granville, OH

Speaking of knitting, I visited a beautiful new yarn shop (well, new to me – it’s 1+ years old) in Granville, Ohio called Wisp.  It’s just lovely!

The proprietress and I had a short but comfortable chat, I believe she’s British.  The yarn choices are elegant and beautiful, the colors cool and seductive.  Now all she needs is a website!

I found it difficult to walk out without buying something, but TNNA is next weekend and I have to refrain.

Yarn Bombing, Granville, OH

I love it when the personality of a yarn shop is so evident, when there’s a defined leitmotif (albeit subtle) and the yarn is a reflection of the owner.  This shop is like that – absolutely lovely!

If you’re near Granville you should visit Wisp!

Also in Granville I saw some amazing Yarn Bombing.  I’m proud of my alma mater.

New Stuff, New Outlooks

I feel amazingly energized.

This has been one of those weeks when many, many good things happened, and I am very grateful!

#1 FIVE Years

It’s been 5 years since we were told that someone at Gerry’s stage of Multiple Myeloma probably had about 1-2 years.  That’s a 3-year win (and we are shooting for 30!)

Every day truly is a gift.  The fact that we all fully understand that just makes it sweeter.

Life is, indeed good.

#2 History on Two Needles Kickstart Project

I’ve been working on this book for almost the full aforementioned 5 years – and maybe Gerry’s health & recovery are part of the reason I’ve been dawdling.

But it’s time to crack down, get these projects & patterns finished, and get this book published!  With help from Cooperative Press AND my amazing backers who are helping through Kickstarter, it’s going to happen!

A Kickstarter project isn’t funded if you the goal isn’t met, so I aimed low.  My original goal was $8999 (still just a portion of the cost to produce a book), but I chickened out and went for $4999.

With the help of 100 backers, I reached that goal in 2 days (WOW!)

I will CONTINUE to raise funds until July 9th (I wanted to keep fundraising during TNNA) so go – look at my project – and consider becoming a backer!  I have some lovely rewards for folks… You can get one of the first printed books at less than the retail will be!

All funds raised will go directly into making this the best and most beautiful book possible!

#3 Car Loss / Car Gain

I love my PT Cruiser, you all know that.

I’ve loved it from the day I got it 7 years ago.  It’s been a damned good car.

But after a rather upsetting visit with our mechanic (many things hover at the point of fail, including the timing belt – ouch!) and realizing the PT can be hard to drive (terrible sight lines) we decided it was time for a change.

Last year an accident took our beloved Elantra Wagon, and we’ve been a relatively happy one-car family since then. (Have I mentioned that I bike?)

So we decided to return to what had worked for us – back to an Elantra!  As we signed the paperwork I told Gerry, “You DO realize this means you’re committing to being HERE for 10 years, right?”

A plain, sensible, 120K warranteed DARK GREY Elantra.

It’s a boring car.  But the fact we’re doing this speaks volumes about our hope levels.

#4 Bike Gain

To make parting with my Purple PT more palatable, part of the trade in was a gift card for a 7100 Trek bike from Penn Cycle (what the..?!)

I’m not complaining, as obviously I am the designated bike-ee.  I loved my old schwinn, but I will not miss it one bit.

The bike, I am happy to report, is BLUE.

So now we’re driving a different car, and I’m tooling around on a new bike.

And I miss my PT cruiser, but not half as much as I’d worry about Hannah driving it.

#5 Perfect Rose Cake

I’m the only one in our household who REALLY likes rose flavored stuff, but that’s okay.  I’m also the only gluten free chickie.

I perfected the walnut/rose cake this week, and have enjoyed it’s GF goodness for days.

A small thing, but it’s been quite a while since I’ve had unlimited cake – YUM!  I can’t do this all the time, but it’s been fun for a week!

For anyone who’s interested, here’s a link to a pdf file of the recipe.

#6 Refocusing

This may be the biggest of all.

I’m listening to a great audiobook about Roald Dahl (The Irregulars) and the British spy ring in WWII Washington.  It’s absolutely FASCINATING, and a casual reference to the fact that most spies were recruited between the ages of 50 and 60 hit me like a blast of fresh air.

I’ve been feeling SO old, so worn out, so sick and aching and feeling SO sorry for myself (not on purpose, I’ve been trying hard to shake it!)  It’s about time I moved ahead.

Hearing this one sentence made me feel – worthwhile? – again. In conjunction with a reading of  Madeleine Albright’s excellent book, Madame Secretary, I’ve been able to find a bit of perspective.

