Category Archives: Philosophical

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!

Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 11.14.20 AM

I’ve Waited 10 Years For This!

I have a tremendous announcement, but first, a bit of housekeeping…

The winner of Kristen Omdahl’s book is Stella with the following comment:

I Love Ribbing

I Love Ribbing

Thanks everyone – I love hearing what each of you treasure from your own personal knitting tool boxes! It’s helpful to me, and interesting for everyone!

And now to my BIG NEWS!!

Confessions Of A Knitting Heretic Has Sold 100,000 Printed Copies!

And how am I celebrating this momentous occasion?

Announcing the KINDLE version of Confessions!

Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 11.14.20 AM

I wrote the book in the early 2000′s, when I got back into knitting and realized that there were very few volumes that even discussed Combination Knitting, and NONE that championed it as a valid, respectable, legitimate way to knit.  It seems, from the research I’d done, that beginning around the 1920′s a ‘standard’ way of knitting – Western Style – slowly became accepted as the right way, and then the ONLY way sanctioned by the knitting Powers That Be.

The internet has had a LOT to do with folks realizing that there are many ways to create a knit and a purl stitch, and these will differ from person to person. Just like many things in life that we hold precious.

As a world we are coming to understand that there is no ONE way to pray, love, or eat (hey, that sounds like a book!) or KNIT! Folks who thought they’d never accept two men or two women in love now proudly embrace family members who are ‘out.’

As loud as the narrow minded folks who hate those who pray differently than they do may sound, I can see the world opening up. I can feel people being more accepting of those who are different.

Unfortunately, the last gasp of the narrow minded, the “throw the gun phase” I think of it, when they’ve run out of bullets, is never pleasant. We’re going through that right now in some quarters.

But in knitting, it’s been a pretty smooth transition from a general non-acceptance of different ways of knitting in the 1980′s (when I began knitting and designing) to the current Smörgåsbord of knit styles; and it’s a beautiful thing!

If I’ve had any part in that, I’m very proud.

When I wrote my book I shopped it to several publishers and received some of the loveliest rejection letters anyone’s ever received. “It’s a great book, but we think no one would want to buy it…”

After pondering things for a while, and after the death of my brother (a timely reminder that – well – why in the world was I waiting for an authoritarian sanction of my book on unorthodox knitting?) I decided to open up my Quark Express and create my own book. I read some books on self publishing (thank you, Fern Reiss) and got to work.

That was almost 10 years ago. My first order from Unicorn Books for 7,000 copies came just before I headed to Texas to be with my mother before she passed, and telling her about that order will always be a very happy memory. I would have been thrilled if the book sold 10,000 total. I never dreamed it would be 100,000.

But, toting up all of my print receipts (I keep a tally on them in my database) I realized that this October I would hit this milestone. So I prepared.

I’ve been working on this for several months. Converting a book to a kindle (.mobi) file is not as easy as I thought it would be.  I tried it back in 2012 with Knitting Millinery, and I had to give up because the eBook looked like – well – crap.

Making a pdf file is much easier, but it doesn’t read as well. I’ve grown to love the Kindle app on my iPad, the experience of reading a book using kindle is much more satisfying than just reading a pdf, and I wanted that richness of experience for my own books. For better or for worse, Amazon is the biggest game in town. To ignore it would be foolish.

So I dedicated myself to learning how to translate my 2003 Quark file to an InDesign file (I taught myself that trick while laying out History on Two Needles, thanks to Lynda.com and David Blatner!) and then I went one step further to translate the InDesign to a .mobi file (once again, thanks to Lynda.com and, this time, Anne-Marie Concepcion)

It’s been hard, I won’t lie. I’m good at this computer-graphic-html stuff (not an expert, but I get by) and there were times when working through this made my brain hurt. A lot. But once I was in, I figured I should barrel through a few titles (the hard won knowledge of cracking open OBPS files and adding <guide> tags won’t stay in my head forever!)

So in addition to offering Confessions Of A Knitting Heretic as a Kindle book, I’m also thrilled to offer Knitting Millinery in Kindle format. Huzzah!

Click on the image to order the eBook!

Click on the image to order the eBook!

The price is great, you can’t go wrong! Click on the above images to order either – and enjoy!

If you don’t have a kindle, like me, you can download kindle apps to use on your mobile device or computer – I think you’ll really like the ease of reading a kindle book!

