This Blog Has Moved

I hate to say ‘good-bye’ to this site, but I must move my blog to a location where I can accept ads and make a few pennies.  Aside from that monetizing piece, this hosting site has been everything I wanted.  I’ve stayed for 350 posts with no regrets.  Now you will find me writing at http://essiewb.blogspot.com

Peace.

Essie

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Harsh Words, Soft Beehive Hat

Yesterday was a hard day.  I won’t call it a bad day, because in the end we accomplished what was necessary, but it was hard. 

We made some decisions yesterday, as a family, about a direction for our near future.  We set out to put those decisions into action.  In the process, I walked a long way in stifling heat, waited patiently for service, and explained the circumstances that led to us being there.  Then I tried to ask the questions that would educate us about necessary procedures and what we could expect in the future.  In return, someone half my age greeted me with disdain and told me I should be “nice”.  I contemplated that for a moment, then asked the person if they were saying I had not been “nice”.  The reply was that I wanted a special service and should “at least be grateful”.   

I am being deliberately obtuse about the particulars of this encounter, but trust me when I say that the “special service” I requested was only the lifting of a deadline, and I was asking to pay my own money for something that should be available to everyone in Tennessee.  I am afraid to be more specific in this public forum.

I was shaken by this encounter.  It was humiliating.  Degrading.  It made me go home and question myself, look in the mirror to see what about me was so offensive that I could engender a negative reaction just by being there.  I saw a short, fat, light brown-skinned woman with close-cropped hair and glasses.  In private, I cried.  I didn’t know that I am still so vulnerable to that kind of ugliness.

In my teen years, I would have hurt myself after that experience – literally beating myself up for not being “acceptable”.  In my 20s I would have made a long, loud, eloquent rejoinder and demanded to see the person in charge.  In my 30s I learned tact, and my response would have been modulated, but still extremely voluble.  Yesterday I was at a loss, because I have not dealt with such a blatant approach in a long time.  My guard was down, so I met it with puzzlement and quiet.  I returned to my home and quietly did housework. 

Last night I knit until my hands hurt.  I worked out my hurt with my needles, relishing the solid metallic clash of one against the other, making something that I love out of the hatred that I met. 

I just learned an Estonian cast-on that is very stretchy and decorative.  The video where I learned (Nancy Bush teaches the technique) is here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Frc5_9AIVy0.  It is very similar to traditional long-tail cast-on, and it didn’t take me long.  I used it as the brim for a hat.  Having extra stretch at the forehead edge is always nice.    DSC04325

This is the “wrong” side.  Still pretty.  DSC04326

The hat is a new design, my Beehive.  The yarn is Karabella Supercashmere, about 110 yards (a little less than one and one-half balls).  I cast on a purple one this morning, to repeat the pattern.  DSC04327  I plan to do a couple more in organic cotton.  I love the design, and it feels and looks soft, very flattering. 

Design and knit – my dose of healing.

Peace.

Wendell Potter, My New Hero

I have a new hero.  His name is Wendell Potter, and he is a quiet-spoken, unassuming, middle-aged, white man-a native Tennessean-who is a former insurance company executive.  When he stopped working for Cigna he began to speak out, telling Americans what he saw and did during his more than 15 years in the private health insurance industry. 

I heard him first on the Bob Edwards show on National Public Radio.  The interview was so riveting that I sat in my car in a 95-degree garage to hear it to the end.  I dared not miss a minute of the education he was providing.  Since then I have looked further at his associations and his work in informing the American public about health care reform and the role that private insurance is taking in trying to prevent it from happening.  I find this man to be unassailably credible, primarily because he had nothing to gain (and much to lose) by leaving his cushy insurance job and becoming a truth-teller for his fellow citizens.  He is a man motivated only by the desire to right the wrongs that he has witnessed, and help provide decent health care for all of us.  Those motives are pretty doggone clean when you set them beside the profit motive that all those private insurers are living by. 

