It’s On, or the Kick-Off of the Final Flare Tour

In the words of the precious youth of America, it’s on! 


I could stop my post right here, and let you add your own intentions, but then I wouldn’t be a blogger.  This post is the written record of thoughts that were with me on arising.  It’s about the seemingly sudden acceleration of a number of processes:  hurricane season, the school year, the Presidential campaign, my knitting.  People speak of spring as being a new beginning, the initiative season.  For me, it has always been fall.  Every year I reach a point where a number of things in my life suddenly click into gear and reach their full speed.  This year, my life seems to be in sync with the world outside, and I can feel the momentum of all those things carrying each other forward.


I watched a good portion of the DNC.  It left me feeling that Democrats (and Obama/Biden supporters as a whole) are right where they should be.  Hillary Clinton-and I admit I watched while holding my breath, praying for whole-hearted, sincere support-sternly and graciously brought the party to unity.  I was proud to see her being the strong leader that we needed at that moment.  Barack Obama did not disappoint.  His attention to the details of his plans for the middle class was timely.  I couldn’t be prouder to see him on the podium.


As for John McCain and the RNP-are you kidding me?!  Sarah Palin?  Hillary, she ain’t. 


Last week I saw the wind and rain of Tropical Storm Fay battering north Georgia.  At one point, I received a phone call from the hotel front desk, requesting my presence in the closest stairwell to wait out a hurricane warning.  Now category 3 hurricane Gustav is anticipated to land in Louisiana in two days, and is being chased by hurricane Hannah.  Hurricane season is truly on.  The only saving grace is that no one in local or federal government wants to be caught with their pants down in a repeat of Katrina. 


This is the natural time for a knitting person to crank up the production.  We want all those lovely, cozy, knitted garments to enjoy all winter, and the weather will soon cool and make it more tolerable to put wool or alpaca on our needles.  If you sell knits, like I do, you are receiving more contacts about custom items, and working to get your store stocked with new merchandise.  I am preparing for my first trunk show.  I’ve cleared the deck by completing the green lace tee for my daughter and the blanket for my niece.  The striped Noro bag has been felted and I’ve only the strap lining to make.  I knitted cashmere for the trunk show yesterday, and I will be continuing to push forward with my more luxurious yarns and new designs as I go through the next two months. 


Finally, the production that I have dubbed “The Final Flare Tour” is in full swing.  Ever since my chemotherapy doc declared that I can have my treatments closer together as an attempt at preventing my flares completely, I’ve had excitement.  Lately, with the signs of that last flare almost completely gone, and my prednisone dose tapering down, my mood has become even more positive.  The pain in my sacroiliac joints is still limiting my walking, but I’ve been able to climb stairs and hop up from my chair without months of planning or even loud groans. 


I slept four hours last night and I’m ready to knit again. 



Samosas and Lace

I’m in vegetarian foodie heaven.  I have three dishes of food from the Grit, an acclaimed Athens, Georgia, vegetarian restaurant.  I’ve been trying to get there for several days, but the area is very congested and I can’t park close enough.  My legs and back can’t manage a two-block walk just this minute.  Today my lovely daughter fulfilled her end of a bribe and picked up food for me:  sauteed tofu and veggies on rice, Indian samosas with the thinnest, flakiest crust, and a spelt cheese sandwich.  I haven’t tasted everything…I’ll savor it for the next two days.  Thank goodness there’s a frig in my room-don’t know if my daughter would make another Grit run. 


The taste of familiar food, cooked like home only better, makes me feel wonderful!  It is so satisfying.  I have no desire to overeat or abuse food like this.  I have to get a Grit cookbook.  They claim to divulge the secrets of all their well-known dishes.  I’d be happy for one or two.  I can put it right up there with my tofu quiche.  Speaking of quiche, my child announced today that she must buy some tofu so she can reproduce that.  I think I’m in mommy heaven, too.