The paper version is also still available, and as of today I’ll be beating the Amazon list price and offering it for $16.00.

Look for more of my books to be offered in kindle format! Knit With Courage will be next, and the big kahuna will be History On Two Needles. THAT will be a bear!

But I did the original layout, so I think I can fight through this.

Stick with me, sister and fellow heretics!

Well, I SAID I was a Heretic…

I recently recorded an interview with the KnottyGirls Podcast, and we had an absolutely AMAZING time! I twirled around my backyard in my Sky Chair while we talked about many things.

Chief among them was my irritating insistence on using non-traditional knitting terms. On good days my odd thoughts are the sand in the oyster shell. On bad days, they’re just poison ivy.

In the early Summer I finished a marathon session of designing, which meant a marathon session of tech edit conversations back and forth this month.  I think I must be the average tech editors worst nightmare — a designer who uses different terminology, and has (what she thinks) is a logical reason for doing so!

It’s true, I do use some unusual terminology, but not in a stubborn or non-thoughtful way.  If a publication is set on their own style, I’m happy to back down and have their terminology laid over my design.  But I feel it’s incumbent on me to mention to editors some of my reasons for using a more logic-based approach to knitting terminology.

The first thing is to divorce tradition from useful definition. I know, I know, knitting is full of tradition, and much of it is fun and cool and quirky.  I don’t want to change every oddball thing that knitters do, but I DO feel that a few well chosen technology updates could make knitting more intuitive (and thus more joyful) for every knitter!

Some folks will cling to the terminology they’ve grown up with, and that’s fine. I’m not demanding that anyone change, but be warned that when you purchase a pattern from me, I may use terminology you’re not used to (always with an explanation of the term, and how it relates to a more traditional term if necessary).

I began using these alternative terms because in my classes I realized that different knitters will achieve techniques in different ways. Most knitters are Western, some knitters are Combination, a very small number are Eastern.

Combination Knit Stitch

Combination Knit Stitch

Terminology
Here’s what I mean when I mention the following two terms

Western Orientation Eastern/Combination Orientation
A stitch which is seated on the needle so it wants to be knit through the front loop. A stitch which is seated on the needle so it wants to be knit through the back loop.

Note: You’ll know the stitch “wants” to be knit a certain way because when the needle is inserted that way the stitch opens up big and fat and wide.

Within these basic styles are then further differentiations in how a knitter holds their yarn, their needles, and how they actually form their stitches (wrapping, picking, scooping, etc).

For the most part I find labels more divisive than helpful, although they are sometimes necessary. I prefer terminology that is universal — more democratic — and can apply to ANY knitter regardless of their chosen knitting style.

In short, I prefer to describe the outcome of a knitting technique, rather than insist that the knitter get there in a specified manner. Here are a few examples of terminology I’d love to see changed.

Traditional Term What Is Meant Alternative Term
Knit 1 Tbl (knit 1 through back loop) Twist this stitch as you knit it Tw1 or Twist 1
How To Achieve This
Basically knit so that the stitch is "unhappy" – doesn't open up fully – so that the little legs of the stitch are twisted as you enter the stitch.
If you knit Eastern or Combination knit into the front of the stitch; If you knit Western knit into the back of the stitch.

Traditional Term What Is Meant Alternative Term
K2tog (knit 2 together) Knit 2 stitches together so they slant to the RIGHT K2tog-R

How To Achieve This
Insert the needle into the 2nd stitch on the LH needle; then into the 1st stitch on the LH needle and knit these two stitches together.
If you are a Western Knitter your stitches should already be seated to receive the LH needle without twisting. If you're a Combination Knitter you'll want to re-orient the stitches so they sit on the needle in the opposite direction THEN knit the stitches together.

 k2tog_r_on_needle

Annie’s Hint:
The tip of the working needle will be pointing to the RIGHT when making this decrease!

Traditional Term What Is Meant Alternative Term
K2togTbl or Ssk or Skp (knit 2 tog through back loop OR slip slip knit OR slip knit pass over) Knit 2 stitches together so they slant to the LEFT K2tog-L

How To Achieve This
Insert the needle into the 1st stitch on the LH needle; then into the 2nd stitch on the LH needle and knit these two stitches together.
If you are a Combination Knitter your stitches should already be seated to receive the LH needle without twisting. If you are a Western knitter you will want to slip the first two stitches (either knitwise twice; or knitwise then purlwise) and then knit these two sts together as an Ssk.

k2tog_l_on_needle

 

Annie’s Hint: The tip of the working needle will be pointing to the LEFT
when making this decrease!