This was a refocusing that I needed, a looking ahead instead of looking behind.

In other news, I’m looking into a different kind of rear view mirror for my bike.  I’m trying the kind that attaches to the helmet – watch for updates…

Knitting and Crochet Blog Tour – Crafting Balance

Balance is elusive.

For me, balance implies a certain skill in finding the important center of things, then working out from there – not allowing any one auxiliary part to extend or overweigh the other parts.  Those who spin wheels (to make yarn, to move a bicycle, to hoop a hula, to form a pot, to carpool kids) understand this with all the small parts of their bodies.

And, as I’m fond of saying in my classes, sometimes our bodies (hands, nerves, muscles) are smarter than our brains.

I Like To Ride My Bicycle

For this reason, balance has become a  PHYSICAL thing to me.

Actually, I should say that the act of discovering the balance between physical and mental has allowed me to feel more secure in my design / teaching / knitting / crocheting / living / mothering / wiving / friending balance.

That’s the thing about balance.  It’s not forever, it’s not constant.  It changes, shifts, and we can lose it.  Balance also requires speed (it’s easier to keep balance on a bike which is moving faster-than-walking-speed than on a very slow moving bike.)

The physical touchpoint of my own balance has become my bicycling.  By jumping onto my bike and riding an average of 6-7 miles a day, I’m able to keep my blood flowing, stretch out my lungs, see the neighborhood from a slow moving perspective, connect with the world around me and reduce my fibromyalgia pain significantly.

My rheumatologist told me that she feels the increased blood flow is probably the reason for my decrease in pain, which makes sense to me.  All I know is that I feel better, my joints hurt less, and I’m happier when I get a ride in.

Having Fibro has forced me to embrace my humanity (and humility) in ways I hadn’t expected.  Well, who DOES expect this – we’re all superhuman when we’re young, aren’t we?

Fibro forces me to monitor my resources, gauge how much energy I have and how much an activity will take, and leave time after a big event (like Yarnover this past weekend) to recover my physical strength.

To folks who haven’t done it, standing in front of a class of 20 folks and explaining the intricacies of knit techniques may not sound like an energy-zapper, but it IS.

I’m an extrovert to the extent that being around folks recharges my batteries, but I’m also an introvert in that I need time alone to recharge different–but just as necessary–batteries.

For this reason bringing my bike to Yarnover and taking a chilly ride from the teaching location to the teacher’s dinner and back to a friend’s house for a post-dinner get-together was one of the best things I did. It compelled me to create time and space for myself, AND to get some physical exercise in and bike away the stiffness of the day.

I travel light when I bike; I have a small basket and now I own a cool hobo bag from Steven Be that slings over my shoulder, and that’s about it.  Lighter means balance is easier, nothing is harder than trying to carry a large load of groceries in the front of my bike, and that’s a lesson I try to take into my non-biking life.

Carrying around grudges, hurt feelings and leftover pain can do nothing but cause my balance to shift uncomfortably, and that will make me fall.  I’m working to learn to let nonsense that doesn’t add anything to my balance GO.

For someone with an insanely inconsistent and dogged memory, this is a hard, hard thing to do.

Here’s a wonderful quote I heard today:

“Forgiveness means giving up all hope
for a better past.” – Lily Tomlin

The quote reminded me that forgiveness doesn’t necessarily mean that the person who’s receiving the forgiveness is even aware of it.  After all, don’t we often cause offense without realizing it?  Maybe we can forgive in that same anonymous way?

So my balance for this day (this week, this year – this life?) is trying to figure out how to let go of the myriad hurts I suffer (self inflicted or not) and forgive the source of them, even if that source is me.

Maybe by doing this I’ll be worthy of forgiveness myself.

Or, as my friend London says,
“Be very kind to them, it screws with their minds…” 
That works. too!

I get all this from my bike, my family and my friends.  And I get a great deal of it from my knitting–that is the place I go for balance when I feel I’m lacking it and veering off course.

When the center is refusing to hold, I pick up my knitting, speed up my fingers and try to slow my mind.

Did you miss me?

I’m sorry I’ve been so quiet.  When weeks pass and I don’t post on my blog, I sometimes think, “Why do I even HAVE a blog…”

Then someone writes me, tells me how much they gained from reading back posts, and I realize that I won’t always be in this slow, slow period in my life.

I’ll speed up and post more regularly when I’m mentally and physically more in tune with everything.

