Better Day Than It Oughta Be

Welcome to a day that’s way better than it was supposed to be.  It’s pouring rain and I’ve had to change my plans about loading stuff into the pod.  I was awake at 2 a.m. with pain from stomatitis (irritated mouth lining from my methotrexate).  Those two things led me to expect a crappy day, but guess what?  It’s kind of marvelous and great! 


Which leads me to the definition of a great day.  A great day is one when I wake up.  A great day is one which has possibilities – where I can choose to do something that suits me, like knit and talk to friends.  On a great day I feel creative, and start projects like the plus-size shell that I’m knitting from gorgeous citrus colours of Bela Colour. 


On a great day I can take action, like writing a letter to my governor and copying the Chattanooga Times-Free Press:

Dear Governor Bredesen,
I am appalled to hear that you are considering turning down federal stimulus money for the unemployed.  I cannot fathom a reason to put these already embattled citizens of our state into further penury.  All of us know someone who is affected by the loss of a job, and the rapid down-spiral that this causes in a family.  Our sources of community aid for these people are severely stressed.  Our communities will only suffer further devastation if more families are allowed to languish with limited or no income.  I don’t believe that any of the governors who are making this choice have taken the pulse of their electorate.  Please don’t join them!
Essie Jeanine Woods Bruell, M.D.
You can see the New York Times article on this: 
On a great day, your sense of rightness and humor will protect you from paranoia and fear of action.  On a great day, I make myself laugh. 
A couple of dates have sprung up, surprising me.  Seems like only weeks ago that we planned for our World Wide Knit in Public Day.  It’s coming up again in June, and we’ll have to start talking and planning again soon.  The beginning of next week a coalition of lupus patients, families, friends and doctors will descend on Washington and pursue the issue of increasing funding for lupus research.   It’s the Lupus Foundation of America’s 11th Annual Advocacy Day.  Wick Davis contacted me from the LFA to say we don’t have to attend to help the cause:
To learn all the easy things you can do from the comfort of your home, please go to
I went to visit my friends on and it made me angry to see all those young women (and an occasional man) whose lives have been so drastically altered by this disease.  Fact is, it’s been 50 years since a drug specifically for lupus has been approved by the FDA.  All we get are the leftovers, and it’s a direct result of underfunding.  Grrr.  That really gets my wolf up.  Thinking of my personal situation ramps it up, because I’ve finally, after 16 years, found a drug that really seems to decrease my flares and let me have a life.  The punchline:  it’s six thousand non-covered dollars per year.  Specific research documenting effectiveness in lupus would allow more of these treatments to be covered by insurance.   
So people, enough writing, time for more action.  Pitter patter.

Finished Crocheted Turtles, Fancy Knit Mitts

I’m excited to write today.  So much is happening that I’m spending more time doing and less time reporting and reflecting.  To compensate, I’ve turned off the television for most of every day so that I can think and plan while my hands are busy.  Ongoing concerns:

1.  House clean out.  Gonna purchase heavy brown wrapping paper today for artwork and family photos.  Slowly getting those books sorted out.

2.  Etsy store.  More involved in the Etsyknitter and Etsyfast groups.  I’m getting to know some group members, and we’re sharing more business concerns and wisdom.  Lately there’s a big effort to share updates and information on our craft, as well.  Etsyknitter’s Through the Back Loop is a weekly forum showing new work from all members: posted several items.

     New things in my store include these lacy mitts with the giant violet handmade button.  I actually posted another pair of mitts in my store this week, too.  Of all the things I knit, they draw my attention the most right now.  I love designing them, and knowing that they can bring instant relief to cold, sore hands.  I love wearing them.  I feel a series of summer designs coming up, because nothing makes hands colder than frigid air conditioning.  It’s awful to not be able to get warm in your own house.  If you’re like me, you have been pushing the limit.  My thermostat’s at 65. 


And here’s the finished turtle, feet and all.  All of the custom turtles are complete, and ready to mail.  I’m going to keep producing for the store if there is demand. 


Apparently my turtles eat bamboo. 


3.  Weight loss:  this is a good week.  I’m following my Weight Watchers, forcing myself to vary my meals so that I can use up some of the stuff in my pantry.  It’s a good exercise in learning new ways to put together good nutrition.  Last night I made my Mexican W.W. version of spanikopita:  frozen spinach, fat free Greek yogurt, eggs, shredded low-fat cheese, and thin strips of corn tortillas.  It is delicious. 