 

Traditional Term What Is Meant Alternative Term
Wyif Hold the yarn toward you WyRS if the Right Side of the work is facing; WyWS if the Wrong Side of the work is facing.
Wyib Hold the yarn away from you WyWS if the Right Side of the work is facing; WyRS if the Wrong Side of the work is facing.

 

How To Achieve This
In some techniques (Double Knitting) you will want to hold the yarn toward you while working on the Wrong Side of the piece. This can be confusing when the term is "With Yarn in Front"; I've had many students email me with questions about this. Using the RS/WS as the point of reference seems natural and more clear.

 

BONUS
Knitting In The Round / Knitting Garter Fabric

When Working as a Combination Knitter

When knitting in the round, or back and forth in garter, you must do one of two things:
1) Either knit through the front loop of each stitch (the tip of the working needle will point to the RIGHT as it enters the stitch) in the traditional Western Style, or
2) As you wrap each knit stitch, wrap it in the OPPOSITE DIRECTION than you normally do.  This will cause the stitch to be seated in the Combination manner in the following row/round and will set up the stitch to be entered through the back loop, in the Combination Style.

At this point I hope I haven’t confused you too much! I just want folks to THINK about their knitting logically, not be slaves to outdated or inexact terminology which makes full comprehension of complex techniques more difficult. I am the G.B. Shaw of knitspeak.

UPDATE!

After writing this piece, inspired by some questions tech editors had for me, I discovered the reason that I’ve been receiving emails from folks trying to knit my Paisley Shawl from Jane Austen Knits.

Well, the reason was that the tech ed on this project decided they didn’t like my own chart, so they rewrote it, making significant changes that make knitting up the edging of the chart practically impossible.

If you’ve tried to knit this up and have failed,

Here is the IK Jane Austen Knits chart (changed from my original)Screen Shot 2013-08-15 at 4.55.02 PM

…and here is my own chart,

annie paisley chart

 

Symbols aside (I never expect anyone to use my own symbols, these are just what I use when writing up the pattern to send in to the editor) there are some significant changes.  All of the ‘non stitch’ sections were removed – but these are NECESSARY to create the lace the way I designed it.

Also, the VDI’s were removed and some VDD’s were changed to K2togs.  I don’t know why, but there it is.

The faggoting between the green and blue sections won’t look the same, either, as in my chart they’re worked as a kind of lace/garter, but in the IK chart it’s St st, and thus not as sturdy and the holes will collapse easier.

Below are some of the terms I use for those of you who may not be familiar with them:

  • St st – Knit on RS, Purl on WS
  • Rev St st – Purl on RS, Knit on WS
  • Sl 1 wyRS – Slip 1 stitch with yarn held to Right Side of work
  • Sl 1 wyWS – Slip 1 stitch with yarn held to Wrong Side of work
  • YO – Yarn Over
  • K2tog-R – See above (aka k2tog)
  • K2tog-L – See above (aka Ssk)
  • P2tog-L – Purl 2 together so the dec slants to Left when viewed on the RS of the work (same as K2tog-R when worked on WS of work)
  • VDD = Vertical Double Decrease: Sl 2 sts as if to work k2 tog-R, k1, pass slipped sts over (decrease of 2 sts)
  • VDI – Vertical Double Increase: K into front of st, YO, k into back of same stitch.
  • Inc 1 Right: Knit into st immediately below next st on needle, then knit next st on needle, creating a right-slanting inc.
  • Inc 1 Left: Knit next st on needle, then into st immediately below that st, creating a left-slanting inc
image

Turning Over

Well, I’m still relegated to the iPad for my Internet communication, so if you’ve contacted me and haven’t heard back, I apologize (and you might want to try again, I might not have received your missive!)

I’m finding it extraordinary, the amount of stuff I do on a daily basis which relies on the saved passwords, information, keys, shortcuts I’ve saved within my computer.  I can still use it, I am writing patterns every day, keeping my databases updated, all kinds of other stuff which I can only do on my computer.

but actually CONNECTING with the world outside, beyond my visible limits, that is now in the hands of my trusty iPad.

Gerry got this device as a Mothers Day gift in 2012, and I was blown away!  our local Micro Center was having a sale and for $350 he walked out with one of the best gifts I’ve ever received.

