Really Too Busy to Blog But Compelled to Write a Long Title

As everyone in the free world knows, this is Greys Anatomy night.  With foresight, I could have written a lengthy post detailing every stitch I took in time to change the channel and enjoy my show.  Unfortunately, I was not long on foresight today.  Instead, I was focused on the fact that my child was returning home to celebrate her three-day weekend (laughingly dubbed “fall break”) with her mother.  She even voted today for the first time. 

So, I offer a consolation piece.  This week my nephew wrote this:

In a desperate move, McCain has taken up knitting and begun speaking out about Joe the Knitter and how Obama wants to take away his needles.  Don’t be fooled!!

 

Is that great or what?

From the laziest blogger in beautiful suburban Ooltewah…

Peace.

Pants, Pride and Peanutbutter

I am eating edible playdough.  Twice I’ve seen Kate mix up equal parts of milk powder, honey and peanutbutter on Jon and Kate Plus Eight.  I’ve watched jealously while the kids nibble on it as they create, and imagined what the mixed flavors taste like.  Today I saw fresh-ground peanutbutter with honey at my Village Market, and purchased a bag of soy “milk” powder so I could have some fun, too.  This was kind of experimental.  You can’t tell how much honey they put in the honey butter; I had to add extra.  And it was kind of bland so I put in some cinnamon, too.  Now I’m sitting here with a bowel of a perfectly healthy snack, dipping into it with a spoon as I discuss the important things of the universe with you.  (No, of course I’m not using my fingers!  I made this to eat, not play with.  How old do you think I am?)  Oh no, you want the truth?!  Okay, I did mold it around a little bit-just an empirical test to make sure it actuallly works.  I didn’t make the whole tub of honey peanutbutter into playdough.  This should be an occasional experience, like green eggs and ham.  (Yes, I have.  My mommy made them when I was a little girl.) 

 

I was awakened at 6:14 a.m. by these words, “Mom, I can’t do this stochiometric problem.”  I am proud of my response.  It only took about 30 seconds for me to remember that stochiometrics meant chemistry, and that my daughter had an 8 a.m. test.  I turned on a light and booted up my laptop so I could look at problems with her, and we figured them out together.  The one she couldn’t do was because the teacher had made a mistake, by the way.  I stayed awake after that, watching the news and piddling around on the computer.  I made breakfast (um, two slices of focacia bread spread with peanutbutter and a cup of French Saigon Dark) and took my meds, but I was moving like I didn’t have a 10:30 appointment.  I was so engrossed in AlterNet articles that I really did some last minute preparation.  Plus, I had to dance with Ellen before I could leave the house. 

 

I knew my daughter was in her classroom in time when I got the text message:  “Girl n shorts w uggs n my chem.  Ridic.”  My daughter is a fashion purist.  While she doesn’t do makeup and high heels most days, she believes in being pulled together.  That’s why her next message is so funny.  I received a call from her after class, on the bus.  She told me she was wearing sweat pants.  More than that, the bus had been leaving her, so she had to run after the bus and wave her arms and jump up and down, calling attention to herself when she was dressed in – gasp! – sweat pants.  In my daughter’s existence, this is such a deviation from the norm that I had to call up her dad and discuss what stranger might be inhabiting our daughter’s body. 

 

After my doctor’s visit I was headed over to see the little old people (my parents).  On the way, I came very close to an early voting site, and I decided to pull in and see if it looked tolerable.  The parking lot was full, but people weren’t spilling out the door, so I decided to chance it.  I forgot how large a community rec center is.  Once inside I saw a line reaching stretching down the hall and through the lobby.  When I stepped through the lobby door to get to the end of it, I could see that it wrapped all the way around two basketball courts.  Oh well.  By then, I was in.  I had just  smiled at the woman in front of me when a man walked up and asked if he could stand by his wife.  I told him “No”, playfully, and he said “Well, can I stand by you, then?”  We had a lovely conversation for the next 40 minutes.  The couple had just been in Chattanooga a few months, having moved from Lewisburg, Tennessee, pop. 12,000.  We had a lot in common, grown up children, stints of living in Europe, a father (hers) with lupus, our general view about being neighborly and not being mean about political differences.  Of course, it only took me one minute in line to pull out my knitting, and they asked questions and commented as I finished the brim of my original brim cap.  I was in the voting room making my marks on the ballot before I knew it.  Forty minutes of standing, with sore feet and burning back, no pain medicine, and the best conversation in the world. 

