Category Archives: Health

According To [Business] Plan!

Tonight I’m reveling in the enjoyment of an Epsom Salt bath, a nice warm dip on a cool, almost Autumnal evening here in MN, watching TV on my iPad while I bathe my sore skin. Absolute heaven.

If I could have another child I would name it Epsom.

I visited my acupuncturist (Susan at Crocus Hill Acupuncture) today for the first time in a LONG time, she said that she’s seen quite excellent results with acupuncture and shingles, and also gave me an herbal oil essence (Yin Care) which does seem to help a bit.  Having said that, the pain continues in insane ways, but knowing what it is removes the mystery aspect, which is always the hardest part of pain (at least for me!)

I’ll keep you posted on the efficacy of the above therapies; if I’ve learned anything, it’s that – as Gerry’s wonderful Aunt Arlene says – “EVERYONE gets shingles!”
If I can save someone some of this pain, I’ll feel that it’s been a bit worth it!

So with that squared away, I have dyeing to do!  We’re having an EXCELLENT August, lots of great orders, and I think the excitement about our Caledonian Colors (in honor of the Outlander mini series) has a lot to do with our increased sales!  Our Lanark Plaid Cowl doesn’t hurt, either!

Personification of Caledonia by the Victorian artist William Hole, photographed by Kim Traynor

Personification of Caledonia by the Victorian artist William Hole, photographed by Kim Traynor

Caledonia is the Latin name given by the Romans to the land in today’s Scotland north of their province of Britannia, beyond the frontier of their empire. The etymology of the name is probably from a P-Celtic source. Its modern usage is as a romantic or poetic name for Scotland as a whole, comparable with Hibernia for Ireland and Britannia for the whole of Britain. — Wikipedia, Caldonia

COLOR CHOICES

These colors are very close to my heart, as is Scotland (where I felt immediately at home the first time I set foot in St. Abbs to stay with Louise of Woolfish)  She runs an an amazing shop, by the way, you should stop by there if you’re on the East coast of Scotland!

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

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

I’m enjoying working up our FLOW colors, creating colors that graduate in hue and value as the yarn is unwound. In fact, I find it more satisfying than the way I’ve been doing all of our yarns so far, so I’m trying to figure out a way to create our basic colors along the same lines of our FLOW colors.

The No Spoilers line is doing extremely well, and YES, we DO intend to bring the 221B Colors back.  We were going to wait until the next season of Sherlock, but we may break down and do a holiday run… Stay tuned!

All of this is exciting because it’s pretty much exactly what we’d envisioned for this section of our business growth.  Our plan had been to develop some good base colors (our Semi Precious) then add new colors as they seemed pertinent (No Spoilers) and to introduce different ways to display those colors in the yarn (semi solid, chunky colors, blends and now FLOW)

I’m also working hard to develop uniformity, to make follow-able recipes and techniques to create our colors so that, as we grow, I can hire dyers and hand off some of the more physically difficult work.  The importance of this has become very evident these past 2 weeks.

I’m still learning, and as with any yarn there are differences from dye lot to dye lot, but my goal is to create colors that I can recreate with a certain level of consistency.

Finally my 20K graduate degree in “folding” (and dyeing) is paying off!

YARN CHOICES

We’re offering five yarns right now

  1. ModeWerk Superwash Merino Worsted
  2. ModeWerk Superwash Merino Fingering
  3. ModeWerk Superwash Merino Bulky
  4. ModeSock Superwash Merino/Bamboo/Nylon Blend
  5. ModeLuxe Silk & Merino Blend

Before we offer a yarn we test it thoroughly for wear, washing, knitability and just general good yarn juju.  We haven’t yet found a lace we love, or a MCN we want to stick with, but we promise that we won’t add a yarn to our permanent line unless we LOVE it ourselves!

We are also working with suppliers who we feel will be able to continue to carry these yarns for a long time, it’s so annoying to fall in love with a yarn only to see it head off to yarn heaven!

PROFIT MARGIN

As well as things are going, Kathleen and I keep reminding ourselves that we didn’t intend to be able to pay ourselves quite yet, and that being able to pay off all of our yarn, dye, and the cool (but expensive) equipment we purchased in June (using only profits from the business) is actually a huge WIN!  Aside from our initial investment and a couple hundred dollars more a few months in, the business is paying for itself so far.  Now we have to grow it so the business can pay US, too!

