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Oh hello there, 2012

[First post of 2012! I have had “write blog post” on my to-do lists since January, but then my blog platform was hacked and plagued with spam, and it took some time to figure out. Recently when I have logged in, I have had to re-type my password and click that box “Remember me” so that I don’t have to type anything in the future. It feels right to have to check that: Remember me.]

Shortly after I wrote the last quick post in December, I got featured on the Etsy blog in the Quit Your Day Job column, which was an extraordinary honor and a truly fulfilling piece to write. For the first time possibly ever, I got to tell my story of how I went from teacher to chronically ill person to whatever it is I am today, and how Etsy was such a HUGE part of that. Everything I have been doing in regards to crochet, magazine work, and book work stems from opening my Etsy shop when I got sick with colitis. It is very hard for me to talk/write about some of it still, and I definitely shed a lot of tears writing the answers to their questions, and then reading the 133 comments that gradually followed.

I was stunned and flattered and again honored to receive such a positive response, such encouraging feedback to my story. There were a lot of comments from people who are also battling chronic diseases, and they found the post inspirational and motivating, especially if they too were financially strapped due to an inability to work full-time, just like I was, and have turned to Etsy for its creative work-from-home possibilities. Comments like: “Telling your story is an inspiration to me and the rest of humanity” and “Best story I have read on this blog. Thank you for your courage and inspiration!” and “Estimated time it took me to smile from ear to ear while reading this: .002 seconds. :)” When I read all of these comments (and cried A LOT A LOT A LOT), I sort of pointed to myself and said, “Me?” This will forever be one of the most important pieces I’ve written, so click on the link above if you want to read it.

When I was working on the writing for the Etsy post, I had just started to recover from my 3rd and final surgery for colitis/j-pouch, which was on October 31 of last year, which also means I turned 30 in the hospital (Nov. 2). This was an “easier” surgery than the other two, but the recovery is quite different. Gone was my ostomy, as everything was reconnected during this one and I went back to “going to the bathroom the normal way,” though it’s not exactly normal as it is in a healthy person! I had been told that the first couple of weeks would feel like colitis at its worst all over again, and that I HAD to remember that this was temporary and would pass. Even knowing that, it was an extremely difficult time of running to the bathroom a lot both night and day, being on painkillers, and generally feeling hit by a truck. About a month afterwards, around Thanksgiving and the beginning of December, I began to feel the tiniest bit better. It was an amazing thing to feel like I could finally think about what I wanted to do with my life and to actually go after it!

In the 10-month span in which I had the 3 surgeries, I spent a lot of time in the hospital, in treatment centers, and in doctors’ offices. Even though a lot of it was truly horrific and unbearably painful, both physically and emotionally, I accumulated some really great times with nurses there. Nurses who not only took care of me night and day, but who talked to me about their kids, their craft projects (my craft work was everywhere in my room), books I was reading, etc. Who talked to me as a person and not just a sick ball of flesh. As I went through my day-to-day routines of vitals, blood, tests, and attempts to walk in the hallway, I got a little sense of their day-to-day. Some of them I got close to and I looked forward to seeing them, and then was a little sad when I got discharged and knew that I might not see them again. I was so incredibly impressed and amazed at what these nurses did every day they went “to work,” both the actual and emotional “work” required on a daily basis, sometimes for 12 hours straight. It all kind of made me speechless, when I would try to put myself in their shoes.

Up until the last recovery, I didn’t want to think too much about my future, because I didn’t know how it would all turn out. I didn’t want to get my hopes up about living a life I had more of a say in if it was all for naught, so I was cautiously optimistic about making plans. But what did start to build in me, at first subconsciously and eventually consciously, was a desire to be a nurse. I would think about it when in the hospital, and look into programs when not in the hospital, doing the math in regards to how long it would take me to go back to school. And I got really excited about it, to the point that I felt like it was what I HAD to do, after all these years of being sick, a sort of “calling,” even though I hate the triteness of that word.

