Battling Murphy’s Law with a Knitting Needle

In my 30s I learned, or maybe accepted, that we never reach steady state.  Our lives never cruise into that calm, predictable, stress-free zone.  Stuff always happens, something is always hitting the fan, we’re always on the one step forward-two steps back dance plan.  This week I feel that acutely.  I tried to prepare for house guests and graduation in advance.  All the plans were discussed with the active parties.  These involved cleaning, catering, shuffling clutter, and shopping.  Today, everything went haywire.  Our houseguests are arriving in the middle of the night, graduation is four hours earlier than I anticipated, and our houseguest count is rising. 


What to do?  Stock the refrigerator, shower tonight, and get lots of sleep.  The universe is completely out of my control.  I think the important things tomorrow will be comfortable shoes, remembering my morning medicines, and being nice to people at graduation.  When graduation gets long, hot and boring, I will recite to myself “pick up the food on your way home, pick up the food on your way home…”, my admonition to get the catered sandwiches and salads. 


This is one of the situations where knitting has saved my life.  When I sit for more than 45 minutes in an uncomfortable chair, I become stiff and sore.  If my feet aren’t propped up, my back begins to ache and my legs swell.  Having some activity to distract me makes these physical disturbances less difficult.  I’ll take a small piece to knit and try to be inobtrusive.  My back will be plastered with Lidocaine patches.  That’s my sophisticated survival plan.




Baby Blankets Knitted with No B-Cells, and Other Earthly Delights

This evening I found a handful of prescription pills in a bowl in my kitchen.  It included all ten of the medications I’m supposed to take each morning.  Guess that explains why I was feeling so crappy-weak, feverish, every muscle aching, joints sore…I didn’t get prednisone or naproxen this morning.  I know, I know, I’m a doc, I should do better.  Before doc, however, please think “human”.  This is what I suspect happened:  I took out all my pills this morning in preparation for taking them.  Then I carried them into the kitchen to get some water.  I set them down in the bowl, began to make my cup of coffee, and the rest is history.  Midafternoon is when I really noticed that I wasn’t feeling good.  Usually all my medications are absorbed and have peaked by then, and if I woke with aches and pains they have abated.  Today they were worsening, especially my foot tenderness and hand pain.  It is especially dangerous to miss prednisone when you have been taking it chronically.  It is like the cortisol that your adrenal glands produce daily, and when you take it for a few weeks your adrenals get lazy and stop producing their own cortisol.  It can take them weeks to gear up for normal production again.  That means missing a morning dose can cause symptoms of cortisol deficiency by evening.  Severe cortisol deficiency is dangerous, but I had only gotten to the mild point – sweating, weakness, aches.  Now that I’ve taken all the critical stuff, I will be feeling better in two hours.


Okay, so other stuff has happened today.  I talked with my mom and dad, who reiterated their pleasure with yesterday’s birthday celebration.   I went out onto my screened deck and made some photos.  It was nice and overcast, and the colors came out much truer, just as MZ said!  So check these out:

This is a sideways view of the yellow and blue baby blanket.  I am now working on a second blue band.  The bands have alternating knit and purl squares bordered by several rows of garter stitch. 

  I backed off to show the clothes rack, because it’s one that I purchased and put together to use at craft fairs.  It’s the perfect rack for showing lots of scarves at once.

 This is the second Burly Spun mat, before it was felted.  I think I posted it’s dimensions a couple of days ago.  I’ll get the dried, felted mat out and photograph it tomorrow, hopefully.  I am in love with this combination of colors, and the random striping. 

  This is the Plush baby blanket.  The colors are perfect here.  Both blankets should be finished tomorrow. 


Actually, the thing I’m proudest of today is my house straightening work this morning.  I have extended the pantry re-organization so that I could fit all of my bulk purchases into it.  This emptied several boxes and cleaned out a good space that had been occupied by them.  It doesn’t sound like much of a chore, but it’s something I couldn’t have done alone even a month ago. 


I realize that we are almost in June, and it’s time for those B-cells to return to San Juan Capistrano.  My body could begin to replenish them at any time-it’s been five months since my treatment.  But I’m not in a hurry to see them and I’ve been whispering to my bone marrow to take it’s time.  When the B-cells return, if I head into a flare, we’ll repeat the treatments I had in December and January.  I am fully satisfied with this plan, and delighted that it has worked so well up to now.  I danced with Ellen this morning.



