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.

Giving Joy

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

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

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

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

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

Which brings me to a different subject.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Walking My Bike

It’s been a very busy few weeks, mostly with me sitting squarely on my butt, but yet it’s been frantic. But more about that later…


Cover by Franklin!

Whenever I travel and teach, I’m asked by at least one person, “How can I become a hand knit designer…?” and I answer them as best I can.

Actually, I start by asking, “Do you have a secondary income source and health insurance…” because you’ll need that as much as design chops or knitting skills.

As long as magazines like Vogue Knitting continue to pay designers only 10% of online pattern sales (they’re actually paying me NOTHING right now because I won’t agree to their insulting 10%) then other  magazines have no problem offering 36 designs in an issue where 24 would do, and – like Vogue – paying the designers a watered down fee that is lower than designers were paid in the 80’s.

But I rant digress.

When folks ask me now about how to become a hand knit designer, I can point them to the best book on this subject I’ve ever read.  And that’s NOT just because I have an interview in it.

The KNITGRRL Guide to Professional Knitwear Design is wonderful.  In appearance, it’s like those generic “SUGAR” and “CIGARETTES” packages you’d find in supermarkets in the 80’s (second 80’s reference in one post.  I am old.)

It’s simple, direct, and doesn’t pull any punches.

If you’re contemplating a career in knit design, or if you’re already designing, this book is WELL worth your time!

And I’m giving one away!  Look under your chair and you’ll find your copy!

Just kidding. Write a comment about ANYTHING and you’ll be in the pool for the book.  The winner will be picked at random on July 7th.


Twisted Float in LL Shep Worsted

Four online classes started on July 1, two old friends (Combination Knitting & Mitered Handbag) and 2 brand new ones (Twisted Float & Lace Bootcamp). You can still get in on them without missing anything, really.   Just sayin’  Use code “july” for 25% off!

As of right now, I still have several videos to complete for the new classes (there are at between 5-7 videos up in each classroom, plenty to keep the students going for at least a week)

Why am I behind?  If I say, “I don’t know.” would that officially count as denial?

I have pain. That’s the truth.

I had been thinking about getting an intern, an assistant, something to help me get through the work.  I wasn’t quite expecting that my constant companion would be Pain (and let me tell you, Pain is a notoriously bad assistant.)

Pain is like that friend who comes over and just hangs out, and you can’t get ANYTHING done while they’re lounging on your sofa, eating your chips and watching your cable TV.  My pain just drops in, always uninvited, and I really never know when it’s going to turn up.  Sometimes it doesn’t even knock, it just barges in – SURPRISE! – like Jill Zarin in St. John.

But I still have work – a mountain of it – and I’m just moving slower and slower and slower.

Obviously I’m not blogging as much as I used to, I’m hardly twittering (which I enjoy as the ‘water cooler’ in my life – my connection with co-workers in the fiber world, like the aforementioned Ms. Okey) and my designing is a mere memory most days.

And the mountain grows.

I’ve saw a doctor at the MN Head & Neck Pain Center last week, he asked if I exercised and I told him I ride my bike between 2-6 miles every day.  Which is absolutely true!  I’ve discovered that riding my bicycle, and working up a bit of a sweat, is one of the few ways I can guarantee a few hours of pain free existence.

I’ve learned that one of the best ways to control fibromyalgia pain is through exercise, aerobic is better.  The bike is the most enjoyable for me, it’s something I really WILL do, so I gravitate toward it.

Imagine my chagrin when the doctor responded, “2-6 miles on a bike isn’t that much.  You’re not fit.” Well, obviously not.  Or maybe NOT so obviously not.  Maybe I’m more fit than I look to the naked, size-ist eye…?

As Ramona C pointed out on Facebook when I posted this, Perhaps size-ist prejudice on his part prevents him acknowledging your true fitness level? I think she’s right.  The doctor saw a large woman walk into his office, and his assumption is that I must be one notch up from lazy slob lounging on the sofa (right next to Pain, who hasn’t left yet, by the way…) Well, I’m not.

And I’m not entirely fit either.  Sure, I could lose 20 (or 80) pounds – I’ve lost 40 in this past year – but c’mon doc, give a big girl her props!  I’m MUCH more fit than I was a year ago, even with the pain I’m more fit.  Seriously.

I rode my bike to my physical therapy on Wednesday (my last day with insurance – live it up!) and got a much warmer response from my PT about my bike riding.  Thank you.

And I felt encouraged.  Not like I wanted to tie myself to my bike and throw myself in Lake Como.  Which I sort of felt like when the doctor dismissed my measly 2-6 miles a day.  Just sayin’

I ride my bike whenever I need to make a short local trip (Trader Joe’s, Kowalski’s, CVS, or to Max’s baseball games) and I feel pain free afterward.  It’s a great high.

