Gardens and Photos on Two Circular Needles

This is the first bell pepper on the pepper plant.  It is about three inches long.  Two days ago it was the size of a thimble, but in the perfect pepper shape.  There are also several oblong jalapenos on it’s neighbor.  Chris tasted one and said it’s fiery.  My little rolling cart is in the background. 

These tomatoes are a very deep green at the top, lighter green underneath.  They are Carmels.  Can’t wait to see what the final product looks like.  I have literally dozens of green tomatoes on various plants now.  We’ve begun to eat them.  This is what heaven tastes like:  diced tomatoes and diced avocado with ginger dressing.  Dayna invented that salad.  Thank goodness they taught her to share in preschool.

 The last night of reunion, we had an impromptu talent show.  One niece is a bellydancer who has performed in many productions and she gave a performance full of subtlety and grace.  Some of her movements were the most delicate, flirty hip shakes, not the ferociously vigorous movements that you see in some styles of bellydance.  My dad was imitating her the next morning at breakfast, waving his hands in front of him and shaking his shoulders.  His version looked more like a hula.

This is my foot on the carpet at Cass Spa and Salon today.  Dayna and I went for haircuts and enjoyed our leisurely stay.  For some reason, they let me sit in the special lounge close to where Dayna was, instead of leaving me in the waiting room (which is also quite nice).  I couldn’t resist taking photos.  You can see I was wearing my classy Journeys sneakers.  Of course our haircuts were a success.  We look chic.  Mine is very short with a sassy shape.  Dayna looks like one of those hair models in Shear Genius, long layers and side-swept bangs. 

 Ignore the haircut on the woman  in this photo.  It’s the “before” version.  That’s me with my knitting nephew.  He requested that I teach him to knit a cap, so he was learning the two circulars method.  He had several inches on a cap when we left.  Prior to this, he could only knit scarves and blankets.  He made a nice piece of money from his classmates and friends over the past two years.  My second sister, his grandmother, taught him to knit.  He’s fast. 


The same nephew is also fast at speed Scrabble.  He whipped me badly most games.  Today I taught Chris to play.  I’m having a brief respite from humiliation while he learns the game and gets up to speed.  It’s kind of fun to play at a slower pace, where I can experiment with longer and more effective words and interesting arrangements.  Just as when I was learning, Dayna played as his partner, coaching and helping him get used to the less-structured, ever-changing matrix. 


Tomorrow I am going to be strong and my endurance will improve.  I must stand at the sink and blocking area and work on some completed knitting that just needs the finishing.  I hate being stalled at this spot, because no one else can do it besides me, and I am itching to see the end product.  Meanwhile, I’ve sat still and had my fevers (even at the salon) and knitted on blanket strips. 




Talking After Chemo

Whew.  I went for chemotherapy yesterday, and I’m a little slowed down.  Funny, I don’t know if it’s the drug itself, or the extended period of IV therapy, but I have big fatigue today.  I napped after I got home from the treatment, and walked slowly through Target later.  I didn’t feel like I was overdoing it, and I even slept extra-long last night. 


Today I’m tired and feverish, but unaccountably happy.  I sat on the floor in my craft room and cleared out another bin that was holding yarn cast-offs and sad pieces of unwanted knitting.  It’ll be another shipment to the prison knitting project, and it cleared a gigantic drawer-type bin to hold all my knitted baby and child stuff.  I was also able, with Chris’ help, to empty a giant box of old art supplies and projects.  I cleared out two bags and shoved the rest onto shelves, and that was another eight cubic feet of space in my craft room.  Inch by inch…


My happiness isn’t unaccountable.  I’m just so optimistic, after many moons of pseudo-optimism, and it’s kind of bursting out.  You could tell in previous posts, I’m sure, that there were times of being weary with this process.  I’ve been sick, well, sick, well….well…well…oh SICK for sixteen years, and the tedium of that inevitable cycle was making me growl.  The funny thing is, the short lesson we had in the class last week opened my eyes to the fact that my past optimism has been largely superficial, fooling everybody (even me) but not enabling me to live like I believed it.  It was evident in some of the habits I’ve picked up over these years.  Now that I see it, I can truly live with belief in my long life and good health to come.  I’m gonna be like my little old parents, old enough to be an aggravation.  Watch out, family!


Our recent reunion was the seventh, covering 13 years.  For me, the absolute best.  I’m the fifth of the six daughters, and my child is the youngest of the grandchildren at 20.  Our children are all adults, and it was evident that they are contributing to reunion and taking over some of the work of planning and presenting, and they do it well.  It is happening smoothly, without controversy or possessiveness, with the generations almost melting into a single continuous line of family members.  It is probably moreso with us than the average family, as there is a ten year gap between my older four sisters and us at the end, then only a six year gap before the first grandchild.  The grandchildren of my parents range from 20 to 44 years in age.  They merge with the great-grandchildren, who range from 2 to 20.  It makes an interesting dynamic, with most of us relating equally well to folks who are much older and much younger than us.


