Category Archives: Philosophical

Darkness, meet Dawn

2015-04-16 12.01.56

On Set In Loveland, CO March 2015

Hey Folks!

I’m writing the post that I’d been hesitating to write for over a year. [deep breath]

It’s been a pretty hard 14-month period, but also an amazingly great period. A dull twilight punctuated with glimmers of pure white starlight, and dark moments, too.

The Good

Andy gets a tattoo!

Andy gets a tattoo!

The family’s healthy—for the most part— we have a home, heat, food, running water and as much love as any family could need! I have exceptional friends, excellent work, beautiful yarns to dye and sell and one of the best business partners I could ask for.

The kids are beautiful and thriving, Andy’s doing well in her 2nd year at Earlham, Max is applying to various colleges (c’mon Hampshire!)

The Bad

Max Gerry Gustavus Tour

Max, Gerry & Jasper on a College Tour

Gerry’s health, which has fluctuated between very good and scary bad since his initial diagnosis with Multiple Myeloma in 2007, has been on a bit of a downswing. We’ve experienced worse, and as we experience the loss of friends with this disease on a regular basis we realize how fortunate we are, but it’s a constant mental and emotional burden.  But our dealing-with-ongoing-chronic/terminal-illness muscles have been honed, and we generally have a pretty good attitude about it.

I can honestly STILL say that the lessons that cancer has taught all of us—mostly about ourselves and our love—are worth learning.

The Embarrassingly Bad

In November 2014 I tried to kill myself, and I’m still dealing with the fallout.

I wasn’t depressed (well, no more than usual, like my father and many other members of my family, I suffer from depression and treat it with prozac, eating well and exercise)

I WAS, however, on a drug that caused me to behave in a way that was absolutely foreign to me.

Lyrica Blues

In August 2014 I was diagnosed with Shingles, and it was a bad case. The pain was overwhelming, causing me to be in and out of the ER several times. As part of my recovery, I was offered Gabapentine.  Having used it before for Fibromyalgia, I knew it did little more for me than make me dopey.

So then I was offered Lyrica, and the difference it made in my pain was outstanding. Not just the shingles, but my fibro pain as well. It was as if Annie from 5 years ago was back and I felt like a million bucks. Until I didn’t.

One evening, after a VERY silly and unimportant argument with Gerry (seriously, we argue as every couple does, this was NOT a big one, just silly…) I found myself sitting in the living room with a fully bottle Gerry’s pain medication that I’d picked up from the drug store that day, and without really knowing what I was doing, I poured a big handfull out and swallowed it.

It was surreal. It was almost an out-of-body experience. I still can’t quite believe that I did it. It was almost as if I were watching a movie of someone doing what I was doing.

Gerry was upstairs, the kids were out of the house, and something in my brain just said, “Hey, take a bunch of those pills why don’t you…?” So I did.

I told Gerry immediately. He didn’t understand at first, but when he got it, we were off to the hospital.

And here’s where it got interesting.

This guy would like a walk, too!

Help with dyeing

I expected to be questioned pretty thoroughly, perhaps admitted to a psych ward or something (the only thing I have to go on with this are Lifetime movies.)

But when I explained to the nurse admitting me that I was on Lyrica, and I had NO idea what happened, I just suddenly had 30 strong painkillers traveling down my throat.

And her response? “Oh, Lyrica. Yeah. We see that a lot.”

I was sent to an exam room where a doctor and nurse came in to give me charcoal to drink (I chugged two bottles in record time, good to see my college education paying off) and, when I explained to them what had happened, they replied in unison, “Oh, Lyrica, yeah. We see that a lot.”

They didn’t even have a social worker come to talk to me, they chatted, and on my promise to see my primary care doc the next day, I was released.

The next morning I did see my doc, we worked on a schedule to taper myself off of Lyrica, and I also saw a therapist for a few months.

Since Then

My bike, my man, my dog and a new haircut!

Pure Happiness; Gerry, Jasper & My Bike

I had never had such a strong urge to do myself harm before that night, and I haven’t had an urge like that since. Amen.