Right now I’m just feeling a bit blah (perhaps Rick Santorum was speaking about me?) and at the same time a bit harried and confused.  An odd and unsettling mix.

I’ve been feeling exceptionally depressed some recent days, and I can’t help but feel it’s strongly tied to the fibro.  A rheumatologist I saw in Nov said that I was doing much better than many of her other patients, and I’ve been getting good light and taking my Vit D3 (although on her suggestion I cut back – maybe I need to increase it again?) 

It’s a silly kind of depressive feeling where I know I need help with some things, but I’m feeling just foolish and worthless enough to NOT ask for help.

Yes, I know how dopey that sounds, and unhelpful, please don’t scold me in the comments – you won’t tell me anything I don’t already know.

I think I also took a backspin on our weekend up to Camp Menogyn.  It was lovely, but physically it was so far beyond what I was capable of (the long walk across the lake in the dark upon our arrival winded me and cramped up my muscles in an odd way) 

I can do a long walk slowly, but dragging a sled of luggage and having no idea exactly how FAR we were walking was disorienting and unsettling.

Once at the lodge the folks were nice, but I had the feeling I’d wandered into someone else’s family reunion – and I wasn’t exactly part of the family.

A few other folks felt the same way (more knitters than I’d expected) so we made a small band of crafters in a very loud environment – what I wouldn’t have given for a smaller, quiet room with some decent light!

The cook was absolutely wonderful at creating something gluten free for me at each meal, so kind of her!

But I felt as if I were – useless?  Not able to keep up?  An outsider?  Most of those feeling sprang from within me, I know.  A lot of it was probably ‘first timer syndrome’, too!

So while I muse about a good blog post to put up in the next few days, here’s a short video about one of my favorite places in the Twin Cities – the Midtown Greenway Bike Trail.

As the temps will be hitting the high 40’s today (this is Minnesota, right?) I’m going out for a long ride today to try to clear my mind, relax my body and lose the cobwebs that have been clouding every part of my existence. 

Minneapolis’ Midtown Greenway
by Streetfilms

Biking is SO much easier for me than walking.  I’d rather bike 10 miles than walk a block, the pain when I bike is negligible, but when I walk I feel sore all over.  And this, of course, makes me feel guilty in some niggling way.

Beyond Judgey, The Last Post of 3


I was explaining to a friend about my “judgey” series of blog posts.  I told her I’d been ruminating for weeks on this topic, usually as I ride my bike around, and had been making notes on how I wanted to approach the issue, isolate the problem and propose a solution.

It struck me as I was explaining this to her that my bike was–for me–one solution to my judginess (self and otherwise)

When I ride my bike I feel I’m at my best.  I’m strong, I’m happy, and mentally I find myself open minded and kind hearted.

I tend not to judge myself terribly harshly (aside from when I hit a really hard hill – and even then I just hop off the bike and walk it up) and this is probably why I enjoy my bike so much.

Age may have a bit to do with it, too.
I think it’s true that as we get older
we tend to see life for what it’s worth
(the good and the bad) and realize that
any issue is more complex than a
youthful black-and-white
first glance may reveal.

Changing the judginess is a process of changing a mind set.  It’s a constant policing of my own internal thoughts.

When I find a harshly judging opinion crossing my mind I ask myself–kindly (after all, I’m trying not to be too hard on myself)–whether there’s a different way to look at this issue.  I’m not saying this is easy – it’s not.  But it is simple.

We instinctively know when we’re being too judgmental.  We can feel it, and it’s not the best feeling in the world.

The fact that a certain superiority springs
from judging does feel good
obviously complicates the issue.

When we judge we feel small, mean, and not our best selves.  So we try to walk away from those feeling as quickly as possible and slip immediately into the more delicious and longer-lasting feeling of superiority.

There Goes The Judge

What I’m proposing is that when you feel yourself putting together a judgmental thought about the guy in the car next to you, or the woman who bumped your cart in the market, or yourself when you catch a glimpse of your body in a plate glass window, hold onto that judgmental thought.

Really hold it for a moment.  Think about the thought itself.  Do you REALLY think that guy in the car is an “asshole?”  Or could it be that he just miscalculated the distance between cars?

Is that woman who bumped you really a “bitch?”  Or was she perhaps trying to avoid a clerk stocking beans on a lower shelf?