4.  Lupus:  do I still have that?  just kidding, it tells me “yes” daily in that grumpy wolf voice.  Right now I’m having painful, slow-starting mornings followed by decent afternoons and evenings.  I’d love to just be on an even keel for a while. 


5.  Family:  do I still have that?  Major kidding – they are all around!  My dad’s wobbly signature on my birthday card, my mom needing a reminder as to whose voice is on the phone, one sister’s frequent calls with her cheery news…another sister reports someone’s death with every phone call -“and Essie, she was your age, and just dropped dead!”


6.  My pleas to the Force for this week:  I need to be healthy enough to go to knitting group.  My daughter needs some healthy time.  I’d love a few months with no med changes.  A big Lotto win wouldn’t hurt.



Turtles and Green Tee

Watching Things We Lost in the Fire, Halle Berry trying not to scream at the end of her marriage, husband sudddenly murdered, everything in her life different. 


Today I was thinking about all the “different” I’m looking at right now.  For months my financial relationships have been screwy.  Banks that I’ve known for fifteen years are answering their phones more slowly.  They greet you at the door but the smile is false and the coffee machine doesn’t work.  They give you conflicting messages-credit limit slashed on one card, doubled on another.  Mortgage guys saying “we can help” and then “what?  no way!”


The Lane Bryant catalog, provider of clothing for fat women for my lifetime (my mom used to be a regular user), is having a liquidation sale.  75% off, get it now, nonreturnable, going out of business for good. 


I didn’t think preparing to move, cleaning out the house, would be hard.  I have sad moments.  This house was more than a temporary stop in the country.  Things happened here that made me learn and grow.  My children left from here, started new home-away-from-home lives.  Here was my first knitting home, the house given over to yarn.  I feel strongly that I need a simpler, cheaper living space, and I haven’t questioned the need to move, but it’s still hard.  A friend’s offer to help with packing, in a very specific way, was so welcome yesterday.


Also welcome and much appreciated:  last night’s birthday celebration with my in-laws.  They asked what I wanted, and then took it to a whole ‘nother level.  We enjoyed a wonderful dinner at their home, with a couple hours of laughing and silly-acting as only grandparents can do with their grandchild.  Dayna, finally better from food poisoning, enjoyed it as much as I did.  Interestingly, she ruled the table, directing conversation and making each of us report recent news to the others.  Always thoughtful, my mom-in-law had spent time searching for just the right card, one that opened to a hilarious song in pipsqueak voices, a guaranteed laugh for me on any bad day.  Hmmm.  Gotta learn that song so I can sing it to my friends. 


I’ve been promising photos.  The green cotton tee, knit from Colinette Wigwam, is finished.  I am extremely proud of it.  I will have it posted in my store after I make a few more detail photos of the front lace.  dsc03694


And the back: 



The other thing I’ve been talking about is the turtle project.  Here is what 60 turtles look like before they get their pearl feet.  dsc03692  The turtles are stacked, hence the appearance of two-, three- and four-headed turtles.  They are not mutants.  I’ll show some footed ones when I’m done stitching on the pearl beads.  Sticking with what I know, people.



Family Illness, Personal Angst

It is Wednesday already.  Time slipped past me as I was getting over my Cymbalta withdrawal (completely gone!!), worrying about my ill daughter, and now caring for my daughter here at home.  My daughter had the foresight to be with her father when she got sick.  After a very rough night, he took her  to the emergency room, where she had several arduous hours of neglect followed by a bit of treatment.  We decided that home was the best place to recover, and met in the middle to transfer her to my care. 


Any parent knows the two top rules of having a sick child.  The first is that you would prefer to take on their symptoms than watch them be sick.  The second is that having them where you can see them and care for them takes away a lot of anxiety.  I am thankful for things that occupy me and make the time of healing pass more quickly.


In between fetching meds, making special meals, and reassurance, I am knitting and thinking.  I’ve almost completed a beautiful green top knit from Wigwam, a cotton tape yarn.  Last night my daughter did me the tremendous favor of modeling it for a moment.  No item of clothing that you create comes alive until you see it on someone.  When there is a moving, breathing body in it, you can finally tell if you’ve created a beautiful adornment or merely a body covering.  I know that I can design something that works – fits and covers the body, withstands multiple wearings, is appropriate for the age and situation of the wearer.  The harder struggle is to reach that higher plane that determines why someone would choose this piece over something else.  Yes, I know, you still can’t see the piece.  Very, very soon I will have photos.  I just need to finish the very top of the back, and stitch the shoulders together. 