 

The mood in the line was generally upbeat.  People kept commenting on how many folks were voting early, and speculating about whether there would be anyone left for the polls next week.  No one was complaining about the line.  People even helped the older folk get to chairs, and weren’t particularly possessive about their place in line if someone needed it more.  I was elated when I left.  I’m sure my smile was all over my face, and there was even a little bounce in my step.  I’ve waited for this day all my life.  I’ve been pretty cynical about whether I’d live to see it.  Today I voted for a Black man for President of the United States.  I voted for him not because of his color, but because he is good, and qualified, and committed, and has good ideas, and good people around him.  I am more proud of us than of him.  Proud that, as a country, we let him get to this point- supported him, promoted his candidacy, worked together, acted like decent human beings.  Paint that on a sign! 

Peace, people.  Peace.

Wool, Alpaca and Cashmere, Oh My

Today I had lunch with a friend.  That sounds so ordinary, and in a way it was.  We made the date, we confirmed it this morning, we met at Olive Garden and ate and talked.  There was lots of laughter and second helpings of soup.  But this was a reunion of sorts.  We haven’t met or visited in many long months.  Yes, we live on opposite sides of town, and we’re busy, and I’m having sick times, but there’s no excuse for our absence from one another. 

 

Sometimes we are just lazy in our friendships, and without realizing it we are drifting further from the ones we care about.  I made a huge jump away from most of my friends with my last move.  I thought I was making it easier for complaining family members to visit; they hated the mountain drive.  In the end, there were only more complaints about the new location, and being with my closest friends was ten times harder.  In the end, some of the most geographically distant friends have worked the hardest to maintain the bond. 

 

Lunch today was different in another way.  I am in a flare, and I am not sitting at home.  I take pain medication when I need to, and I get out and move.  Sometimes it’s a little move, like going to take a gift to my neighbor instead of having her send a child to pick it up.  I haven’t had any increase in prednisone, but since the hips and knees haven’t stiffened, I can still move around.  That leaves just pain and fatigue as obstacles, and neither is keeping me sitting down.  It’s a very hard decision sometimes, whether to rest or move.  There’s not a strict rule that I can point to for support of either choice, so I’m relying on my mindset.  Move, move, move.

 

I am surrounded by finished or almost finished projects.  I finished the Noro Kureyon afghan while I was away, including crocheted edging in the tan/gray/pink Silk Garden.  I have hats and scarves that need posting.  I just made a hat this evening, South West Trading Company’s pink Gianna, with a knitted band with a big central cable, and a crocheted crown.  Fun.  Here’s some pitiful, spur-of-the-moment photography. 

I immediately reloaded my needles with aqua-colored Artesano Alpaca Inca Cloud.  It’s a beautiful dk weight soft alpaca that I have no recollection of purchasing.  It’s been on my shelf for a while, and I’ve walked by and touched it, but this is my first experience.  I’ve doubled it, put it on size 10s, and I’m making an original brim cap.  (My original pattern is here:  https://essiewb.wordpress.com/2008/04/20/original-band-hat/)   It is quick and fun, and I can get a feel for what this alpaca will do.  It’s lovely so far, with great elasticity.  The color is deeper than in the photo, quite a nice teal-ly blue.

 

I’ve been holding back on photos because the website was having some troubles handling visual media, but I think I can give them now.  Hang on a sec…yippee, this is the Bazic Wool hat.  It’s not blocked yet, and you can see how it has diagonal ridges that follow the purl blocks.  It’s an adorable hat.  I love the ear flaps.  I just picked up stitches on either side to knit those.  A fun anatomy fact:  your ears are closer to the middle of the back of your head than to the middle of your forehead.  You have to account for that when you make earflaps, otherwise they will not be in position to warm the ears, and they will look awkward.  I use the scientific method of trying on the hat and seeing where my ears are before I decide where to place the flaps. 

 

One more:  This is the black cashmere hat.  It fits loosely, the more to appreciate the softness and the unstructured crown with its tangle of cables.  I love designing this hat.  The crown began with evenly spaced cables, but they quickly took their own routes, with some crossing, others splitting or touching another and bouncing back.  Gestalt cables. 

 

Yes, I know, enough already.  Even if you’re a hard-core knitter, you’ve probably seen enough.  Speaking of hard-core, the knitting group I attend is going to get wild and crazy over Christmas.  We’re going to draw names and exchange inexpensive gifts.  We made some guidelines so that no one would give something really undesirable, like a canister of dehydrated dog food.  Oh yeah, break out the cider! 

 

Having this little short haircut sure makes it easy to give myself a scalp massage.  Ahhh, life is good.

Peace.