The lace tee that I began about fourteen years ago (well, it seems that long!) is back in my hands, and I’ve worked out the obstacles that kept me knitting on the edge of disaster.  I can concentrate and confidently get through all the lace pattern without the odd mistake, and the growing front panel is beautiful.  By the time I start the front decreases I will have all the intrinsic feeling for this pattern, and recognize when I miscount a starting place for a pattern repeat.  Funny how it starts to be a visual recognition rather than a calculated one.  I’m not a visual person, but it does eventually get through. 


I’m beginning to look forward to returning home.  The body is getting there. 


Meanwhile, one big HOOORAY for the Obama-Biden ticket.   



Another Saturday, Not As Mellow

I’m on the downslope!  This is perhaps my favorite time in the disease cycle of lupus.  I’m over a major flare, my energy is improving daily, and I’m able to increase my activity.  I feel like I’ve been released from prison after several months of false accusations and physical torture.  I have to survey the wreckage and handle it, but anything is better than the previous confinement.


The “wreckage” consists of all the things that I’ve missed or put off due to the flare.  Sometimes it’s more emotional, other times it is primarily physical.  Among the emotional issues this time is the separation from familly and friends.  I am so grateful to those that sought me out, came to my home during the worst of the flare, and weren’t put off by my inability to get out and meet.  I’ve missed seeing my little old parents, who rarely leave home for anything but doctor visits.  Physical consequences have been pretty large, too.  My house is cluttered and messy.  My organizing of the craft room stopped mid-stroke.  I didn’t finish my yarn de-stashing, and there’s at least one more box to go to the prison yarn project.


I wrote the paragraphs above at the beginning of the week.  Now it’s Saturday, and I have not taken the week as I should have.  With all the energy and emotion of my new freedom, I jumped into moving my daughter into her new apartment.  I shopped too much, walked too far, carried too many items…there was no moderation.  By Thursday I was wondering if I would have to stop in the aisle at Target and sit down on the floor.  My back and knees were dying.  I made my last purchase, got in my car, and vowed to sit out the next few days. 


My idiocy was compounded by the fact that I landed in a hotel that didn’t provide the accommodations and service that they have in the past.  My room was persistently hot (in a town that has been 90 degrees every day), I had to fuss to get my room cleaned, and there was an infestation of ycky little black crawlers.  I’d been there a dozen times and never had that experience.  I complained mightily, got a night comped, and moved to another hotel. 


Sometimes this lupus provides me with more challenges than I want to think about, but I have to sit still and think them through in order to handle them.  Right now, I’m noticing that the tiniest activity makes me sweat.  I am so out of condition that my body thinks it is running laps when I’m just pushing a cart slowly through the grocery store.  At the same time, I am holding onto fluid like a champ, with the swollen ankles and legs demanding a diuretic.  I’ve concluded that I have to moderate my activity, watch the unaccustomed salt intake (hey, I can’t cook here), and get some real sleep.  The chores of my trip are over…I can do this. 


I have been knitting all along, of course.  I completed the little girl sweater.  I love it.  You can judge for yourself:

Starting from the top, you see the whole front view, then a front placket detail, then sleeve detail, then the back view.  It is ready to mail.  I hope I’ll get a photo of the little girl who requested the pink and white, three-quarter sleeve, girly cardigan.  I always aim for one size larger for children.  That gives one year with a sweater or heavy shirt underneath, then one season of lighter coverage, and if we’re lucky, an additional season where the cardi can be worn as a top alone.  I now sympathize with my mom, who made those over-size, you’ll-grow-into-it calculations for six daughters.  An expensive piece should last more than a minute.


I remembered to photograph my girls when they were all together:

There they are-my daughter in the middle, with her sister and her niece.  The most beautifulest! 



Saturday Mellow

No matter that I’ve had pessimistic moments this month.  Things don’t stay at their worst, on the bottom, forever.  I feel quite lifted today.  For a few days I’ve been able to leave the house in relative comfort, walking through the grocery store and taking care of a few errands.  I went to knitting group, the best fun, as always.  My back allows more chores at home, including folding piles of laundry and packing things that are going to school with the lovely daughter.  More significant than my improvement is the daughter’s recovery.  She is about 75% there, I’d guess, good enough to go to school, with much milder symptoms and worries than before. 


