Saturday, May 28, 2016


I used to be very active and slim until I injured my back around 1990. Since that time, I’d become quite a slug and I put on a good amount of weight. In February 2015 I got health insurance, thanks to Obamacare. As an obligation to the health care provider, I was required to get an annual physical exam. I went to my local clinic for that. Blood tests showed good kidneys, good liver, good blood sugar. But very high cholesterol. Ack. I did NOT want to take any statins because of the increased risk to liver and blood sugar. So, I decided to start exercising, modify my diet (no bacon, no pepperoni, less butter), and lose some weight. I scheduled a cholesterol re-test for 4 months later.

I started slowly. My housemate has an exercise bicycle. I started using it daily. The first week, I cycled for 5 minutes a day. It was a shock to my system. The second week, I upped my time by one minute a day: 6, then 7, then 8, then 9, then 10. The third week, I stayed at 10 minutes a day. The fourth week, upping again by one minute to 15 minutes. Stayed at 15 minutes for another week, then incrementally upped to 20. Then I started increasing intensity. I started incorporating the occasional “sprint”. I’ve stayed at 20 minutes, 3 or 4 times a week. Sometimes I do a 30-minute bout.

I made minimal changes to my diet, trying to add more nuts, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Really, I did not feel food deprived.

I lost weight and I felt much more like myself. At the re-test, my cholesterol levels were WORSE! I still did not want to take statins. I got re-tested again 4 months later (still exercising and losing weight), and the cholesterol was a bit better, but still not good. Here’s how I look at it: high cholesterol is only one of many risk factors for cardiovascular problems. I am slimmer (BMI = 23), I eat well, I exercise regularly, I don’t smoke. I can’t help the getting older part or the genetic predisposition to high cholesterol. I will not take statins.

So, I’ve transformed. And it’s stuck. I lost about 30 pounds and they have stayed off. I’ve become more active. And it’s stuck; I feel weird on the days when I don’t get some physical activity.

At this time of year, my main physical activity is gardening. My housemate has an enormous perennial garden. Over the years it had become seriously overgrown with grass and periwinkle, and a seriously aggressive spreading rose, and don’t get me started on those bloody spiderwort! Two years ago, I started reclaiming the garden. I have essentially had to dig up nearly everything, remove the bad plants, and re-plant the good plants – which provided me the opportunity to re-design the garden. It’s been rather like very slow choreography. The first year I was able to fix about ¼ of the garden. Last year, another ¼. This year I’ve made good progress. The garden has transformed. I am pleased. I like gardening and it’s great exercise.

My housemate has decided to downsize, so she’s putting her house up for sale. This means two things to me: 1) I will be moving, and 2) someone else will be enjoying the rejuvenated perennial garden. I’m ok with that.

More on the moving bit later.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Panic. Don't Panic. Panic. Don't Panic.

About a year ago, I gave a keynote speech at the Ontario Handweavers & Spinners 2015 Conference. The topic of my talk was “Sources of Inspiration”. It was a great opportunity to ruminate on my own personal sources of inspiration. Among those sources, I listed “deadlines” and “proposals”. I also told the audience that to keep myself inspired I say “yes” when asked to do something new, and I say “no” when asked to do something old. After such a public announcement, I have felt obliged to abide by this strategy.

Here’s how: last year I was asked by Anne Merrow, editor of Spin-Off magazine, if I’d be interested in making some instructional spinning videos for Interweave. That was something new, so I said yes. After a number of conversations, we agreed that I’d do one video on “spinning woolen yarns” and another on “spinning worsted yarns”.

Now, I have years of performance and presentation and teaching experience. Years and years. Although I do feel a healthy dose of adrenaline when I present, I do not experience stage fright to any great extent. In fact, I feel lively and a little bit wicked – in a good way – in front of or interacting with an audience. But. I am camera shy. Really, really camera shy. The very thought of having my picture taken turns me into a stiff, panicked deer-in-headlights. The very thought of being videoed – for all to see – for all eternity – made me feel I was suffering from a severe virus. Sweats. Chills. The whole thing.

I agreed anyway. After all, I had several months to prepare. And I do feel quite comfortable with the topics: I teach them frequently, and I’ve written about them extensively. I prepared. I devised outlines. I created samples. I practiced. I got excellent advice from Anne, and Jill Brooke (talent coordinator for F&W), and Lindsay Smith (the instructional designer assigned to me). I also got encouragement and some good tips from Galina Khmeleva and Patsy Zawistoski, both of whom have made numerous excellent videos.

The dates for the video shoots seemed so far away, but those months went by. Fast.


I flew out to Fort Collins, Colorado last Wednesday. The videos were shot on Thursday and Friday. I flew home on Saturday. It happened. I did it. It was scary. It was scarier than my dissertation defense. They said I did fine. They said the make-up (which I don’t wear in real life) looked fine. They liked the linen blouse that my friend Becky made for me. They said I was very well prepared. The two people who were actually in the studio while the cameras were on – Lindsay and the camera man; I’m terrible with names – were calm, kind, and very helpful. I couldn’t have asked for more.
Don’t panic.

Even though I’m done with the videos (tentative release dates in July and August this year), just writing about it is bringing back some of my anxiety. High Anxiety. I am not ready for my close-up, Mel Brooks.


By the way, Fort Collins is charming. I hadn’t been there since the late 1970s. I did get to walk around the old downtown district: a used bookstore, a coffee shop, a gem/rock shop, and – of course – a yarn shop. The weather was delightful. The people were delightful. My meals were delightful. The margarita at Buena Vida was delightful.
Don’t panic.