I’ve been experimenting with longer trips (no, Dr. X had nothing to do with that.  Okay, maybe a little) and I definitely need to balance the length vs. pain-free outcome.  Too long of a ride and I hurt in places I didn’t before.  It’s a pain trade off.

I rode down to Trader Joe’s yesterday – we were out of oatmeal and I crave it now for a variety of reasons.  [hint: if your digestion could you a kick start, try oatmeal for a week]

It's a cat...

Coming back from Trader Joe’s with a basket full of bananas and oatmeal, I realized I just couldn’t ride up the long,low-grade hill up Lexington.  So I hopped off and walked.

A few bikers passed me, they were nice about it, but I felt a bit like a sludge.  A sludge pushing a bike.  Not to be confused with a cat flushing a toilet.

And then it hit me – the hill, the bike, the groceries – they were an analogy for my current situation.

The bike is my life.  It can go fast, or it can go slow.  I’m in control to an extent, but the landscape I travel is also a consideration.

Just when I think I'm at the summit...

The basket is my work, my duties, all that I’ve taken on.  Sometimes it’s empty, usually it just carries my knitting bag, but sometimes it’s filled with heavy groceries.

The hill is the trajectory my life’s taken.  Right now it’s uphill.  That’s not to say it’s entirely not enjoyable, there are GREAT moments when you’re going uphill, but it’s definitely harder than riding downhill.

Gerry’s illness, my illness, that’s the hill.  When the pain abates, when Gerry’s doing well, it’s a plateau.  It hasn’t been downhill for a long, long time.

Gerry’s cancer numbers are on the way up again for the 3rd straight checkup, I have days when I feel absolutely frozen in place, paralyzed by soreness. And my basket is full of the classes I’m teaching, my blog, my designing, my writing – it’s all in there.

The thing is, much as the groceries from Trader Joe’s were all heavy, they were all vital.  I needed all of them.  Well, maybe the chai was an extravagance, but I needed the oatmeal, berries and bananas.

So I pushed my bike and realized that there will be times when I move slower, when I’m carrying the bike as much as the bike is carrying me.

If I were to set the bike down and just walk up the hill, I may be lighter, but when I get to the top of the hill not only do I NOT have my bike and groceries, and I’ll miss out on a lot of fun going down the hill. 

Running down a sidewalk is NOT the same as scooting down the bike lane on my cheap Target dream bicycle!

Wishes on the Wind

I was randomly searching the internet this weekend and wandered onto an event I hadn’t heard of before!

Our Wishes

Wishes for the Sky is an annual kite flying happening, this was the 4th one, and it took place on Sunday.

When I read about the event on warm & shiny Saturday, I told the kids we’d bike down to Harriet Island for the fun.  Oh, yeah – SURE we would…

But on Sunday it was rainy and cold and miserable. Gerry and I did duty as crossing guard / door openers at the Temple for Hebrew School, and I felt like an achy mess when I got home.

But Hannah would have NONE of it. She fixed a beautiful lunch (gluten free soup for me, a sandwich for her) and gently bullied me into the car so we could go to the event.

Kite Girl in St. Paul

BOY was I glad she did!  The kites are reused every year, they’re sturdy little structures and stand up to a LOT of crashing!  Each year when folks get their kite they use black or white pens to write a wish on the kite, then they go fly it for as long as they like.  A suggested donation of $2 helps to cover the costs of the event.

When finished you turn the kites back in (or you can purchase your kite for $35 if you want, the steep price a deterrent to folks just wandering off with their kite) and the happy day is done.

It was really lovely; a windy, overcast day in St. Paul, but a LOT of fun!


If I needed proof that wheat / gluten is a culprit in my fibro journey, I got it yesterday.  Sheesh.

I drove out to Goodwill to look for luggage (we needed suitcases for our trip, I have them, but the kids could use cases with wheels so we can travel easily) After checking at several 2nd hand shops and discount stores, Goodwill was my last stop.

My they're tasty! Just like Meth!

By the way, I found the best deal at Tuesday Morning – 2 nice Dockers suitcases for $29 each on special clearance – yay!

Anyway, I try not to eat out, and I have avoided fast food places since my diagnosis, but I was absolutely starving so I figured I’d have a bite at one of the few places I can get something satisfying with no gluten; KFC.  I like their grilled chicken, and it has no batter.

But my two pieces DID come with a biscuit.  Damn.

I ate the chicken, it was delicious, but all the way home the biscuit was calling out, “Annie, Annie, you KNOW you want me, I’m your FAVORITE thing!  Take a walk down memory lane and enjoy the wheaty-crunchiness & fine, fine smoothness of a baking powder biscuit…”

Before I even knew what I was doing, the biscuit was GONE.  Inhaled.  Like a drug.