Al Green Knits a Happy 90th Birthday

There are days that are right for me, when my life fits me well and I am joyful.  Today I felt that I was in the right place, doing what I should be doing, and at peace about my future.  I used to be in a perpetual state of trying to get somewhere, always on a journey, always pushing.  My enjoyment of those journeys was limited by my fierceness about getting “somewhere” or “something”.  Some of the goals were worthy, some were not, but the path to most of them could have been smoother and less pressured. 


I am listening to the new Al Green album, Lay It Down, just downloaded from iTunes.  It is classic Al Green, every song about being in love, or lack of love, or perfecting his love…you get the picture.  Some of them have that gospel sound that he’s so good at.  “You’ve Got the Love I Need” could just as easily be “Jesus is What I Need” without changing a bit of the arrangement.  The piano accompaniment on “Too Much” is all church.  No one croons like Al.  I still want to cry over “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” and “Simply Beautiful”.  He sings what you’d love for your man to sing to you.  Rock and roll rarely fits in my bedroom.


While Al sings, I’ve been working on the Plush baby blanket.  It now has teeny stripes, wide stripes and medium stripes of blue, hot pink and purple.  I started this blanket last year and gave up after a few inches of the tiny stripes.  I laughed when I found it again and realized that I was knitting it on cumbersome 14 inch aluminum needles.  They weren’t sharp enough to handle the fuzzy yarn well, and they froze my hands and made them feel stiff and awkward.  A change to Knitpicks circulars made this a breeze, and I’ve knitted another 15 or 16 inches in very little time.  I’ll be finished with it tomorrow, ready to photograph and put in the store. 


The golden yellow and blue Shine Worsted blanket is about 15 inches.  It is moving fast.  I alternated between them, except for the time at the restaurant today when I carried my portable little girl dress in my purse.  I’m shameless about knitting in public places.  The dress started a whole conversation with the hostess staff and waitresses about dressing little girls. 


The restaurant time was for Daddy’s birthday celebration.  He told us he wanted to go to the Olive Garden, and my sister arranged it for him and my mom, two of their longtime friends, the third in-town sister, and my daughter.  While she picked up the old folks and bussed them to the restaurant, I was the advance party.  They don’t take reservations so we went at a a low-volume hour and I talked to the hostesses about what we needed.  They did a lovely job of preparing a table that was accessible, with plenty of room for the older folk to maneuver and a little bit isolated so that they could talk and hear one another.  They were all in a festive mood, and it was a joy to see them peruse their menu and give their fiddly instructions to the waitresses.  One of the guests was more interested in making sure she got big portions to take home than in eating her meal.  My dad, who had earlier (unbeknownst to me) turned down birthday cake, cut everyone little slices of the cake I ordered and hoarded the rest for himself.  He laughed with delight as we complained, keeping his heap of cake right in front of him.  “Happy Birthday” was sung once by us and again by the wait staff.  No one could believe it was his 90th.  He looked sharp in new cargo pants and a tweed jacket, and I was reminded of how he’s been the most handsome man in my life since I was a little girl. 


I wouldn’t have thought, 20 years ago, that I’d be here thanking God for keeping my parents in my life so long.  At 30 I was barely tolerating them.  I hadn’t yet experienced their supportiveness during the hardest times of my life, and their transformation by the birth of my daughter.  I didn’t have hopes of us being close.  We didn’t end our phone calls with “I love you”.  More often we were just polite, loving each other, but not very warmly.  It’s midnight.  Daddy is officially 90.  I am thankful.


I’ve had some random knee pains today.  They remind me of some of the pains I had two years before my diagnosis.  They would come precipitously, very sharp and intense, making me grab my knee and catch my breath.  One of my close friends, a physician, observed me during one of these incidents and insisted on examining my knees.  When his exam didn’t find anything, he scheduled me for an MRI.  It was also normal.  He was not at ease with that, but I laughed it off, not knowing that they were the lupus wolf calling ahead, warning me of his coming.   I’ve ignored the people closest to me, the ones who had my protection and best interests most at heart, on more than that occasion.  A good habit to lose. 


La da da da, la da da da, da da da da da da da da…standing out here in the rain…sing it, Al.


