One day and one stitch at a time

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Her knitting needles fly so fast, clicking like a metronome, you just know she’s a woman on a mission. On several missions, rather.

She is a businesswoman, an artist, an author and a teacher-but at the forefront, Annie Modesitt is supporting her family through a time that is exciting in some ways and devastating in others.

Major move
Modesitt, who designs knitting patterns and is hired to teach knitting across the country, relocated her family of four (plus pets) to Minnesota in 2007. While they had loved their home in New Jersey, the Twin Cities struck Modesitt as such a welcoming place on her first visit that she and her husband took a leap of faith and decided to continue raising their kids here. Since they moved, 10-year-old Max (11 in January) and 12-year-old Hannah have been thriving in new schools, sports and fun programs. Modesitt herself has been finding community with local knitters and yarn shops.

“Folks who are from here may not realize just how special this place is,” she said, “but the sense that ‘I am not a success if my community is not successful, too’ is a unique and wonderful thing.”

Faced with mortality
On the other hand, Modesitt’s husband, Gerry, had had horrible back pain leading up to the move, and afterward was diagnosed with a rare cancer that would require aggressive treatment.

According to the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, MM affects plasma cells in the bones, where tumors can form and contribute to osteoporosis, a weakened immune system, dysfunction of the nervous system and other problems.

The chronicles of the year after their move, which includes Gerry’s treatment, make up Modesitt’s seventh book, “Knit with Courage, Live with Hope: 10,000 Lakes-One Diagnosis,” which was released in August 2008. Its title is a mantra that’s hard to live out when faced with the possibility of losing someone she feels lucky to have found, yet it’s an admirable outlook.

“We are no longer able to ignore mortality. … It’s not a bad thing; in many ways it makes every day a little richer to know that there is a finite number of them. But it’s hard. As I tell my kids, death is the price of admission for life-nothing that’s alive will be here on this earth forever. Even the biggest, oldest trees and the most ancient sea creatures will have an eventual end. We’re not alone in that, which makes us feel less lonely.”

She is somehow sober and chipper at the same time. She understands the gravity of the illness and allows herself to feel that, but in the next breath goes on about things that obviously bring joy into her life-knitting or her family. They give her plenty to talk about and she’s a born storyteller. In “Knit with Courage,” Modesitt gives us an account of the unusual way she and Gerry met-radio show call-in and all. When she talks about her kids, you know how much she enjoys raising them and celebrating their triumphs-their RBIs and new friendships. And it happens to work out that knitting is both her business and her pleasure.

Therapy in writing
Modesitt’s writing combines the joys of her life. She was published for the first time in 2002, the same year she started blogging about knitting and about life. The first books included personal essays, knitting stories and techniques, and in 2007, she also published four pocket-sized flip books that show, bit by bit, exactly how stitches can be done.

Writing, just like knitting, has proven to be therapeutic. “The response has been very positive,” Modesitt says. “Most folks tell me how funny the book is, which is nice to hear!” Like her previous work “Cheaper than Therapy,” “Knit with Courage” also tells of the therapeutic powers of knitting. For Modesitt, this might mean knitting at any time and in any place; possibly even as she and Gerry sit in doctor’s offices receiving medical advice: “Without my yarn and needles, sometimes a crochet hook, I’d be stark raving mad. There is something so soothing in the constant rhythm of my work that helps both Gerry and me put our lives on autopilot and not fret too much as we wait.”

“I try not to lose sight that however hard any of this is for the kids or me, it’s hardest for Gerry. We each have our pain, but there’s nothing to be gained by prematurely wallowing in anticipated grief. … We have enough on our plate each day to occupy our hearts and souls and minds (and bodies!). We don’t have to spend a lot of time anticipating what the future may or may not bring.”

Modesitt has settled her family in a place she loves, made a name for herself in the national knitting community and become a successful writer. “Knit with Courage” is the chronicle of one woman’s very personal mission to come out on the other side of cancer with a healthy and happy family, and a testimonial of appreciating life and loved ones.

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