CLUB, ANYONE?

To that end, we’ve been discussing different types of Yarn Clubs we might work up.  We’d love to have your input on the type of club that you would like to belong to – tell us in the comments what your ‘dream club’ would be!  Would you like it to be project oriented?  Yarn centered? Maybe a mini-skein club?

IMG_0810Would you like different weights of yarn in different deliveries of the same club, or would you prefer to have a sock yarn or bulky yarn only club?

And what do you feel would be a fair price for this dream club you may be envisioning?

Obviously I’m asking you for some market research, but any advice you’d care to share would be happily and gratefully accepted!  I’ve committed myself to making at least one pattern a month available for free (patterns move yarn!) and perhaps one aspect of the club would be patterns which are only available to club members?

So, friends, as we grow and develop and try to address the hand-dyed-easy-care market we’re carving out for ourselves, know that we appreciate your comments, your business, your chatter and your good thoughts.  Thank you!

Even Keel

A good friend who I don’t speak with NEARLY often enough messaged me with sympathy today on our run of bad luck. I answered her:

“I think all of the shit is just now sinking in. When the worst happened (the car, my computer) we were just scrambling to get Andy to college. Now that a week’s gone by (and I’m in even MORE shingles pain) everything seems much darker. It will pass, we know it will. Now to shop for a used car…”

LIFE

We’re just keeping an even keel, trying not to let the two week crap storm hang over our heads, trying to be pro-active and forward looking. It’s helpful that it’s almost September, a time of new beginnings, because it feels like a good time to turn a page.

And, seriously, what we’ve lost is just STUFF.  Yes, some very big and expensive stuff, but it’s stuff. The kids are great, Gerry’s here, and I’m fine (just in pain, but so is Gerry ALL the time, and misery loves company!)

COMPUTER

I am fortunate to have a computer immediately available (I adore my wonderful, brilliant husband who drags computers home like stray cats and fixes them up!), and Carbonite is paying for itself (although the recovery is taking FOR EVER – but I can see that it’s happening – so I’m lucky!)  I don’t think I’ll lose many files, and every few months I backup on my hard drive in the basement, so nothing important is lost.  It’s just in limbo right now until I get the recovery re-installed.

Having said that, functioning this week is very difficult because I’m used to my email being setup as I like it (with all of my many folders and past emails arranged just ‘so’) and I want my browser like it used to be (with my shortcuts and bookmarks)  

I need to wait for the recovery to finish to see if I’m able to recover those small preference things that make such a difference to a semi geek like me.  I’m hopeful.

HEALTH

The shingles pain continues. I actually went to see a GI doc today because I was convinced that SOMETHING terrible is going on, but apparently the nerve pain from shingles can masquerade as some severe internal issues. So this awful pain continues.

The doc prescribed Lyrica. When I went to pick it up (after the Dentist, doing all of my errands on my bike because – no car!) the pharmacist said the insurance company wouldn’t fill it until I tried Gabapentine, which I couldn’t have because I didn’t have a prescription for it.

I explained I’d used Gabapentine for Fibromyalgia 4 years ago, and it really didn’t do anything for me. The upshot was nothing could be done, so I’m back to OTC pain meds. My GP prescribed a narcotic (a strain of hydrocodone) but I really hate taking it as it upsets my stomach.

Funny, you never see Nurse Jackie chugging Milk of Magnesia because all that hydro’s given her rock hard constipation.

So this is me moaning about my health again.  Someone said that once about me on a blog, and it’s stuck with me. I laugh about it some days, and other days I feel like a real whiner.

But the truth is, this pain is real and hurts like h@ll.  Maybe someone can benefit from my story (get the vaccine!) and maybe I can benefit from some words of wisdom!