Frankly, I’ve ended this week determined to do what I want, so I’ve walked through the pain in my back and reminded myself that it’s going to be better.  Sometimes you just have to do that.  I know the steroids are in there, working, and they’ll catch up with me.


Visitors have been good for the psyche lately.  I saw my granddaughter yesterday, a cheery, quirky sprite of a child, open and loving as only a four year-old can be.  In my mind, I’m already knitting something for her Christmas.  I haven’t knit her anything since she was a toddler.  Officially (as if that matters) I am her step-grandmother, and I don’t see her nearly enough, so every visit is treasured.


The pink sweater has a front placket with buttonholes now, and I have a bit of crochet to make around the neck.  It will be done and photographed in a day or two.  I felted the Noro bag yesterday and it is amazing.  The colours blended so well, and the shape is absolutely right.  It needs a bit of finish work after it dries, including lining the handles with cloth.  Other projects are moving along, too.  I feel like the mother of a whole herd of children, urging them along a little at a time, with a word here and a hand over there.  They are making their way toward finish, my project babies. 


Gosh, I’m sounding rather mellow.  Better quit while I’m ahead.



Crazy Woman Knitting

I am writing this under suboptimal computer circumstances.  My trusty laptop has outlived two power cords in two years, and I’m waiting for HP to rush me another.  I actually sprung for next-day delivery, because I cannot live without my regular notebook.  I’m not ashamed to say it either.  Currently I’m typing on a five year-old Sony Vaio that served valiantly for a teen who did zero maintenance and permitted the influx of every piece of adware on the web.  It cuts off with fearful regularity.  I just lost 400 words that I painstakingly typed here.  My desktop, not to be outdone, went on the fritz today.  When I turn it on it gives me powerful fan and zero computing.  Go figure. 


Fortunately, the most important computer in the house worked flawlessly today.  It was strapped to my daughter, picking up the images sent by the capsule camera that she swalloed.  She’s had her GI tract examined from every angle over the past two weeks, submitting to three preps, and she wasn’t at all interested in the tiny computer at her waist, but I was fascinated. 


I grew up, so to speak, in the early days of flexible endoscopy at Johns Hopkins.  One of the master inventors of this fabulous tool was on the GI staff while I was there, and we called what his patients received “The Bowel Run of the Stars”.  They were admitted to the hospital for their preparation, and treated to wonderful visits from the innovator himself, wearing fine Italian suits.  (Innovation paid well in those days.) 


My own first episode of colitis occurred just before I took the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test).  When the doc recommended a rigid sigmoidoscopy, I was clueless.  Imagine my surprise and elation when I discovered, after a prep of laxatives and enemas, that I was to have a long, cold, metal tube inserted into my rectum.  Kanye said it best:  “Th-tha-that-that that don’t kill me, can only make me stronga.”  Right?


I’ve had two episodes of colitis since then, both explored with the civilized flexible endoscope.  Praise God. They have erased the initial experience from my mind enough that I even went for my 50 year-old screening colonoscopy. 


The body and sleeves of the pink Cotton Fleece sweater are seamed, and I’ve given it more than ten rinses to remove excess dye before I add white trim.  It is securely pinned to my stack of towels in the craft room, blocking in the gentle wind of the ceiling fan.  I am pleased, and excited to finish.  There’s less than two hours of finishing work left, unless I decide to embroider the flowers on (and I probably will).  I used short rows to extend the top of the sleeve, so that they wouldn’t come out of the shoulder at a right angle, but with appropriate fullness and curve.  That’s the inside of the shoulder and underarm of the sleeve in the photo. 


I took a break for a couple of hours yesterday and knitted a cap from Noro Blossom.  It’s lovely, very bold looking.  I need to edit the photos before I show them.  Sometimes I deliberately pick up something with a different needle size and gauge, resting my hands.  Today I began a quick shawl from the two skeins of Colinette Firecracker, purchased at a Flying Fingers sale.  The colourway is Crazy Woman, so appropriate for my past two weeks.  It’s 70% mohair/30% nylon, a big curly mass of blue and red and purple.  Very satisfying.