Hugs not Biscuits

Hugs Not Biscuits

Stay in school, kids.

It took about 40 minutes for the effects to begin to show.  I was fascinated while watching myself change, like Frederick March in Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde.

  • First I became irritable and had a sort of hollow, dark feeling.   Just an overall malaise.
  • Then my throat began hurting and my nose felt stuffy. 
    If I didn’t know better I’d have thought I was getting a cold.  I know now how often I’ve made this mistake this in the past.
  • The sore throat evolved into a headache, with VERY sore shoulders and neck.
    (Luckily I have my Relax Pack, which helped quite a bit after being warmed in the microwave!)
  • Eventually the soreness traveled to my joints and down my back, sending me to bed early.

I tried to read in bed, but I just felt like crap.  Movement was painful, lying still was painful, and I felt just as irritable as I had hours earlier.

So I took the Trazadone (to help me sleep) that I keep by my bed but seldom use, and this morning I feel much better.  Hooray sleep!


A good friend dropped by yesterday with dinner (oh, huzzah!) cooked by another good friend in my knitting group. I felt embarrassed at how incapacitated I was, and I had to admit to her that it was my own fault for scarfing a biscuit in less time than it takes to turn on my windshield wiper. She understood.

My knitting group has decided that they will fix us a dinner once a week and drop it off, and it’s been a most appreciated gift!

Aside from the food, which is amazing and delicious (as with the Minnesota driving test, there’s a cooking test one must pass in order to bring a hot dish to someone) the love is overwhelming.  Mondays are hard here, getting back into the school routine, Sunday night with less sleep than we all need, you know the drill.  Having one evening when dinner is taken care of is pretty delightful.

We are very lucky, you know?


Each one tells a little tale!


I have meant to write about this for weeks, and I’ve been SO remiss!

Nicky Epstein (one of the best designers I know and a hell of a good and funny friend) has started making buttons!  Her buttons are pewter, they’re adorable (that seems like too flimsy of a word – they’re whimsical!) and I can’t WAIT to use them in my next sweater!

I already have an idea for a wide belt using the bustier closure, isn’t it amazing?

You can find out how to order her amazing buttons at her website, nickyknits.com, and if you’re lucky your local yarn shop may be carrying them soon!


I want to send these off before I head over to the Emerald Isle, so here are the winners of the John Irving & Laura Hillenbrand audio books!

CONGRATULATIONS to both winners, I hope you thoroughly enjoy the audio books!

Bonny McCormick is the winner of Last Night In Twisted River
Beaweezil is the winner of Seabiscut

Seriously, Rick Levine, Are You Stalking Me?

Thursday, April 15, 2010 By Rick Levine

Virgo Virgo (June 21 – Jul 22)

It’s likely that you have been thinking about taking a vacation or doing something with educational value, but you haven’t been able to pull it all together. Today, it’s reassuring when your vision finally falls into place. But the work isn’t done; you still have to fine-tune the details before executing your plan. Don’t try to do everything all at once; give yourself plenty of time to make it happen.


And that’s exactly what we’re doing!  We’re tacking our packing projects a little bit at a time, cleaning the house and getting all of our old clothes sent to goodwill.  We’re making space for our new houseguests!

Spring cleaning is good, and now that I’m on Prednisone (the bronchitis would NOT abate without it) I’m actually able to smell again (a mixed blessing) and my energy is up a bit (funny how not being able to breath will flag the energy, no?)

I’m not overdoing it, but I AM getting stuff together and I’m trying to intelligently delegate to Max & Hannah.  THEY’RE not nuts about that part, but it’s necessary, and they’re still of a good age to help us out with a minimum of grumbling…

In terms of my Fibromyalgia pain, it’s worth mentioning again that if I don’t get at least a small amount of exercise every day, my pain is much harder to control.

It may be that the warmth of Spring has something to do with reduced pain this week, or that my bronchitis is going away, but I chalk a lot of it up to being more on top of taking my Vitamin D (I flagged during our trip to Rushmore) AND my wonderful bike! YAY BIKE!

I don’t ride far, but I enjoy every last minute that I’m ringing my bell and waving to the crowds!


The new energy’s gone to my head.  I’ve scheduled a few classes in the coming months, no more than 1 engagement in any month (oh, for the days when I used to do 2 a month 12x a year…)

So here’s my schedule from now through September.  3 countries, no waiting!

I also have a few banner ads for my classes.  Since I’m foolishly proud of them, I’ll list them here, too!


I’ll be a guest on Knit & Purl Girl’s Stitch & Dish radio program Friday night (tomorrow) at 8pm Eastern Time.  If you have a way to get online, you can listen to the show!  She’s a fun interviewer, I really hope you’ll tune in!