This computer fail (my screen cracked, which was beautifully replaced by Gerry, but apparently the wifi cable is not working now, and figuring out THAT nonsense is taking longer than we expected) corresponded with a health fail and a,weather fail, all of which prevented me from riding my bike as often as I need to for health maintenance.

But yesterday I got out for a long ride, and cashed in on the beauty that is Minnesota in June. It’s not unknown for us of have hot and humid days, but in our 6 years in the North Star State we’ve noticed that on the average the temps fall to the 50s overnight, allowing for decent open-window sleeping and starting each day fresh and clear. This is our trade off for the winters that last 3 years, and although it was a close thing this year, on the whole I will take the cold.

So now I am feeling slightly more energized again, eager for my classes at Darn Knit Anyway on July 17 and 27, and eager to get on my bike again today to sustain the good feeling I acquired yesterday.

I’ve skipped a few submission dates to finish up some projects for various magazines, and also to concentrate on a new project of 7 or 8 designs I will be unveiling in the Fall (more later, I don’t want to jinx myself, I’m not being coy…)

So THANK YOU to those of you who have hung around while I worked through a convergence of fails, I’m hoping as the Summer unfolds I will be blogging more, with much good info and interesting philosophical side trips, and continuing to design and write.

Basically, I’m looking forward to feeling a bit more like myself than I have in quite a while.

Remember Me?

I haven’t posted for a while because we have been battling various pressures, none of them terrible alone , but together they create a firm barrier which I’ve been alternatively digging under and leaping over.

It’s curious how we underestimate a smooth, level, unobstructed path, huh?

Various recurring health battles (both for Gerry and myself) have reared their ugly heads, made bolder by the non-Spring weather, which kept me from cycling (which has slowly worn away my health resources.)

Nothing fills all my reservoirs like a good, long bike ride. As a matter of fact I was SO hurting for a ride that I borrowed Ysolda’s prop bike from her TNNA booth and rode around the show floor for 10 minutes.

Not near enough, but it was fun while it lasted. I got the idea when I saw Cat Bordhi doing it, so haul us both off to convention center jail!

TNNA
Yes, I went to TNNA. I wasn’t going to go. Between Gerry’s returning health issues and my own recurring pain and exhaustion I felt as if it were too much. About Gerry was insistent – he said something to the effect of “if you don’t go to TNNA and have a bad year, design-wise, I will feel responsible.”

I didn’t want to drive alone, I haven’t driven long distances for several years, (not since I took out a construction barrel on a highway in Illinois and scared myself silly) and I wanted to take Max with me. But I didn’t want to leave Gerry home alone, and he was up for the ride!

So we did the drive there over two days, stayed a day at an extended suite type of place (good for everyone!) and while I was at TNNA doing the necessary schmoozing, Gerry and Max slept in, then went to CoSi and had a terrific time (Gerry’s dreamed of taking Max to this great science center for years!)

Hannah (who would like to be called “Andy” for the present) is already up at Menogyn working as an engage for 2 sessions, then late in July she will head out on her 32 day Nor’wester canoe trip up into Canada with 4 other young women. I’m alternately bursting with pride, and terrified for her.

TEACHING
I’ll be teaching a two part lace class at a FABULOUS yarn shop in Stillwater, MN, Darn Knit Anyway!

Lovely Laces: July 17th 6-9 pm and July 27th 10-1pm.
We will cover the basics of lace knitting, charts, and how to go about memorizing a repeating motif to make lace knitting more enjoyable and intuitive. ANYONE CAN KNIT LACE!!

DESIGNS
It’s been a crazy busy few months of designing, which I love and which is good work for me as it doesn’t require a lot of movement (I move we’ll many days, but sometimes those unmovable Fibro days coincide with a teaching engagement, and all hell breaks loose…)

I don’t know that I’ve ever felt both so useless, and also as if so much is depending on me. It’s a bad feeling, but there’s really nothing for it but to keep my mind on my work and do my best.

I’ve just finished 16 designs for various magazines and knitting pubs, all places that pay fairly and offer good terms for designers to retain their rights on their designs. Look for my work in Jane Austen Knits, Downton Abbey Knits, Interweave Knits and Interweave Crochet, Twist Collective and in Austrlia in Yarn Mag and in the UK in The Knitter.