And are you really “ugly?”  Or are you just a little fat?  Do you just not conform to a conventional one-can’t-be-too-rich-or-too-thin mentality that relegates most of the population to unattractiveness?  Remember, fat does NOT equal ugly, it’s a description in the same way that tall, short, thin or bow-legged are descriptions.

Now, I’m not saying that the guy may not be a bit of a jerk when he changed lanes, the woman a little self-involved and not noticing the carts around her, or that you might not need to lose a few pounds.

But in and of themselves, these are not hanging offenses.  These are frailties – the kind every human carries and displays on a daily basis.

Beginning to cut slack to those around you, seeing their mistakes as human foibles (and viewing yourself in the same kind manner) is the first, simple step in quieting the judging voice in your head that may be holding you back from accomplishing all that you wish.

Moving Toward Acceptancefat bike sign

My bike is my safe, non-judging place, a lot of my joy in riding my bike springs from this.  The genesis of my “Ride, fat girl, ride” shirt was to own the description, but not the baggage that comes with it.  I made the shirt and wear it to OWN my weight, but also to show that my weight doesn’t OWN me.

Thom Hartmann is a writer and progressive commentator who has written many books. One that resonated with me was Walking Your Blues Away, which outlines a path for using physical exercise to conquer minor, daily depression.

Please know that I am NOT saying that all depression
can be handled with physical exercise.
I, myself, am a happy member of team fluoxitine.
But exercise can help your outlook amazingly!

In Thom’s book he writes about how the brain can be retrained using physical exercises, which I’ve used (both in walking and in bike riding) to very good effect.

One mental exercise I’ve developed for myself, which seems to work very well while riding my bike, is what I call the, “assume the best” game.

My mother used to say,
“Assume the best about someone’s motives.
If you assume the worst you’ll look like a bitch,
if you assume the best the worst you’ll look is a fool!”

I think about someone who I feel has been mean to me, done me wrong, wasn’t as thoughtful as I feel they should have been.  Sometimes the person I think about is me.  Then I try to assume the best about their circumstances.  What was it that made them short tempered?  Why were they brusque?  What might be going on in their life right now?

This isn’t a panacea–I still find myself pretty angry at some folks and carrying grudges which hurt no one but myself–but this exercise does help.

And, in the same way that all my bike riding hasn’t made me thin but has made me healthier, I find the mental exercise has made me a nicer–if not consistently kind–person.

And perhaps a little bit less judgy.

Judgey Part II – Who Am I? Why Am I Here?

My first interaction with my husband was a letter he sent to me which opened, “Who am I? Why am I here?”

He was referencing James Stockdale who quoted that line in the Vice Presidential debates of 1992, but it’s not a bad question to ask ourselves every now and then.

We have different categories that we fit ourselves into, we switch it up every now and then, we settle into some identities and reject others.

When I was around 15 I had a revelation that we show different sides of our personalities to different people.  Therefore, when someone is considered to have “changed,” perhaps they’ve just shown a different side to their personality.  I was a deep thinker.

No one person is the same to everyone all the time.  We do different little dances with different friends and family members, we strive for consistency, but we don’t always achieve it.

I feel the best we can hope for is keeping a strand of “true” personality running through most of our relationships so that folks can count on us, retaining enough elasticity so we can be flexible when we need to.  Not unlike a nice strand of springy merino…

Some of the Family

My own identity is tied up with my work (designing, teaching and writing), my family, my convictions about being part of a community and – as I addressed in my last blog post – my body identity.

Each of us has a different recipe, a different mix of what makes us the person that the world sees, and that recipe changes as we grow (or shrink) through our lives.

The past few years I’ve been having a minor crisis of identityConfidence?  I’m not quite sure what, but there are days when my neurotic Junior High school self would have been a welcome relief to my own middle-age angst.

The reasons are so obvious that it hardly bears mentioning – and I’m certain that by mentioning them I’ll garner some snarky comments on some chat board somewhere – but they are twofold: Gerry’s illness and my own Fibromyalgia.

Tin Fish, I "work" here sometimes...

Working – designing – as fast as I can, it’s still pretty hard to earn a decent living.  Smarter designers than I augment their incomes with yarn lines, connections to major yarn and knitting tool companies and television hosting gigs.  I admire them for this, and I would by lying if I didn’t admit that I envy them, but I haven’t felt the right kind of energy to pursue this angle yet.  I’d love to, it just hasn’t been in the cards/stars/roll of the dice so far.