Memorial Day, No Barbecue

Yayy!  I’m up to full speed with my knitting.  Since it was a holiday weekend, I didn’t work on the sample or do any charity work.  I am halfway finished with two baby blankets.  One is a Shine cotton (Knitpicks) in golden yellow and blue, the other is Berroco Plush with purple, rose and aqua stripes.  I’ve had as many as half-dozen baby blankets in my store, and currently there are none.  The next blanket will be organic cotton, which I am attempting to use with greater frequency.  I ordered some Pakucho organic cotton in “avocado” (a very gentle shade of green) to make a shawl for myself.  It’s the Voyager Lace Stole from Vogue Knitting, Spring/Summer 2008.  It is absolutely gorgeous, and will be my first big, overall lace project.  I will knit it for myself, with additional length and bredth.  The piece is featured on the Pakucho organic cotton page at  I do have some other things on needles, including a blanket for one relative and a pair of socks for another, and I’ll squeeze in some time on them after I feel that the store is adequately stocked. 


When I showed the Shine Worsted “Sunflower” to my knitting group, I asked whether they thought it was appropriate for a baby.  I wish I could show you, but I haven’t photographed it yet, and it’s a color that Knitpicks no longer carries.  All but two of the women said it worked for babies.  The two objectors said “Jaundice!”  I kind of see their point, but any baby jaundiced enough to blend in with this color is gonna have to be in the hospital under the bili lights.  Nevertheless, I came home and looked at my stash shelves for another color, preferably something that wouldn’t be gender-binding, and all I could find was purple.  I continued to knit with just the yellow.  Today I was walking past the same set of shelves and a lovely shade of light aqua in Shine Worsted jumped out at me.  It is called “Wave” and looks beautiful with the deep yellow-gold.  I have knit it into that blanket and it added a cool dimension.  Photos tomorrow, I hope. 


We had a short visit from friends this evening.  This mother-daughter pair have been our friends for almost all the girls’ lives, but I think that, in truth, they visit more to see the dog than to see us.  There’s a permanent, passionate love affair going on there.  I had to restrain Lucy from jumping off the bed onto her lame hip when she heard their voices at the door.  We spent most of our visit watching television.  You can be a lazy hostess like that when your visitors are practically family. 


Speaking of family, we are less than two months from the family reunion.  I’m looking forward to seeing everyone.  My favorite part of reunion is spending time with the folks that I never see.  We’re meeting in a city that I’ve visited often, so I won’t be sight-seeing or making the rounds of the attractions.  I’m considering one art exhibit and lots of yarn store visits.  Wonder how many “sit and knits” I can fit in during the four days of the reunion? 


I have that feeling that I’m coming down with something.  I’ve slept extra this week to try and fix whatever is making me tired and congested.  I’ll be fine, as long as I can celebrate Daddy’s 90th birthday this week and get to my host son’s graduation Saturday.  I can make it without perfect health.  That’s the norm for me.  Overall I am doing so well that it isn’t a difficult acceptance.  I am tickled every time I get on my bike and put in another 15 or 20 minutes.  It takes me such a long time to get to this point after a bad flare. 


Daddy told me he doesn’t want anything for his birthday except for the dinner that is planned.  This isn’t even unusual in his family.  He has a 92 year-old sister, and their mother lived to be over 100.  Hope I have those genes!  I could have a lot of fun in the next 50 years! 





Come Read About My Reading

Reading has been a lifelong obsession of mine.  After my fifth grade year we moved to Stuttgart, Germany.  The library on the Robinson Barracks post only allowed children to check out three books at one time.  I insisted they give me an adult library card so that I could check out as many books as I could carry.  It was important that I not get more than I could carry, because we had to walk to the library.  We walked everywhere in those days:  to and from school, the commissary, the playground, our friend’s apartments.  On my library visits I would usually find eight or ten books, enough to leave marks on my arms after I’d carried them all the way home.  There were no backpacks in those days, kids.  The trips to the commissary were usually made with a band of friends, and we would congregate around the cooler to pick out three- and five-cent ice cream treats.  My favorite then and now was the orange creamsicle. 


I didn’t just read library books.  By the time I reached fifth grade, my older sisters had all left home for college.  I studied in the room that the last two had shared.  They left all their old paperbacks neatly shelved there.  I would sit at the desk pretending to do homework, and read my sisters’ books.  My mother never wondered why I studied for such long hours.  Later, when I was reading my own books openly, she would send me outside to play. 


I suppose I should confess that I grew up reading everything.  What I mean is, I couldn’t stop reading, so I took in every street sign, billboard, and calendar quote that I passed.  If no parent was at the breakfast table with us, I’d read cereal boxes while I ate.  I carried books with me for every car ride, no matter how short.  I was devastated when one of our carpool moms told me I couldn’t read in the car.  Her daughter got carsick when she read, so she restricted everyone.  (I haven’t forgotten that, Mrs. Welichko!)