As we have grown to know one another better, we’ve become more accepting and tactful.  There is a grace to welcoming and including the young and old, achievement-oriented and struggling, sick and well.  This gentler spirit has been a long time coming in such an outspoken, opinionated family.  I am so proud of our advancement in this respect.  I love these people. 


I’ve been involved in the end stages of a project, one of those that I can’t talk about until it’s done.  I’ve really enjoyed it, almost hate to put down the yarn that I’m using because it has worked so well.  I took my bag of chemocaps into the office yesterday, labelling them while I sat there with my IV running.  I had time to crochet one more before I left.  The last two were crocheted from, cotton and a bit of elastic, in great colors with a nice tight twist to the yarn.  I happened on a pleasing combination of sea green and melon and used it twice.  Something colorful around a pale, tired face can be very cheering.  Those won’t be my last caps.


Seeing my niece, Christine, at reunion reminded me that I was waaaay overdue on her cotton blanket.  I knit a funky cap in the first days there.  It is from a fabulous yarn that was a gift from a friend at Flying Fingers in the Hudson Valley.  They’ve continued to have just what I want when I want it,  to be available for information and also suppliers of great fun.  The yarn is Ritratto from S. Charles, an unbelievably sparkly, soft, rayon and kid mohair with a touch of nylon and polyester in the decoration, that you can see here (fuchsia no less!):   I felt guilty enough about the blanket to give in to Christine’s first request for the hat.  It looked adorable on her, and of course I failed to get a photo.  Anyway, I’m making short work of that blanket. 


The trip to Target yesterday was for supplies of my favorite kind:  equipping a student for that first year at college.  This is my third year in a row.  The first year, I found a great list at the Bed, Bath & Beyond website.  It covers everything from cosmetics to laundry supplies in a convenient checklist.  In addition to getting Chris settled at College of the Adirondacks, Dayna has a real change of venue this year as a new apartment-dweller.  She spent one year in the dorm, one in her sorority house, and now to the bigger world, sharing with a good friend.  Their furnished place has full-size beds and other minor changes that necessitate a bit of shopping.  We loved it yesterday.  We didn’t miss an aisle in bed and bath supplies. 


Lord I am talky!  Time to shut the laptop and knit myself to sleep.  There’s more time and cyberspace tomorrow.



Reunion…Just the Summary, Folks

Reunion was so wonderful that I cannot write just one post about it.  All I can do today is start by summarizing some of the high points.  Over the next few days you’ll hear many more stories and reactions about the event.


Five great things about reunion:

1.  This was the first time that it was only us sisters and our children (and grandchildren).  There was a closeness and camaraderie that I haven’t noted at earlier reunions, and a commonality of purpose.


2.  I attended an orientation for a Landmark seminar, and learned something very important about myself.  More to come.  For now, just call me optimistic.


3.  Our hotel turned into a great accommodation for us to be together, with common spaces that really worked, and a lovely attitude towards us congregating there.


4.  I had every support that I needed in order to enjoy myself and spend time with everyone who attended.


5.  I felt like we included the parents well, having them come down for one night and concentrating our efforts around them while they were there.  Their visit included dinner together, a marvel of a family talent show, and breakfast the next day, and the parents were delighted. 


Back home, the tomatoes are thriving and I have picked seven today.  For the first time, I can see peppers on the pepper plants.  I drove home yesterday and I feel pretty good today.  I haven’t had to take to bed or be particularly slow since I arrived home.  Looking forward to more B cell killing this week, and lots of knitting. 


Being a Reunie

The roster:  Of the six sisters, three are here, another will come today, and a fifth tomorrow.  The absent sister is well-represented by her daughter and two granddaughters.  Sister number two and her husband have all three of their children-one with spouse-and three grandchildren assembled.  Number four will be accompanied by her daughter Friday, and they will bring the family heads (my mom and dad) for a one day appearance.  The baby sister has her two daughters and a goddaughter with her.  I have my daughter and host son, of course.  I count 26.  For the first time, it seems that reunion will just consist of the core family, no cousins or distant inlaws, just the offspring of the precious couple, and their households.  We span the country in both directions, from Houston to Minneapolis, Palo Alto to New York City. 


This was a difficult time to promote a reunion.  We only gather every two years, and despite admonitions to start saving early, most of us didn’t.  Some relatives just couldn’t muster the funds, having sustained new births, job changes, the death of important travel partners, college fees, and every other manner of family stressors.  Conscious of these factors, those of us who organized the event tried to choose a hotel that offered in-room kitchens and free meals (daily breakfast and three days per week dinner), on-site exercise facilities (no gym fees), access to good shuttle service (three mile radius, again free), and on-site meeting areas (a beautiful dining area and lounge).  This Staybridge Suites has all that and is in a beautiful part of town.  It is recently renovated and quite well-appointed.  Our suites even have dishwashers.  At $139 to $149 per night, I feel that we have a bargain. 


