Fa La La and Rhodiola

I don’t need a single ‘nother Christmas present.  It’s already my best holiday season in years. 

It was hard to enjoy things to the fullest when I had to sit down and rest after each small activity.  I could barely wrap gifts when the effort of carrying one or two took all my energy for a quarter-hour.  Several years I wasn’t able to leave my house to go to grandparent visits with my daughter. 


The difference is two things.  One is the wonderful B-cell killing therapy I’ve been on for a year.  The other is an herb.  I’ve been taking it for two months, but I was reluctant to sing its praises so loudly here, because I can’t give medical advice on any kind of individual basis.  I will, however, tell you what I know and what my experience is. 


I learned of the existence of Rhodiola rosea when Dr. Andrew Weil discussed agents that can improve energy (Energizing the Elderly?).  I researched the literature as much as possible and couldn’t find any reason for not taking it.  I ordered it from CVS pharmacy online.  It’s over-the-counter, not at all expensive.  By the time it was delivered, I had forgotten about it.  It stayed in the box with an assortment of dental floss, lotion, lip gloss, and other apothecary treasures for two weeks. 


On a day when I was at the end of my rope with pain and fatigue, I remembered the Rhodiola.  I took one and continued to struggle through one small chore at a time.  A few hours later, I realized that I was no longer struggling, and had worked through a long list of chores and errands without even thinking of a rest, and that I was feeling fresh and energetic.  That occurred a few weeks before my last round of IV therapy, when I was at my worst.  I continued to take the herb once daily after breakfast, and the effects have not waned.  I missed a day recently, and found that after some moderate activity I was extremely fatigued, and could barely get undressed and fall into bed. 


None of this is scientific.  I am one person with one experience; another person could feel no effect at all.  My good results are just an anecdote, and they can’t constitute a recommendation to the rest of the world.  I do, however, want to let people know that there is a possibility here, one that has been very easy to take, compared with adding another prescription drug.  Fatigue is one of the most debilitating symptoms you can experience, and it goes hand in hand with lupus.  I have truly been blessed by having some relief from it.  I could not take a gift like this and keep it all to myself.


Fa la la!



Happy Holidays, Citizens!

‘Twas the night before Christmas…and in my house there were virtually no visual cues.  The daughter slept on the couch, recovering  from pneumonia.  The mom knitted on the last Christmas gift and organized one political get-together and one family health initiative.  And yet…


deep in all the hearts of the family there was anticipation of a wonderful Christmas.  The family was happy.  There was a  joy in all the conversations, people were making extra phone calls to one another, mother and child were preparing food and doing one-minute exercise breaks, and the tree decorating and gift wrapping were only hours away. 


This has to be the strangest holiday season we’ve seen in years.  In my house, we are suffering from economitis, trying to ride out problems that we thought  we would never endure, and yet with more hope and excitement for this country than we’ve ever had.  It’s the Obama phenomenon.  I have no illusions that he can step into office and instantly fix the woes of the world, but his beginning is distinctly different from our past administrations.  I’ve received several emails inviting me to participate in the process.  I decided to respond to one, and-like hundreds of citizens across the country-I’m hosting a health care discussion to share opinions, suggestions, and wants for the system in this country.  Our group report will go to the administration.  Obama has been elected, he doesn’t “need” us any more, and he’s still asking for input and giving us the opportunity to contribute to the change our country needs.  I’m flabbergasted.  Who knew that government “by the people” would come to mean something tangible? 


I’ve tried to gather a diverse group of people, regardless of political persuasion, who have different views of the health care system to bring to the table.  There will be health care providers and patients, employees and employers, self-employed, parents of children, children of elderly parents, chronically sick and perfectly healthy…Not only do I have a number of positive responses, people are asking to bring their friends! 


I was so excited about this opportunity (which was not directed at me, but at any and all citizens of this country!), that I responded immediately, without considering how messy my house is or the ordeal of providing snacks for everyone or the need for more seating in my family room.  I’d like to extend this opportunity to readers of my blog.  I will publish every comment I receive regarding your experiences with health care.  I’d like to hear:

1.  The biggest problem you see in the American health care system.

2.  The most important change you would like to see implemented.

3.  The effect that the current economic situation is having on your health care, if any.

Please try to answer in 100 words or less.  Thanks for your input.  Just in case you need a refresher, here is what the Obama administration plans to do:  Barack Obama and Joe Biden: The Change We Need | Health Care.


Other things are happening.  I’ve joined the EtsyKnitters team, and looking at the work of my colleagues is inspiring me to go ahead with my plans to open my childrens shop.  I want to get my items photographed and posted by the end of January. 


You know that I joined Weight Watchers last week.  My first weigh-in was great.  I lost 6 pounds.  That makes me more inspired to do this.  My next step is to try and recruit some family members.  Ultimately, you’ll see us grinning from a couch on the Today Show, talking about how we lost a ton! 

Happy Holidays everyone!  and the Peace which we all deserve.