So, in December, a day before the deadline for the next semester, I applied to a community college to start the long process of taking a ton of prerequisite science classes , which is what one does before applying to nursing schools if already in possession of a degree. And that was that: I was going to go back to school to be a nurse. A funny thing happened when I started telling people: they were a combination of surprised and kind of mad! I had mentioned it casually to a couple of people throughout 2011 and got responses of, “why would you want to give up what you’re doing now?” and “Really? But you’re such a great writer and crocheter” and a myriad of other replies that basically said I was wrong for wanting to change my life/career path so suddenly and drastically. To me it felt SO RIGHT, so I was utterly stunned to receive such feedback. And the people who tried to convince me not to be a nurse, combined with the fact that I was at that time in the really hard parts of my last recovery, sent me into a deep depression for a good week or two. I couldn’t get out of bed (well, besides all the times I had to go to the bathroom!) I was so sad that after 7 years of a disease telling me what to do and completely directing my life, now that I finally had this little glimmer of hope of a brighter future, all these people were telling me what to do and trying to direct my life.

At some point I emerged from the sadness and stopped caring what other people said because going into nursing felt like absolutely what I wanted to devote the rest of my life to. To put it simply, I want to help people the way I was helped, but there are more reasons than that. I don’t want a job where I have to tell a person what to buy, or wear, or even believe, but I do want a job where a person wants their life and health back, in small and big ways, and I want to help them get there. I want to be part of their lives when they are trying to prolong those very lives. There are times in the hospital when I wanted to stop fighting for my life and just rip out the IVs and jump out the window (they were locked, I checked), but the nurses and everyone on my medical team involved with my health never stopped fighting. They took over my life even when I didn’t want them to and they replaced my desire to live with their desire to want me to live. Sure it’s their job, but isn’t it more than a job? It has to be.

I went back to school in January and I have since completed two classes and I’m currently taking my third. A 4.0 student thus far! I had forgotten how much of a science person I was in high school, how thrilling and fascinating even my Intro to Biology class could be. Every time I left class I was thinking, “OMG this is all amazing! DNA! Transcription Factors! Cellular Respiration! OMG!” It’ll be especially interesting to go deeper into these science classes and understand what is wrong inside of me. I was feeling okay enough digestively, but by no means great at this point, and yet gradually I started feeling pretty awful. My energy was zapped, my heart was always fast and my BP low, and when February hit I couldn’t exercise at all or carry a toddler. I felt severely anemic (which of course I had experienced before with substantial gastrointestinal blood loss) but I wasn’t having any other health issues and definitely no blood loss. I got progressively worse, to the point of not being able to breathe well, having so many aches and pain, losing my hearing, sleeping badly, having muscle spasms, losing my appetite, not being able to walk, and towards the end I could feel my brain function slipping, like there were connections not being made, like I was full of woozy morphine. I wanted to get through my mid-terms in March and not miss any classes, but I knew something was horribly wrong. I made an emergency doctor’s appointment with my PCP for 24 hours later, but when I woke up the next morning, and couldn’t move well or think clearly, we went to the ER. Lo and behold, my hemoglobin was 5.8, my lowest ever, which translates to, I was missing 2/3 of my blood supply. My body was shutting down once again and I almost waited too long to do something about it.

This was one of my first health problems that was a total mystery, which was terrifying in a different way compared to my regular health problems where the terror is in sort of knowing how bad it is and how bad it’s going to get. I had two blood transfusions and a lot of tests, and I was eventually told it was a combination of “occult” blood loss (I was slowly leaking blood somewhere but they couldn’t find out where) and possibly not absorbing iron. I had no iron stores, which take 3-6 months to deplete when you aren’t absorbing enough iron in your diet. It was a tough hospitalization, coming only 4 months after my last one when I thought I’d be in the clear for a while. And I hadn’t yet “recovered” from psychological exhaustion and a somewhat broken spirit.

At the same time I was developing a desire to become a nurse, and even a little bit before that, I was becoming okay with everything that had happened to me and got to a point where I was okay with letting go. I never thought I’d get there, but after a lot of thinking and reading of religious and existential philosophy and psychology, I arrived at this zen-like state in contemplating my life. I was finally proud of what I did do, what I did accomplish, despite so many health obstacles, and not hung up on what I wasn’t able to do, and although of course I wanted many more years to live and love, I felt peaceful and not at all bitter at the thought of my life possibly being cut short by bad health. That is a calm place I never imagined arriving at without some monumental spiritual or religious transformation. Maybe it’s just a case of my mind being too tired by it all to be angry or sad anymore, almost being numb, but regardless it’s like this enormous load was lifted off my shoulders.