It takes courage to hear the truth.  We should all be courageous citizens, tireless in our quest for truth and compassion and dignity for all Americans.  About 99 percent of the time, this seems too flighty and idealistic and just plain difficult.  About 99 percent of the time, we want a quicky sound bite, an extra $10 in our pocket, and the feeling of belonging.  We prefer to feel that our local elected officials (and I’m talking east Tennessee and everywhere that a public option is being opposed) are batting for us and we don’t have to pay too much attention or take up a sign and walk the line for ourselves.  Unfortunately, that is not the truth.  Our local officials don’t want health care reform.  They want to continue to have friends and contributors in the private health insurance industry.  They don’t mind suspending reality to stick to the proscribed script, telling us that health care reform will be bad for us and that the current system is what we want and need. 

When Barack Obama mounted a campaign for president of this country, something happened to me.  I woke up.  I felt something that I thought died with Bobby Kennedy’s assassination.  I felt personal commitment and a sense of responsibility, and I stopped plugging my ears and started writing letters.  I also felt that-just possibly-my words and votes and actions had some small impact here. 

I already made a blog entry today.  I don’t want to be political all the time, nor do I intend the major subject of this blog to change.  But when I listen to Wendell Potter in this interview with Bill Moyers, and recall a conversation in a doctor’s waiting room just a few days ago, a woman confused about the implications of health care reform, but angry at her husband’s impossibly expensive prescription regimen, I have to come back to this topic.  As in Jeremiah 20:9, when he has a message that must come out: “…but His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not,” I feel the urgency and pressure of dispensing this message.

Here’s Wendell Potter:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7QwX_soZ1GI.  Please take the time. 

Peace.

The Count

17 and 1/2 pills.  I hadn’t counted in a while, and I was a little surprised.  It is truly distilled to a minimum: 

1.  Prednisone takes five tablets right now, a 5 mg and four 1 mg, to make up my 9 mg dosage.  I am on a very slow, gradual taper.  In two more weeks I can decrease by 1 mg.

2.  Three vitamins, B12 for my mostly meatless intake, folic acid for the two medicines that deplete it from my system, and D to replace the action of the sun that I must avoid.

3.  One nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory, for my osteoarthritis.  Helps with pain, too.

4.  A low-dose diuretic for the swelling, and potassium to replace what it depletes.

5.  A beta blocker for the chronic tachycardia that I’ve had since my diagnosis.

6.  Two antidepressants, one of which helps tremendously with the lupus and fibromyalgia pain.

7.  Over-the-counter antihistamine.  I am allergic year-round, crazy when you consider I’m on prednisone daily.

8.  One pain pill, still on minimum dosage with as-needed use.

9.  Low-dose aspirin to prevent the crazy blood-clotting that I experienced a few years ago. 

Periodically I need to lay it out, pill by pill, and convince myself that every bit of this regimen is necessary.  The alternative is to start dropping off pills and wait for the consequences, something my training and experience discourages.  I understand the aversion most people have to taking so much medicine.  This is not, however, polypharmacy.  Polypharmacy refers to mindlessly throwing prescriptions at problems without considering necessity, interactions, or possible alternative therapies. 

That’s the pills, folks, just the pills.  Still on weekly injections of methotrexate, and the rituximab infusions every four to six months.  Also on diet with very few animal products, as much exercise as I can tolerate (including our new Wii), and positive thinking. 

This inventory will have to do.  I have to go deal with a stinky, disobedient dog.

Peace.

Hiding Bodies

I started a post and stored it away after the first paragraph.  That’s unusual for me.  There are some topics that cannot be approached here.  Recently I had a discussion with a friend who encouraged me to write fiction.  I had mentioned my reluctance to write about one area of my life, and she reminded me that, with disclaimers, all of your people can appear in your writing.  It is hard for me to consider that, because my life has been an open book, but not hiding things or lying about them is not the same as putting them in print.  It doesn’t matter if it was me or a fictional Sally Ann.  If I witnessed a murder, and write about it, the guilty guy is gonna come looking for me. 

