Losing Mothers and Keeping Life Open

I woke tired this morning, after a deliberately early bedtime and a seemingly comfortable night’s sleep.  It was a struggle to be ready in time for the 9 a.m. expected arrival of a workman, but I made it, and was disappointed when he did not.  He appeared two hours late, bringing a helper so that he could finish the task of washing my house in one day.  My brick-and-siding exterior was begging for that pressure washing and soapy scrub after four years of sloppy rain baths. 

I was also begging for something – what?!  I forced myself to put some things in the Pod, finish laundry, clean up the kitchen.  After some restful time on the couch watching Milk and knitting chemocaps, I gave in to a nap.  I am still tired.  The flare, barely disguised by a modest prednisone increase?  I’m seeing my rheumatologist tomorrow, then getting my first of two chemo doses on Wednesday.  This cycle will move on. 

Last June I talked about the loss of mothers that my daughter’s group of friends has sustained (https://essiewb.wordpress.com/2008/06/08/post-mortem/), and today we’ve hit another of those days.  We heard about the loss of another mom from our old neighborhood and her high school group, as well as the grandmother of a good friend of hers.  I think I pointed out before that the parental losses she has witnessed have been overwhelmingly mothers, with only the rare father dying.  We have no explanation for this. 

The other explanation I don’t have is why they are gone and I am still here.  I have 17 years of lupus behind me, marked by a distinct improvement over the past year when I began rituximab treatment (the B cell killer).  Most of the women we lost were affected by such acute conditions, or by relatively short illnesses with fatal courses.  For the second time in my life, I feel that I’m still here for a reason. 

The first time I was overwhelmed with this feeling was when I was a medical resident rotating through the bone marrow transplant unit.  At that time, mortality from the procedure was 50%, and the patients were all younger than 40.  Children were coming to the hospital, staying long enough for me to become attached (weeks, sometimes months), and then dying.  I had one special buddy who was a preteen girl that I visited when I was on call.  I recently found a card that she wrote me after her discharge, thanking me for a hamburger I brought her on a slow night.  She died soon after, and I felt galvanized to work harder and throw myself into my clinical career.  I had to work “extra” and be better to make up for the dying children. 

Now my feelings about being spared are different.  There’s not the notion that I must make up for someone else, but that there are fruits of life I am to experience, good things.  I am not complaining about my life, or saying that I’ve earned anything better.  It’s just that somewhere inside me is the feeling that the best is yet to come.  Maybe it’s just my innate hopefulness and optimism, but I’m keeping my life open for it. 



Diva Day, Hopefully to Be Continued

I woke this morning with a lightness, waving my feet in the air, laughing loudly to myself.  There was dancing in every movement, and I smiled to me in the mirror.  The energy today was all about hope and the expectation of good, maybe good beyond anything I deserve or claim. 

Midday, I tried on new clothes, things that arrived in the mail, ordered on line, my favorite shopping method.  I am back down to the sizes of my favorite store, and I waltzed around in a flirty skirt feeling like a million.  Losing a couple of dress sizes can revive you.  Knowing that it happened logically and by my effort, rather than through some random occurrence, is my assurance of further success. 

I called my 93 year-old aunt and caught up, including telling her of my recent weight loss.  Always one to stay small and fit, she told me her own story of a stint with Weight Watchers in their early years.  She quit the program because they required you to sing your weight to the group, and she’d never been a singer.  Indeed, as a child she had been kept after school by a disbelieving music teacher who insisted she try harder to make melodious sounds.  She laughed as hard as I did, the chuckles ringing in her whisky voice, the one I’d always envied. 

Later, I shopped at the little vegetarian market, driving home with my tofu and carrot-ginger soup (mmm, more curry), ignoring the meaty smells from the barbecue joint by the road.  By the time I put away groceries, and rescued my dog from her imprisonment in the sleeve of my jacket, I had to sit and rest.  That didn’t end my day.  After dozens of photos I was able to post the wrist cuffs and bag that now open my store. 

I hate getting philosophy from a television narrator, but the Grey’s Anatomy wrap-up had it right tonight.  Trauma always does leave scars, and for some of us, it also makes us continue forward.  Or are we moving in spite of the scars?  I don’t know.  Today I only experienced the movement, and I felt like a diva.