I had to add a hematologist to my medical team to deal with these serious blood issues, and I was put on horse pills for iron and given 2 months to get my hemoglobin up to 11, which is *only* mild anemia. I was gradually feeling better and doing well in school, and was again somewhat optimistic (cautiously!) about getting a handle on things. Towards the end of April, in my psychology class, “Human Growth and Development: The Lifespan from Birth to Death,” I was reading the chapter on “Late Adulthood” which can begin around 65 and ends at death. Robert Peck, a psychologist, theorized that the elderly must tackle “three major developmental tasks or challenges.” In less psychology-esque and more layman’s terms, these are: redefine oneself in ways that do not relate to work roles or occupations, learn to cope and move beyond physical changes and deterioration in the body, and come to grips with impending death, realizing you’ve made contributions to society and these will outlast you. When I read about these developmental challenges in the last stage of life, my jaw nearly dropped and a gigantic light bulb lit up in my head: this is why I tell people that I feel like I am 80 years old, but can’t quite articulate why I feel that way. I HAVE DONE ALL OF THOSE!!! It took years, and I didn’t even realize that I was tackling the “three major developmental tasks” of the elderly, but I was! OMG! It also explains why simultaneously I feel so excited and ready to live my life right now but also feel a strange sense of calm when I think about it ending, say, tomorrow. Ready to live, ready to die. It’s kind of an unreal state of mind.

The iron pills I was taking pretty much destroyed any gastrointestinal progress I had made, which is just par for the course with huge doses of iron pills. In the beginning, my hematologist had asked me if I could “tolerate” the 1000mg of iron a day. (You only need 18mg a day, mind you). I hesitated because this isn’t even a question in my head. I mean, didn’t I have to “tolerate” it? There weren’t exactly any other options on the table. My life seems like a never-ending series of symptoms and side effects, and as I have grown in my way of thinking about my health, the question in my mind changed from “can I tolerate this medication, this treatment, this disease, these side effects?” to “how am I going to train myself, to mentally equip myself, to increase my pain threshold, so that I can tolerate all of it every single day?” It’s GOING to affect me physically in a multitude of ways, but how can I decrease the ways that it affects me mentally? It isn’t easy by any means, but that approach makes all the difference in how I deal with such challenges. It seems like such a long time ago that I got stuck in the “this is unfair” state. Okay, maybe it’s horribly “unfair,” but now what? I cannot stay in the “this is unfair” state for longer than a moment anymore than I can enter the “I can’t tolerate” a drug or side effect. Those are such stagnant and paralyzing places to inhabit and I remember them well.

The iron pills didn’t work. My hemoglobin went up a gram, but my iron stores went down, which means that the only new blood my body actually made was because I still had transfusion iron in me from March. It’s pulling from what iron is left, but I’ll hit 0 and then my hemoglobin will also fall, i.e. I will not be able to make new blood. I knew this was a strong possibility, but I was tricked into thinking I was improving because I did feel a little better from that one additional gram of hemoglobin. A lot of iron absorption occurs at the end of the small intestine, so the doctors believe that because mine is reconfigured, it’s not absorbing iron. At all. You need iron to make blood and do a whole host of other things in the body…. Yesterday I had to have my first infusion of IV iron, which involves spending 6 hours in the hospital, but I didn’t have any adverse effects (anaphylactic shock, anyone?), so hopefully this works. Rinse and repeat…forever.


Time has gotten away from me during another busy holiday season! A few links worth mentioning:

I did a Barnes & Noble crafting event for our latest book, Microcrafts!

Speaking of Barnes & Noble, their crochet book/kit I contributed to, Yummy Crochet, finally hit stores and is already in a 2nd printing.

I surpassed 2200 sales in my Etsy Shop!