I’ve loved knitting the Wigwam.  It doesn’t have the usual inflexibility of a cotton, since it is already knit into a flat, linguine-like structure.  I’ve been able to make beautiful ribbing and to twist it into lovely lace structures with no difficulty.  It will hold its shape much better than a garment knitted with just a strand of cotton.  Those are notorious for stretching and bagging.  I love the way tape and ribbon yarns form stitches, their way of defining your knitting by falling into place with an order that you could never force.  One of my spring/summer plans is to use more tape yarns.  I’ve gathered some rayon, bamboo, and soy from my “home collection” to get me inspired, thinking about ways to really show it off. 


A few years ago I was knitting with haphazard abandon.  I was happy with anything that came off my needles.  Now I’m planning by seasons, anticipating what is sellable and wearable, molding a “look” and a unique aesthetic.  I filled in my application to be a vendor at the Chattanooga Market again.  If this year continues as it has begun, I’ll be able to go once or twice a month and have more selling opportunities.  With lupus, those are fighing words.  I can’t begin to anticipate what tomorrow will be like, health-wise, much less the remainder of the year.  That’s okay.  I will keep up my happy denial and continue to knit my plan. 


I’ve done a bit more packing.  That is seeming less and less a chore, and more like a treat that I deserve.  I get to a point in cleaning out where I feel the wisdom and hope involved in getting rid of a bunch of baggage.  It works for mental and physical loads.  I don’t believe in purging, as it is nonselective, but a thoughtful perusal of the territory, followed by wiping out what is no longer useful–I’m long overdue for that.  The rooms I attack always go through a phase where they seem much worse than they were before I began.  All the junk is out in the open, I can barely navigate through the exposed chaos, and I feel tired just looking at it.  If I push on past that point, and continue to clean out, everything freshens up and breathing room starts to be evident. 


I suppose that most of the art in my bedroom will have to come down before we go to market.  I have lovely line drawings of nudes by Lawrence Mathis, a large original painting of abstract nudes by Marvin Posey (who recently died young of a heart attack), and a seriograph of Thomas McKnight’s Ophelia with her body outlined in the river.  I’ll have to trade them out for some meaningless landscape that makes everyone feel comfortable.  I hate being on the market.  It’s you, personally, on the market, along with your house. 


Enough nonlearning computer time for the day.  Time to go crochet some turtles. 


Use Your Words Debuts with Bizarre Sh*t

Want to know how I feel this morning?  It’s all right here:  Been there, done that, wrote about it in my blog. 


I am, once again, suffering through the awful withdrawal of discontinuing Cymbalta.  It’s just as bad.  Maybe worse, because I know that I can’t go back this time.  A $118 per month medicine just isn’t possible for me right now.  It would interfere with my crafting budget.  It would cramp my Weight Watchers fees.  It would piss me off so badly that I couldn’t enjoy the medicine. 


For some reason, I thought that withdrawal wouldn’t be so bad this time.  After all, I’m coming off half the dose I was on last year, and replacing it with Prozac as I go.  But it is bad.  I’m reminding myself of the quote attributed to Einstein:   “insanity:  doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  I don’t expect to find myself restarting Cymbalta and then having to go through this again. 


So, here I sit, hands too sore to pick up needles or hook, waiting for pain medicine and optimism to kick in.  For some reason, what comes to mind is something I can only call “Bizarre Sh*t from My Past, Part I”.  Here goes.


Several times in my college history I had to schedule a weekly lab on a Friday afternoon.  Like most other schools, the weekend at Vanderbilt started as early as possible, and academic areas of campus were deserted by 5 p.m.  on Friday.  One such day I came out of my lab, one of the last to finish the experiment, and sat on the steps of the building.  That’s a habit I’ve had for decades – finishing up a difficult day, and escaping the building only to be stalled on the front steps, where I have to sit down and collect myself.  Another story.