But I’m troubled by my envy, by my current lack of visibility, and I’d been trying to find a way to mentally work through this.  I think I stumbled onto it this weekend.

The Analogy Part

As I was riding my bike in the Minneapolis Bike Tour this past weekend I paced myself behind a pair of women who were going just about my speed.  I stayed a good half block behind them for a few miles, feeling like I was almost part of a group, but happy in my solitude.

The First Flat Fixed

Then I began flagging.  I couldn’t keep up, it was getting very hard.  I changed gears, pedaled harder, but off they went, disappearing ahead of me as I found myself grounding to a snail’s pace.  Bye, bye.  Write if you get work…

I was so intent on keeping up, on staying at the same speed, that I hadn’t noticed that at some point in a gravel-and-glass section of a side street I’d picked up something that had punctured my tube.  I had a flat tire.

This was especially frustrating as I’d had a flat at mile 7 of the ride, but that one happened just a few blocks from a pit stop and was fixed so quickly it almost felt as though it hadn’t happened.  I was told by several riders that it was flat-heavy ride this year.

It was raining pretty hard, I was cold and sore, I felt miserable and I ached all over.  I pulled out my cell phone to call Gerry and ask him to come and pick me up, but then I put it away.

I was about 20 miles into the ride and I just didn’t want to give up so easily.

So I walked, pushing my bike along the path and feeling the “Ride, Fat Girl, Ride” logo printed on the back of my shirt burning like a brand of shame and humiliation.

Thin, fast, fully-air-filled-tire riders shot past me, I stumbled on.  Oh, the humanity.  Oh, the humility!

As I hiked to the next pit stop where I hoped I’d be able to get a tire change, I realized that this section of the ride was like a metaphor of my current situation in life.

The Metaphor Part

I’d been shooting along pretty well, designing and writing (3 books in 2 years) and making appearances.  Then I got a flat – our family got a flat; Gerry got sick.

We put all of our efforts as a family into getting through it, and now we’ve found a different dynamic.  After his stem cell transplant in 2007 Gerry’s Multiple Myeloma has become something we try to think of as a chronic illness rather than terminal cancer.

Gratuitous Peek at a New Hat

Gerry has a lot of pain, he has to rest a lot and his activities are severely limited, but he’s here for all the important reasons (love, laughter, support)  He’s here for all the reasons I married him, and in all the ways that make him a great dad and wonderful person.

Continuing on, just as our family was finding a new groove, I got sick.  Not sick like Gerry, not life threatening, but definitely income and identity threatening.

Fibromyalgia certainly isn’t going to kill me, and I’m learning new strategies every day to deal with it, but it’s something I can’t ignore.  The energy it takes to keep track of my energy is wearying.  I find myself beating myself up constantly for not being able to get as much done as I used to 5 years ago (not helpful) and there are times I become rather depressed and allow myself to feel useless.

Which is not true.

But sometimes we let our minds go to dark places, I’m not alone in that.  Comparing myself to folks who are able to ride past me right now (with their fancy air-filled tires) isn’t helpful, but it’s human, and it’s understandable.

I’ve been guilty lately of judging myself very harshly based on things that are a bit out of my control.  I feel guilty that I do something I love so much (knit design) but which brings in precious little money and no insurance.

I’ve been applying – and interviewing – for several jobs locally but each long process has ended – as it has for so many folks these days – with a “Thanks, but no thanks – you were our #2 candidate, but we’re going in a different direction…”

And then I begin to feel worthless.

Which is also not true.

The slight relief I feel when I get turned down for a job is in direct proportion to how many fibro flare ups I’ve had that month.  There is a nagging fear that if I did snag a job, I’d be unable to do as well as I need to while trying to adhere to a schedule that may not take into account my body’s current oddnesses.  That’s one of the big benefits of designing/writing/teaching – I can generally do it at my own schedule, or gear up for a teaching weekend by getting a LOT of rest before and after.

The Wisdom Part

I want to take away some kind of gift, some wisdom, from this metaphor.  So I ride my bike like a maniac.  The energy it takes is a small investment for the energy + joy + pain relief I get back in return.

There have been online
mentions that I must be faking
the fibro if I’m able to bike so far,
I assure everyone that’s not true.
Spend a few days with me and you’ll
see how movement is rather difficult.

I try not to judge myself too harshly, I try to be smart and hard working and organized (organization is one way to circumvent energy loss) and I try to remind myself on a daily basis that self-love isn’t indulgent.