How Much Remains

I have a list of 6 blog posts I want/need to write, but the one that actually has a self-imposed deadline is my birthday post; I’m turning 30 next week, on November 2! Last year, when I had my colon taken out in December, I did the math for the other two surgeries that would be required. I knew there was a relatively good chance of being in the hospital when my birthday rolled around, especially as I nailed down short-term jobs and I realized that with the book coming out in my favorite month (October) and my business getting really busy towards the holidays (mid-November-January), I was even more sure that a birthday hospitalization was highly likely. Except for the part where I’ll be in pain, dazed, and unable to eat anything for many days (no cake! no ice cream! no champagne!), I’ll still get to be surrounded by friends and family, surrounded by balloons, wearing a party hat, looking out the window, thinking about the years that came before, and hopefully the years that are ahead of me.

And when I think about it, this could be the best cause for celebration ever, a chance to regain health and the ability to live the life (or lives, as I attempt to be multiple people) I want. I will get rid of this ostomy bag after 11 months, 11 months of emptying a bag of poop that hangs at my side, too many times a day for me to want to count. I will not be looking at my small intestine poking out of my skin and into this bag. I will go the bathroom the “normal” way! It’s a pretty exciting time. 🙂 To make up for not spending my favorite holiday (Halloween) or my birthday doing what I’d prefer to do (ya know, not getting my guts rearranged), I packed it in during October, my favorite month. At some point, I will write all about that here. For now, I want to share with you an essay I wrote for a book that my friend Nancy put together, entitled, How Much Remains. It’s a compilation of essays about turning 30, all by women who share 1981 as their birth year. (You can buy it if you click on that link!) It is very related to what I mentioned above, and sums up way more articulately than I’m doing right now, how I feel about this milestone birthday.

“When is this tree’s birthday?” he asked, gently patting its rough base.
An image of trees celebrating with helium balloons and sheet cakes and silly games flashes across my mind, as I add this question to the always-growing list of reasons I am profoundly captivated by children.

I know what he is asking, that he is being perfectly literal, but I answer with a perfunctory adult response anyway: “Um…do you mean, how old is this tree?”

“No, I mean, when is his birthday?” he reiterates, a little agitated, as if I am misunderstanding entirely.

I answer again, with a teacher response: “You know what, I’m not sure. We wouldn’t do this, but if we cut it down and looked at the tree’s trunk, there would be all these rings. And if we counted them, we’d know how many years old it was. So if there were 4 rings, this tree is 4 years old, just like you.”

The teacher never wants to utter the words, “I don’t know” to a child who genuinely wants to know, and in this case, I don’t want to admit that, in all likelihood, no one knows when this tree’s birthday is.

“I think he’s older than me. He’s really big,” tipping his head back, as if a little more scrutinizing will successfully lead him to an answer—a day, a month, a year.

“He’s probably older than me even. How old do you think I am?”

He ponders for a good thirty seconds, looking around at the other kids and adults on the playground, and shivering a little because it is early spring in New York City: “A hundred?”

“Nope! A lot younger than that. I’m 22.”

As if continuing on from his original question, he says, “Because if we knew his birthday, we could have a party for him.”

“I know, I was thinking the same thing. Okay, give me your hand, we gotta go.”

********

“Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear….” My body quivers and stiffens as I hear this being sung to a patient down the hall the moment I am staring out the hospital window at a row of evergreen trees. When is this tree’s birthday? Where is that little boy now, seven year later? The heartbreaking reality of working at a daycare center is the never-ending string of goodbyes, to children you spend months teaching how to tie shoelaces and wash hands. Because if we knew his birthday…. The song ends.

I stop looking at the trees and instead watch the slow drip of the IV bag, that mesmerizing regular movement of liquid emptying into my bloodstream by way of my hand. What is it I always think but rarely say to describe these grueling hospitalizations? For all that is being pumped into me gradually, and at other times, rapidly, my spirit’s lifeblood is gradually, and at other times, rapidly, draining right out of me. Physically, I make it out alive, but mentally is another story.

After six years of fighting a disease with no cure, it all seems to culminate in this poignant moment of remembering a tree and a child, a moment that feels light-years away from where I am now, physically, mentally: I am going on day five of nothing but clear liquids and day two of nothing but a daily 8-oz glass of water, which I extract with a tiny ridged sponge on the end of a plastic stick, as skinny as a twig. I am waiting to have my large intestine surgically removed so that I don’t die from severe ulcerative colitis or its brutal drug therapies. Or by own hand, for that matter.