Okay, that was a little dramatic.  I’ve never witnessed a murder.  I’ve never even come across a dead body in the woods.  All through my teens and early twenties, bolstered by the piles of mysteries I read, I was sure I’d stumble across a corpse.  I felt that it was in my future, and I tried to steel myself for it.  If I hiked, I peered beneath the brush for the exposed purple toes or mangled face that I had imagined.  I looked in the corners of elevators and under trains for bodies, too.  I couldn’t understand how Agatha Christie’s characters could experience multiple murders in a small hamlet in England, or the psychiatrists in Jonathan Kellerman and Stephen White’s books could have repeated encounters with terrible crimes-way more than their fair share!-and I had no bodies to trip over. 

You can see this fascination in my choice of television.  Mysteries far outweigh all my other viewing hours, including Criminal Minds, NCIS, CSI in all its cities, Monk, Psyche, Law and Order, Bones, the Mentalist, and those wonderful reruns of Matlock and Murder She Wrote.  And yes, I still read mysteries, just more gory and complicated.  Think Patricia Cornwell’s medical examiner series, and Pearl’s The Dante Club.

In the past two weeks I’ve completed, packaged, and mailed three custom orders.  I have one more pending, to be knit while I continue my baby blanket series.  I’ve started a small idea notebook, as I want to keep future knits in mind, including the yarns that I foresee for specific projects.  One of my baby blankets that is in progress is a crochet blanket in Queensland Soft Wave, a sweet DK cotton that gets softer as you work with it.  This particular one is blue and cream stripes, moving quickly on a size F hook.  It began on a whim, fueled by a need to rest my shoulders and hands from knitting movements.  It’s going to be lovely. 

I took knitting to the movies tonight, but was spellbound by Julie and Julia, which moved quickly and kept me laughing, with no need for distraction.  You’ve probably already read a review.  The acting was splendid, reason enough for going.  The story (all true) was also good, and I empathized with the women longing for an endeavour that was useful and fulfilling.  I reached that point after retiring from medicine, and was extremely fortunate to reach for the craft that now keeps me busy and happy. 

Now I am tired.  This day is finished.

Peace.

Luck and Simple Progress

I am due for another round of rituximab next week and then two weeks later.  I must cancel.  I am not sick.  I mean, there is no indication that a flare is coming soon.  I am cheering very quietly, trying not to disrupt the natural flow of good luck here.  Speaking of luck, it may be affecting my real estate situation, too.  I’m all set to occupy my next home, and the not-yet-sold house has been getting more attention lately.  I am whispering when I say that someone liked it enough to take a bunch of photos this week.  Don’t want to put any pressure on that luck thing, but an offer would be great…

I am light-years beyond the state of mind that says we can bargain for luck.  I can be as good as gold and not be lucky.  I appreciate it when I see it, but I know I don’t deserve it and that it could trickle away at any time, without explanation.  In spite of this, my recent days have been filled with fortuitous occurrences.  For example, despite a delay in making our trip to Athens, my daughter and I moved her things without difficulty and were back just in time to catch a visit from my Minneapolis sister.  Tied to that was my recent good health, which allowed me to be at IHOP before 8:30 a.m. today, to enjoy pancakes and see her off. 

I can think of so many “lucky” things that I’m aware of an undercurrent of anxiety today.  When I start seeing lucky occurrences, it is my nature to accept and enjoy them, but to leave a small piece of consciousness focused on waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I start trying to work out things in my head, things that aren’t yet at the working out stage.  I ponder the nature of my luck and try to predict the duration of it.   I poke it and prod it and wonder where it came from, and if I can send it away.  I blow it up to mythic proportions, embuing things with luck even when they aren’t particularly lucky, by calling myself lucky to have avoided the opposite.  For instance, I might say to myself that I’m lucky to not have a boyfriend, because it means that at least I don’t have a bad boyfriend.