The most helpful things I’ve heard so far are:

  • Epsom Salt Baths; I’m not a huge ‘bather’, but the Epsom Salts are one of the few things that really take the pain away.  I’m going to take a nice, long bath before I see my acupuncturist tomorrow. THANK YOU DEBORAH R!
  • Ice Packs: They really, really help with the pain. I have a tank top that I wear under a huge Tshirt, and I use safety pins to make little ‘pockets’ between the two garments where I can slip the packs so I don’t have to hold them in place.
  • Acetaminophen: It works. (Paracetamol for my UK friends…) Believe me, I WISH I could take the ‘fun drugs’ – but the pain of being backed up, the nausea, it’s just not worth it to me. So I’ve rediscovered the old family favorite, and it works.  I don’t take a lot, I discussed with the doc today, and I’m hopeful that in the next week the Lyraca will be approved by my insurance so I can see if THAT works better.
  • Movement Hurts: I know this sounds silly, but I tend to define a sickness on whether it is made better with movement, or made worse.  Fibro tends to get better if I can get out and bike, or do yoga, or stretch and swim. This shingle thing, on the other hand, just hurts more when I move.

I knew shingles was bad, and after Gerry’s stem cell transplant I was an eagle eye for any symptoms on him (and actually caught them once very early on, he got medication immediately and had no pain – yay!)

CAR

We’re still wrapping our heads around the car. At this point I don’t think it will be found, so it looks as though we’ll be in the market for a new (used) car. We liked the Hyndai, it had good sight lines, drove nicely, could fit a LOT inside and got decent gas milage. I know if Gerry had his druthers he’d get a VW, and if I ruled the world I’d get a Subaru, but the truth is, we’ll just be getting what we can afford.  Heaven help us. If anyone has a lead on a good, small, fuel efficient hatchback or station wagon in MN, let us know!

PHONE

I miss my phone quite a bit, mostly I miss the last few photos I took on it (pics of Andy which I hadn’t yet downloaded)  But it’s just a phone.  We bought it used (I jailbroke it) and this is when being cheap makes us happy. All of our phones, computers, ipads, etc., are bought as refurbs, used, or we do the refurbing/jailbreaking ourselves. So I’ll be looking for a new (used) iphone because I LOVE the interface, and until I get it I know I’ll feel a bit as though I’ve lost a finger.

In the mean time I have Max’s old cast of Samsung, with my sim card in it so I can make and receive calls.  But – and I’m serious – I cannot figure out how to use this thing.

Holding Pattern

Well, I went to Indiana to take Andy to school.

It just seemed that so much sh*t had hit the fan, I felt a bit like a wreck, and I wanted to go.

So my inner 6-year old went, and I was along for the ride. And I think overall it was a good thing that I did go; I can’t imagine that I’d have been much more comfortable here, and I think I did have a bit of a calming presence on Andy’s moving in.

Or maybe I’m just in a stupor.

It was a long drive, but the B&B we stayed in was wonderful! Being sick not at home is no fun, but this was the next best thing, and I’m very grateful to Leighanne at Seldom Scene Meadow B&B in Richmond, she made both of us feel very much at home!

The moving itself was incredibly painless (elevator dorm, who knew?) and the orientation sessions were plentiful and helpful. We enjoyed meeting Andy’s advisor and her roommates, we’re crossing our fingers that as classes begin she feels at home and not-overwhelmed. It seemed she was already making friends, that first month at college is HARD.

In case you’re not on facebook and missed the excitement, after my week of a kidney stone AND shingles, everything was topped off by a in home break-in (rather, a screen-slitting, when the downstairs window was left open and the opportunity proved too great)  My computer, cell phone and bag were taken. It wasn’t until the police arrived that we realized that my keys were on the bag, and thus the car had ALSO been stolen. Not a great day.

I think we’re both still in shock over it, and we spent Wednesday regrouping as quickly as we could to rent a car to take Andy to college (we had to rent an SUV as there really are no rentable station wagons, which felt unspeakably odd to both of us for the whole weekend!)

So all cards have been canceled, reports filed, accounts deleted, new EZ pass ordered (and received, but not in time for our trip, damn it!) and we’re looking at, perhaps, shopping for a new (used) car.  We have 30 days of rental, but we’re thinking we’ll dole that out so we can put off getting a new car for as long as we can.

We love being a one car family, but it makes it damned hard when that one car is stolen.

My shingles pain continues, and with it really painful digestive issues which come with the pain drugs (which I try not to take, I only take them when I absolutely must)  It’s not been a pleasant week, not in any sense of the word, except we are very proud of our daughter and loved seeing her begin to find her way at Earlham!

Happy News!

We have some happy news for Patty D! She’s the winner of our ball of ModeWerk Bulky, and as an extra bonus I actually FIXED the shopping cart button so folks can order this yarn (man, THAT was bad planning… having a broken button on a website that we were promoting…)

So if you tried to buy some Bulky but got some odd message, it should be fixed now.  Thanks so much for your patience.