Briefly Here

Fab day.  I’m knitting away on a scarf that was sold the first time I took it in public.  It’s that gorgeous, soft, feather-light Kimono Angora, in the lovely shades of tan and brown and blue. 

 

The early part of the day was spent on an expedition to Greenlife Grocery, my favorite food shopping place in town.  It’s actually on the other side of town from where I live, and I would have felt guilty “wasting” gas to go there if it was still $4 per gallon, but at $2.50, I feel like I can make some excursions. 

 

My trip to the market led directly to my dinner:  sauteed purple cabbage and thinly sliced potatoes seasoned with fresh garlic and fennel seeds.  Oh yeah, with a soft lump of focacia bread that had the biggest chunks of sun-dried tomato in it.  My veggie soul is satisfied. 

 

Craig Ferguson (one of the secret loves of my life) is entertaining me tonight.  Whatever are comedians going to talk about when this election is over? 

 

This is such an abbreviated post, I think just to affirm that my engagement with activity and the world continues. 

Peace.

Running My Life

It’s a beautiful fall day, cool and crisp and sunny.  There’s no sign of color change in the trees in my neighborhood, but all the green has its own beauty.  I’m seeing this in my mind’s eye, because I just completed a bike ride on my exercise bicycle in my bedroom.  I climbed on with my bare feet, took a deep breath, and did the Nike.  Sometimes, especially at the most inopportune, impossible, undoable moments, you just have to pull on your big girl panties and do it.  I had all my meds, including a pain pill, three hours ago, hopefully everything is peaking, and there just wasn’t going to be a better time today.  It took me 10 minutes to ride one mile, but I’m not ashamed.  I did what I could do, even when I thought I couldn’t.  You can’t ask more of yourself than that. 

 

I used to run a mile and a half in the time it took for this bike ride.  I can still remember the routes that I ran:  from my Center City apartment to the pier and back in Philadelphia, north through beautiful neighborhoods and back to make a five-mile loop in Baltimore, up and down hills and through the McCallie tunnel in Chattanooga.  I loved putting on my running shorts and lacing up my Sauconies with my door key tied into the knot.  Going out my door, stretching briefly, then taking off slowly to warm up.  There was a ritual to running, akin to sliding into a church pew and reciting the liturgy.  It made something happen in my brain as well as in my body.  I felt a power and strength that was transforming. 

 

I began to run in college.  I read Aerobics by Kenneth H. Cooper, first published in about 1968, just six years before I began college.  It was the start of a revolution in exercise.  I wanted to be healthier, and I’d already seen the benefits of the walking that I did on the Vanderbilt University campus.  I started to jog, running laps in a gym, wearing my old sneakers and whatever clothing I could sweat in.  There was no official uniform for exercising in those days.  Soon I left the gym and began to run across the campus.  Eventually I bought real running shoes and the cool, lightweight shorts with the attached panties.  I was a runner!

 

Lupus took something huge from me right at the onset.  I was unable to run.  I couldn’t get farther than a few feet without feeling that something was dreadfully wrong.  My energy was depleted without me clearing my driveway.  I soon found that it was the same for tennis.  By the time I had carried my racquet to the court, I was too tired to lift my arm and swing at a ball.  It wasn’t long before walking also exacted a toll, and pain was added to the fatigue.  Once the pain took over, I no longer tried to exercise.  I was just trying to get around my home, my office, and the hospitals where I made rounds.  I was on crutches when the diagnosis came. 

 

The loss of power, the feeling that your core of strength is diminished, is demoralizing.  Suffice it to say that I was both angry and sad, and that it took years to see myself in a different way, as a human being with a different kind of strength and value.  To maintain this strength, I sometimes must force myself to do what I can, and remind myself that it is sufficient. 

Peace.

The Habit of Angora, or Making Art with a Lupus Brain

People always tell me that I’m easy to entertain.  I’m also easy to satisfy.  This morning I got up at 5 and ate a granola bar so I could take some meds.  After the drugs took hold, I bathed, put on my big girl panties, and went to town.  By the time I walked into knitting group, my pain level had decreased and I was ready for fun. 

 

I had a bag of stuff to show.  Franklin Habit’s brand new book of knitting cartoons, “It Itches” just arrived, and with it a cool black knitting bag sporting one of his cartoons.  In addition, I had one of the balls of Kimono Angora that I was panting for, and one of the 20 balls of Bazic Wool.  I ordered the latter in about seven colors, knowing that I’ll enjoy using the tightly spun superwash.  My bag also held the cream-coloured Bazic Wool hat, green Karabella Supercashmere mitt (the second one isn’t done yet), and the black Debbie Bliss cashmere hat.  People helped me with hat opinions (yes, the diagonal twist in the Bazic Wool is due to the tight spin, no, don’t block the black hat). 