I have imposed on the Gods of Computer Preservation long enough.  Better publish before my machine takes a dive.



Did You Say “Salmon Croquettes”?!

It’s Tuesday morning and I have to write like the wind.  My laptop cord is messing up, and I’m on a limited battery.  This is the only problem I’ve ever had with this laptop.  Time for cord number three.  The time pressure is not a real problem.  This post has been developing in my head, much the same way as a knitting design takes shape.


First, a note on the recent dead.  My first great concert as a teen was Isaac Hayes in Houston, Texas.  My big sister took me.  Mr. Hayes opened in his chains, with his deep, rich voice, and I was smitten.  So sad to see the end of his time with us.  And Bernic Mac!  What can you say about that man except that he was 100% entertainer.  I never felt his roughness completely hid his sweet side.  Sarcoidosis is a disease that can range from benign to deadly.  I lost a favorite patient during my pregnancy, a young woman who died of sarcoid lung complications.  She gave me a denim jumper that she had worn while pregnant, and I wore it to make rounds the next day.  That was the last time she was fully conscious, and I was glad to be able to show off her thoughtful gift.  Descriptions of Bernie Mac, struggling to breathe and fighting fatigue, remind me of her difficult last days.  Another young patient had a slow, wickedly insidious demise, from sarcoidosis of the brain.  The granulomas gradually invaded more and more of his brain, first causing seizures, then mental deterioration and mood changes, then severe dementia and finally coma.  This is only a third of sarcoid patients.  About a third of them have one or two episodes and no further trouble.  Many live for decades with only occasional flares.  It’s a young person’s disease. 


Of course we’ve had our minds on disease in this household, with Dayna still undergoing tests.  It’s that tightrope you walk between wanting to know what’s causing the pain and not wanting to hear a bad diagnosis.  Hopefully it will be resolved soon.  The humor of the friendship developing between my daughter and our cousin, separated by just three years of age, is the better side of my child continuing to be at home. 


I had my back injected yesterday, a needle for each sacroiliac joint.  That puts me on very limited activity for 48 hours, with some intense pain right now while the medication stirs up inflammation at the injection sites.  I have time to knit and knit. 


Yesterday morning I did maintenance on my farm.  I sat on my rollie cart and scooted around, tying up long tomato vines, some heavily laden with fruit.  I’m going to have some Paul Robeson’s and Goose Creeks soon.  They’ve been slow, but they’re with us still.  The Rutgers and Black Plum continue to grace us with fruit almost daily.  I took the first bell pepper a few days ago, and diced some of it yesterday.  There are more jalapenos than I can use.  Dried peppers for the winter, I see.


This is the little girl’s Cotton Fleece sweater two days ago.  Now the whold bodice is finished and I’ve been working on the sleeves simultaneously, cast on to one needle. 

The animal is keeping me company while I have to spend my days sitting.  Inspired by the Olympics, she is a sleeping champion.


Yesterday we had a real treat.  A friend brought her one month-old baby and eight year-old to visit.  We know the older child well, having kept her one summer for several weeks.  She immediately went to play with Lucy.  The baby curled up (much like Lucy, above) and took turns sleeping in my arms and in Dayna’s.  Sweet, sweet.   I adore babies.  Talking with my friend, who was surprised by the latter pregnancy, was a treat, too.


My cousin has been introduced to tofu, veggie patties, apple/potato pancakes, and other wonders of foodland since she arrived.  A few days ago she asked if I cooked salmon croquettes and I had a mini-stroke.  They were one of the foods that I was happy to leave behind in my childhood.  Yesterday I had a change of heart.  She’s been tolerant, and I can be, too.  I looked up a recipe in, and she and I prepared it together.  It had dill and wheat germ instead of cornmeal or breakcrumbs and salt.  They were delicious. 


Well, I’ve made it on battery alone without skipping any words.  I know I didn’t talk about Vogue Knitting, which has some breathtaking designs this issue, but tomorrow is another day. 