Health

I’m feeling more human, but astounded at how bruised and in-pain I remain. Exhausted. I could sleep for 3 weeks, I think, and still not be myself again.

So I’ve made the very, very painful decision that when Andy goes off to college this week, I won’t be taking her.  Gerry and Max will go with her, I’ll stay here to sleep, try to eat some soup (all I’ve kept down since last Tuesday is some yogurt, a bit of soup, a frozen fruit bar and some fudgesickles)

I got up this morning and showered, got dressed, and decided I’d sit up and work on emails, contracts and other office type projects. However just writing these two paragraphs wiped me OUT, so I’m heading back to bed.

I would be NO help with the college move in, and I want this trip for Andy to be, “I’m SO excited about my new college!” not “I’m so worried about my mom’s health…”

Slow and steady, I guess.  The Valtrex is definitely helping the shingles, the most confusing and agonizing combination of numbness and burning pain I’ve ever experienced.

Thank you for your very kind wishes, I really appreciate them! I know I’ll be back to myself in a short bit, and now I definitely feel I’m finally on the upswing!

I must have been VERY bad

In a past life I must have REALLY pissed off someone – or maybe in this life – because the pain I’ve had the last few days is crazy.  A sore back sent me to bed early on Tues, where the pain became SO bad at 3am that Gerry said we should go to the ER.

Test, test, test.

Test, test, test.

Apparently I had had a kidney stone. Different tests showed that there’d been one, and the fact they couldn’t see it on the scan led the doctor to say that I’d passed it. “The pain should go away now, just rest for a few days and make an appt to see your own GP.”

But the pain didn’t go away, it got worse.

And added to this pain was an incredible skin sensitivity (think of how your skin feels during a bad flu, then add poison ivy pain to that) and I had a lot to talk about with my doc on Thursday. As she was examining the part of my back that hurt the worst, in the general location of my right kidney, I half joked, “It couldn’t be shingles, could it?”

Yes, yes it could.

My constant companion

My constant companion

I’m on the watch for shingles all the time, but for Gerry, not for me. Because of his stem cell transplant and various drugs he’s on, he’s more susceptible to develop shingles. There has been at least one time when I caught the symptoms on him just in the nick of time (earning raised eyebrows and a smile from our oncologist) At the time it was taken care of with a quick course of Valtrex.

But these shingles had a bit of time to settle in, and they are intense.  Everything you’ve heard in those TV ads is true. I have so much pain that I’m nauseous.

The nausea makes it hard to keep the pain meds down. It’s a vicious circle, and I’m in the center of it.  I haven’t had this kind of out-of-control nausea since my first pregnancy.  I can’t wear anything but the loosest cotton dress, anything touching my body is cause for agony.

In other words, I’m not a good date.

In fact, if you asked me what was going on with my body (and if I hadn’t had a hysterectomy and wasn’t 52) I’d say, “Obviously I’m in labor!”

Since Tuesday. This sucks.

Work Continues…

Our newest design, Lanark Plaid Cowl, worked in Bulky Loch Ness, Thistle & A Wee Dram

Lanark Plaid Cowl, worked in Bulky Loch Ness, Thistle & A Wee Dram

The worst part is that I can’t get much work done. I finished up some schematics for my new book and got that out the door, and yesterday I wrote up a simple plaid pattern for a multi colored cowl (in our new Caledonian Colors) but my concentration is poor, and I can only knit for a few minutes before pain causes me to change my position into a non-knitting one.

Thursday evening we had to reshoot three sweaters for my upcoming book, and I KNEW that if we didn’t do it, it would be BIG TROUBLE. Andy goes off to college next Thursday, and I really needed to get front shots of 3 garments.

My photographer (Lara Need of Math4Knitters) is amazing, and she did most of the work. The models (Andy & our friend Lydia) were beautiful with great attitudes, so it was as stress free as a shoot could go.

I consider it a huge success that I was able to wait
until we got home to be sick. We all have different yardsticks.

I haven’t been able to ride my bike (the idea makes me break out in a cold sweat) and that makes the fibro pain grow in unwanted ways.

Well, what doesn’t kill us… right?