Okay, now I’ve spooked myself.  I can’t stay on the topic of luck any longer without losing sleep over whether I’ve  interrupted this good spell by talking about it.  Instead, a summary of recent projects.  The Chattanooga Market seems to be full of folks who want items of clothing for babies and children.  Since that has been the greatest interest, I’ve knitted and crocheted a pile of  small hats, most of them cotton.  I’m still working on cotton baby blankets, too.  I’ve been reveling in the use of Blue Sky Alpaca Dyed Organic Cotton.  It is ridiculously soft and cuddly, the stuff to wrap your little ones in.  Dayna’s chicken is finished, and it’s a lovely overstuffed creature.  She wanted it to be very full and round, rather than the slimmer silhouettes shown on the pattern, so it is well-filled.  The body is purple, crown and wattles are lime green, and beak and tail feathers are neon pink.  I had big fun making it.  I finished it in Athens and it hasn’t been unpacked, so I have no photos yet. 

I am actually contemplating staying home when my daughter returns to school.  She has recruited a couple of boys and her dad to help move her things into the new apartment.  I am not needed for hauling (thank God!).  I may go along later to help unpack things, if it looks like she will be busy with recruitment for her sorority.  We are doing this separation thing nicely, thank you very much.  It makes me feel like a better mom, backing off until I am summoned. 

A confession:  Tonight, after I prepared the house for a late showing, I put on my turtle necklace.  A friend gave it to me yesterday, a beautiful pendant with a dragonfly on the turtle shell, made by a Lakota woman.  I have come to appreciate the slow, steady progress of the turtle, and the density and strength of its simple shell.  Having a chronic illness like lupus requires a long view and a steady pace.  Nothing happens quickly, but I look back and see my tremendous improvement from last year. 

Peace.

On Feeling Safe at Home (in Your Own Country)

I haven’t written in eleven days.  It isn’t for lack of topics and events.  My mind and body have been moving at warp speed, busy, busy, busy.  (Of course, I mean that as what amounts to warp speed for me.)  It is both my reason and my excuse for avoiding writing.  Not only do I feel too busy (no time, no energy for the blog), but I also feel that so much is happening that I can’t adequately describe the events or express my feelings about them. 

That was yesterday.  Today I can see that President Obama’s criticism of the Cambridge police force and his subsequent conciliatory action toward them is still raising discussion, and I have two cents worth to add. 

In 1977 I was a married student living in a campus apartment in a building owned by Vanderbilt University.  There were businesses on the ground floor – a bank branch, a record store (the one I visited daily while I awaited the release of Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life), and others.  One day there was a bank robbery.  Soon after, my husband heard a knock at the door.  He opened it to find a group of Nashville policemen, their assault rifles drawn and pointed at him.  They entered, questioned him, looked around our apartment, and left without apology.  When we discussed the incident with neighbors who were home, we discovered that no one else had been similarly invaded.  My husband, the only dark-skinned tenant, was a target. 

There is a special vulnerability that comes from being threatened in your own home.  When the threat comes from those who are sworn to protect and serve, it leaves you with a horrible, gaping wound – an affirmation that you are not of value in your own country.  Dr. Gates should have been permitted to retreat into his home without further harrassment, surely already humiliated and embarrassed by the assumption that he was breaking into his own house.  Instead, he was handcuffed (- handcuffed!!!) and taken to the police station.

As for the African-American member of the Cambridge police, who says he completely supports the actions of his colleague – I imagine his family needs to eat.  He can’t afford to not be a team player.   

Dredging this up makes my stomach hurt.  If you know me personally, you know that my gut is made of iron.  My college days were punctuated by incidents like these.  All the feelings come back.  I’m a naive 17 year-old freshman, in a non-violent protest against some discriminatory practice at the office of the administration.  I am a 20 year-old married student, walking down the street with my dark-skinned husband, hearing some misguided citizen yell at me “Nigger lover!”  I am in a premed counseling session, with the program director assuming that I want to go to an all-black medical school-no, assuming that I cannot be admitted to a majority school. 

One person’s teachable moments are another one’s life.

Peace.