I have 6 other designs I’ll have completed by mid-July, also for publications that deal openly and fairly with their contributors, so I’m actually very fortunate, all things considered.

BRIDGES

I had a chat with a sister designer at TNNA where I was warned not to “burn my bridges” and I laughed. Some “bridges” are little more than zip lines, they only work in one direction.

Other bridges may be burning, but I didn’t set them on fire, I simply balked at the high toll.

I know I have carved a well deserved reputation for someone who will speak her mind about fair working conditions for hand knit and crochet designers and teachers, and that this has perhaps made me persona non grata with some entities.

There are still publishers who still insist on retention of designers rights after publishing a pattern, will only pay 10% of online pattern sales to a designer (50% should be more like it in my book!) or won’t cover the full hotel and airfare for a teacher at their functions (another designer told me this weekend she makes NO money teaching at TNNA for Offinger, but she does it to get at least part of her airfare covered.)

To me this remains unacceptable.

I think I was a little afraid I’d go to TNNA and begin to regret decisions I’d made to avoid/openly discuss corporations that make money off of the fruit of designers and teachers, yet treat these same designers and teachers as if they’re doing THEM a favor by hiring them.

But, happily and surprisingly, I found myself comfortable with decisions I’ve made, happy to continue to work with old friends and eager to forge new relationships with other yarn companies.

There is room for MANY different opinions in our business. If holding a position outside of the mainstream means I’ve burned a bridge, that might not have been the right path for me, anyway.

Now, off to get a good LONG bike ride in so I can start rebuilding my health and grow my strength for what lies ahead. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: if hard work and fair dealing cannot provide me an income in this industry, it may not be right for me. I’m not going to change that by underselling myself or working on the cheap.

Note: if you see odd typos in this post, chalk it up to the fact that my computer has been out of commission for wifi use for 2 weeks, so I’m doing all of my online stuff with my iPad.  This is my first time doing a whole blog post on this tricky, disappearing keyboard!

Comparisons, Joy & Jealousy

I read a comment recently that “Comparison is a Joy Killer” and I agree.

I spend way too much time comparing my growth as a designer, my abilities, my time, etc., to other folks, and I expect that all of us do that to some extent. Since childhood my most fervent wish (prayer at times) has been that I don’t fall short of others.

I came to the conclusion that the only cure for this was to try – and succeed – to drown out the loud sounds of the comparisons.

My own personal ‘voice of comparison’ sounds a lot like my Aunt Lorraine, a truly sad woman who found joy only when others were sadder than she.

Twitter, Facebook and social median can be hard for this reason – I’m constantly reading about other folks doing great things. And I’m happy for them, and send along my “Go you!” and “Congrats!” messages whenever I can.

I realize that my natterings about my own successes can be causing the same grief, so I try to keep them circumspect and not too braggy. We all deserve our moments in the sun, and we shouldn’t hide who we are and what we’ve accomplished. But we also have to be aware of our luck, good fortune and the fact that the sun may not be shining in someone else’s yard today.

So that’s my job – perhaps for this week, this year or the rest of my life – to celebrate ALL successes, without falling victim to a comparison trap. It’s a game no one can win. Maybe I’ll just run away and join a carnival.

My dad briefly ran a carnival after WWII. My dad did a lot of things, few of them entirely sober. I think he was, in no small part, escaping the judgement of his sister – the aforementioned Lorraine.

There’s been a recent spate of questions posed to me, in person, via email or on Twitter, about how folks can find my Craftsy classes.

I don’t have any.

Stefanie Japel is a designer I admire, and a personal friend. When she started with Craftsy she asked our design group (Stitch Coop) if anyone would be interested in submitting a class, but I had too many other irons in the fire and begged off.

Later they asked me again, and after some negotiation on a topic at TNNA last year, we decided on an intarsia class (not my first choice, I wanted to do a plaid knitting class…)

The first producer assigned to me was very nice, and dealt with my oddities (I can’t speak – or rather, hear – clearly on the phone. I get confused very easily when someone calls me, especially if I don’t know their phone voice – I’m in the process of acquiring hearing aids, which is just – odd.)

But then my producer was changed and the new producer had no patience with my lack of phone ability, and with lightening speed (or so it seemed to me) I received this email, which broke my heart a little.

Screen Shot 2013-05-04 at 10.15.38 AM

So, the answer is that Craftsy won’t have me.