My daughter was resistant about reading in the first grade.  I held my breath, afraid that God had goofed up and given me a child who wasn’t a natural reader.  Thankfully, in second grade she came ’round, and started her own obsessive reading career.  She’s kept up a steady trail to and from Barnes and Noble ever since.   We started a practice of reading out loud to each other when she was very young, and at times we go back to it.  Neither of us is too old to have someone read to us.   


Things I want to read:  At Risk and The Front by Patricia Cornwell; The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz; The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini; The Fig Eater by Jodi Shields; Knitting From the Top by Barbara G. Walker; Farmer John’s Cookbook:  The Real Dirt on Vegetables by John Peterson.

Recent reads:  T is for Trespass by Sue Grafton; The Awakening by Kate Chopin; What Game Is Hillary Playing? ; The Amazing Money Machine by Joshua Green (The Atlantic) Click here ; catch-up reading on various blogs.

Recent loans:  The Well of Lost Plots and Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde; Knitting by Ann Bartlett.

People who discuss books with me:  CM, my daughter, KN, MBM.

My rules about reading:  Always have at least two books going.  Don’t worry about broken spines or marks on pages.  Loan books to anyone who asks-everyone could use a little reading.  Don’t restrict what your child reads unless it’s going to give them nightmares.  Don’t read over people’s shoulders, and don’t let them read over yours.  Mix it up; what you read fills your brain, and variety is good.  If you have to stay up all night to finish a book, so be it.  Never punish a kid for reading, even if they are under the covers after hours with a flashlight.  Read the book before you see the movie.  Don’t believe everything you read.  Pack a backup book (or four).  Arthritis in the hands makes it harder to hold your book, but don’t give up; there are many ways to prop up a book. 



Have a Thoughtful Memorial Day

Two days I remember:  the day our legislators gave “W” the authority to take us to war in Iraq, and the day that “W” announced that he was doing just that.  I always knew that he would rush into war if he had the opportunity.  I also knew that he would rush in with a heroic, John Wayne machismo, waving flags and proclaiming our superiority and Christian duty. 


I knew what war was before I was in kindergarten.  My father went for his first tour of duty in Korea, and I knew that sometimes people’s fathers came back with an arm or leg missing, and sometimes they didn’t come back at all.  My dad sent us postcards with drawings of the dogs and houses that he saw, and my mother or an older sister read them to my younger sister and me.  It finally came time for him to return home.  The night before he arrived, I slept with my head under the covers.  I was afraid to see him.  I thought that he would be missing some important part.  I stayed frightened of amputees and crippled people for the next two years.


It is Memorial Day weekend.  There’s a lot of vacationing and barbecuing going on, and I imagine a lot of drinking, too.  I haven’t been to a parade or military ceremony since my last visit to Washington, D.C. nine years ago, but Memorial Day and Armed Forces Day always catch my attention.  They make me remember what my daddy went through in 28 years of military service, including the memories that he won’t discuss.  The first person that I knew who died in war was a young man named Paul Short.  He and his wife were adopted by my parents in Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri.  My folks invited them over many times, and played surrogate grandparents to their baby daughter.  I remember the family well.  When we got the news of Paul’s death in Vietnam, we were all heartbroken.  His photo is still on my parents’ refrigerator.  I was 10 years old when he died.  I looked him up on the Vietnam Memorial page today, and told my father that I found him and that I’d show him Paul’s memorial page there.


I had a wonderful time with my knitting friends this morning and followed that with a relaxed salon visit, getting my hair shampooed and cut.  On the way home, WUTC was playing the Bob Edwards Show.  The topic today was a medical unit in Vietnam.  Several physicians and medics were describing their experiences in the primitive, ill-equipped triage and emergency surgery station in the jungle.  Most of them choked up and cried during their stories.  Their memories were terrible reminders of the savagery of war and the inhuman level of denial that one must adopt in order to survive and be productive in war zone situations.   One physician described the two physicians he worked with who “decompensated” and could not continue their work. 


There were times in medicine when I felt I was in a war zone, usually because of either of two circumstances.  There were times when I lost many people in succession, some of them very close to me.  There were also times when I lost patients who were very young, comparable to the ages of the combat deaths one would see in war.  Obviously I never had to work in the kinds of circumstances that the medical personnel in Vietnam endured, but there are times when the work was brutal enough to remind me that the course I had chosen wasn’t a walk in the park. 