The fact that I DID have that urge is frightening; obviously there was something inside of me that felt entirely overwhelmed and full of despair. But it was the Lyrica that crystallized those feelings, that made them solid and compelled me to act on them.

I haven’t discussed this with the world in general (until now – hi world!)  My good friends, family and some of my customers have known, though. I’ve had several folks come forward to tell me they’ve had the SAME experience with Lyrica.

I’m not saying that Lyrica should be banned, but I do think that it can be a very dangerous drug, I’m proof of that. The entire time I’ve had Fibromyalgia I’ve worked hard to deal with that ongoing pain with diet changes and lots of exercise.  My instincts in this were more right than I could know, I’ll continue in this vein as long as I can.

Why Now?

So why am I telling the world this story now? I’m not entirely sure.

I feel as though there’s been a dark cloud on the horizon since this episode in Nov 2014. As much as I tried to fight through it, I would wake in the early morning hours gripped with terror (unreasonable fears; financial ruin, Gerry’s demise, something happening to the kids, etc.) and it’s been a long road coming back from the fear surrounding this episode.

Sunset, Ft. Myers Beach

Ft. Myers Beach Escape, Feb 2015

It’s just been in the past few weeks that I feel I’m finally passing out of this dark phase. I knew it would happen, I knew the light would shine again and I’d feel more like my best self. But it’s been a lengthy process of dealing with guilt for the fear I caused Gerry, anger at myself, and fear that I’d broken something that couldn’t be fixed.

But light is filtering through again. Many folks have written to ask why I’m not blogging as much, how come I’m not on Facebook as much as I used to be; this is the answer.

Last year I talked about my experience in front of a Multiple Myeloma group leaders at a conference . Lyrica is a drug that is commonly used within the MM community as shingles is often seen among these patients.

After I’d heard Lyrica praised over and over at the conference (and it IS a remarkable pain med!)  I wanted folks to hear from someone who had personally experienced the, “may cause suicidal thoughts or actions” warning first hand.

ModeKnit Yarn Cables

Thank Heaven for Knitting

As many of you know, I’m no shrinking violet and can speak in front of a room, but this was a terrifying experience; admitting that I’d done something so stupid and potentially harmful to my family. But I feel it was an important thing to do, and heard later from someone who’d had a similar experience in the group but had never talked about it.

So now you know.

I’d like to say, “Now let’s just forget this ever happened, and go back to life as it used to be!” and I’m trying to do that as much as I can. But I’ve stood on the cliff, I kicked a stone off and in an almost trance-like state, I followed it over. But I caught a branch on the way down and didn’t go splat.

ModeKnit Yarn_A Lovely Thing

A Lovely Thing, “My Year In A Colorway”

The reality of this experience had darkened everything I did for months.

I’ve been adding touches of black to many of our ModeKnit colors (which works well in many cases) but finally I feel as though I’m able to see many colors as they really are, pure and bright.

As much as I understand that there will be periods of light and dark in the future, I’m feeling more hopeful about moving forward than I have in – well – 14 months. Thanks for sticking with me.

MKY_all_the_colors

The Holiday Cycle

andy_alison_inside_lav

So wonderful to have the girl home, even if only for a few days!

I generally feel some kind of let-down on the day after a big day, and Thanksgiving is no different.

I think it’s all the cooking, cleaning, organizing and trying to get the troops sitting at the table at the same time that is so wearying. I also think I’m afflicted with an early case of empty next syndrome. I realize that this time next year both kids will be away at college – and after that, who knows?

Coming from an incredibly disfunctional (and at times absolutely toxic) family environment, I’ve worked hard to keep my own family holidays as low key and – well – small as possible.

It always seemed to be at the larger family events that someone would take joy in pushing someone else’s buttons; I’m afraid I got a lifetime’s worth of that at a young age.

Small and quiet works well for us.

And then I worry that our holiday will be TOO small next year.

Someone's been helping me with the skeining...