Curried ICE

I just had last night’s leftovers for lunch.  It reminded me that I stumbled on a fab way to make a tasty curry dish, and I have to write it down before I forget.  I am a good spur-of-the-moment cook, utilising whatever my pantry and frig present.  Yesterday, I had leftover brown rice and a package of tofu that was calling to me.  I decided I wanted curried tofu, not just my usual saute.  I diced some garlic and onion and sauteed them in the skillet in about a tablespoon of olive oil.  I added the tofu, cut into short strips.  I sprinkled cumin (about 1 teaspoon) and curry powder (about 2 tablespoons because I like it spicy) on top, mixing to make sure all the tofu got coated.  Then I hunted in my pantry for something to make it more like a sauce.  In a stroke of genius, I chose a box of carrot and ginger soup.  I tested it on my mental palate and decided it would work just fine, and added the whole box (? 2 cups or more) into the pan.  I stirred it and tasted.  The sweetness of the carrots was barely coming through, and needed enhancement.  The honey jar did the rest.  A few tablespoons of honey, to taste, and voila!!!!! a wonderful curry.  I let it simmer and thicken, then enjoyed.  A spoonful of nonfat plain greek yogurt was a nice accompaniment. 

When I was a kid, my mom cooked all kinds of ethnic food.  She would joke that she was part – Italian, or Indian, or German, or whatever suited her dish for the night.  I started school seriously thinking I was part Mexican and Italian and Indian and…you name it.  I didn’t know the difference ’til I was in sixth grade.  Seriously. 

I wish my mom still had her taste for new and different foods.  She seems to have outlived most of her taste buds, and nothing is very palatable to her now.  (You do lose taste buds and smell with age, smell contributing a lot to our ability to differentiate specific flavors.)  I called my mom on Saturday when I was feeling awful, and she gave me some comforting words.  She and my dad are very understanding and supportive when I am sick, and still very protective of me.  How nice to still be someone’s child. 

This morning I saw a reference to Atlanta’s ICE:  Indie Craft Experience.  It will be held for two days at the end of May, and I mustered my nerve and put in an application to be a vendor.  Crossing my fingers.  I tried to show my hippest stuff. 


The Dylan Sweater: Free Knitting Pattern

dsc03808The coral sweater in my previous blog entry had to be finished in a hurry and delivered today.  I made a crochet cap to go with it.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to photograph the completed set.  Nevertheless, I’m writing out the pattern for the size 12 months infant sweater as I promised.  I am extremely pleased with the finished product, and it makes a simple but elegant baby gift, especially when knit in a soft, lofty yarn.

I’ve named this the “Dylan” sweater because that is the name of my beautiful step-granddaughter.  She is four now, and loves girly things, but also likes things to be simple enough to wear for play. 

As always, this pattern is copyrighted.  Please make it for your own use or for gifts, but do not reproduce the pattern to sell and do not make this item to sell. 

Dylan Sweater

Yarn:  Classic Elite Allure 25% cashmere/25% angora/50% very fine merino, 215 yards, or worsted weight yarn of your choice.

Gauge:  4 sts/inch.                  Needles:  US 8 or size to obtain gauge.

Crochet hook:  Approximately size G.

Button:  One large colorful button.

The sweater was knit flat on straight needles as a back and two front pieces, but pattern could be adjusted to knit back and fronts as single piece to armhole.  It was sized for US infant 12 months (chest 18 inches, back-waist 7.5 inches, wrist-shoulder 7.5 inches).  The completed dimensions were chest 22 inches, length 8.5 inches, sleeve 7 inches.  To close, right front laps over left with loop and button at top of  placket.

Left front:  Cast on 30 stitches.  Work first six rows in seed stitch (k1 p1 across on WS rows, p1 k1 across on RS rows).  Starting row 7, on WS rows begin with four stitches in seed stitch, and on RS rows end with four stitches in seed stitch, forming seed stitch button band.  Work the remainder of each row in stockinette stitch (knit the RS, purl the WS). 

     When piece measures 6.5 inches from bottom, increase the seed stitch portion of each row to 16 stitches.  Do this for three rows, then bind off the seed stitch portion (16 stitches), staying in pattern.  Continue stockinette on remaining 14 stitches until piece measures 8.5 inches long.  Bind off remaining stitches. 

Right front:  Cast on 18 stitches.  Work first six rows in seed stitch.  Starting row 7, on RS rows begin with four stitches in seed stitch pattern, and on WS rows end with four stitches in seed stitch, forming seed stitch button band.  Work the remainder of each row in stockinette stitch. 

     When piece measures 6.5 inches from bottom, work three more rows, then bind off seed stitches (4 stitches), staying in pattern.  Continue stockinette on remaining 14 stitches until piece measures 8.5 inches long, and bind off all stitches.

Back:  Cast on 44 stitches.  Work first six rows in seed stitch.  Starting row 7, work in stockinette stitch. 