It makes me sad, and the week after I received this email I flew out to Denver to shoot a video for Interweave on Double Knitting (which has been doing really well in sales – yay!) That was a bit of a boost to my bruised ego.

My own online classes continue to do very well, although I’d love to re-shoot them soon with a higher resolution camera so they’re better to watch. A project for future! And I’m in the process of offering some classes via Udemy (right now I have a free how-to-knit class up at their website)

So when I see all of the news about Craftsy, the classes my friends are teaching, the Twitter and Facebook posts, I’m both very happy for my friends whose classes are doing well, and very sad that I’m not in their ranks.

I’d hesitated to blog openly about this, but so many questions have come to me (“Why can’t I take a class from you at Craftsy?” is the most popular query) that I thought I should try to explain. I hope I’ve been fair in my post!

And you’re always welcome to contact craftsy directly to let them know if you would like to take a class from me via their website.

I don’t honestly think it would make any difference, but it would have more of an effect than writing to me to tell me “You should teach a Craftsy class.!”

IMG_2103

Desperately Seeking Groove

I’m certain it’s no secret to anyone who reads my blog or knows me that I’ve been battling with some pretty strong stuff for a while.

IMG_0385

Gerry & Jasper, BFFs

It’s not just Gerry – overall he’s doing well, his cancer return is being handled by Revlimid & Dex and we putter along as if we’re retired folks. He’s great on his own for short periods, but I do feel that I need to be here with him most of the time.

And it’s not just my Fibro – I deal with it, I suffer through it when the flare ups come (more often in Winter) and I hesitate to write about it much because, well, who needs the nasty comments about me ‘moaning about my health’

Keep those cards and letters coming folks!

I’m not certain exactly what’s been up, but I’ve felt like a hermit, a pariah, adrift and alone in the midsts of friends.

I know I’m not, I know exactly how fortunate I am, but handling the demons of self-doubt has been very difficult this past year. I question everything I do, I fear that I’m past any usefulness.

Yes, I realize what I’ve just written is a little dumb, and self pitying to boot.
Let’s just say it’s Wintertime, and the wallowing’s been easy.

After my radical hysterectomy (return with me now…) I was put on a blend of estrogen and testosterone. Although generally considered a male hormone, women’s ovaries produce trace amounts of testosterone, which is necessary for many things. Evidently self confidence and weight loss – at least in my case – are connected with Mr. T.

As I am no longer the bearer of a set of O’s (the procedure to remove them is called an ooectomy, which always makes me laugh) I produce neither estrogen nor testosterone.

But, insurance companies being what they are and our coverage being spotty for the past years, at some point my company stopped covering my estratest, then they wouldn’t cover the generic version of it, and then I had to go to a non-testosterone hormone replacement therapy (hrt)

Before anyone writes to tell me I shouldn’t be taking hrt, don’t bother -
Since I had a radical hystero, I will take hrt.

Had I my lovely ovaries, I probably would just deal with more holistic remedies.

After another marathon session of, “50 reasons why I hate myself” I realized that there was something going on that just wasn’t explicable. I battle depression, that’s not a secret, but this felt entirely different.

So I spoke with my doctor and she agreed to try to get me back on an estrogen / testosterone supplement, just to see how that would go.

No, the drug isn’t covered by my insurance, but I felt I really needed it.

The mechanics involved were insane – the drug is killer expensive – and I am grateful to WalGreens which has a pretty great drug club type thing that brings the cost to $30 for a 3-month supply.

After a few weeks I’m noticing a difference. I feel a bit less hopeless, more able to see clearly. I feel stronger mentally, more agile and less a constant ‘victim.’

I have NO idea if this is all in my head, if I’m experiencing some kind of testosterone placebo effect, or if it’s real. But I’ll take it.

I’ve been on radio silence for so long – hesitant to blog, to send emails, to communicate with many folks because I felt so weak (mentally and emotionally), so unable to cope.

IMG_0004The Winter That Will Not End wasn’t helping, but at least it’s pretty.

So this weekend I see a bunch of students at Yarn Over (the Minnesota Knitting Guild’s yearly AMAZING knit class / marketplace extravaganza) and I see a bunch of peers.

Seriously, Yarn Over is an event that is spectacular.

Outside of the knitting convention type of events like IK Knit Lab, Stitches or Vogue Knitting Live, this event brings in the most exciting teachers.