 

While we chatted I worked on the Kimono Angora scarf I cast on last night.  When I pulled that yarn from the bag, I knew I had to use it right away.  Louisa Harding Kimono Angora is soft as a feather and light as air.  It’s ball band recommends size 6 needles, but you know I knit loosely, and I’m doing just that on size 3.25 mm (size 3).  It really knits itself.  It is 70% angora, 25% wool, 5% nylon, with a twist firm enough to not split as your needles work it.  Handling this is all pleasure.  I was in love with a photo when I first discovered this yarn.  Now I’m in loove for real!  I’m not doing anything fancy with the scarf-stockinette mostly, with random purl rows.  The colour is fabulously subdued, with that angora halo.  Okay, maybe wordpress has picky taste in yarn, too.  It allowed me to upload this photo of the Kimono Angora, but not the hats I mentioned earlier.  Another day.  I do want to show the hats, because they are unique, both designs that I just made and haven’t used before. 

 

Some cretin in my neighborhood is discharging fireworks and making my dog crazy.  My back has done all it can do today, and I cannot bend to pick her up and put her on my bed for some calming.  Her legs are short, a definite disadvantage in this circumstance.  I speak to her as softly and calmly as I can. 

 

A few days ago, I saw some photos of a painting by Makoto Fujimura.  One click led to another and I ended at his blog,  Refractions (http://makotofujimura.blogspot.com/).  If you are interested in what a modern artist who practices an ancient Japanese painting technique has to say about creating and art and religion, he’s your guy.  I’m working my way through his blog, looking forward to reading his book by the same name.  If I haven’t said so before, know that I am an art freak.  I am also obsessed with process.  Anyone who can explain what he/she is doing-and how and why-has my attention.  And if you can tie it in with your purpose and world view, even better. 

 

Actually, that explains my fascination with medicine.  When I was a kid I wanted to know everything about human bodies.  I wanted to know how they worked, what went wrong with them, and how it went wrong, and how to fix it.  The processes were the thing, not just the descriptive words.  I had to have the processes, step by step, reaction by reaction.  I had forgotten this obsession when I saw down with my daughter to work on inorganic chemistry this week.  Working on various kinds of reactions (redox, substitution, combination, etc.) and going back to the valences and proper ratios, balancing the equations…something in my brain woke up and took notice.  It was the antidote to reading this:  “Impaired Cognitive Function Seen Early in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus”.  Basically, the article described a recently published study which documented (pretty universally) mental functional changes in newly diagnosed lupus patients.  Frankly, I think my brain is doing what is necessary.  After all, 35 year-old chemistry? 

 

If you’ve noticed the new emblem on the blog, it’s because I’ve been certified as a member of Healthcare Blogger.  The group encompasses a large number of medical blogs which have to maintain a certain ethical standard.  My blog has been under review for several months, and I was notified last week that we were in.  A major encouragement for me.  A cool thing, like the other side of the pillow.

 

My cheeks have been warm for days.  I’m revved up with this flare.  Only a few weeks until my next big IV therapy. 

Peace.

Pain Management I

This is me, in pain.  The right knee is throbbing and full of fire.  The feet don’t want to touch the floor.  They scream at the slightest pressure.  The stomach is upset from pain medication.  The legs are swollen to above the knees.  The left median nerve sends electric shocks through the wrist, into the palm.  The hair is loose in its follicles, coming out easily. 

 

This is me, knitting.  The knitting is for distraction.  It is constant, furious, making things to cover the pain.  A scarf, a hat, another hat…the pile grows but cannot stifle the physical discomfort of this body.  Today, an afghan, a larger bandage to put on the legs and feet.

 

This is me, exercising.  Sitting on the bed, arms in the air.  Up-down, up-down, up-down, until the triceps ache.  Up-down, up-down, moving the muscles that can move, grateful for muscles that can move.

 

This is me, winding yarn.  Away from home, no swift or ball winder, the hands do the work.  Wind a large hank for long knitting. 

 

This is me, taking pills.  A pile of pills, one or two for everything:  the immune system, the inflammation, the pain, the fluid, the allergies, the depression, the vitamin support.  Pills to glue this body together, plug the holes, make it work.

 

This is me, thinking.  Thinking that this is just another day, thinking that other people have it much worse, thinking that sad thoughts can be pushed aside, thinking of the things that matter.  Thinking away the pain, breathing out the pain.

Peace.