Having narrowly missed spending a birthday in the hospital, there existing too many possibilities of doing such, I work out the math for the trio of surgeries required—there is a good chance I will be sung to right here, on my 30th [Day of the Dead] birthday. If I dread this milestone of a birthday, it will be for reasons that involve stretching my pain tolerance to a horrific, nearly unbearable degree. If I look forward to this milestone of a birthday, it will be because I could never face this annual event thinking, yet another year gone, but rather, yet another year, very fortunately, lived.

Farewell, sweet Diane

Four years ago, a woman named Diane Naegel bought a set of my crochet Halloween amigurumi–pumpkin, ghost, candy corn–just a few weeks after I made and listed them on Etsy for the first time. When I saw that the mailing address was a few blocks from my first apartment, I sent her a message to the effect of, “Hey, I live in New York too!” We got to e-conversing, sharing a love of yarn things, Halloween and the 1920’s, so I invited her to an upcoming Crafts and Crumbs. She wanted to come but was setting up some kind of photo shoot for the 1920’s/30’s events she often put on. We continued to correspond, became Flickr and Facebook friends, invited each other to crafty and Jazz Age events over the next few years, but something always happened to prevent our meeting. Life, work, travel, the busy-ness of being New Yorkers, my bad health. Nonetheless, we never lost touch, penpals in our shared city, looking at the same skyline but from different angles.

When I left New York in June of 2010 for health reasons, we both expressed sadness over email at not meeting, but I told her that if all went well health-wise, I’d be back to visit for sure, and “we WILL meet!” A few months later my book Witch Craft came out and I was planning my first trip back to NYC, so I wrote to Diane, only to learn that she had just been diagnosed with breast cancer: “I’m not posting about any of this on FB…I would love to finally meet you in person!” That’s when our writing to each other really picked up, when we were both in the midst of dire health situations. Young, social butterflies, New Yorkers, in love with life each and every day–my heart broke a little and I wanted to do anything and everything for her, 360 miles away.

I’d get teary sometimes reading what she wrote, “Know that you are an inspiration to me with how you deal with your situation and lead an amazing life…so THANK YOU for that!” I told her all about my friend Rose, who lived 15 minutes from me in Brooklyn but it took years to meet after so much writing, because of her cancer, because of my colitis. Before Rose, I didn’t have a young friend who battled something serious like I did, someone who understood the emotional repercussions of dealing with a merciless disease, of trying to put back together the pieces of a shattered life. In regards to Rose, to Diane I said, “she made me want to LIVE and that was hard to want. It’s not always easy, many tears shed of course, but I do believe 100% in the many quotes I turn to, ‘out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.’ It’s hard, but it’s true….” And that began a series of lengthy emails about being sick…

Diane: I’ve cried MANY tears over the last couple of weeks…but most of them are over how touched I am by so many people reaching out to me. I know I’ll never be the same after this experience…and that through these times of suffering, you’re really enlightened to so much and learn to truly and deeply appreciate so much.

Me: Yeah, I always want to fast-forward to the parts where I can just reflect on it and not be IN it, but that’s just not how it goes…I was reading this sociology book “The Wounded Storyteller” WHILE very ill this summer, which was hard…but “comforting” to me at the same time. I feel silly for recommending “a book” to anyone after any diagnosis, but it did really articulate what I was already feeling, ‘The ill person who turns illness into story transforms fate into experience.’ and ‘I would never have chosen to be taught this way but I like the changes in me.’ This last one=so true.

Diane: I wish I could fast forward the tough parts, too…if only! It’s totally sad, but I think knowing that I’ll lose my hair soon is a tough pill to swallow. I’m hoping to rock wigs with tons of glamour, but I know it’ll still hurt, too. But like you said- I think I’ll like the changes in me at the end of it. I’ll totally look into that book!!

