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.

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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.

Still Friday

I’ve been to Yarn Works and visited with Sandra, Christine, and Becky.  They showed me all the cool new stuff in the store, including quilted wall hangings in outrageous colour by Becky, and my favorite bamboo yarn, Plymouth Royal Bamboo, in a sultry, silky black.  They have all kinds of lovely handcrafted gifts for sale from fiber artists as far as South Africa and as close as Chattanooga’s Stacie Florer, the jeweler of Fox Hollow Jewelry (www.foxhollowjewelry.wordpress.com).  I’m quite humbled* putting my baby sweaters and deconstructed scarves next to their beautiful pieces.  The studio was all decorated and ready for guests as there will be an OPEN HOUSE tomorrow, Saturday (12/08), from noon to 8 p.m.  Great fun!!

*One thing I wasn’t humble about was the beautiful handmade tags that Dayna made for my items.  Here’s a sample of them:

tinydaynastags.jpgEach tag is unique, and they are like tiny works of art. 

Okay, enough with the posting.  Time to work on Dayna’s blanket.  I’ll have an entire four-block strip completed before bedtime. 

Peace!

Friday Already?!

Mornin’ all!  You can see what’s on my mind.  I’ve frittered away another week and it’s Friday and of course I haven’t finished my To Do list.  From yesterday’s goals, it’s an easy pick for what didn’t get done.  Not a bill was paid, not even one.  I am not one of those people who hates paying bills.  I am forever grateful that I have the means to pay my bills, and I feel really accomplished and grown-up and capable when I sit down and pay everyone.  The big hurdle is getting everything together to pay them.  First, I kind of clear a space on my kitchen table.  That’s the same table where I write shopping lists, pile up mail, do some photographs of my products, lay out things that need piecing, and do other art projects.  Once in a blue moon we actually eat there.  Next I collect all the stuff I need:  plain envelopes (for businesses that are too cheap to send you a return envelope), stamps (an assortment of current 41 cents, old 39 cents, and the 2 cent bridges), bills(some scattered around in the house in alternate mail sorting stations), a pen (preferably a Pilot G-2 with blue ink), and a cup of coffee.  Oops, forgot, need my laptop because I pay some of them online.  Damn.  Why did I write out that list?  I’m tired just thinking about it and I cannot get out of it today because guilt is nagging at me. 

Guilt is a chronic theme with me.  I was raised by older parents.  They had six children in two groups.  I was the first child of the second group, which consists of me and my baby sister, the afterthoughts.  There’s almost a ten year gap between groups, which means we got the old parents.  My older sisters were raised by the younger, more current parents, who did not change their parenting techniques one iota to deal with their pair of late offspring.  The old parents taught me to always, ALWAYS work before play, keep a schedule, take pride in my work, do my best, and clean my plate.  When I was in my residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital slaving away day and night and day again (yes, we took call every other night as interns and we went home only when the work was done) I would finish a long two days and make it to the front steps of the hospital and sit down and cry.  Periodically I would call my parents and tell them how awful it was and then I’d get a letter in the mail with a newspaper clipping with some timely topic -“Staying Close to God in Times of Stress” or “How Pro Athletes Train Their Minds and Bodies” or “Rebel Teen Crashes and Burns” and writing on the flap of the envelope that said “WORK HARD”.  You get the picture. 

They may have made that emphasis because they realized that I was a kid who would always question the rules before deciding whether to follow them, and that I would choose the low, brambly road before the high, direct one.  Despite my questioning tendencies and my ability to do other than what my training told me, I still have major pangs of guilt from those synapses made in my childhood.    I am still trying to break those spiderweb-like threads that grab at me.  They don’t have the ability to hold me any more, but they can worry the heck out of me. 

Fortunately I am 50 and have learned some timely lessons.  In my 30s I realized that I’d never reach steady state, life would never smooth out and be calm and predictable, and there would always be a crisis lurking.  In my 40s, after years with lupus, I learned to make my standards comfortably low and really go after the things that had a high priority for me.  So today, I can think about paying bills, realize that it’s only number three or four on my list, and decide that I won’t die or cause world devastation if I put them off another day or two. 