I find myself SO hesitant to write about this (I’ve actually been rather hesitant to blog at all these days…) because I know that someone will pop up to say, “Stop whining about your pain, just work through it!”

And they’d be right in a sense. The best thing to do with pain is to find a path through it, and sometimes talking about it isn’t the best path.

But the last 3 days have been overwhelming. I gave birth twice, to two big babies, the last one (11lbs) with no medication. This pain is worse. And it doesn’t seem to want to end.

Having said that, the pain does seem infinitesimally better since yesterday. I think the meds are working, but the nausea is as bad as ever.  But even that small change for good is reason to hope.

The cowl, down Jasper gets around

The cowl in it’s down position.
Jasper gets around

Your Reward

For reading my long tale of woe is that I’d like to gift you with the cowl pattern!

Lanark Plaid Cowl To download click on image of pattern.

Lanark Plaid Cowl
To download click on image of pattern.

Bear in mind, it’s been written by a woman in pain, and the tech edit was pretty quick and dirty. But the pattern is crazy simple [notice I didn't say EASY, just SIMPLE] and if you want, you can consider it a fun test knit…

And (because I’m not in my right mind) I’ll pick ONE name from the comments of a person to receive a ball of ModeWerk Bulky. This is soft, beautiful yarn – it knits up like a dream – AND it’s super wash. I so hate making a gift for someone, then attaching a “care instructions” card to it.

Just leave a comment below, I don’t care what it’s about, and your name will go in the hopper for the drawing!  I don’t want to restrict this to US folks, so if you want to participate and you’re in a foreign country you’ll have to pony up $10 for shipping (I’ll cover the rest, and all of the shipping costs if the winner’s from the US) Leave your comment by midnight on Sun, Aug 17th (US Central Time) and we’ll pick a winner on Monday.  Good luck!

So go, leave a message, and make me laugh.  Please.

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!)

An Open Letter to Mrs. Brokaw

Dear Mrs. Brokaw,

Obviously I don’t know you, we’ve never met, although I – like many Americans – feel that I know your husband. My own husband’s father was a stagehand at NBC for many years, and always mentioned what a mensch your husband was. Stage hands learn pretty fast who is a good guy, and who’s a bit of a prima donna.

So apparently this past Summer you joined the club I joined 7 years ago, spouses of folks with Multiple Myeloma. We also share the fact that our husbands are being treated at the Mayo Clinic, which I consider a very good club to be in, indeed.

You’re in the best hands in the world. When Gerry, my husband, was diagnosed his prognosis was poor, but every year, with new drugs and improved treatment options, his prognosis gets a little better.

Life has never been as precious to us as it as these past few years. We feel amazingly lucky. Excellent work is being done all over the world on this disease, but we’re biased toward the Mayo as we live in Minnesota.

I’m not going to say, “Cancer is a gift” – because it’s not. This is a painful, frightening disease – I hope your husband hasn’t had too much bone damage and subsequent pain.

But what this disease HAS given to our family is a golden opportunity to realize exactly how precious we are to each other, and how wonderful each day we share is. Often at the Mayo we would remark that it felt as though we were on a second honeymoon, except this time with chemo.

You’re not alone. I know it’s presumptive of me to write this note, and by this time you’ve realized everything that I could ever tell you. Know that there are many spouses next to you, standing by your side, all of us loving our husbands and wives, all of us willing to share some strength or just let you know that a prognosis can change for the better, especially with Multiple Myeloma.

All the best wishes for treating this terrible cancer as a chronic condition!

Best,
Annie Modesitt

Happy New Year!

It’s another year, and we’re crossing our fingers chez Landy/Modesitt that it will once again be a relatively uneventful one healthwise for Gerry and myself!

Learning to deal with a chronic condition is a good zen exercise in living itself.  After all, isn’t LIFE a chronic condition?

So this year I traveled a bit less, rested a bit more, and biked when I could. I didn’t break any records, but I stayed pretty healthy! Gerry keeps on keeping on; we cross our fingers that the Revlimid & Dex keep doing their magic (and that the Chronic Disease Fund keeps helping us with the $9K/month cost) and we live hopefully and happily!

In 2013 I stayed home more than I had in the past, but I tried to offset that with more designs and all of my work paid off this Autumn when over 16 of my designs appeared in various magazines around the knitting world in the same month. That was great!

I also came to a decision in 2013 that I was tired of working for less than minimum wage in order to, essentially, earn money for other folks.

