Growing New Skin

I’m home now.

Highway Home

I’m shaken, bruised, tired and demoralized.  I hurt in places I never knew existed (physically and mentally) and I have no idea what to do about it.

I look hard for the joy, the love, the positive in most of what I do – but these past weeks I’ve felt like a picture of Obama on a Fox News set.

Anyone who does anything publicly earns a certain number of positive and negative reviews.  This is natural, and in 10 years of writing and teaching I’ve certainly accrued my share of both.

When reviews – not just mine, but anyone’s – go too far on the love / hate ends of the spectrum, I instinctively begin to question whether the reviewer is honestly relating facts, or is doing a bit of either kissing up or knife sharpening.

Folks, there have been pretty awful things written about me for a long, long time.  From the time Confessions of a Knitting Heretic was published, there have been folks calling me everything but a child of god.

While it’s never easy to read bad stuff about yourself, there are phases in my life when it’s easier to deal with.  These past few weeks have not been one of those times.

The worst part about folks writing mean stuff is that – well – it’s mean.

The second worst thing is that once anything is published on the internets (true or not) it becomes a footnote to be dragged out and waved around in future.  That’s the, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire” mindset which ignores the ability of the internet to act as a smoke machine.

And, even harder, when the crap written isn’t true, it somehow hurts even moreI still can’t quite puzzle that out.

When faced with a hard truth my reaction is to stop, think  about it and try to learn/grow from the experience.  When faced with a hard lie, there’s not really much to be done.

Fighting against an untrue assertion is like fighting smoke – there’s nothing there, a lie is a hard thing to disprove.  When I read a scathing post about me on Ravelry, or a very nasty blog post dozens of anonymous and untruthful gossip snips masquerading as comments (“I heard that…”,  “Someone told me that…”, “It’s well known that…” ) there’s not really a lot that I can do.

Speaking against it lends it credence, but ignoring it can eat my soul from the inside out; neither is a positive outcome.

And it could be that I’m just too damaged / wounded / sensitive to continue doing this teaching thing.  Attack is easy, comedy is hard.

In discussing this situation with friends over the past week, one comment has been said to me several times, “That’s why I HATE the internet!”

Well, I don’t hate the internet, I enjoy it.  I’ve learned things, made friends, and have run my very small business because of the internet.  I feel it brings folks together much more than it ever could separate them.

But the haters are hard to read, my friend.

Making Hay While The Sun Shines!

Next year we upgrade: push mower!

It’s no secret that my health has been – iffy – the past year, especially since October when I tumbled into bed after a looooong teaching trip only to rise as my own self in late January!

So many things seem to be part of this Fibromyalgia experience.

I have memories of meals I enjoyed immensely, only to feel absolutely terrible; ill, achey, feverish, flu-ish a few hours later.

I now realize it was the massive amount of wheat / gluten that I inhaled during those most enjoyable meals.

I think back to a slight case of the cold, or  flu that seemed to expand and explode into a pain filled three week voyage.

I realize now that my immune system doesn’t work the same as it did 5 years ago (or the same as most folk’s immune systems work!) This fibro is VERY clever at exploiting any chink in my health armor to tackle me into submission.

Submit I will not.

When it’s warm and I feel that I can rule the world and save the universe – all from the comfort of my bike seat – I have to dig deep to remember just a few weeks earlier when it was below freezing here and I could barely move.

On a rainy and cold day like today, in the middle of a warm Spring, I feel practically paralyzed with stiffness every time I try to move.  These episodes now make sense to me.

That doesn’t mean I enjoy them any more, but it DOES mean that I know it will end, and I will be able to move again.

Sadly, I’m slowly coming to terms with the fact that as much as I love cold weather (and I adore it) I usually do a bit better when it’s not clammy & wet & cold all at the same time (like today.)

Our family is NOT contemplating a move – we ADORE Minnesota and we’re doing well here – but it does mean that I need to take advantage of the warmer months for the more physical aspects of my job.

So my own way of making hay – of putting up a harvest to live off of through the Winter – is teaching.


I’m teaching in May (Ireland), June (Columbus), Aug (Scotland) & Sept (Italy).  I’m a little concerned about my ability to swear off of wheat while teaching near Rome, but it must be done or I’ll do precious little teaching.  Maybe I’ll go on a sacrifice pasta bender my final night?  I’ve already sworn off Guinness whilst in Ireland.

However, I’ve scheduled only one engagement per month, quite a reduction from previous Summers.  In recent years I’d teach 2 weekends a month, or go on long trips where I’d do 6 or 7 engagements in two weeks.  That’s not going to be happening any time soon.

I know now that I can’t push it. I will suffer, as will my students.

And that makes me immeasurably sad.  But I must be realistic.  Learning to do what I can do, and to stop doing things that make me sicker, is going to be a long journey.

I can’t stand the thought of being disabled – even partially – or what that would mean to the kids (with their father already out of commission) so I’m working hard to squeeze in enough work during my up times to make both ends come together nicely.