What I’d really rather do today is knit.  And stuff related to knitting.  I want to visit the Yarn Works Inc studio (http://www.yarnworksinc.com/) and take out the summery stuff that I had there on consignment and replace it with winter stuff.  Yarn Works Inc. is a coop of eight women who have various fiber arts interests.  They have put together a studio that is a wonderful, warm place to shop and learn.  It’s in a rehabbed saddle factory on the Southside of Chattanooga.  You may not realize it, but Chattanooga is acclaimed for our farsighted, comprehensive work in sustainability.  You probably have realized that I am obsessed with documentation, and when I make a claim I’m gonna give you a reference, so here’s a little something to read about Chattanooga and it’s incredible progress in this area:  http://www.nextstep.state.mn.us/casestudy.cfm?id=74

Okay.  My work here is done.  I’m gonna watch one of my idols, Ellen Degeneres, and knit.

Peace!

Okay, Maybe a Little Fluff

I just talked to my doctor’s office.  I’m scheduled for my first new treatment the day after Christmas.  Ooooh, ooooh, ooooh.  Those are for the anticipation, the trepidation, the unknown…I know it is less than three weeks away and I am impatient. 

Meanwhile, my current flare of lupus symptoms seems to be waning.  Even better, my prednisone dose has been decreased and I know from experience that some of the side effects (swelling, insomnia) will decrease very soon and some will take up to six weeks to go away (the round “moon” face, increased appetite, increased infections).  Just riding that ole lupus rollercoaster!

Yesterday one of my nieces turned 18.  She is a fabulous girl, smart and athletic, a freshman at Cornell, and I’m glad that she and I have forged a bond and stay in communication.  She’s one of my frequent IM partners.  Anyway, I have to say “Happy Birthday, Girl!!!!!” and remind her that I love her dearly. 

I can’t mention that this lupus flare is better without thanking my daughter one more time.  She has been incredible this fall, organizing the household, driving me around, accompanying me to the Chattanooga Market (http://chattanoogamarket.com/) where we sold stuff, making gorgeous handdrawn tags for my products, running errands when my legs don’t want to walk, and just being the wise, funny, quirky presence that she always has been.  I was diagnosed with lupus when she was 4.  She grew up with my uncertain health, learning that every so-called appointment was a “maybe”, leaning on our extended friend-family to fill in when her mom couldn’t, and finding entertainment and fulfillment in things that didn’t rely on physical prowess.  Love you, girl!

The blanket for my girl is coming along beautifully.  These are very soothing colours to knit, and I’m making very simple patterns. Dayna's blanket first viewDayna’s blanket first viewI threw it down on the deck and snapped a few photos to show you.  I’m making each block from a skein of the Cozy Cotton.  Above is the first two completed blocks and part of the third. Dayna’s blanket first view, closerIn this photo I’ve focused on the seam between the first two blocks.  When my yarn from the first skein was close to running out, I just switched yarns and started the second block.  Against popular teaching, I made the switch on the wrong side of the fabric so that the stitched edge would show up on the right side.  Sometimes I like the look of that contrasting stitching.  You can see the partial rib alternative pattern that I showed you 12/04 in the deep persimmon block, and the block pattern (8 stitches x 10 rows) on the light rose quartz block.  The third block, which is oatmeal coloured, alternates between several rows of seed stitch and several rows of 2×2 block.  It is gorgeous, but my photo didn’t have enough detail tocapture it.  I’ll show it next time.

Today’s goals are to finish the oatmeal block and add a fourth block to this strip of the blanket, post a few more completed scarves to my store (http://www.essiewb.etsy.com/), and run a few errands.  Oh yeah, and pay some bills. 

Peace!

It’s Wednesday and My Plate is Full

I wake up early, expecting a good day.  It is a lifelong characteristic.  My mom told me that when I was a baby I was an early riser, and I was always present to have breakfast with my dad.  Daddy was a career Army officer, and he rose early and went to work at 6.   My parents are two of the coolest people I know.  You’ll be hearing about them! 