Yarn Over is the event at which I taught in 2006 when I ‘met’ Minnesota for the first time and determined to move my family here.  Ironically, it was then held at Arlington High in St. Paul – which is now called Washington High – and which is where my son Max is a student!

IMG_2140One more ‘moving to MN sidebar’

At the Yarn Over Teacher Dinner back in 2006 there was a prom group at the restaurant. They were SO happy, everyone all together as a group, not terribly “datey” or money centered (limos, etc.)

I remember thinking, “This is what I want for Hannah, a prom that is FUN, not an explosion of $$ and broken hearts…”

And this past weekend at her Perpich Gala, that is what my dear daughter got – a lovely dance with great friends – a dance that ANY kid would love.

Seeing my peers at an event like Yarn Over is always wonderful, sometimes scary, and I’m interested to see how my pathway out of confusion and darkness helps me interact better with folks that – true or not – I feel judge me.  Peer review, it’s the name of the game in any industry.

I’ve been pondering the concept of passion. For whatever reason, I feel I’ve misplaced mine, so I am trying to line up a series of interviews with other knit folks about PASSION.

If I happen to see you at Yarn Over and drag you into a corner and ask you to give me 15 words on what excites you, please play along – I’d appreciate it!

And if you’re not a member of the MN Knitting Guild, you SHOULD be! You can only take Yarn Over classes if you are, but you can register at the event and I know that I still have places in my knitting with wire class.  Bonus – you’ll leave class with a lovely bracelet, and the ability to create many more for Springtime graduation/Mother’s Day/May Day gifts!

What the what?

April is hard.

So many crappy things happen in April – I noticed this about 10 years ago, and I tend to just push through April with my head down and my eyes on the prize of May. April is when lunatics go one step further then they usually might, it really is the cruelest month.

It’s been grey and wet and snowy over much of my world (and over much of the country) when it’s usually just blue and wet and slightly greenish in my backyard.

And then – Boston.

As anyone with a soul, I hate this. I hate the wanton destruction of human life, the attitude that “My political point (whatever that may turn out to be) is more important than your son’s life or your left leg.”

But I love our strength.

The 24/7 coverage of this event isn’t necessary – it’s overkill and rubbernecking – and I’ve spent most of the past few days with the TV off, watching videos of cooking shows while I barrel through a huge pile of knitting.

I may be the only person alive who can actually
GAIN weight just by watching a baking show.

But I’ve been impressed with the strength, the positivity, the professionalism of the folks in Boston. They are a model to all of us in this situation.

Folks all over the world have lived with this kind of terror for prolonged periods. I remember living in London in the early 80′s with the sense that around any corner a bomb could be waiting to explode.

Kids in war zones grow up leg-less because unexploded mines wait for the tiny foot to trigger an explosion. Funerals for victims of terrorism are part of the scenery in more parts of the world than we like to remember.

That doesn’t make it any better for the folks in Boston, but perhaps it may make them feel less alone.

And perhaps it should remind all of us that along with being citizens of the US, we’re citizens of the world. Which is still a beautiful place, even on a grey, cold day when so many of us applaud the courage of beantown.

Some folks are saying stupid things on twitter, what’s new about that? We’re human beings, we say stupid things sometimes.

“‘Bombs don’t kill people, pressure cookers kill people’ – what? You don’t believe me? Obviously you never ate my Aunt Lorraine’s pulled pork…”

But we also have the capacity for love, for support and for resilience.

We are strong, we are brave, and our love is larger than our hate.

In honor of the Boston victims, I’ve made a donation to Doctors Without Borders.*

I have both legs and arms, and I have a wonderful life, I’m grateful.

Perhaps you are, too?

*I thought long and hard about where to donate, and it kept coming back to the organization that’s done so much to help so many across the world. The Boston victims will be taken care of medically – but this only serves to highlight the many victims of violence around the world who will NOT have access to medical help.

My decision is mine, yours will be yours, but for myself, I feel it’s incumbent on me to show my gratitude to the universe by doing something positive right now.

Assuming the Best

It’s busy season for me, I have (at last count) 14 designs which have been accepted in the past few weeks, most of which are due during the month of April (I’ve finished several already, and some of them are small pieces)

So that’s good – and that’s mortgage for a few months.  Mortgage is good!

I’m also trying to set up teaching gigs where/when I can, working in designs for another book, and doing the ‘taking care of family’ thing. Life is busy, which is better than the alternative!