It’s hard to know how much you can say about a job like that.  The doctors and medics on the show I listened to were describing incidents and patients from 40 years ago.  I wonder if they had spoken of those things in the interim, if they could talk to their wives or their friends or their old military buddies.  Maybe this is why we congregate among those of our profession, so that we have a safe, empathetic ear for our war stories. 


I am always indignant when someone questions my patriotism.  Patriotism and pride in our country have nothing to do with accepting war.  Broken, maimed, dead-too-soon bodies are bad enough when they are the natural consequence of life on earth.  It’s intolerable to me that we deliberately send our people off to unnecessary, unjustified war, to join them.  Have a thoughtful Memorial Day.



Wherein I Drink My Coffee and Go to Work

I have been pumped by work lately.  I’m excited about every project I work on, and I’ve started some things based on need (for the store, I mean).  I decided that I want to put some of the mats in my store, and I finished the second one today.  I love it.  The mats let me express myself more directly.  I don’t have any restrictions as to size, shape, fit, popular colors…it’s more like creating art.  I even suspend some of the “laws” of knitting when I make them.  For this last one I used my colors all the way to the end of the skein, ending some of them in the middle of rows.  I changed colors on the wrong side and let some of those dashed line connections exist on the front side.  The ends of the mat are similar but not identically shaped.  Now that this is in my mind there are other things I want to do with the mats.  More to come.  The one I just finished was 46 inches long and 24 inches wide after knitting.  I felted it today, and I will measure and photograph it when it dries. 


Increasingly, I think of what I do as “work”.  Not that I’ve got much of an income from it.  But I have the same parameters for this as I did for previous work:  I have specific goals to meet, I put daily effort into it, I am serious about my product, I read and research to stay informed about the industry, I am training myself to be better at what I do…and I am hopeful about the income part.  That is work. 


This morning I had a moment of indignation.  I was making my usual cup of coffee in my brand new Senseo machine (the old one died of a leaky seal) when I remembered that a recent visitor to my home brought a jar of instant coffee and a bottle of flavored nondairy coffee whitener (mostly high fructose corn syrup).  I am reporting this very carefully.  I do not even want to leak the gender of this individual, because this  is such a travesty!  Anyone who has been to my house knows that I live in the coffee meca.  I order my coffee pods on line, and to get a good price and no shipping fees, I order them in bulk.  If you look at the line-up in my kitchen, you will see that I currently have Fratello French Saigon Dark, Fratello Kahlua and Cream, Melitta Creme Brulee, Green Mountain French Roast, Baronet Hazelnut and Mocha Java, Java One Sumatra Mandheling, Reunion Island Sumatra Ketambe Dark, Cuisinart’s Lavazza Dark Roast, and a Senseo sampler with four varieties that came with the new machine.  This isn’t a rigid line-up.  As my supply dwindles, I check out the websites and find replacements that suit me, along with prices that suit me.  I do have a backup supply of French Saigon Dark.  I have lately come to think that it gives my mornings something special.  St-rbucks ain’t got nothing on my coffee bar.  Anyway, the person who deigned to snub my supply to drink two cups of instant, chemical-infested, liquid crud is uninformed and must have plastic tastebuds.  Not to mention that this person must have felt that I would be inadequate as a hostess. 


Tonight I watched the season finale of Grey’s Anatomy for the second time.  I watched it alone last night, then with my daughter tonight.  The same events made me cry both times.  I am so into this series, because there are aspects of the characters and their stories that feel familiar.  They could be the house staff that I trained with.  The writers have isolated the important themes that run through this particular type of training, and their handling of these issues rings true.  One of my classmates in medical school was a script writer for Mash before he decided to become a doctor.  I’d like to go the other way, and be a script writer now.  I know stuff now.  At least, I think I do.  Anyway, I appreciate having a finale that isn’t a cliffhanger.  I’m too close to these characters, I couldn’t stand it. 


I haven’t reported on the foot in a bit.  The lupus foot (okay, we don’t really know it’s from lupus but it’s typical of my other joint and bone pains) that had me limping badly last week has cooled off.  I’m still wearing the cast shoe and my pain has diminished a good amount.  I’ve been pretty careful to not overdo the walking.  Instead, I’ve been climbing onto the recumbent bike and pedalling for 20 minutes, complete with wind sprints.  In order to make a high-exertion interval I imagine that a bear is chasing me.  It’s highly effective. 

Good Lord!  Am I still talking?