Someone’s been helping me with the skeining…

I love my family, and they love me, but somehow during the holidays there generally comes a blue period when I foolishly begin to doubt my abilities as a parent.

It makes me wonder if my own mom (and her mom, etc.) felt the same at the holidays. I miss my mom (and cousin Jan) all through the year, holidays are one of the hardest times, though.

And, as it’s been a bit colder (after a LOVELY early November) I haven’t had a chance to get out on my bike for the past week.  Astounding how that rocks my world. I know a good amount of the ‘blues’ is due to inactivity. So it’s time to do something about it.

This guy would like a walk, too!

This guy would like a walk, too!

We’re incredibly lucky here in St. Paul, we have a wonderful network of Rec Centers, and for the low cost of $30/year we can visit ANY of them whenever we want for gym time, pool time, or to take a yoga or zumba class (those last have an additional fee, but it’s pretty low!)

So I’m setting out to renew my membership again, so I can try to get some regular exercise to take the place of my daily bike rides.

I’m lucky that right up the street, about a mile away, is a great rec center with a pool and a sauna. Kathleen and I have discussed finding a Zumba class, so maybe we’ll be doing that, too!

My mom used to say, “When you feel blue, take a walk or take a nap.” and I think right now I need the equivalent of a nice long walk every day. Maybe a nice, long walk down to the Jimmy Lee Rec Center?

red yarn settingIn working news, I have SO much yarn to dye in the coming months.

The good part is that I’ve been scheduling the dye sessions, so I’m not working haphazardly (as I might have last year with smaller orders).

I’m trying to work in a very planned way to dye all the yarn that is required for a some pretty big orders, (and the nonstop fiber shows in the late Spring & early Summer of 2016 we have coming up!)

The Things We Swatch For Love

My favorite swatch this time around.

A Weeks Work

A Weeks Work

The last few times I’ve come up against a submission deadline* I have told myself, “NEXT time, you’re going to take time to do it right – you’re going to do what you used to do, swatch and sketch and love what you’re doing!”

I’d fallen into a bad habit of only submitting one or two things (when I submitted at all) because I’ve been so overwhelmed with work at  ModeKnit Yarn, and the teaching I’ve ramped up this year.

But there’s a deadline looming for submissions on Monday, and this time I’ve taken the better part of a week to try to get it right!

Unblocked HorrorNot that I didn’t do anything else this week (I did a buttload of skeining, a lot of dyeing, some fabric knitting and a few strategy sessions to plan the growth of our biz – slow and steady – not too fast to handle!)

But I set aside dedicated time each day for just sitting and THINKING. Designing. Playing with yarn and NOT berating myself for ripping anything out.

I’m trying not to judge myself too harshly. I’m trying to take my own advice.

Bobbles & Texture!For me, the hard part about this submission deadline is that it’s for several magazines at one go, and it seems that each one wants me to submit an individual sketch ONLY to that mag (even though they’re all under the same publication umbrella.)  It’s so hard for me to figure out which sketch would speak to which description in the different “Calls for Submission.”

I’d love to find a way to let ALL of the editors see all of my stuff, so they could decide which speaks to then.

Garter Rectangular Jacket in Fall Interweave Knits

Garter Rectangular Jacket, Fall Interweave Knit.Purl Mag

Maybe I’ll just Dropbox them and give all the editors the link?

I hate the thought that Sketch 1 might be perfect for Editor A, but I send it instead to Editor B (who doesn’t find it as appealing as I’d hope…)

At any rate, I was flattered and gratified to see one of my current designs featured in one of the submission calls! It’s a garment I really loved designing and knitting up, if you haven’t seen it yet, it’s the Garter Rectangular Jacket in the current Fall 2015 Interweave Knit.Purl magazine.

Tomorrow I head off for a weekend of crafting with some women friends, something I don’t do often (which I should do more!)  I’ve promised to ONLY work on non-business knitting or sewing all weekend.  Let’s see if I can stick to that!