I’ve also been doing some serious soul searching. I guess I do soul searching on a pretty regular basis, I tend to think a lot – assess my actions and words, try to understand how they impact others, and consider ways to change my words and deeds so that I leave as much peace in my wake as possible.

Obviously, I don’t always achieve this.

Misunderstandings happen. In my case they tend to revolve around miscommunication more than anything else; I’ve not explained something well, I’ve heard something incorrectly, or something I said was translated/related to someone erroneously.  One of my big goals in life is to catch those as soon as they happen, try to address them and offer my sincere apology / explanation for what might have gone wrong.

Taking responsibility and working to resolve an issue is, I am convinced, the hardest yet most worthwhile thing I need to do as a freelancer / small business owner.

There are times when I know there’s been a misunderstanding, but it’s been practically impossible to figure out what has actually happened.

For instance, a few years ago an event organizer – for no reason I could discover – recommended that I not be hired at the event again.  This kind of stuff happens in the knitting world, especially when someone is as outspoken as I can be, and I’ve long come to terms with the fact that not every teacher is every event’s perfect fit.  And, generally, when I don’t get asked back to teach somewhere it’s mutual and I understand why.

But I had no IDEA what had gone wrong in this case. I wrote to the organizer for clarification but didn’t hear back. I kept hitting brick walls. It was painful, and because it was such a mystery, and it seemed to strike at the very core of my identity as a hand knit teacher. I found that it actually impacted my willingness to reach out to new venues, I felt as though I had a bad smell.

A few years went by, I was still in the dark, but I was invited to give a talk at a sister event by the same organization. The talk went well, I didn’t wear my glasses so – blind as a bat – I evidently smiled and charmed and whooped it up from stage with the person who had been angry with me. And all was forgiven. And I still don’t know what I did in the first place.

Heaven knows that I have an – ahem – strong personality and I was more than willing to accept that I’d said or done something which had caused a riff (even if I was entirely oblivious to what I might have done.) But it remains a mystery, and all’s well that ends well.

I write this because I’ve learned that the world of knitting teachers / events / retreat / symposiums is a world of interesting stories. Sometimes these stories can cause folks to become upset with someone else, and it’s very possible that the tiny little nut at the center of the disagreement is something inconsequential, even neutral. I guess a lot of the world is like this – perhaps a bit like junior high school – where we pass stories and gossip around, because that’s the nature of being human beings in a society!

Every day I try to grow, to become a better person, or at least not to be a worse person than I was when I went to sleep the night before. It sounds so easy, but it’s very hard – we all know this, I think we all try to do the same thing.

Recently I visited a local business and was treated incredibly rudely. The manager of the business was so vitriolic that one of the other customers (a woman I’d never met) followed me to my car to express her sympathy with the manager’s outburst, and to say that she was as mystified as I was as to what had actually just happened.

It was silly, but this really bad experience stuck with me. I was already in a bad place from some other stuff that had happened, and I allowed this to push me into a spiral – taking me to a “I’m just a rotten human being!” self pity place that was NO help at all.

I talked about it to friends, I went over the experience in my mind, and finally I just let it go – I figured that the manager was having a very bad day I happened to wander into it.

I tried to do what my mother always asked me to do: Assume the best.

Mom would ask me to ‘assume the best’ whenever someone was mean to me.

“Assume that they’re really a nice person at heart, but today something terrible happened to them and they can’t help but be angry and you happen to be there.”

“Assume that last night they were up all night with a sick kid and they have NO energy left and allowed it to get the better of them.”

Because, as my mom said, “If you assume the best, the worst you’ll look is a fool.  If you assume the worst, you could look like a bitch. And I’d rather look like a fool than a bitch.”

And, as Al Franken says, “When you assume you make an ass out of Uma Thurman”

And then today a kind of miracle happened.

The store manager sent me chocolate. She wrote a note to apologize for her behavior, and she sent me a box of candy.  I’m blown away.

I love it when things like this happen; the chocolate, getting asked back to teach at an event that I love, someone reaching out to clarify something instead of allowing it to fester.

I’m trying hard to keep these GOOD things close to my soul and dwell on them instead of pulling out the bad/wrong/mean things that happen (which always seem to find a way to worm themselves into my heart when I’m at a low point…)

And I will eat some chocolate. And ponder to whom I should send a box…