My only scheduled in-person teaching event in the US in 2010 will be in Columbus on June 10 & 11.  The design group I belong to, The Stitch Coop, has rented space at the Courtyard by Marriott in downtown Columbus, OH, so we can teach to anyone who wants to come and have an awesome time learning new knit techniques!

If you’ll be in or near Columbus and are interested in taking some wonderful classes (not just mine, but so many classes by other SC members!) please check out our offerings and sign up!  We’re limiting the size of the classes, when they’re full, they’re CLOSED!

For folks who sign up for my classes at my website, I can offer you a bit of a discount.  Use the code word “tnna” and you’ll get a cool 10% off of the price per class.

If you know what class(es) you want, you can sign up here.  For more information on my classes, visit and you can sign up there, too!

Combination  Knitting
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Annie Modesitt Tips & Tricks
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Lace Boot Camp
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I hope to see you in Columbus.  (Or, perhaps in Ireland, Scotland or Rome!)


Not to go all Katie Couric on you, but get a Colonoscopy.  Seriously.

Colon Cancer is a terrible disease, but your chances of surviving increase by 90% with proper testing.  If you are in your middle years (the guidelines now say age 50) please get yourself a colonoscopy.

My mother died of this horrible disease (complications of it led to her liver and lung cancer, too, a pretty awful way to pass) and my recent colonoscopy turned up a pre-cancerous flat polyp that was 15mm, pretty large.  It was removed, but I’m supposed to have another test every 3 years.

I shudder to think what would have happened if I had skipped this necessary test (as I considered doing) before my health insurance runs out on July 1.

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!

THAT Direction

We’ve sort of been waiting for this, expecting this, for a little over 2 years.

We’d almost convinced ourselves that it wouldn’t happen, even as we would take any opportune moment to remind each other (and anyone who would listen), “We’re very lucky, but the luck can’t last forever…”

Gerry’s IgG numbers are elevating.

We’d gotten used to the numbers either going down, or staying steady.  Moving in no direction, static, flat.

Now they’re moving up from the 1,300’s in the Fall, to the 1,500’s in Feb, up almost to 1,600 now.  That’ moving out of normal range, and is probably the harbinger of a relapse.  Or not.  Or it is.

The indecision of this disease, Multiple Myeloma, compels us to become VERY zen in our outlook.

I’m having a rough time myself right now.  On our trip to Mount Rushmore Max and I developed bronchitis (he’s better, I still sound like Brenda Vaccaro) and Gerry picked it up on Tuesday.  Max is better, I’m recovering, but Gerry’s feeling bad with nausea, headache, fever, chills – the whole enchilada.

In the midsts of this, the phone call from his Oncologist asking him to come in for another blood test feels like an out-of-body experience, as if we’re watching it on a made-for-TV movie.  Maybe one starring Brenda Vaccaro?


I have a certain amount of – well, not guilt – but amazement at my hubris in taking my family to Ireland.  I’d find myself thinking, “Who do you think you are?  Taking your family to Ireland when you’re losing your health insurance on July 1.  Shouldn’t you be saving every penny?”

I just don’t know.

We’re swapping houses with a couple in Ireland who are coming to St. Paul for their son’s law school graduation.  Max & my tickets are paid for with frequent flier miles, I found a pretty good fare for Gerry and Hannah, so the total cost for the trip (figuring for extras) should be about $2,000.

For 3 weeks that seems like an amazing bargain, which quells a bit of my – ahem – guilt.

Now that Gerry’s MM numbers are moving in the direction we’d hoped they wouldn’t, I feel even more firmly that our trip to Ireland is the right thing for us to do.  Life is finite, opportunities don’t always repeat themselves.

So upon our return to St. Paul what will we be facing?  How long will it be until we’re back at the Mayo?  Will Gerry need another stem cell transplant, or can he get by with a new course of a drug like Revlimid?  How sick will he get?  Will he have more pain?

One thing we will know is that we’ll face what comes next with the knowledge that we are united, a strong family and trying hard to continue to thrive & create memories every day.

We’re VERY grateful that although I won’t be covered by insurance, Gerry’s covered with that Social[ist] Security Disability Insurance & Medicare.  Thank god that – without it I have no idea how we’d be getting through this period, between Gerry’s illness and my own reduced earnings due to my own brain-melting fibromyalgia adventure.

Folks have said really kind things to me, that I’m brave, or that I’m handing this with grace, but  I feel neither brave nor graceful right now.

I just feel scared, self-questioning, feeble & weak. Have I missed anything?  Oh, yeah, self pitying.

I woke up last night feeling terrified, too damned sick to give my family the full strength and comfort they deserve right now.  Thankfully, the feeling passed when the sun came out.

I apologize for the purely self centered stream of this post.  This is what trying to figure out how to keep a slowly sinking ship afloat looks like.

Once we’re bailed out a bit, we can decide in which direction we need to move.

Does anyone know how to sail?

In Happier News

Since neither Max nor Hannah had school today, it was the perfect chance for Max’s orientation meeting Breakthrough St. Paul (BSP).  This is the program that’s been SO great for Hannah for the past 2 years, and which Max has been accepted into!