The tricky part is not the early rising, but the anticipation of good.  I don’t know how one becomes an optimist, but it is a tremendous gift if you have it.  I have lupus, and a realistic assessment of my day should probably include anticipating a certain amount of pain and stiffness, fatigue from things that don’t make the average person tired, and attention to pill and shot taking along with whatever special therapy is due for the day.  But that is never how my day starts.  Instead, I think about the projects I can work on, the novel I’m halfway through, the coffee I’m going to choose for breakfast, the Etsy search for a special gift for one of my sisters…The day stretches in front of me, a blank canvas with a huge palette of colours that I can use on it at will.  Hallelujah!

It is starting to get light outside.  The only light sources in my room are my laptop screen and the Today Show.  I like the way the outside light sneaks up on me until my room is lit from there and not from my artificial sources.  I’m thinking about today.  Dayna and I are planning to drive up the mountain and visit one of our  best friends.  She is a woman who has the unique ability to be both my friend and Dayna’s, and we will be equally happy to spend time at her house.  She is finding her way in the mosaic field in a very precise, orderly fashion–the opposite of how I jump in head first without a manual.  She is the opposite of my abstraction.   She has a store with her incredibly detailed mosaic pieces:  www.stores.ebay.com/Gotta-Have-It-Creations-LLC

I’ll take my knitting with me to the mountain and work on a rectangle for Dayna’s blanket.  Dayna is my 19 year old daughter.  She always knows exactly what she wants, and she has requested a cotton blanket similar to one that I finished last week and put in the store.  It is being knit with Cozy Cotton from Cottage Knits in New Hampshire.    It comes in  wonderful muted colors and is tightly spun but not mercerized.  The only place I’ve found it is at www.FlyingFingers.com, one of my absolute favorite yarn stores.  It’s on the Hudson in New York, but I feel like they are my local yarn shop (thanks for the neighborhood flavor, Elise!).  Dayna’s blanket is in persimmon and rose quartz and oatmeal and soft plum-don’t you love when the colours have imaginative names?  You’ll see it as I work on it-only on the first block right now.  You can see Dayna now, however:kentuck.jpgThat’s us at the Kentuck Arts Festival in Tuscaloosa in October. 

My cell phone will be in my pocket all day, as I should get a call from my rheumatologist (arthritis doc) to schedule a new therapy.  I’ve had lupus for 15 years, and I’ve been a testament to how quickly medical research can change the landscape for a disease.  The meds for lupus are sooooo much better than they were even 10 years ago, and the one I’m getting scheduled for is a real first:  a highly specific drug that targets the major cells that make the immune reactions that are central to lupus.  I could actually have a (shhhh, sacred words time!) REMISSION.  Hush!  I did not just say that!  Big grin on my face, folks!  I’m tired of riding the prednisone bus, and the addition of methotrexate and Enbrel held me well for a while, but it’s time for bigger guns.  This all sounds like I am at death’s door hangin’ on by a thread, but actually I’m good as lupus patients go.  The real killers in lupus are kidney disease and brain disease, and I don’t have either.  Shut up, I know I’m crazy, but it’s not the lupus. 

Two nights ago I had a unique outing.  I went to Panera Bread downtown to meet with three other local women who have shops on Etsy.  Two hours of heaven, sipping my coffee and hearing about their shop woes and victories, swapping info on shows, talking about how we can support each other’s efforts, and of course talking about our lives.  Ever notice how women get together and immediately it’s personal?  I love how integrated our lives are–there’s not a compartment that says “work” and a separate place for “family”–we weave all our threads simultaneously.  And these particular women do it beautifully–Debbie does glass work at www.glassyladystudio.etsy.com, Stacie does jewelry at www.stacieflorer.etsy.com, and Tobi has hair and jewelry ornaments at www.iveyhandcrafted.etsy.com.  Thanks, you guys!  Mad fun!

Yikes, the morning is moving along and I am itching to knit.  More talk later people!