When piece measures 6 inches from bottom, change to seed stitch, working remainder of back completely in seed stitch to make textured yoke.  When piece measures 8 inches long, work 14 stitches, bind off 16 center stitches, staying in pattern.  Tie on second ball of yarn and work remaining 14 stitches.  Continue to work both shoulders in seed stitch until piece is 8.5 inches long, then bind off both shoulders. 

Sleeves:  Using one needle and two balls of yarn, cast on two sets of 26 stitches.  You will work both sleeves at one time, using one ball of yarn for each sleeve.  Begin with six rows of seed stitch, then change to stockinette stitch and continue until sleeves measure 6.5 inches long.  Work three more rows in seed stitch, then bind off both sleeves. 

Finishing:  Block all pieces.  Sew shoulder seams.  Mark center of each sleeve at top and match it up to shoulder seam, pinning remainder of sleeve in place on front and back.  Stitch sleeve to front and back.   Sew from wrist to underarm to bottom of sweater on either side (sleeeve seam and side seam).  Weave in loose ends and trim.  Sew large button securely to top of left button band, just inside the edge.  Using crochet hook, chain a loop on top edge of right button band in position to hold button. 

Knit happy!


Spring Crochet Flower Pattern



Suddenly I’m here for patterns.  This is one I promised, a crochet spring flower.  I made it from Knit Picks Crayon, which is a cotton boucle, very soft, in two contrasting colours, using a size G hook.  It makes a very fluffy flower with petals that overlap and curl like a real flower.  I put instructions to decrease number of petals if you would like just enough to fill the circle and lie flat. 

round 1:  Using center colour (CC), chain 3 and join.

round 2:  Chain 1 then work 8 single crochet (sc) in the center ring.  Join.

round 3:  Change to petal colour (PC), chain 4 and work 3 triple crochet in the first single crochet of the previous row.  Turn and slip stitch down the side of the last treble, using 3 stitches to reach the base.  Then slip stitch in the next single crochet of the previous row.  Chain 4 and work 3 triple crochet in the same single crochet.  [If you wish to spread out the petals and have no overlap, slip stitch in the next TWO single crochet of the previous row, then start with chain 4, etc.] Repeat to end of round=9 petals (or 5 petals using alternate).

round 4:  Change to CC and slip stitch around outside of each petal to make contrasting edge. 

Weave ends and enjoy.

coral baby sweater

i said that i had a coral baby sweater on the needles.  all the pieces are done, and it looks like this:


oh yeah, forgot to say that the pieces aren’t sewn together yet.  they are blocking.  a close-up:


it has an asymmetrical front with a seed stitch button band on the right side of the chest, and seed stitch trim at the neck, sleeves and bottom.

i will post the free pattern tomorrow.  meanwhile, i’m making a matching hat. 


what i’m not doing

“Most of the stuff that got us into trouble was perfectly legal…”  President Obama said that last night.  I missed him on the Tonight Show.  Sleep is very high on my agenda during this flare.  I’m sorry I missed his appearance, because I always feel reassured when I hear him speaking to the public.  I hear the voice of reason and calm, and the logic and intense concentration when he is dissecting a problem remind me that we have a smart, conscientious presence in the White House.  I sleep better.  I “rest assured”.  Love that phrase, and its literal meaning.

okay.  caps for the president, but the fingers are still stiff so i have to regress.  25 milligrams of prednisone is not removing the stiffness.  that is a worry to me.  i don’t want to go any higher.  i hate the 60 milligram blasts that make me manic.  i despise being so pumped up on prednisone that i rush around the house doing chores even as i know that i should be moving more slowly, resting more.  once i was so manic that i left my house on the sabbath (i was really celebrating it then) to go to the hardware store, and i had to look at myself closely to make sure i was wearing all my clothes.  monitoring oneself that closely is no fun, but  cruising around ace hardware choosing tomato plants was still a blast. 

i know my body as an extremely chemical entity, responding one way to x and another to y, predictable as clockwork in some aspects, an experimental subject in others.  the illusion of control-my life depends on who’s in the pharmacy. 

these are things that are not getting done while i wait for my next treatment:

1.  photographing new products and listing in store

2.  grocery shopping – although i may take a ride in the cart today

3.  visiting friends

4.  sorting out clothes and clearing my next room, the master closet

5.  trip to the post office with nonurgent returns

6.  trimming lucy’s nails

7.  vacuuming up the spilled scraps from the shredder

8.  whipping up a pile of stuff for the opening of the chattanooga market

9.  sorting completed projects into their proper bins

10. random phone calls to check up on family and friends

11. other stuff that i’m suddenly too tired to delineate

my treatment is scheduled for april 1 and 15.  that will put a stop to this nonsense.