It was a GREAT meeting, we chatted about what Max will do over the summer, what classes he might take, and how he can begin working on some projects while we’re in Ireland (he wants to visit some castles, excellent research for a budding architect!) The best part was that Hannah was so proud of Max (and so proud of herself – she made it into the Breakthrough Leadership Program and will continue to attend BSP over the Summer & into the school year.)

One of the perks for Hannah is that she’ll get to go on a week-long camping trip to hone her leader (and follower) skills, and she may qualify for her own laptop to do her homework.  It will be a new experience for her as we’re a Mac family and the laptop is a PC, but she was buzzing with excitement.

After the meeting we came home, and while Gerry slept the kids helped me change the storm windows and do some Spring cleaning.  We have to get our house in shape for non-family to reside here for a month!

In Knitting News

I’m having a wonderful time working out a pattern for some Tabi socks (split toe socks.)  It’s been one of the most fun, and one of the most challenging, patterns I’ve worked up.  I’m trying very hard to make it intuitive, to allow the increases and decreases to follow a logical route, so I’ve ripped out this darned sock at least a dozen times so far.  I’m very happy that I’m using worsted weight yarn!

Another ribbed and lace project, a cardigan, waits for me (the yarn is Louisa Harding’s Mulberry, it’s exquisite) and – of course – there is always the Gripsholm Jacket sleeves to return to.  So much wonderful work – if only I could do it in a more timely & efficient manner!

A special note – while in Ireland I’ll be teaching a short 2-hour class in Combination Knitting at This Is Knit in Dublin!  I’ll also be doing a book signing, and I’d love to see any Dublin area knitters while I’m there!  The class & signing will be on Sunday, May 2.  YAY!

Duck, Duck, Spruce!

I’ve been trying to get my ducks in a row, using organizational skills to help me re-align my always-too-high expectations of myself.  It’s working, but mentally it’s difficult to re-frame how I view myself.

I realized the other day that I have been having a very hard time remembering what I do from day to day as I knit up pieces.  Work I’ll do on one day will seem like it was done by a stranger when I pull it out the next day. (That may be because I’ve been crocheting instead of knitting…)

Parts is Parts

So my worksheets have become my best friends, I take copious notes of everything that I do (I’m a HUGE fan of the iWorks application, Numbers – I’m a groupie!) and I’m realizing that this may be the best way to work for the time being.

The two projects I’ve been working on lately (a doll for Interweave Crochet and a cute little duster cover in knit AND crochet) have taken me longer than I’d expected due to the constant notation.

I’m one step away from the old guy who writes down every thing that he eats every day.

But both projects are rather small.  Working and re-working them is a good way to ease into a new mindset about my productivity.

I love color

I’m trying to view this as an example that everything is in constant flux.  Nothing is carved in stone – not even STONE

Just ask the Old Man of the Mountain!

It’s not a bad lesson to relearn every now and then.  It’s good for the soul.

My online classes are doing very well – I’m SO happy with the students I’ve had (I’ve been very lucky!) and a recent survey I sent out to former class members is bringing me a lot of great food for thought.

If you’d like to take my classes in April, though, you’ll have to move fast.  This is just a friendly reminder that I won’t be offering the Guided Combo or Handbag class in May or June, so April is your last chance to take either before July. 

The Self Guided class will, of course, be able to carry on without me while I travel to Ireland and Ohio.  Work amongst  yourselves…

I heard today from TNNA that they’ve turned down my teaching proposals.  To be honest, I hadn’t expected they’d take them.

I’ve been pretty outspoken here in the blog (and to the Offinger powers that be) that I feel it’s important to treat knit and crochet instructors as valued members of our industry.  I feel TNNA/TKGA has relied on the love teachers have for our craft to offer them less in compensation/travel & accommodation than the average yarn shop offers.

That, and my classes probably didn’t excite them very much.

All’s well, though, as the design group I belong to, The Stitch Coop, has decided to rent space and teach some alternative classes in Columbus.  These will be open to the general public (and any TNNA members who’d care to join us) and will run June 10 – 13.

Stay tuned here to my blog for registration information, and let me know if there is a class you’ve been wanting to take with me (that is, if you’ll be somewhere near the Hyatt Regency in Columbus, OH in June!)

Ultimately, I think it will work out as a win/win; more folks can take my classes, and I can keep more of the earnings for my own offerings.

Max and Hannah do their chores around the house in exchange for their allowance, sometimes Max dusts & Hannah sweeps, sometimes it’s vice-versa.

Rhymes with "Riffer"

But I’ve noticed that since I bought a name-brand duster with a handle, both kids want to dust more.

But those paper refills are really expensive!  So I worked up a crocheted version using PolarKnit polar fleece yarn (a veritable dust magnet!) and after a few washes it’s still working well.

Here’s the pattern for the crocheted version, and a knit version, too! If you use one of these handle-with-prong dusters, maybe this will work well for you, too!