I love designing, I love knitting, but I don’t love working 80 hours in a week to earn peanuts.

Don’t get me wrong, they’re 80 very ENJOYABLE hours, but I feel that there’s hardly a moment in the day when I’m not thinking of a design, knitting up a swatch or sample, or plugging away in “math hell” in order to write up a pattern.

I’d been feeling this way for a long while, and when one pursues a career of LOVE (acting, writing, composing, designing- the sort of things folks usually do while starving in attics) one can’t expect to get rich.

After 6+ years in a freelance/caregiver ‘holding pattern’ it’s time to change things up, or go a bit mad. Since Gerry’s illness I can’t travel as much (which is where most of my income came from) so I’ve decided to use my at-home time more wisely and augment my design income by starting a hand-dyed yarn business with a partner, Kathleen Pascuzzi. Also, this year, with my health insurance no longer a month-to-month nail biter, I feel a sense of  security I haven’t felt in a LONG time!

I can’t help but think there are other small business folk / entrepreneurs who are feeling as if they can finally spread their wings and not rely on a not-very-fulfilling job simply to retain health insurance. If I’m right about this, I think we’ll see a nice blooming in our economy beginning this year.

We’ll see what becomes of ModeKnit Yarn, LLC in 2014. Our initial offerings of semi-precious stone inspired colors sold very well, and we’re currently waiting for more yarn to arrive so I can fill order requests and try out new color ways.

Our rough business plan involves starting small, selling online and at local fiber shows, then increasing production (hopefully by hiring extra hands) and moving on to a wholesale business in 2015.  Anyway, that’s the plan.

So although I’m only teaching in 3 or 4 locations in 2014 (first stop, Knitting Lab in New Hampshire in May!), I’ll be visiting several fiber shows with Kathleen and our bins of yarn (first up, Shepherd’s Harvest in May – that is, if we get accepted!)

I’ll also be enjoying time at home, working (as always), but perhaps using my time more wisely so that I can sell $25 of yarn along with a $6 pattern!

And I’m working on a book for Stackpole on shrugs and short jackets, sourcing my yarn from other indy dyers, which I am supposed to have finished in June.  Watch this space.

Non-Work Life

Our family will be undergoing a major shift this year as Andy (neé Hannah) applies to and – hopefully – gets accepted to a good college. This week she finished all her applications, her final SAT scores came in (1970 cum score, not terrible!) and we’re crossing our fingers that we’ll find the perfect place for her to thrive and become the young women we know she can be; strong, funny, smart and kind!

Max continues to thrive at his high school, specializing in math and science, taking several college level courses in this, his Sophomore year (and avoiding haircuts whenever possible.)  He’s also learned the joys of the debate team, which makes Gerry and me very proud.

Gerry is Gerry; wonderful, funny, happy, loving and HERE!

Every day is a gift, and we’ve been given 6 years of presents that we never expected. We take NO day for granted.

To that end, we’re cashing in a bunch of frequent flier miles and Gerry and I are traveling to Amsterdam for a week in April. We haven’t taken a trip together alone in 17 years, and never alone to Europe, so for the cost of a B&B and walking around money, we’re going to celebrate life for a week of biking, walking and museum hopping. Suggestions on places to see are WELCOME!

This trip is made possible by having responsible teens and good friends who will pop in on them (not because they NEED supervision, mind you, but just to make sure a shower is taken every few days…)

We’ve come to understand, in a way we never thought we would, that life is for LIVING, and the best way to appreciate every day is to live it fully.

And who knows, while I’m in Holland maybe I’ll dream up a bunch of new colorways based on Tulips (my favorite flower!) and make some great in-person knitting connections!

So go make 2014 memorable for yourself, even if it’s simply memorable for being a quiet, peaceful and fulfilling year!

“I feel like I’m lying…”

Last week was one of the monthly meetings of Gerry’s Stillwater Multiple Myeloma Support Group.

This group has become very important in our lives, the folks involved are lovely – kind, smart, hopeful but not smarmy, a great group to surround ourselves with. We feel fortunate to be part of them.

In the last meeting one member mentioned that he’d been told over 5 years ago that he had ‘probably 2 years’ – very similar to Gerry’s own initial prognosis. He spoke of feeling as if he were “lying” sometimes because he’s outlived the time period he’d told so many folks of when he was first diagnosed.