I was planning to meet up with her that Halloween, but a video interview I did about being a sick creative person took four hours, and thus I missed Diane’s event. She bought my book and said I’d have to autograph it some time. She was halfway through chemo treatments in November when my health was finally taking its definitive turn for the worse. Our usual check-ins with each other, dreaming about crocheting together and not being in and out of hospitals. She tells me her surgery and radiation plans and I write back to her from the hospital in December. She has lost her hair, she’ll lose her breasts, I will soon lose my colon. She sends me a Zelda mag care package while I’m there.

In February I go to Philadelphia, visiting the Mutter Museum. I look at ulcerative colitis in a jar and at the megacolon, buying the postcard of the latter. I look at the photo credit and recognize the name, Don Spiro, Diane’s fiance! What are the chances…. Diane tells me she has had a “complete response” to chemo, meaning that the cancer is gone, but she’ll still lose her breasts in a week. “I was THRILLED. It’s SO good for the prognosis when it responds this well to the chemo. So now I’m way less nervous about it!”

She has the surgery, gives me all the details, how it feels, what her chest looks like, what the plan is for the year. She ends that email with, “Careful hugs to you as well…I’m so glad to have someone to talk to about illness that takes a long time to deal with! It’s such a unique situation!!”

In late June the cancer comes back, which was highly unlikely, so she starts chemo again. She writes: “And you know–you’re so lucky–you’ll be out of that bed ridden state before you know it and on with life!! I’ll be thinking about you leading up to surgery time…and if you ever wanna call or commiserate or whatever, I’m around!
We are both gonna be SO TOUGH after this!!!” I have a spare week in between jobs and my next surgery, so I plan a July 4 trip to NYC. This time around, I am determined to meet Diane, even if it means sitting in Sloan-Kettering with her. We start looking at potential days, our emails getting more giddy at the thought, and we set a dinner date.

She picks Supper Restaurant in the East Village and we text message a lot, as I return from CT that day and she tries to leave work early. “I’m leaving! Where u at??” she writes. “Walking along Bleecker, just got off the 6.” I walk quickly, thinking I am late, and then she calls because she is half a block from where I am, now on 2nd Street. And that is where we finally meet, in front of a community garden on an insanely hot summer day in New York, both of us smiling ear to ear.

We talk for 20 minutes at the restaurant before even looking at the menu, the waiter coming 3 times to the table and we have nothing to tell him. She talks about what she is feeling/thinking, that now the doctors are being careful not to promise anything like they did before, echoing when I was diagnosed with colitis and was handed a prescription and a “you’ll be fine.” We have tears in our eyes. We finally order and talk about everything. I wish I had a tape recording of this, what, 2 hours? I drive her to a subway station on 42nd St, she tells me to stay with her in Astoria next time I’m in town, we’ll have adventures.

That night we write Facebook messages about each other at the exact same minute. July 6, 2011, 11:59pm. I write: “So so glad we finally got to meet. You are even cuter in person!” She writes: “had a lovely dinner with Alicia Kachmar tonight! so wonderful to FINALLY meet my online crafty pal in person! xo.” I mention that we forgot to take a picture of us finally together and she says, “I realized that after I left! D’oh! Next time we will!! :)” and I say, “For sure!” Always exclamation points, smiley faces, xoxoxo’s at the end.

I return to Pittsburgh for my 2nd surgery and I have a slew of complications for a month after that send me back and forth to the doctors, to the hospital, to the outpatient wing. She is in the hospital again too with lung issues. I finally get back on my feet in mid-August and go to work on a care package/birthday box for Diane. I bake cookies, crochet her a Nurse Safety Cone, make owl soaps (she loved owls!), and buy little things like grippy socks, stickers, cocktail flavored jelly beans, hand sanitizer, pretty tissues. “i just got your package….you are SO dear!!! my mom and her friend are going nuts over all of it!! 🙂 im in the hospital again and had a procedure yesterday to solve my little lung problem. YAY. but this SO made me smile and thank you so, so much for thinking of me!!! xoxoxox”

She was always encouraging and upbeat, she seemed to have a similar approach to illness: she took it seriously, was ready to fight, but didn’t lose her sense of humor or desire to live every day to the fullest. She wore her red lipstick and black eyeliner in the hospital, just like I meticulously painted my nails in there. Those things matter more than you would think, those small bits of control, trying to feel beautiful in the midst of so much ugliness. She was surrounded by her “medical team” of stuffed animals like I was. Diane was an accessories designer for OshKosh B-gosh, the editor and founder of Zelda Magazine, the owner of Lulette, involved in burlesque acts, and the organizer of many costume/vintage/cocktail/Jazz Age parties and events. She did everything with style and class and excitement and love. She lived. She really lived. She was truly one of the finest people I have ever known.