This particular day, I was sitting on the steps, readjusting myself to nature, enjoying the nonchemical smells and crisp air, when a squirrel approached me.  I sat very still, knowing that a tame campus squirrel might come as far as the steps and entertain me for a moment.  It approached, sat still for one long moment, looking at me, then lunged.  The bright brass buttons on my coat had caught its eye, and it grabbed one and hung on.  I screamed, struggled out of my coat as quickly as I could, grabbed my books, and ran.  I returned much later for the coat.  I no longer think squirrels are cute.  They are maniacally aggressive little monsters. 


Whew.  I can feel the pain medicine kicking in.  It’s too late for knitting, but I can pick up my sticks and work on the cotton tape shirt and the fun wool mitts that won’t require a rigid grasp.  I can also show you some cool stuff from this week.  dsc03635

Meet my new model.  I don’t have a baby in my house, and the ones down the street all have jobs.  I made myself a strip of canvas with hand-drawn faces.  I can wrap it around a toilet paper roll and fit on a baby hat and take photos for the store (   This particular hat has two cables just over the left ear (or where there would be an ear if my model didn’t have a slight congenital deformity).  I love it.  Here’s another:  dsc03644  Meet Henri, wearer of a green beret knit from recycled cotton.  Speak to him wiz zee French accent. 


On another note, in my grownup store ( I have a new collection of cards.  The Use Your Words greeting cards are individual pieces of original art, mounted on card stock and left blank for you to send a message.  The artist is someone very dear to me, a young woman who has been very shy about sharing her artwork.  I hope this is just the beginning.   




 Lovely words to leave you with on this Valentine’s Day.



Yes, I’m really writing about steel cut oats.

Post Number 427 in the “cheap date” and “easily amused” categories.  I know.  But for the first time, I cooked steel cut oats at home, and I have to give them a couple of rhapsodizing paragraphs.  You people with real lives can move on to the CNN website. 


I am a big fan of hot cereal.  I was raised on cream of wheat, oatmeal and grits, all cooked the long, slow way in my early childhood, then later as flavored, sugary packets that you could mix with hot water.  I loved the early stuff, and when I got to a time where nutrition became more important than speed, I went back to it.  Last trip to Georgia, I ordered steel cut oatmeal for breakfast almost every morning, and absolutely loved it.  I swore that I’d be giving up my mushy oatmeal.  Yesterday I purchased some at the Village Market, and I’m in new food heaven.


This doesn’t even look like oatmeal!  It’s little chunks of whole oats, not flat, pressed down slices.  The finished product is much chewier and has a nuttier, fuller flavor than oatmeal.  I could imagine using these in a casserole or as a dinner side dish.  They have their own flavor, and don’t need butter or sweetness to enhance it. 


People complain about the time it takes to cook these.  Use your rice cooker.  Steel cut oats plus two times the amount of water, 45 minutes of watching the news, and you’ve got breakfast. 


One cooked cup of these oats has 150 calories, 2 g fat, 4 g fiber, 6 g protein.  That equals a measly 2 Weight Watchers points.  I’m hooked for life.



Funny Little Knitted Things in My Head

Yesterday was Monday, and in my life that now means Weight Watchers night.  I missed two meetings – the first when I visited my daughter, the second for the icy weather last week.  (Were we really worrying about icy roads one week ago, and it’s 72 degrees today?)  The crowds from the first of the year seem to be thinning out, one clear measure of the half-life of a New Year’s resolution.  I guarantee I did not lose a pound while I was out of town, so I was thrilled to find I’d lost 4.4 oounds since my last weigh-in.  The total is 12 and counting.  I can feel the difference.


I am back in the realm of medication side effects.  Remember when I tried to wean off Cymbalta last year, and had the awful brain-shaking side effect?  Well, I’m at it again.  I had resumed Cymbalta at a lower dose last summer when I became severely depressed (my depression has always been extremely chemical).  Now that prescription costs $118 per month, after my prescription plan pays its part.  I’ve stopped the Cymbalta again to return to good old generic Prozac.  $4 versus $118.  Easy choice.  Cymbalta had some pain lessening effects, but not $114 worth.  The feeling of something being loose in my brain is back, but it’s not as bothersome.  Maybe side effects are only as bad as the amount of attention you can give them.  I happen to have other things on my mind (yes, pun intended). 


I’ve got some mailing and photographing to do, and haven’t even had breakfast and meds yet.  I started late because of  this:  It’s the Victoria and Albert Museum, which has a wonderful website with endless photos of interesting textile pieces.  I was glued to the knitting for an hour.  I keep trying to tell you there’s art in my soul!  Yes, I know, and rocks in my head.