I feel the same way. Gerry’s here – he’s HERE – I want to go shout it from the rooftops every day because we are so thrilled that HE IS HERE!

But it’s different from our initial expectations.

Folks often stop me and ask about Gerry, or they email; it’s so kind of them. Each time I say some version of the same thing,

“Gerry’s doing well, he’s active, his cancer came back last Summer but we’re handling it with a new drug, and have enough stem cells harvested for 2 more transplants if that’s necessary.”

And all that’s true. But because we’re dealing with the unknown, it also feels like I’m pretending to tell the future, and that feels awkward.

If I were to speak from fear, I’d say, “I’m afraid he won’t be here long.”
If I were to speak from hope, I’d say, “He’s here, and he will be for a long time!”
But between fear and hope is the reality, and many days I don’t know what that is.

Gerry and I at dinner

Gerry and Annie at dinner

Last Summer/Fall Gerry began experiencing some of his initial symptoms again, and his visits to the Mayo Clinic each month weren’t as sunny and optimistic as they’d been in the past.

We both knew the truth, but didn’t know what they meant. It was like watching a very well made mystery, knowing there was going to be a twist, but having NO idea what that twist would be, or where it would lead.

And, of course, EVERY human lives this way. In our case it’s heightened because the immediacy of cancer is different from general, run-of-the-mill ‘growing old’

Every time I hear of a friend’s passing – or, more to the point, hear of a friend’s spouse passing – I feel like some kind of charlatan. I feel like I should apologize for still having a husband (which I know is insane!) I feel guilty.

My husband’s still here, and wait – wasn’t he supposed to be gone? Didn’t we tell everyone six years ago that by this time Gerry would be a picture in an album and not flesh and blood?

As our friend in the MM Support group said, “I feel like I’m lying…”

How is Gerry right now?

Because I’m a Virgo, I can best answer that in a list;

1. He’s here. After the MM came back, his oncologist put him on Revlimid ($9000/month, thank heaven for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and the Chronic Disease Fund, who help us with the co-pay!)

Max, Andy & Gerry visiting Carleton

Max, Andy & Gerry visiting Carleton

2. He’s older. And I don’t mean simply 6 years older than he was at diagnosis, he feels more like 26 years older than his 46-year old self. He has the energy levels, strength and vitality of someone in their 70′s (which, these days, isn’t bad at all!)

3. He’s tired. He needs to sleep a lot, but he derives great satisfaction from being an active contributor to family life; he cooks dinner most nights, he does some simple gardening (raking is always good exercise!); he drives the kids around (although I can tell he doesn’t like long drives) and keeps track of our tax information, medical stuff, that kind of family paperwork.

And he takes care of ME! There are days during a fibromyalgia flare up that I feel incapacitated; he helps me get through the rough times, and I am very grateful!

4. He hurts. He has a great deal of pain, it’s constant and even in his sleep I can tell that there are moments of agony. Aside from the Revlimid/Deximethisone cocktail and a probiotic for his digestion, the only medicine Gerry takes on a regular basis is his very strong pain medication.

Gerry & his tall daughter visiting Earlham

Gerry confused by his tall daughter. visiting Earlham

I can tell it bothers him to be ‘on’ oxy and hydro, but we’ve passed the point where he feels guilty about taking them (thank heaven!) and we all understand that to miss a dose is inviting the pain to rise to such a level that it is MUCH harder to quell.

5. He’s Gerry. He’s funny and loving and a pretty wonderful guy. Because of the pain he tends to be more short-tempered than he was before, but given his general sweetness and easy-going nature, it  means he’s STILL nicer than the average human, and we’re so lucky to have him!

This is what the face of Cancer Survival – Multiple Myeloma Survival – looks from one family’s viewpoint.

Ginger the fat cat & Gerry's #1 fan!

Ginger the cat, Gerry’s biggest fan – literally.

The stress of living with the unknown comes and goes, we deal with it, and we try to be as ‘normal’ as we can. We try not to think of every holiday, birthday, event as, “perhaps the last…” because that’s just too emotionally draining and a tad dramatic.

What we DO do is to set goals for ourselves.

We didn’t think Gerry’d be celebrating Max’s Bar Mitzvah, but he did. Next up is Hannah’s graduation from high school, set for June 2014, and all signs point to Gerry’s attendance.