*Magazines send out a call for submission, where they explain the stories they’re looking to create in the specific issue. They discuss color, silhouette, and also general ethereal qualities like mood, feeling and atmosphere. If I feel inspired by some of the images or text, I’ll work up a swatch (generally – but not always – I begin with a swatch)  If I like the swatch, I’ll try to figure out how to use it in a garment. Or sometimes I work exactly opposite, and start with a silhouette, a period garment or a color scheme.

The Virtue of Enforced Patience

Proof there is something older than me in NYC.

Proof there is something older than me in NYC.

I have become a much more patient person in my 40’s and 50’s than I was in my 20’s and 30’s. I’m not unusual in this, it’s a pretty widely recited truism that those with the most time (the young) seem to be in the biggest hurry.

I realized about a year ago that instead of seeing things as weekly or monthly deadlines, I was tending to see long term goals; yearly, decade-ly. Even century-ish.

The peace that this shift has created has become very important to me. I don’t really care if someone gets somewhere ahead of me (well, unless the place we’re going has a finite number of gluten free cookies, then I’ll be early in line…)

Winter Subway Climb

Winter Subway Climb

I’m just happy to get there eventually.  Or not. At least, that’s what I work toward – especially when driving in rush hour traffic.

So when this weekend didn’t go as I’d planned it, I tried to just swallow hard, accept it, and enjoy what DID transpire.

My classes on Saturday were, I think, good. It’s always hard to judge myself, and although I try to write good, happy things about my classes, I am also my harshest critic.

The classes were mixed skill level; very new knitters, very experienced knitters, and all levels in between.

I LOVE these mixed classes, mostly for the interplay that can happen when knitters of various levels meet. But they can also be very draining, they take a LOT of energy.

It’s like spinning plates, with each one turning at a different speed. Lots of running to and fro.

I left everything I had within me in that room for the students, and felt like a better teacher – and person – for it.

Subway Marble Mosaic Art

Subway Marble Mosaic Art

Unfortunately, because of the very hot room & the exhausting classes (and my habit of skipping meals on class days) I became very faint at the end of the day, as I discussed in my last blog post.

So the next day I rested – or I meant to.

A friend (my freshman college roommate) texted me, so we met for coffee and oatmeal.

I mentioned I wanted to pick up some bowls for Gerry’s birthday, so we took the subway down to Chelsea to FishsEddy. We walked a bit, talked a lot about our kids (her daughter is 12, she – like me – is a late-in-life mom) and shared our war stories about the early teen years.

We also shared our complete disdain for “Thank You” notes. Yes, I’ll come out here – I do NOT like the Thank You Note – or, rather, I don’t like the expectation of them. I try to send them, and I ALWAYS say “Thank you!” for kindnesses. But I don’t like getting wrapped up in some Miss Manners vision of what is the ‘right’ thing to do. It’s exhausting.

Amazing Mosaic Subway - Thank You, MTA!

Amazing Mosaic Subway – Thank You, MTA!

There, make of it what you will, I don’t think I’m an ingrate, just often very busy…

My former roommate and I parted, and immediately I got a text from a friend in Brooklyn, a dear costuming contact from my Great Lakes Theater Fest internship days, who drove in from Park Slope, picked me up and we talked and talked in her car.

I miss my NY friends. I love Minnesota & my MN friends. It’s the perfect place for me (and our family) in most ways, but I do miss my NY friends.

Jaya Yoga

Jaya Yoga

We drove to Brooklyn, to her “Restorative Yoga” class at the Jaya Yoga Center in Park Slope. When I realized the class was ALL floor work (stretching between power naps) I joined in, & enjoyed it thoroughly. David Figueroa’s an exceptional teacher!

It was just what I needed, I felt energized, centered & happier than I had all day.

I also LOVED being a student, it felt necessary for my ‘balance’ (teaching so hard one day, learning the next!) My wise friend Sue knew what would be good for my soul.

In a perfect world, when we come together to teach anything to a group of receptive students, we, as teachers, would also be able to TAKE a class.