Organic Cotton Wrapped Hat – Free Pattern

A few days ago I posted a photo of this hat:  DSC04235  I promised to add the pattern, and it’s a bit late but here goes:

 

Organic Cotton Wrapped Hat  by Essie Bruell

 

The hat is knitted back and forth without joining.  The entire hat should be knitted loosely.  A relatively small needle is used because of rapid increases that make the beginning of the hat.  If this hat seems a bit big while knitting, remember that cotton shrinks up to 10% on washing.  I would advise washing in cold water and drying flat to keep that to a minimum.   

Materials:  1 skein Blue Sky Dyed Cotton (150 yards), size 5 circular needle at least 24 inches long, 5.5 mm (US I/9) crochet hook, yarn needle.

The hat is knitted back and forth without joining.  The entire hat should be knitted loosely.  A relatively small needle is used because of rapid increases that make the beginning of the hat. 

Gauge:  16 stitches = 4 inches

 

Begin:  Leaving 12 inch tail for sewing, cast on 5 stitches.

Row 1:  K1 *yo, k1.  Repeat from * for remainder of row (9 stitches)

Row 2 and all wrong side rows:  Purl all stitches

Row 3:  K1 *yo, k1. Repeat from * for remainder of row (17 stitches)

Row 5:  Same as row 3 (33 stitches)

Row 7:  Same as row 3 (66 stitches)

Row 9 and 11:  Knit all stitches.

Row 13:  Same as row 3 (131)

Row 15-35 right sides:  Knit all stitches.

Row 37:  Knit to last 10 stitches, then (yo, k1) to end of row.

Row 39:  Knit to last 19 stitches, then (yo, k1) to end of row.

Row 41:  Knit to last 10 stitches, then (yo, k1) to end of row.

Row 43:  Bind off.

 

Finishing:

Using crochet hook, start at top of hat, single crochet down under-flap edge, around brim, around point of flared edge placing 3 single crochets in the point stitch, and up to beginning point at top of hat.  Cut yarn leaving 15 inch tail for sewing.  

Overlap brim of hat to desired size.  Pin and try on to make sure.  Underflap should extend about 1 cm below the overflap, so that crochet edge shows.  Turn up pointed edge to join upper side of overflap, making semicircular end to overflap.  Stitch invisibly along edge of overflap, joining overflap and underflap from row 13 (last full row of increases) down overflap, around semicircle, and across bottom.  Making sure to leave a little slack for stretching, stitch inner edge of underflap to inside of cap.  Weave and trim ends. 

 

 

This pattern is copyrighted.  For personal use only, do not reproduce for sale or sell products made from pattern.

Everything I Know About Tangents…

My fourth grade teacher taught me everything I know about tangents.  Ironically, the lesson was not part of a geometry instruction, and I’m not sure she knew how effectively she was teaching it.  Like many Army school teachers, my fourth grade teacher was married to a career soldier.  She had travelled the world with him, and had a wealth of knowledge to share with us – the places she’d been, people she met, customs and culture…Her way of sharing was to start on a curriculum topic, lecturing and writing on the blackboard (we still had chalk and blackboards, and the lovely honor of going outside to clean the erasers).  Suddenly she would hit on a topic that coincided with her personal experience, and off she would go, animated and voluble, giving me the same feeling as when I was immersed in a good read.  Eventually she would realize she was on a tangent, and say so, and make the leap back to the proscribed topic, leaving me a little sad that we couldn’t sail on and on, taking tangents from the tangent and navigating only by the desire of the moment. 

At the age of 8, starting fourth grade, I understood that tangents couldn’t exist on their own.  You had to have a starting place, a central core of agreed-upon topic, as your jumping off point.  And the jumping off didn’t involve a leap to another totally unrelated topic, but a sliding off the point onto something that arose naturally from the topic but moved out into another realm.  When I finally reached geometry (tenth grade?) I could picture that line with its single point in common with the circle, and remember our movement out of the circle, through that point, and down the line to parts unknown.  I would look at the tangent line and imagine how much of a leap it would take to get back to the original circle, sometimes impossibly long for a nonathletic child like me. 