Diane passed away suddenly on Sunday from complications related to breast cancer. I cried until my eyes were swollen shut and drank wine until my mind shut down. Never once in this year-long battle did I think we’d lose her because it simply seemed too unthinkable, a world without this wonderful woman. From the looks of her Facebook page, she has touched so many people in addition to myself. I don’t think I even realized how much we wrote to each other over the years or commented on Facebook posts until I went through all of it last night, reading everything again and again, trying to remember our single night out together, what we talked about, what she was wearing, etc. I wish we had taken that photo of us we talked about, but I will always have our words and memories.

Diane’s memorial service will be so true to who she was: “Vintage attire is not required but is encouraged. To all those who knew and loved her, she would want you to be strong, enjoy every bit of life, and be happy celebrating her memory.” As she said in an email to me so many years ago in regards to a regular 1920’s/30’s costume dance party she helped out with, “It’s nice to have a great excuse to really dress up every now and then :)”

When learning of her death, I was asked if we were “close” and I hesitated to answer because it didn’t seem quite right to claim closeness when we had two hours in person together, like we didn’t earn that word. But now when I read the above and think about all the emails, just a few fragments of which are above, I realize I shouldn’t have hesitated. I am missing her beyond what words can accurately express. xoxoxo

I have a new book!

Yes, it’s true! It’s entitled Microcrafts and you can buy it on Amazon now, or just wait a few more weeks until it starts popping up in stores! I feel so lucky to be part of yet another craft book published by Quirk Books in Philly. Remember Witch Craft: Wicked Accessories, Creepy-Cute Toys, Magical Treats, and More!Crafts & Hobbies Books)? Autumn seems to be book season!

This is the second book I helped compile and edit, starting out with the fun search for projects, then corresponding with contributors of those projects, tweaking these projects, editing the content, compiling bios, assisting with photo shoot, editing editing editing editing editing, and finally here in the present I am again corresponding with all the contributors regarding book events and promotion! It’s really amazing what goes into this whole book process, especially in this internety age, and I still only know a smidgen of how this publishing world operates.

This whole process was about a year long in Microcrafts’ case, and as many of you know, it’s been one hell of a year for me. When I signed on to do this book, I had recently and abruptly moved back to Pittsburgh, Witch Craft had just been published and I was coming off of a couple of really long and bad hospitalizations, with the somewhat surreal feeling of knowing that my health was declining to the point where I was out of options. I wasn’t sure I was going to make it through all these months of surgeries and recoveries and complications, to see this book in its physical completeness, in my hands and in a bookstore, but I worked on it all these months hoping I would. Suffice it to say, I am feeling proud to hold both of these books in my hands, knowing that my fractured little body and weary mind helped bring them into existence!

Anyway, I will post more soon, but really I just wanted to show off what my dad made above: micro versions of our Microcrafts book!!! I can’t stop looking at this picture. My dad is actually IN the book with a project that he originally created when I was just a little kid. His book project is tiny…and cute…and you’ll have to buy the book to find out what it is!

(I can’t quite figure out how to post these on the side of my blog but not within a post like I’m doing! Help?)

Um…I like yarn? Mister Rogers sweater!

Sooooo, I crocheted (no, not knitted) a giant red cardigan for the Mister Rogers statue on the North Shore, by request of Outpost Journal, a “biannual, non-profit print publication on innovative art, design and community action from cities that have been traditionally underexposed beyond their local contexts.” It focuses on one city per issue and the debut issue is Pittsburgh! Manya K. Rubinstein and Pete Oyler of Outpost were on the lookout for a crocheter/knitter for this undertaking earlier this year. I “applied” for the job, having felt that I was pretty much born to do it. 🙂 More pics after the jump…

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