Mohair Followup and Other Stuff

I have willpower.  I made it through yesterday without casting on the mohair.  I placed it on a shelf where I can see it from my bedroom, and I glance up at it every now and then to reassure myself that it awaits.  I finished the black cashmere cap so there are openings coming up in the knitting project line-up.   I also finished the onerous patterned block that I chose for Dayna’s last strip.  The rest of the blanket should be a breeze.  I’m coming, beautiful mohair!

I’ve gotta deal with two comments on yesterday’s mohair fixation post.  First, there are people out there who long to learn to knit, and we know who you are.  Let’s make a date!  I have taught knitting to many people, including a 6 year old child.  Anyone can learn to knit.  I’ve generally taught people the English way of knitting that we see most here in the US.  That’s the style where you use your right hand to pick up the yarn and loop it around the needle, giving that familiar motion that most of us associate with knitting.  I like that technique for beginner’s ability to see how the stitch is formed and control the tension.  That is the way I learned as a young child, but now I knit in the Continental style.  I read about it and taught myself three years ago, and I find it is much faster and gives less strain on the joints.  I couldn’t imagine going back to English knitting.  My last class of adults began with Continental knitting, and I’m considering starting everyone with it. 

I never would have predicted it, but I think there is something genetic in knitting.  A woman who worked with me for a while asked me to teach her to knit, and I happily did so.  She learned Continental knitting and became rather good at it, but I noticed that her “picking” of the yarn always involved a curious swirling motion accompanied by a distinct pause.  Nothing wrong with that, we all have our idiosyncrasies, and I’m for whatever gets a knitted fabric to come off the needles.  Many months later, after first laughing at her mother’s knitting, then begging for her mother’s finished products, this woman’s adult daughter joined one of my knitting classes.  She, too, learned to knit continental style, and she made the exact same swirl and pause as her mother!  Talk about growing up to be your mother–it applies even in knitting! 

Anyway, Essie’s knitting school is open for business.  I will teach anyone given the opportunity.  When I take my products to shows, I spend half my time talking to beginning knitters and giving tips.  I love passing on knitting knowledge more than selling my work.  I worry that we’ve become accustomed to buying everything ready-made, with no appreciation of the process or consideration of the materials that went into it. 

As an old Girl Scout, I love knowing how to do things myself, being self-sufficient.  This extends beyond knitting to crochet and sewing, embroidery and cross-stitch in the needle arts.  Other arts and crafts that I love and have tried are mosaic, drawing, painting, photography, furniture painting, and I’m probably leaving out a few.  I find that what I learn in one area definitely affects the others, and I frequently use mixtures of several areas in producing products.  To that end, I continue to occasionally take a course in an area outside of knitting, like Jas Milam’s Self-Expression through Painting.  (Check her out at www.jasmilam.com.)  After her fall course, I found that I was more relaxed about my knitting design, allowing myself to break out of some previous molds. 

The second comment took me to the site of an angora goat ranch.  When someone says that knowing goats enhances their life, I’ve gotta pay them a visit.  Yellow Jacket Ridge Angora Ranch is definitely an enticing place.  I loved the blogger’s descriptions of home life in the mountains and the daily occurrences with her goats.  Her photographs are beautiful.  Pay a visit to her at www.yellowjacketridgeangoraranch.blogspot.com.  You’ll have a wonderful, relaxing time, and come away with a new appreciation for goats.  I can’t wait for Becky’s first yarn, which she will spin from the fiber from her angoras.  Okay, confession:  I’m a little jealous.  She is able to speak very candidly about her family.  I will only be able to do that when a couple dozen people die or I move to an ashram in India.

Yesterday was special here.  Dayna and Julian (my borrowed son) dragged out the old artificial tree and decided it was ready for donation–too many fake poinsettia blossoms, no real charm.  They decided to use four smaller trees instead, and made a lovely arrangement in front of the fireplace. 


Above the mantel they put our gorgeous angel.  The kids say she’s creepy because she’s in constant motion (wings and arms) but I love her.  Her movement is quite hypnotic.  Of course, my real angel is in the portrait behind her.  Before you ask, yes, we wrapped packages in a combination of aging leftovers (including some Hannukah wrap) and newspaper.  I’m not wasting any more new paper using it for gift wrap.  A little gift to the planet. 


Merry, merry!

and on earth, Peace.

Let’s Get Ready to Ruuuuummmmmmmble!

charityhatsdec07c.jpgYeah, baby, I am so ready!  Important stuff is in the wind, and my preparation has started.  You know that I have my first Rituxan treatment on December 26, but I’ve not spent much time on the day before that.  Christmas is coming!  Reading my previous posts one would figure I had no interest in Christmas at all.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  I adore the holiday and the whole season.  I look all year for things that are special for one person or another, grabbing items whenever and wherever I spot them.  I stay out of the malls and most of the brick and mortar stores and shop on the web, focusing on Etsy.com where you can find anything handmade, my favorite yarn stores, and book stores.  I add in little pieces that I pick up at art galleries and craft fairs.  I round it off with gift certificates from cool places where I think the recipient may not shop without a nudge.  I have parents, aunts, cousins, five sisters, eleven nieces and nephews, six great nieces and great nephews, my own dear daughter, any number of pseudo-adopted children, and friends.  Not to mention the postlady and part-time housekeeper and my doctor…you get the picture.  I make a long gift list. 