Peace!

This is Not the Beginning

Many moons ago I started to blog.  I notified all my friends with an announcement that bordered on a heady brag, I opened the yahoo blog, and I blew out three or four entries.  Then, nothing.  The truth is, I allowed life to get in the way of talking about life.  I had a brief excursion down a path that I had chosen, one that was going to lead to better self-understanding, communication with the world (okay, maybe with one or two readers out there), a bit of teaching, and some (choke, gag) discipline!  No, we are not laughing.  I truly meant it. 

One entire relationship and several prolonged lupus flares later, here I am.  No more Yahoo, no announcements, just quietly slipping back into the bloggerworld with hopes of being more permanent, more steady. 

Today I’m going to finish tucking ends into the wool/cotton baby blanket I’ve just knitted.  It’s really a lovely soft fabric for a baby.  I’m sure the baby won’t appreciate it–but it will be a wonderful comfort for the parent that is holding that bundled up kid.  It has a teal square in the middle of a deep pink square.  Might as well face it–in America, this is a girl’s blanket.  God forbid a male child should get a glimpse of pink and start to question his masculinity.  Photo to follow.  You’ll see–this is a mixture of several patterns, because I bore easily.  And my fingers get stiff (yes, it’s the lupus).  One of the patterns is my own variation on a partial rib.  When I do it, I do it like this: 

Row 1:  Knit 1, purl 1 across the row (yep, just like 1×1 ribbing)

Row 2:  Purl the whole row (this is the wrong side)

Row 3:  Knit the whole row

Row 4:  Knit the whole row

Repeat rows 1-4 for as long as you can stand it.  Pretty, hunh?

Oops, did I let it slip that I’m a knitter?  I knit or crochet every day.  Can’t help myself.  Two years ago I decided to knit or crochet all my Christmas presents.  After I had a big pile of completed stuff with a tag on each one designating it for some lucky sister, friend or cousin, I couldn’t stop.  I kept knitting.  The yarns were new and fresh, the sticks felt good in my hands, there was a whole new body of literature to explore, and I was hooked.  My basic skills from when I was 5 years old and my sisters taught me to knit and purl expanded to making short rows and cables and deciding between extra-fine merino and Peruvian alpaca.  I started to talk about knitting, and teach knitting, and find other people who wanted to sit and knit together.  I found the first authentic thing that I’ve been able to embrace since leaving medicine.  (Yes, leaving medicine was also about the lupus.)

When the pile of knitted things got ridiculous and I couldn’t stop knitting more, I began to knit for charity.  I knitted children’s hats for the church angel tree.  I shared in crocheting an afghan for Hospice.  I knitted premie blankets for the Ronald McDonald House.  I connected with afghans for Afghans and knitted vests and sweaters for children in impossibly cold, war-torn locales half around the world. 

Still I had things to knit, and ideas I wanted to execute.  I quickly gave up on patterns and began to design my own projects, picking up the yarn and listening to it, choosing from an ever-growing mental stitch dictionary and adding my own twists to the pieces.  That was when I decided to sell my things.  People had noticed the differences and inquired about where to buy them, and I almost believed that someone was interested enough to spend money (gasping again) on my stuff.  For most of a year I “prepared” to open a store, reading about websites, looking at store software, researching…only to find that a single yarn purchase had already put me in touch with the ideal site:  www.Etsy.com, the site for every handmade project in the universe.  I had already shopped there and used “essiewb” to establish an account, and it was a painless transition to open my store.  I procrastinated some, but ended that by declaring loudly that I would have my store open in a week.  That was early in November 2006.  It worked–I bragged myself into opening the store.  Now I keep it stocked, plan the direction it will go, market it, and pat myself on the back for actually getting there!  I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you here that the store address is www.Essiewb.etsy.com.  Go sometime.  Tell me what you think. 

What I think right now is that my store needs me to post the rest of that pile of scarves I made last month.  The world is cold.  It needs soft alpaca, silky bamboo and tightly woven merino to wrap it and comfort it.  Time to knit, people!