All of this came to mind because I went off on a tangent yesterday.  I was thinking about hats while I knitted the projects that I’m working to complete, and suddenly I was putting down my needles and picking up a skein of tangerine Blue Sky Dyed Organic Cotton.  In my mind was a hat that wrapped, with some overlap leading to some kind of interesting adornment on the side.  I began to knit furiously, starting at the top, creating the spiraling increase in circumference and on to the stockingette body and big swirling medallion-like finish.  I went to bed satisfied that I had captured it, and woke this morning anxious to sew it together and see the completed project.  I even disturbed my daughter’s sleep so I could view it on a real head.  (I know, I am a ruthless mother when I am off on a tangent.) 

I must admit, this tangent went out a looooong ways.  After I did the finish work, I took the time to write the pattern.  I will publish it here as a free pattern tomorrow.  And I photographed the hat:

DSC04239

Including a top view:  DSC04237

It is time for me to get off the mother of all tangents and make that huge, light-years long leap back to the day’s tasks.  My garage is mid-cleanup.  I need groceries.  There are other projects still on the needles.  I have photographed baby hats and need to edit them and post them in the Turtletots store.  But wait, there’s more:  income tax prep, cactus planting, etc.  My tribute to Billy Mays. 

Oh heck, I can’t leave yet.  A few words about the Michael Jackson memorial tribute.  I have been a little tickled realizing how far some of the news announcers are from my world.  There’s been so much talk about his children attending (was it wise, will it scar them for life) and his daughter Paris making her own statement at the end.  The Black in my roots means memorials like this are the norm.  We take our children to funerals.  My daughter went to her grandparents for “day care” from 5 weeks of age until she began preschool.  She attended funerals with them regularly, knew that death came and was an expected part of life.  In my upbringing, it was common for children to be able to speak or sing or play a musical instrument at a family member’s funeral.  Their tributes were always welcome, and they were supported by family members in much the same way as the Jackson clan flocked around Michael’s children yesterday.  Thank God they have that sustaining family power. 

Peace.

Diamonds, Health and Houses

The word is out.  The Congressional Budget Office has scored the complete health care reform bill and it definitely looks affordable, hundreds of billions less than previous estimates.  Ezra Klein has summarized the results for WashingtonPost.com (Ezra Klein – Primary Documents: The Congressional Budget Office’s Score of the HELP Bill).  Definitely worth reading his brief post.  Here’s a bit more info on Alternet today:  The Results Are In: A Public Health Plan Saves Big Money | Health and Wellness | AlterNet.  The Congressional Budget Office is nonpartisan, has no political agenda.  Their role was to look at the provisions of the bill and tell members of Congress what it would cost and what they could expect as a result of passing it. 

Yesterday we shopped for houses.  I fell in love with a small house on a hill in a new subdivision.  It eclipsed everything I’ve seen before now.  I want to pack my bags, put my yarn in the car, and move across town.  The only hold-up is the home I’m living in, the perfectly lovely suburban house that I cannot keep and have not sold.  I climbed the stairs to the upper level four times last week.  My back and legs have been sending me nasty messages ever since.  Of course, cleaning out the garage may have also contributed.  I am trying to make it look less of a disaster zone.  One carload to Samaritan Center, one carload to the recycle center…the repeated litany of our debulking. 

I am up to the neckline and armhole ribbing on my father’s vest.  Can’t wait to show it.  I’m pleased with how it’s come along, and he will be happy, I think.  I have listed several new items in my stores-two pairs of fingerless mitts in the adult store (http://turtlefat.com) and several infant and child hats in the children’s store (http://turtletots.etsy.com). I decided to empty all the super-warm winter items from the adult store, streamlining the inventory to things that are seasonally appropriate.  I think it makes it much more shoppable. 

A last note for the day.  Rob Thomas performed at a Today Show concert today.  He sang Her Diamonds (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQgaGS4BL6I&feature=related), and it was explained that the title refers to his wife’s tears.  She has an autoimmune disease.  In the song, she says that she cannot take it any more, and she cries.  He feels unable to help her, but stays by and cries with her.  A mate that understands having the disease – out of my realm of experience.  I will download the album and imagine having that relationship.

Peace.