Right about now the last things are being delivered to the house, and this weekend I must sort them and repack the out of town stuff so it can go to the post Monday.  To all of you who get boxes in the mail:  do not open until Christmas!  Santa and Jesus and karma will all impact you if you should disobey.  And I will call you a greedy heifer! 

Given my enthusiasm, you might think we were all decorated and decked out.  Not!  The folding, predecorated cheapo tree is still in its bag in the garage.  The new inflatable of those famous icons, the Christmas penguins, is still in its box.  We never have jumped up from the Thanksgiving table and begun decorating.  However, once we have decorations up, they stay up!  We may still be displaying them in February.

One part of Christmas prep has been in effect for six weeks.  When the church that I claim to belong to announced its plans for the annual Angel Tree, where members bring in warm outerwear for the kids at a local elementary school, I started knitting.  I’ve got a pile of hats to take in, and I found a half-dozen puffy jackets on sale to go with them.  I asked Dayna to photograph the hats because hats for kids are so much fun.  She made them more fun, placing them in Christmas tree formation!


I think we have 15 completed hats, but it started with a basket that I put in the living room, and every now and then I’d make a hat and toss it in.  In the end we had a stack of hats like you see in the top photo.  I love making children’s hats.  I try not to make them too sweet.  Sometimes I think kids need antennae and extra eyeballs and ear flaps more than cables and ruffles!  They are my experimentation ground for fierce, fun hats. 

I started a hat last night out of – you guessed it – cashmere.  Pulled out the moss green and cast 60 stitches onto four size 7 double points and ribbed for several rounds, then I looked at it and decided my ribbing looked like a bunch of flat ladders.  I pulled it all off (ribit, ribit, that’s the sound of me frogging my hat) and started over with straight needles, size 6.  I like the look of this one and if it makes it to the finish line I’ll share the pattern.  There is absolutely no significance to me starting over on straight needles.  There was a pair right beside the bed.  I’m not averse to a little seaming at the end. 

So I’m off to attend to my favorites:  coffee, Christmas and cashmere.  Peace!

The Christmas List – NOT

Mornin’!  I’ve pushed my photographing and posting of products back for days, and I’ve gotta do it this morning.  (Self-imposed deadline, no storm troopers at the door.)  So I decided to blog an important list this morning – the things I do not want for Christmas.

  • Fruitcake.  Am I really agonising over whether that is one word or two?  The only good fruitcake I ever had was made by a Georgia woman who seemed to leave out all the gummy red and green stuff and concentrate on raisins.  Our daughters aren’t friends any more so fat chance I’m getting some of that.
  • Pens that are not Pilot G-2.  I love office and school supplies and a visit to a place that sells them is pure heaven.  You can get all kinds of cheap thrills with pens, recycled tablets of paper, sticky notes, the right portable file…but I am particular about my writing instruments.  They’re not expensive, those G-2s, but they write an expensive-looking, smooooooth line, and they feel good in my hand.
  • Colognes and perfumes.  I’m perfectly happy to smell like my extra-heavy duty moisturizing lotion for alligators and Dove deodorant. 
  • Books that you feel I must read immediately.  I love books and I read constantly, but if you think you’re going to feel pressured to force me to read your book, just hold onto it and tell me how much you loved it.  Reading is a sacred experience.  Only you can pick the right book for you to be reading this moment. 
  • Sick people accessories.  Got plenty of thermometers, pill boxes, and natural remedies advisories.  Don’t need bed jackets, a doughnut cushion, or any of your deceased aunts old supplies.  I could use exercise equipment, however, as my treadmill just died.
  • Makeup accessories.  I don’t buff, highlight or glitterize. 
  • Tapes of your pastor’s sermons.  ‘Nuff said.
  • Proselytizing pamphlets.  You have no idea what I went through to get the correct spelling of that.  But my idea of fun is not unwrapping a stack of free pamphlets with drawings of burning humans being laughed at by the devil.
  • Acrylic yarn.  That’s a whole ‘nother 45 posts.
  • Paper that’s not recycled.  46 more posts necessary.
  • Lima beans.  Just in case.
  • Tickets to your church revival.  Hmmm, I see a theme developing here.
  • Coffee substitutes.  I’m not quitting and that’s my final answer.
  • Um….

I left one open for stuff I might have forgotten.  I’m not a gift snob.  I love an imaginative gift, one that is picked with me in mind (novel idea!), and that doesn’t mean expensive.  One of my great friends here always comes up with something I can use and would never have thought of or purchased myself.  One year it was a kit of stuff for my car, including the stuff that keeps your windshield from fogging–how cool was that?!  Another year, knowing how frequently I boil huge pots of water to indulge my love for pasta, she purchased a set of those canisters they advertise on TV that you just put the pasta in and fill with boiling water from your electric kettle and wait…and surprise, perfectly cooked pasta.  Lately, she’s been showing up at my house with couscous, a passion we share.  She should be a gift consultant!  The best thing is, she shows up for Christmas with her daughter and brother in tow and we get to spend time together!

Okay, it’s 8:13 a.m. and I’m going to go work for the store!  Peace everyone.