In the same way that as I walked my bike this past weekend, concentrating on keeping my body warm and stretched so I didn’t freeze up, I continue designing and writing and teaching.  Maybe not at the speed and level I did when I had a full tire, but I can’t let myself get cold.

If I let myself listen to the harsh, judgey voices I’ll definitely freeze up, slow down, maybe even sit in a sad heap on the curb in the rain and begin to melt away.  So I try to either ignore the judgey voices, reason with them or sing really loudly.

Rainy Pit Stop, With Extra Oranges!

I’m still working out a good strategy to get me to the next pit stop where I can, hopefully, get my flat fixed, have a gluten free snack and a drink of water and get back on the road.  That’s why it sometimes takes me a long time to blog, to get my newsletter out, or to get some designs worked up and written down.

But if you look for me, I’m there.  I’m strolling along the side of the road in the rain balancing my handlebars in one hand, a slice of orange in the other, singing.

The “Judgey” Thing

Judge not.

I’m not a practicing anything in terms of religious affiliation.  I attend our local Temple, we’re members and I’m relatively active, but I’m not Jewish.  I was raised Methodist, but there’s what whole ‘divinity’ thing that I wrestle with, so I’m not really a practicing Methodist.

I’m not religious, but I’m definitely not anti religion – there’s a great deal of good, of wisdom, that can be learned from faith practices around the world.

One of the best, one of my favorites – Judge Not.

Ironically, it’s one of the hardest for the mainstream religions
to adhere to themselves, but that’s for another blog post…

I want to talk about Judginess.

Specifically, judginess in terms of how we look at ourselves (today’s post), and how we look at our chosen recreational activities (knitting, crochet, biking, macrame, spoon juggling, whatever you do in the privacy of your home…  or in public – future blog post.)

We can be rather harsh when it comes to analyzing other folks work, and even more harsh when analyzing our own.  I’m one of the worst offenders, although I try to be honest and loving in my self criticism.

I remember hating my body SO severely in my youth, dieting like a  maniac until I was a size 10 (for about 15 minutes – remember, I’m six foot tall) and heard the unforgettable words spring forth from a new acquaintance, “Why, it’s obvious you’ve NEVER had a weight problem!”

At that moment I could have died and gone to heaven.  Literally, I could have died because I hadn’t eaten a solid meal in a few days.

However, life being what it is, my weight tends to go up and down, and – unlike smoking or gambling or almost any other vice – overeating shows like a neon sign and allows all who are inclined to judge very harshly the moment you come into view.

I am sometimes my worst critic, I understand the running commentary of self loathing that streams through the soul of most overweight folks, I know how hard it is to ignore/stop it and how necessary that is in order to effect any positive change.

But I also remember the day I stepped into the shower, hating the glimpse I caught of myself as I rushed past the mirror, but then came up short when I realized, “How can I hate my body so much if it gave me two wonderful kids?  How can I hate this body that allows me to walk and live and enjoy life?”

That realization didn’t make me an ounce thinner, but it did open a small door of self love that I try to pry open a bit wider every day.

Sometimes things happen that practically slam
the door shut, and I have to wedge some kind of
metaphysical shoe between the door and
the jamb to keep it from closing.

And it’s self love that allows me to do things like care about what I put in my mouth (less sugar, more fiber, no gluten, even when I’d KILL for a biscuit) and what I do with my body (ride my bike as much as I can, do yoga when I can’t.)

Love is not a pie, you can’t slice it up and divide the pieces.  Or, if it is a pie, it’s a magic pie that makes newer, bigger slices the minute you cut one and slip it on a plate for your Aunt Mable.  This is not my best analogy, I’ll work on it…

Self-love is the same, it spreads and grows the more you exercise it.  Self love allows you to fend off judginess that comes from outside.

Without self love, EVERY type of criticism feels like a slap.  Self-love separates the barb from the honest criticism (although it doesn’t necessarily make the criticism easier to hear!)

Me & Colbert, Mile 35, 1 to go!

Yesterday I finished a 36 mile bike ride.  I went slow, I took my time.  It was raining and cold for most of the ride, which are both things that exacerbate my fibromyalgia and make me ache all over like I have the flu.

I’ve certainly ridden faster, and the two flat tires I got during the ride didn’t help my speed, but I finished all 36 miles and I was very happy with my effort.

NOT dressing to advantage...

Until I looked at the photograph a very kind volunteer for the Minneapolis Bike Tour took of me at the finish line.  “That’s me?  I’m that fat?  Seriously?”