The bigger bargain is having all this family.  When you see so many of us together, it becomes obvious that we are related.  There is so much talk, and laughter, and animation.  We tease and play easily.  There is no subtlety in this group, and little restraint.  We sat in the dining room from 8:30 to 11:30 this morning, some coming and going, most hanging around, finishing breakfast and then staying for the comraderie.  My host son came down when called, ate hastily, then retreated to his room.  When one sister discovered him missing, she called him back down on a false errand, making him sit around and listen to the banter, drawing him into the conversation almost against his will. 


Everyone’s out now.  They loaded into cars and taxis to go see exciting local atrractions.  Except me.  I’m sitting on the couch distracting myself from the pain in my legs and hips.  TV is on and I’m considering a movie.  I’ll knit. 


A friend has asked-and people do tend to ask this question a lot-why my disease flares.  I must first say that my disease has never been inactive.  I’ve never been in remission.  Remission is when, even off all medications, the disease is quiet.  I haven’t been there even once in 16 years.  So first, I guess a flare may just signal the end of a medication’s effectiveness.  I’ve been through prednisone, methotrexate, Imuran, Plaquenil, naproxen, Enbrel…those are just the ones that come to mind easily.  The chemo that I take now is the clearest demonstration of a medication’s effect passing:  it kills the B cells, I get better, then the B cell population is replenished, and I begin to get sick again, signaling that it’s time for a new dose of chemo.  It’s not food, or activity, or emotion, or anything else controllable that triggers my flares.  The fire is always there, it’s just a matter of how effective the firefighter is at any given time.  The wolf lives.


No one knows what makes lupus begin.  Clearly, I had a normally functioning immune system as a child.  Somewhere along the way it sustained some damage that made it change.  I believe that the damage was environmental, exposure to some toxic chemical in the form of a food additive or a home care product…something that made my immune system sit up and take notice and start to fight against the wrong substances.  The scientist who isolates a specific cause will be my hero. 


Meanwhile, an overly thin Jacqueline Bisset is on my television set, being psychic and entertaining me enough to make me forget that I can’t do what the other reunies can do so easily.  I’ll meet them again at dinner. 



Traveling Nutrition with Family Participation

My dog totally dissed me today.  As we headed out to the family reunion, we dropped off the dog with her favorite person, my friend who can speak dog fluently.  Lucy never looked back.  We called her name, stroked her back, tried to get her attention, but she wouldn’t even turn her head our way.  Disgusting.  She doesn’t have to be so blatant about it.  She could pretend that she has seven-plus years of affection for us.  I want to know if she’s considered who will push her wheelchair when she’s old.  Hmmph. 


Today, I called a nutritionist for an appointment.  She asked me a dozen questions about my eating habits and chocies.  When I said I was a vegetarian most of the time, but ate a little fish, she said “so you’ll be getting all your protein from fish?”  Hmm.  Hope she works with other vegetarians.  I want to get back to a fully vegetarian diet and I don’t mind giving up fish.  I’ll get my omega 3s from flaxseed meal.  I have to turn the kids loose to feed themselves and concentrate on what works for me.  If I’m really getting better from this flare, I’ll be able to exercise a little soon, and I am tring to line up all the systems and coax this body into better shape.  Whew, what a job.  Might have to hire some help.  Oh yeah, that’s what the nutritionist is-some help.  The first consultation is only $40 for an hour!  No wonder I had a hard time finding a local RD (registered dietitian).  No one could run a solo business like that.  Gotta be on salary.  In this current obesity epidemic, they should be making googobs of money. 


We arrived at family reunion central this evening.  I was only in the lobby five minutes before four family members came running up for hugs.  One of the kids speculated that I must be 67 now.  I’m gonna short-sheet his bed!  Damn.  He’s not four feet tall, won’t even notice.  It’s totally fun to have Woods relations drifting in and out of our room, calling each other on the phone, checking to see who’s not here yet.  Everyone’s sharing info about the hotel, asking what is scheduled and where we can go.  I’m distributing sheets with our scheduled activities and a list of Atlanta attractions.  In this rough economy, we are concentrating on inexpensive dining and activities.  I learned a lot from compiling the list.  For instance, the High Museum has a pretty stiff admission fee, but it has photography and folk art collections at a separate location in the Georgia-Pacific building that can be viewed for free.  All the Martin Luther King Jr. exhibits at the memorial site are free.  The Stone Mountain laserlight show is a bargain at $8 per car, no matter how many folks you cram into it. 


One characteristic of the Woods clan is that we all seem to be big puzzle and game people.  Everyone who drives here will have a bag of games and cards and other stuff for communal enjoyment.  (The ones who fly in are lucky to have a paperback book and deck of cards.)  The children are admitted into the games as soon as they are able to push a piece around the board.  Already a group has started a Scrabble marathon in the lounge. 


The hotel put us in a handicapped room.  I didn’t request it, but it’s great!  A little more maneuvering space, huge bathroom, electrical outlets at table height…don’t need a wheelchair to appreciate this. 


Going to knit a little now.  No hotel can be temporary home until I’ve done some knitting.