And we would be kind to ourselves, not judging ourselves, nor our teachers, too harshly. It never hurts to be a bit kind whenever possible.

Good Friend & Kids

Good Friend, Kids & Puppies

We went to Sue’s apartment & I become reacquainted with her two teens, who I hadn’t seen in over 12 years. We talked about kids, life & new puppies (a metaphore for my entire weekend.)

On the drive back to Manhattan we watched the colors of the Empire State Building change – a virtual scoreboard for the Superbowl! 

The Empire State Bldg colors changed with the superbowl score.I was supposed to fly home the next day (Monday) but an ice storm cancelled my flights. Unfortunately, I didn’t discover this until I was AT the airport. Had I known, I would have just stayed at the Hampton Inn on 39th another night (it was a really great hotel!) 

But once I was in NJ with the only open flight at 6pm on Tuesday, I had over 24 hours to kill.

Yes, I could have returned to NY, but the amount of physical energy it took to get from the hotel to Penn Station, then onto the train, then from the train to the check in counter had entirely drained me. Few things are as wearying as maneuvering through Manhattan in an ice storm with lakes of frozen water at each corner.

I’m a mass transit fan, but it can be exhausting. I was in FULL Fibro flare up – I still am – so feeling totally confused I called Gerry and wept, which is something I don’t do very often.

My office for the morning.

My office for the morning.

Gerry called some very dear friends in NJ & they welcomed me into their home. Their son and Max used to be best friends, and we parents became good friends, too!

So here I am, in a very beautiful home, on a snowy & beautiful day in beautiful Maplewood, NJ.

The weekend hasn’t been as I planned it, but it’s been a learning, growing and reflecting kind of weekend. I needed it, and I’m glad I had it.

Brioche Winner!

0ly8d0nZNG1meuMegKlhD91lsWsRXpMn4s0Ms4dMmR8The winner of Mercedes Tarasovich Clark’s book, Brioche Chic, is Ellen P.

Congratulations, Ellen! I hope you enjoy the book and knit MANY beautiful things from it! If you would care to email me with anything you make from the book, I’d love to post it here in the future!

Autumn Biking & Voting

Bike path along the Mississippi

Bike path along the Mississippi

I got more cycling in this week than I have in a long time, it’s because of the beautiful warm Fall we’re having here in MN (warm being 50’s, which is just about PERFECT for biking!)

Last week I hopped on my bike to scoot over to Minneapolis to see President Clinton and Senator Franken speak at a Get Out The Vote rally, and I made it in 25 minutes (a record for me!)

Politics Alert

The former President & our current Senator

The former President & our current Senator

It’s no secret that I’m a big ol’ lefty, so if that bothers you, you might want to skip the next section!

Voting is sacred to me. I believe in Democracy the way some folks believe in organized religion.

To my mind Democracy is the driving force behind the greatest positive changes the world has seen in terms of how humans relate to each other. Democracy allows us to participate in, and take responsibility for, the governing of our lives. It’s not always perfect, nothing created by humans could be, but it’s the best thing going.

Anything that tries to prevent citizens from voting is anathema to me, which is why the many voter supression laws that have been proposed make me so angry. We should make election day a HOLIDAY and strive for 100% voter turnout.

2014-10-11 14.57.49So get out there and be PART of this 200 year old experiment in allowing human beings to police OURSELVES. I honestly get shivers when I go in to vote, even when I’m not happy with the array of candidates.

This time, however, I’m VERY happy with the candidates I have in front of me in Minneapolis. The positive change our state’s seen since the election of Mark Dayton as Governor is astounding (we were on SUCH a downward spiral with Pawlenty, the same spiral we see Wisconsin in right now, which makes me very sad for them!)

Stealth Knitting

Stealth Knitting

Seeing money invested in infrastructure and education is the best way to see our government invest in the future, which Gov Dayton has championed since his election.

Voting for Al Franken is an easy call for me. He’s been such an excellent Senator, reaching across the aisle on many issues but retaining the populist, progressive stances that make him a hero to many Minnesotans. With him and Amy Klobuchar leading our state in DC, we’re on a VERY good path!