I didn’t FEEL that fat as I rode.  I felt like Lance Armstrong.  I felt like a thin, beautiful, French resistance fighter shouting, “Vive la France!” as I darted across the French countryside.

This is my own personal biking fantasy…

True, I wore my “Ride, fat girl, ride!” T-shirt, but – seriously?  I look like this?  Yes, yes I do.

This is the body of a woman who just rode 36 miles, who averages 6 miles a day, who eats pretty well (although I do like my chocolate) and who could probably eat better.

This is the body of a woman who has given birth twice, just turned 50, and is trying hard to be unashamed of herself.

And who is trying even harder not to judge herself too harshly.

TKGA, Right In My Own Backyard!

I know a huge percentage of the knitting world is at Sock Summit this weekend, and I sort of wish I were there, too!  I think what Steph and Tina have created is absolutely amazing, and the more established knitting conventions would do well to study the success of this new event!

I definitely want to throw my hat in the hopper to teach some classes next time – I’d hesitated to apply because I’m not really known for socks (hillbilly that I am, I rarely even wear them…)

MTM statue in Minneapolis & my bike

But I’m not in Portland – I’m here in Minnesota, working on some new projects, and drowning some of my missing-sock-summit-sorrows by attending TKGA market and participating in Steven B’s Fiber Fest

I’m teaching 2 new lace classes this week –

  • Lace for Absolute Beginners on Thursday at 4pm
  • Lace Principles/Chart Your Own Lace on Tuesday at 4pm

at Steven’s Minneapolis location.  I wonder if Rhoda & Mary knitted?

So although I’m missing seeing some good friends out in Portland, dinner with full-out belly laughs with Lily Chin, a lovely short visit and good hug from Vicky Howell, reconnecting with so many friends from local yarn shops and a nice sit down visit with Shannon from Shibaguyz made everything better.

Most exciting was having a chance to show off the new dvd I’d worked up for Claudia of YarnSisters, the US distributor for Zealana yarn.

I’ve been working on some videos for this company, combining “how-to” segments with shots of the yarn in action, tidbits about the feel and usage of the yarn, etc.

I’m releasing the first video today, because Claudia said I could (she loved it!)

That is, she said I could releasre it right after
I corrected the company name in the video.  D’oh! 

I hope you like it!

Lovely Left Decreases by Annie Modesitt
Are you tired of left decreases that don’t quite live up to the expectations of their right leaning siblings? Here’s a great way to create balanced, good-looking left decreases!

Ride, Hot Girl, Ride

The Mississippi - our own muddy 'Seine'

Best of all was my ride to the convention center this morning.  I love to do the West River Parkway route, along the Mississippi.  There’s a wonderful downhill coast, but of course I have to pay for it by riding (walking) my bike back up the hill on the other side of the university.

Tough on a hot, humid day – but not so bad this morning because I went early!

I got home in time to rest up a bit before two friends stopped by for yet ANOTHER bike ride (this time a short one down to St. Thomas University) 

These two friends are folks I met in Rome last year – the happened to sit next to a few of us at an outdoor table at a cafe and it turned out they were from St. Paul and love to bike!   But it’s taken us almost a year to actually GET OUT AND BIKE TOGETHER!

I feel awkward biking with other folks because my asthma can be so bad on a hot, humid day.  I know I’m trying hard, I know my own limitations, but going at someone else’s pace can leave me red-faced (for lack of oxygen and embarrassment) When I ride alone I can coast when I need to – which may not be when someone else needs to.

But this was a short ride, a lovely ride, and it’s always good to see friends!


Bike Summer Games

Okay, you’d think after my wild ride on Friday (and the subsequent Day O’Pain that I experienced yesterday) I’d have put the riding behind me for a while, but no such luck.

I’m off today to take advantage of the 70’s temps & the lovely breeze (thank you, Minnesota, for returning to your usual Summer weather sanity after the madness of last week…)

My bike at Como Park

I’ll try to ride out the kinks.  I swear, a day without riding and my joints get very testy.

And, on top of that, I had some DELICIOUS risotto from Trader Joe’s yesterday that Hannah was making for herself and Max, but unfortunately it contained wheat and I was laid LOW all evening with my flu-like fibro flare up.  Damn.  It doesn’t take much.

But back to the biking!

One biking website I like quite is bit is Let’s Go Ride A Bike (LGRAB) and, although I haven’t participated before, I’m going to participate in the LGRAB Summer Bike Games!