Every day really IS a gift.

The Tooth, The Whole Tooth

I’ll announce the winner of the Crochet At Play book tomorrow (Monday) but today I wanted to talk about teeth.

I’m a dentist’s nightmare. Actually, I’m a hygienists nightmare – and that is in no small part because my own nightmares often include dental hygienists.

I am phobic about teeth. My teeth, your teeth, my kid’s teeth – anyone’s teeth.  I’m SO fearful of teeth that I can’t watch a movie when some tooth nonsense is afoot (Zombie Apocolypse? No problem. Lose a tooth? I’m out the door…)

When my kids had loose teeth, they were directed to daddy, who had to deal with the whole tooth fairy thing. Even now Hannah can make me turn white by discussing the oral surgery involved in her braces. I am a tooth wimp.

Because I’m a redhead I bleed freely (at least, that’s our family lore and I’m sticking to it!) so any time I’m in the dentists chair there’s the added horror; ‘The Return of the Tsarovitch’

Add to that an insane sensitivity (I have always been able to ‘hear’ loud noises in my teeth) and I find myself putting off dental visits.

My own father had weak teeth, also pain filled and with the same sensitivity as mine, and his were all removed at age 42 when he began wearing dentures.  I’ve been luckier, but my avoidance of the dentist means that in my visits (usually every 5 years or so, coinciding with a boost of courage and erratic dental coverage) I generally have at least one cavity to be filled and sometimes a root canal.

Thursday I had a dental visit, a trip to a whole new hygienist (the last one was simply doing her job, but her disgust at my fear was palpable) so I was terrified.

It was warm enough here to bike, which calmed me and gave me a sense of control. I had every strategy in place (I’m actually tearing up as I write this – teeth are a great source of fear for me)

I had a good book on my iPhone along with soothing music by Anonymous4 (my favorite musical group to bring me peace!) I’d taken a pain pill prophylactically, and I was practicing the same deep breathing that got me through delivering my 11lb baby boy (with no meds, my claim to fame!)

I explained my situation to the hygienist, who was absolutely lovely; kind, warm, human and very understanding. She listened, she was careful, and she praised my courage. She took my blood pressure and the fact that I’m usually 120/80, but on this day was 160/90 was pretty telling. We waited, she chatted more, explained what she’d be doing, and my blood pressure came down.

This woman is a walking saint, and I hereby announce that I would follow this hygienist anywhere.

Xrays were taken (painlessly – I have had hygienists who were pretty brutal with those cardboard pieces) and my gumline was measured. The hygienist was smart enough to realize I was afraid, practically phobic, but also quite interested in the goings on in my mouth. She explained what she was doing in a very easy yet clinical way, taking my mind off the pain of her little measuring tool. The few times she dug deep enough to hurt, she was apologetic but firm and we continued.

I really liked her style, as I said, she was very human.

The dentist came in and we discussed my two cavities, and the fact that one might actually turn out to be yet another root canal. I explained my fear of teeth, my various forays with flossing (always ending badly, in tears and recrimination) and my use of dental washes and rinses (which hasn’t taken the place of flossing, but apparently has helped this non-flosser beat back gum disease for another year)

It was decided my cleaning should take place over 2 visits, with a local anesthetic, and that an anti-anxiety med should be used before the visit. I felt like a baby, but I also felt grateful that my fears and VERY real pain issues were being addressed.

I left feeling better than I’d felt after a dentist visit in many years! I used to see a dental student at the NJ Medical and Dental school in Newark (Hi Vinny!) and he was kind and gentle (and gorgeous!)  Since then I’ve been looking for a dentist who has the same gentleness (if not the same amazing Italian looks – sigh…)

I may not have found the dentist (the one who saw me is leaving the practice, I’m scheduled with a different dentist for my return visit, but I’m assured he’s a kind one) but I have CERTAINLY found a hygienist I can trust.

After I left, though, my mouth was so sore from the poking that it took about 3 days for me to feel myself again. I sound like a baby – I FEEL like a baby – but this is my tooth reality. The first week in December is when the next round of visits occurs, the prescription for lorazepam’s been called into the pharmacy, and I’ve actually begun flossing with those little floss-on-a-handle things.

My mother kept her teeth until her death at 85. I’m beginning to feel hopeful that I might do the same!