Cycling Season

More 'secret' knitting

More ‘secret’ knitting

I rode home more slowly from the rally, taking photos along the way.

I got in a short ride yesterday, doing some stealth knitting and enjoying the beautiful October sky and falling leaves.

Geeze, how I love the fall!

I’m Lucky

It’s been a wild few weeks, and keeping ourselves from falling, even a bit, into despair has been a challenge Gerry and I have set for ourselves. I love my husband so much, I am so glad that we share a sense of humor, and I’m grateful that we are able to play off of each other to keep things in perspective.

In all truth, even with the continuing Shingles pain and frustration over the loss of the car, phone, computer data, yada yada yada, we KNOW that we’re among the luckiest folks on earth.

I don’t talk about gratitude much, but I feel it deeply. I was once part of an online moms group (back when online mom’s groups were very new) There were 8 of us who were due with our babies at roughly the same time, and we stayed in touch for a long time.

We came from various socio-economic levels, worked at various jobs, had different goals and represented a wide variety of faiths, but the thing we shared (our babies) was the most important thing in all of our lives, and we all gained SO much from our interactions.

Sometime near the end of our regular interactions someone in the group suggested we start a ‘gratitude journal’  The person suggesting it was of a higher income bracket than most of us, which didn’t seem to matter at all, and we all said, “Great idea!”

But it wasn’t.

What started as a good idea – “I’m grateful that it was a beautiful day today!” turned into a source of pain for some of us.

One mom, in all innocence, wrote, “I’m grateful that my baby is doing so well and is so healthy!” which was great, but we had a couple of moms with ill, premature babies, and there was a silence from them for a while.

Another mom wrote, “I’m grateful that my husband just got a raise and we can take that trip we’ve been planning!” which was wonderful for her, but hard for another of the mom’s whose husband had just been laid off and who was experiencing financial difficulties.

Don’t get me wrong – we were ALL happy for each other – but the gratitude journal turned into what felt a bit like a bragging journal, and some of us found ourselves feeling oddly dissatisfied (and then ashamed of feeling that way) reading about the new houses, jobs, healthy babies and other good things that seemed to pass other members of our group by.

No one wants to feel jealous or envious – we all WANT to be happy for our friends when good things happen (and I think 99% of us are VERY happy for our friend’s good fortune!)

But the experience instilled in me a firm belief that gratitude is something that’s best kept private.

The things I was grateful for were pretty tame; running water, flush toilet, hot water whenever we want it, all the food we need, a civil government that – for the most part – protects us, good roads, free schools and libraries.  I didn’t get too specific about our own situation because I didn’t want to sound braggy.

I feel that the past few weeks I’ve been such a sad sack of complaining – so much seems to have gone wrong at the same time – but I want everyone who reads my blog to understand that I KNOW exactly how lucky we are. Very lucky.

We have a home, I have healthy kids who are kind-hearted and smart, we have pets to love,
we live in a wonderful place, and my husband is here.

Everything in the world that is important to me is contained in that last sentence, and even writing it I feel like I’m bragging.

Tomorrow I turn 53. My skin hurts from the shingles, our car is god-knows-where, and I’m so incredibly lucky that I need to pinch myself. I never thought that I’d have such a rich and full life, I truly am the luckiest person I know!*

I had an MRI today (no need to discuss it, it was a follow up) and the tech asked me if I wanted to listen to a certain artist. I asked for The Pretenders, anything from Learning To Crawl. Apparently she put on the 80’s channel and I got a lot of Blondie and The Cars.

And then one of my favorite songs came on. Joan Armitrading’s I’m Lucky from Walk Under Ladders, just a wonderful song!

And it made me realize how lucky I was to be laying in a long metal tube with magnets spinning around my abdomen. I was able to ride my bike down to the imaging center, and I knew I’d ride my bike home.

I hope you’re all lucky, too!

*Gerry is, of course, the luckiest guy in the world for snagging me as his bride.

Even Keel


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