Tapering Prednisone with Lace Scallops

I just realized that I regard blogging as a luxury.  I have been promising myself that I can blog after I finish my work (whatever that is).  I have been delaying blogging until the end of long, tiring days.  I have felt guilty when discovered blogging instead of healing the sick and comforting the despairing.  I’ve gotta give myself a break!  I deserve a good blog.  There’s no need to deny myself.  No bargaining is necessary.  I’m gonna blog when I want to.  Damnit.


I’m on my third day of more prednisone tapering.  I made it through the rapid boost, 20 milligrams to 40 milligrams and back.  My symptoms are stable, consisting mostly of back stiffness and pain.  I decided to start easing my prednisone down some more.  I’m tired of being Cushingoid and swollen and hungry, and the major part of the flare is done.  I dropped 2.5 mg, a convenient number because I can quarter my 10 mg tablets.  I can feel it.  I’m tired, tired, dragging my butt all day, worse in the afternoon.  I’m being sustained by images of me eating vegetables and exercising and having fewer infections.  I can’t decrease the dose more frequently than every 7 to 10 days, but I’ll be back to 10 before I know it.  That’s what I tell myself.  Meanwhile, I crave sausage.  How barbaric. 


I’m not in knitting group because I’m tired.  I was worn out from taking a bath and combing my hair.  Okay, that’s a joke, you know I don’t comb my hair.  I woke at 6:30 a.m. and watched replays from the Olympics opening ceremony while I knitted.  Missing group doesn’t mean I’m not knitting.  I really wanted to go and show off the sweater that I have reworked.  Instead, I’ll show photos of it here.  There is a story to this, of course.

Last week I finished the body of the sweater for the little girl.  Then I looked at my measurements.  Dayna had told me three times it didn’t look big enough.  She was right.  Now I have a little sweater body and most of a big one.  In the process of making the big one, I changed the design a little.  I knitted the bottom lace portion on size 5, then changed to a 4 for the stockinette body.  The lacy part will flare a little below the waist.  There is more space on either side before the lace at the bottom, so it doesn’t distort the hem.  I’ve added little lace doodahs up the front, on either side of the placket.  (The placket will be done in pink and white at the very end.)  I will unravel the little sweater to make a sleeve.  It’s all good. 

This looks very magenta.  It is really a sweet rose color.  I’ve laid them out together, on top the too-small sweater, and below it the bottom of the larger sweater.  The hem has scallops. 



 There, the color is better on this one.  Gee, I forgot to get a manicure so my hands would photograph well.  Here’s a little closer look at the lace.  This is the pattern for the lace on the bottom:


Cast on multiple of 14 stitches plus 12.  Example shows size 5 needles with Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece yarn, 110 stitches.  This is for girl’s size 5-6. 

Row 1 (and all WS rows):  Purl all stitches.

Row 2 (RS):  Knit 6 (margin). [ (YO K2) 3 times.  (K2tog) 3 times.  Knit 2.]  Repeat until 6 stitches remain, then knit to end of row. 

Row 4:  Knit 5 (margin). [(YO K2) 3 times.  (K2tog) 3 times.  Knit 2.]  Repeat until 7 stitches remain, then knit to end of row.  Repeat rows 1-4 twice. 

Diehard symmetry fans will note that I make all my decreases knit two together.  I don’t pick some arbitrary mark in the middle of the garment and make the other side slip-slip knit.  I happen to like asymmetry.  If you don’t, do it your favorite way. 


This sweater will be finished in a few days (one of the beautiful things about knitting kids’ garments).  I’ll show it with the sleeves and placket in place.  I’m debating about some little white flowers embroiedered in the lower front.  We’ll see.  I do all this design stuff in my head while I’m playing Scrabble on the computer or cooking.  I can visualize a whole garment during a grocery shop.  Maybe my engineering training helped this?  I might forget the extra-virgin olive oil, but it all works out in the end.


Well, I’m feeling much better now that I’ve communicated.  No more of this blogging deprivation nonsense.