It’s pretty easy, and not physically challenging at all, something I can do without breaking a sweat.  Although, let’s face it, this summer you can’t do ANYTHING without breaking a sweat!

Here are the 10 events, completion of at least 4 is required to qualify.

  1. on vacation? rent a bike and go for a ride!
  2. write a letter advocating for bicycling infrastructure (bike lanes, bike rack, etc) to your alderman/council representative, mayor, or a local business.
  3. take a picture of something along your commute that says “summer” to you, and explain why
  4. commute to work by bike or bike/transit if you don’t already
  5. perform a maintenance task on your bike
  6. explore a greenway or bike path in your city that you haven’t previously visited
  7. test ride a different type of bike than you normally ride (road bike, mountain bike, etc.)
  8. read a book about cycling
  9. ride your bike somewhere new in your city
  10. go on a group ride

The only hard part is that I have to do the 4 between 2 set dates (7/22 and 8/4)  I’ve done most of these already, but now I guess I’ll re-do some of them!

Today I’m going to accomplish several criteria:

  • ride to someplace NEW (#9 – Como Park),
  • do some minor maintenance work on my bike (#5 – fix my broken basket)
  • explore a greenway that’s new (#6 Como Transitway to Mpls)
  • take a picture (#3 – my camera is ready!)

…and in so doing I’m going to get myself BACK to a pain free place.  I am. Really.  I promise.

Bump, Skid, Ouch!

Boy, yesterday was a pretty wretched day all over the world.  The Norwegian tragedy is beyond comprehension (Gerry called it right away, saying that it felt to him like Oklahoma City, and it does sound very much the same at this point.)

In our own corner of the world we had two minor bits of excitement, neither one tragic at all, just inconvenient.

Watch Out For That Hole!

I ride my bike quite a bit because it seems to get all of my juices flowing and keeps the pain from my fibromyalgia at bay.  At first I thought I may have been imagining this, or projecting, making myself believe that the biking was helping to assuage the guilt I felt for peddling away from household duties once or twice a day.

But when I don’t ride for a day or two, the stiffness returns.  More than 3 days and the pain can be so bad when I start to ride again that I need to ease back up into my longer rides.  Right now I average about 6 miles a day, most of my rides are between 7-14 miles.

It sounds like a lot, and I guess it is, but it doesn’t FEEL like that much.  Not now.  When I started riding 2 years ago after a 20 year break (I used to ride in grad school) it was a big deal to go even 3 miles.

These days a 20 mile ride really doesn’t feel THAT far, and I keep expanding my riding circle to add more miles. (The great thing about a place like the Twin Cities is that not only are there ample bike trails and paths, but if I get really tired or burned out I can hop on a bus and go home.  ALL the city transit buses in Minneapolis & St. Paul have bike racks on the front.)

Falling isn’t fun, but everyone does it now and then.  I haven’t fallen for a while, but I did a doozy yesterday and scraped myself up pretty badly.  Even worse, my right hand (thumb & joint especially) are very tender, so knitting is out of the picture for a bit.

Luckily I fell right in front of the home of a very kind woman, a nurse, who patched me up and sympathized, and also happens to be a (new) fibromyalgia friend.  Small world!

Gerry came and got me – I was feeling pretty woozy – but overall I’m dandy.  I’ll take a day or so off the bike, but I’ll be back on it, believe-you-me, because nothing else brings me the same joy or decreases my pain to such a degree.


However, that was just the start of our excitement yesterday.  Later in the day, while I was down in Rosemount visiting Steven B’s shop the Yarn Garage, Gerry had a car accident while driving the kids home from piano lessons.

It was minor in the sense that everyone is okay, and fault was difficult to determine (Gerry’s car was hit, but his immediate reaction to any accident is to blame himself, which is what he has done here, and now it’s a moot point…)

The kids are fine, Gerry’s fine (if shaken) and I kept waking up last night from fitful dreams of what might have happened.  We were lucky. The car, unfortunately, is a total loss.

Now we’re a one-car family, which isn’t terrible in a good mass-transit area like Mpls/StP.  I use my bike for most of our daily grocery shopping and errands, and the kids will have to lean to rely on THEIR bikes and the busses to get around.

We’d contemplated becoming a 1-car family for a few months, we just didn’t expect it to happen so quickly or in such an unplanned way.  This is life.

And, of course, Gerry just had $800 of work done on the car.  Damn.